The continent was one of the earliest centres of Christianity, where it has been the foremost religion for most of the last two millennia.
There are over 3,000 cathedrals in Europe alone – so you’re looking at hundreds of thousands of European churches in all.
We’ve been fortunate to have visited many of the finest churches Europe has, from famous cathedrals to tiny chapels hidden away in remote countryside.
No doubt you’ll recognize several famous churches in Europe In our article, but we wanted to go beyond this, showing you more of the most beautiful churches in Europe and helping you discover new places in Europe to visit.
- 1 32 Beautiful Churches in Europe
- 1.1 1. Our Lady Before Tyn Church, Prague
- 1.2 2. St Vitus Cathedral, Prague
- 1.3 3. Partrishow Church, Wales
- 1.4 4. St Mary’s Church, Capel-y-Ffin, Wales
- 1.5 5. St Mark’s Church, Zagreb, Croatia
- 1.6 6. Santa Maria della Salute, Venice
- 1.7 7. Basilica di San Marco, Venice
- 1.8 8. San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice
- 1.9 9. Basilica di San Antonio, Padua
- 1.10 10. St Paul’s Cathedral, London
- 1.11 11. St Stephen Walbrook, London
- 1.12 12. St David’s Cathedral, Wales
- 1.13 13. Tintern Abbey, Wales
- 1.14 14. Agios Pavlos, Agia Roumeli, Crete
- 1.15 15. Georgioupolis Chapel, Crete, Greece
- 1.16 16. Three Bells of Fira, Santorini
- 1.17 17. Seville Cathedral
- 1.18 18. Siena Cathedral
- 1.19 19. Ortigia Duomo, Siracusa, Sicily
- 1.20 20. Florence Cathedral, Italy
- 1.21 21. Coventry Cathedral, England
- 1.22 22. Wells Cathedral, England
- 1.23 23. Gloucester Cathedral, England
- 1.24 24. Burgos Cathedral, Spain
- 1.25 25. Lake Bled Island Church
- 1.26 26. Matyas Templom, Budapest
- 1.27 27. Salzburg Cathedral, Austria
- 1.28 28. Karlskirche, Vienna, Austria
- 1.29 29. Albi Cathedral, France
- 1.30 30. Rouen Cathedral, France
- 1.31 31. Sé, Lisbon
- 1.32 32. Jeronimos Monastery, Belem, Lisbon
32 Beautiful Churches in Europe
1. Our Lady Before Tyn Church, Prague
If the Brothers Grimm had ever built a church, it would have looked something like this
This must be one of the most famous churches in Europe, or at least one of the most photographed. The Gothic spires soar above Old Town Square Prague, looking like something out of a medieval fairytale.
It is especially magical at Christmas time when the Prague Christmas Markets are held in the old town Square.
Apart from St Vitus, it’s undoubtedly among the most recognisable churches in Prague. The interior is also Gothic, with mostly Baroque furnishings and decorations.
If you are visiting Prague at Christmas time please check our Prague Christmas Market Guide
2. St Vitus Cathedral, Prague
The superb national church of the Czechs
The greatest church in the Czech Republic stands high above the stunning capital, one of the most prominent landmarks of Prague.
The Cathedral took around 600 years to build, and only reached completion in 1929. It’s a magnificent Gothic edifice with later features including some rich Art Nouveau period stained glass.
Don’t miss: the Wenceslas Chapel, the resting place of the Good King who looked out on the Feast of Stephen.
You can find more beautiful churches in Prague here
3. Partrishow Church, Wales
Remote medieval Welsh church hiding a rare survival in a rural idyll
This tiny, remote church in the back of the Brecon Beacons beyond takes some finding, but it’s worth the persistence and drive around the hilly maze of high hedges and narrow roads.
This medieval church hides a very unusual secret in its rood screen, an ornate carved wooden screen separating the chancel and nave – all but a handful in Britain were destroyed during the Reformation.
It’s a blissful place, with birdsong and the occasional ‘baa’ from the resident sheep the only sounds for miles around.
You can find more special things to see and do in our Wales Bucket List
4. St Mary’s Church, Capel-y-Ffin, Wales
Beauty in a minute package in the tranquil Llanthony Valley
If you’re driving, the 18th century church in Capel-y-Ffin (‘the chapel on the border’ in Welsh) can be visited the same day as Partrishow, the ‘crooked church’ of Cwmyoy and the ruin of Llanthony Priory (see our Wales Bucket List article for more on this).
St Mary’s Church is minuscule, just 8 metres long by 4 metres wide, and we always stop there for a few minutes when we’re passing.
Last time we visited the front pew was filled with teddy bears, looking towards the east window. This is almost clear glass, giving a view of the mountain behind, save for the inscription, “I will lift mine eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my strength.’ I’m not a religious person, but this is one of the most spiritually moving places I’ve ever visited.
5. St Mark’s Church, Zagreb, Croatia
St Mark’s is the parish church of Gornji Grad, Zagreb Old Town, on the hill above the modern city. It’s a mainly Gothic building from the 14th century, with a superb carved wooden portal facing the Square.
However, the main reason people visit the church is to photograph its outstanding tiled roof, which has the coat of arms of the Kingdom of Croatia, Dalmatia and Slavonia on one side and the city of Zagreb on the other.
6. Santa Maria della Salute, Venice
The unforgettable domed church at the entrance to the Grand Canal
This sublime domed basilica was built in the 17th century in thanksgiving for deliverance from the plague. Designed by Baldassare Longhena, its distinctive domes are among the most distinctive Venice landmarks.
This is one of three churches in Venice featured in this article that you can see from the same spot on the Molo waterfront outside the Doge’s Palace.
You can find more beautiful churches in our guide – Churces in Venice
7. Basilica di San Marco, Venice
One of the grandest churches in Europe, with sublime Byzantine-style mosaics
St Mark’s Basilica is the ultimate statement of Venetian wealth, built to house the (pilfered) relics of St Mark and show their might and power to the world.
One of the most famous churches in Italy, San Marco is stunning inside and out, but bear in mind that you’re rushed through in ten minutes flat, no time to appreciate the majestic golden mosaics.
At least you don’t have to rush seeing it from outside, in one of the grandest squares in Europe.
8. San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice
Palladian perfection across the water from San Marco
San Giorgio Maggiore is one of the loveliest churches in Venice Italy, a Renaissance gem by master architect Andrea Palladio.
The Basilica looks breathtaking at dawn, especially if you’re in Venice in winter, from the waterfront with the rows of gondolas lined up in front of it. The church itself can be reached by the number 2 vaporetto from nearby San Zaccaria.
You can find more beautiful Venetian landmarks in our Venice Landmarks Guide
9. Basilica di San Antonio, Padua
A monument to one of the humblest of saints, but humble this is most certainly not
The Basilica of St Anthony of Padua, a disciple of St Francis of Assisi, is one of the most stunning churches in Italy. The saint’s shrine is a magnificent work in marble, surrounded by photographs of horrific car crashes and injuries – San Antonio is credited with saving these people with his miraculous interventions. The Treasury on the north side of the church has a collection of gory relics, including the saint’s vocal cords. An amazing building and intense experience.
10. St Paul’s Cathedral, London
The masterpiece of English Baroque
St Paul’s Cathedral is one of the most famous London landmarks, its grand dome dominating the one part of London that’s not full of skyscrapers. The exterior is akin to a Neoclassical temple, the interior a wonder of riches, the highlight of which is the magnificent choir. The climb to the top of the dome is rewarded by some of the best views in London.
11. St Stephen Walbrook, London
Possibly Sir Christopher Wren’s most beautiful church
Wren built over 50 churches in London after the 1666 Great Fire, and over twenty survive, including this gem just around the corner from the Bank of England. Like many London churches it has suffered the ignominy of being hemmed in by several unattractive office blocks (and in this case a Starbucks) but venture inside to see this beautifully proportioned church, one of the most delightful in London.
12. St David’s Cathedral, Wales
Two pilgrimages to St David’s were worth one to Rome
You have to head to the far west to find the finest of all churches in Wales. The small city – a village that makes Wells (see below) look like a metropolis – is in a gorgeous corner of Pembrokeshire, surrounded by awesome beaches and dramatic coastal scenery. However, top of your things to do in St Davids has to be the Cathedral, a simple stone building from the outside and the most splendid, ornate church in Wales inside.
13. Tintern Abbey, Wales
Stunning medieval church ruin in the gorgeous Wye Valley
British tourism was born in the late 18th century in the Lower Wye Valley, along the border between England and Wales. Visitors came to sketch picturesque views along the river, and would stop at the romantic ruin of the Abbey church at Tintern. It’s hardly changed, one of the great landmarks in Wales, a glorious Gothic edifice whose roof has, for almost 500 years, been the sky.
14. Agios Pavlos, Agia Roumeli, Crete
Gorgeous ancient Byzantine chapel overlooking one of the most beautiful beaches in Crete
The beach is named after the simple, weathered ancient chapel above it, which is believed to date from the early 11th century. It’s a staggeringly beautiful place worth building your south Crete itinerary around.
15. Georgioupolis Chapel, Crete, Greece
One of the loveliest churches in Greece, a whitewashed chapel seemingly floating on the Mediterranean
Georgioupolis Crete is the longest beach on the island, almost 10 km (6 miles) long, and it’s especially attractive at its western end. Here the whitewashed sailors’ chapel of Agios Nikolaos seems to sit out to sea – it’s easily reached by a ten-minute walk along a rocky causeway.
16. Three Bells of Fira, Santorini
Iconic blue-domed Santorini church overlooking the breathtaking caldera
The Santorini villages of Fira and Oia are among the best places to watch a Santorini sunset, but if you want somewhere a little quieter and just as spectacular, head for this lovely church with a triple bellcote above the caldera.
It’s rarely open, but come anyway – for me it’s the most beautiful of the churches in Santorini, and its slightly isolated location keeps the crowds away.
17. Seville Cathedral
The largest Gothic church in the world
Seville Cathedral is vast, and when construction started in the early 15th century it was intended to be without equal. It replaced the former Grand Mosque on the site, and the sole element of this to be retained was its minaret, the Giralda tower, one of the most famous landmarks in Spain.
The Cathedral has survived two dome collapses, and impresses you with its sheer scale and space.
18. Siena Cathedral
One of the most beautiful churches in the world, inside and out
The Siena Duomo dominates the amazing medieval city, and is one of the best things to see in. Tuscany.
Decorated with black-and-white stripes inside and out, it’s an incredible building, with a phenomenal west façade, elegant tower, magnificent mosaic floor and marble sculptures by Michelangelo and Donatello.
It’s difficult to think of so much artistry and detail in a single church as this. Take your time – this belongs in the top 5 of this list.
19. Ortigia Duomo, Siracusa, Sicily
Medieval and Sicilian Baroque delight built around an Ancient Greek temple
Ortigia is the ancient island core of Syracuse (Siracusa in Italian), a Greek colony that became the most powerful state in the Mediterranean back in the 5th century BC.
Parts of the cathedral – walk around to the north side of the building and you’ll see a row of ancient columns – remain from this time. The striking Baroque façade dates from the early 18th century, having been rebuilt after the devastating 1693 earthquake.
It’s the focal point of the Piazza del Duomo, the island’s achingly beautiful main square.
20. Florence Cathedral, Italy
Renaissance wonder, dazzling outside, surprisingly sombre within
The Florence Duomo – la Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore – is one of the most remarkable medieval churches in Europe.
It comprises three buildings – the main body of the church, the Baptistery and Campanile, the latter the work of Renaissance pioneer Giotto da Bondone. All three are richly decorated with marble, and the dome – the work of Filippo Brunelleschi in the 15th century – is the largest brick dome ever built.
After all that, the interior comes as a surprise, as it’s rather bare, cavernous and austere.
21. Coventry Cathedral, England
20th century marvel built next to the bombed-out ruin of the original
Coventry was one of the worst-hit cities in the Luftwaffe bombing raids of World War II, and its Cathedral was destroyed in one of these attacks.
The ruin has been left as a poignant reminder of the destruction of war, and a new Cathedral was built in its shadow by Sir Basil Spence, and opened in 1962.
It contains some splendid modern religious art, from the statue of St Michael by Jacob Epstein to the Baptistery window by John Piper.
22. Wells Cathedral, England
One of the wonders of medieval England
Tiny Wells, in the rural county of Somerset, is one of the most underrated cities in Europe – indeed many don’t even realise it’s a city.
Many of its attractions are ecclesiastical, and it has the most complete cathedral precincts in the British Isles, with a Bishop’s Palace and Vicars Close, one of the loveliest streets in Europe.
Head for the spacious Cathedral Green to gaze at the west front of the Cathedral, adorned with around 300 medieval statues.
23. Gloucester Cathedral, England
A medieval marvel that Harry Potter fans will recognise
Gloucester is one of the great English cathedrals, built over half a millennium in a mixture of Romanesque (also called Norman in the UK), Gothic and Perpendicular (an English variant of late Gothic).
The Norman nave, the enormous Great East Window (which you can see up close) and Perpendicular Lady Chapel are all essential sights.
Meanwhile, Harry Potter fans will head for the enchanting Cloister, which has featured in two movies from the series.
24. Burgos Cathedral, Spain
Lavish Gothic extravaganza and burial place of Spanish folk hero El Cid
Burgos is the only Spanish cathedral to have the distinction of being a World Heritage Site in its own right and not in conjunction with other buildings or parts of a city, The twin spires and central lantern tower above this northern Castilian city, and it’s reason enough to travel out of your way to see it.
Much of it was built in the Flamboyant Gothic style, including the lovely lantern tower.
Also seek out the ornate Constable Chapel, with its own small lantern tower, in the north-east corner of the Cathedral.
25. Lake Bled Island Church
Picture-perfect medieval church on an island in an Alpine lake
Lake Bled is one of the most beautiful lakes in Europe, but it’s the Church of the Assumption.of Mary on one of the most beautiful islands in Europe (yes, there’s a theme here) that really makes the scene.
The only way across is by boat – by the local pletna or you can row yourself – then climb the 99 steps to the lovely Gothic church with Baroque artwork.
26. Matyas Templom, Budapest
The loveliest church in Budapest
If you’re planning on photographing Budapest you’ll be seeing plenty of the Matthias Church (Matyas Templom), whose spire dominates the Buda skyline.
It overlooks the Fishermen’s Bastion, which in turn overlooks the River Danube, Hungarian Parliament and the Pest side of the city.
This predominantly late-Gothic church got a makeover in the late 19th century, which included some splendid Art Nouveau decoration inside and the Zsolnay tile-patterned roof.
27. Salzburg Cathedral, Austria
The Baroque beauty where a certain W.A. Mozart was baptised
It’s rare for a European cathedral to be built in one stint – but this is the case with Salzburger Dom, which was constructed in the 17th century on the site of its ruined Romanesque predecessor.
This makes for an unusually harmonious whole, and the same could be said of most of the Altstadt (Old Town) which was rebuilt at the same time.
Take the elevator to the top of the Mönchsberg for a breathtaking view over the Cathedral and surrounding churches, one of the best views in Europe.
28. Karlskirche, Vienna, Austria
The crowning achievement of Viennese Baroque – which is saying rather a lot
The Karlskirche – dedicated to St Charles Borromeo – sits just off the main Ringstrasse, on the edge of Vienna’s Innere Stadt.
The exterior works beautifully, with a Roman-style portico, dome and columns inspired by Trajan’s Column in Rome. Inside it’s just as inspirational, the dome decorated with superb frescoes.
Karlsplatz, on which it stands, plays host to one of the best Vienna Christmas Markets, to which the church makes a stunning backdrop.
29. Albi Cathedral, France
Beauty in brick and bulk in one of the best small cities in France
The Cathedral of Ste Cecile in Albi, in the south-west region of Languedoc-Roussillon, resembles an imposing military fortress or palace.
It’s rather like Florence Duomo in reverse, with a sombre brick exterior hiding an unexpectedly captivating interior.
This includes a stunning blue and gold ceiling vault and an intricate mural of The Last Judgement on the west wall of the church. The Cathedral and adjacent Archbishop’s Palace are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
30. Rouen Cathedral, France
Outstanding French Gothic cathedral, long the muse of Monet
Medieval cathedrals were built to impress, even overawe, and Rouen Cathedral does that in spades.
Looking at the west front from across the Place de la Cathédrale, it’s close to impossible for a pair of human eyes to take it all in at once. Claude Monet famously revisited the subject numerous times studying the play of light on the Cathedral’s Flamboyant Gothic west front.
The interior is an overlooked Gothic treasure, with some superb 13th century stained glass and several tombs of Dukes of Normandy, including the heart of Richard the Lionheart, King of England from 1189 to 1199.
31. Sé, Lisbon
A little austerity can sometimes be a good thing
Ancient, august Lisbon Cathedral overlooks the Alfama district and Tagus estuary, and makes such a wonderful backdrop for the regular 12 and 28 trams which pass by.
Like many European cathedrals and churches it has undergone many changes in its long lifetime, and the Sé was badly damaged during the 1755 Lisbon earthquake.
It’s a mixture of Romanesque and Gothic with some later additions. Its exterior is rather plain and austere, but there’s a beauty in its stark simplicity.
32. Jeronimos Monastery, Belem, Lisbon
The Mosteiro dos Jeronimos is one of the crowning achievements of Manueline, the florid, ornate Portuguese take on late Gothic.
This magnificent church was built close to the departure point for many of Portugal’s Voyages of Discovery, and sailors would pray there for their safe return prior to heading off into the unknown.
Along with the nearby Monument to the Discoveries and the iconic Belem Tower, it’s one of the three top things to do in Belem, Lisbon. The church and cloister are both unmissable.