Fueled by an unfathomable love of art and devotion, today's majestic, legendary and dignified cathedrals represent some of the most complicated architectural designs ever crafted by man. Some feature Gothic elements, while others have borrowed modern styles from today's contemporary architecture; however, there's still common ground between the two: both left the visitors wordless, and completely awe-struck.
Indeed, these artistic structures, created by the man's ego, are precisely where craftsmanship and supreme architecture meet.
With their grand designs, rich historical background and intense aura of the Medieval times, the following cathedrals are, indeed, among the most impressive sights in Europe and beyond. These buildings are not only places of worship and centers of attraction for visitors, but sources of long-forgotten stories as well. Whether you prefer their modern or gothic side, the following cathedrals will genuinely uplift the spirits.
From the fascinating Duomo Cathedral in Milan, Italy, to St. Stephen Cathedral in Vienna, Austria, we've rounded up 20 of the most impressive cathedrals that will enrich your world with a divine touch.
20 The Duomo Cathedral In Milan, Italy
Besides being an utterly artistic structure, built in the old Medieval times, Duomo di Milan is known as the largest cathedral in Italy. This exquisite place is, indeed, a priceless gem among most of the European edifices.
This Medieval beauty rests on the grand Piazza del Duomo in Milan, Italy, and it took over 600 years to build.
With its pink-veined white marble and spectacular terrace views from its roof, Duomo di Milan is an artistic monument as well as a privileged place of devotion linked to the memory of the Italian Bishops. So next time you're traveling to Milan, be sure to pay a visit to the city's most beautiful cathedral.
19 Brasilia Cathedral, Brasilia, Brazil
Located at 12 Esplanada dos Ministérios lote, this beautiful Brazillian cathedral forms an excellent blend of spirituality and modernity. As exotic and distinct as it is, this cathedral is even considered one of the most impressive places of worship in Brazil and across the globe.
The construction of The Cathedral of Brasilia was launched in 1958 and completed only within two years. The designer responsible for the unique facade is the architect Oscar Niemeyer. The edifice is made of solid concrete and sprawls over an area of 70 meters. Pillars with a glass roof were later added to the structure which reinforces the fabulous building even better.
18 Notre-Dame de Paris, France
Notre-Dame de Paris is, without a doubt, quite a stunning sight to see while wandering through the narrow cobbled streets of Paris aka the City of Light. Not only is this cathedral an extraordinary site of worship, but it also happens to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As majestic as it is, Notre-Dame de Paris invites all travelers on a historical journey through the French Revolution which marked its appearance as well.
Designed by Bishop Maurice in 1163, Notre Dame De Paris instantly catches the eye with its marvelous statue of the Virgin Mary, gothic features, and majestic exterior facades.
17 St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, UK
St. Paul's Cathedral is, in fact, the first Protestant Cathedral that happens to be the official edifice of the Royal House of England. This beautiful cathedral, built in the early 17th-century, is Sir Christopher Warren's masterpiece.
Admittedly, the architectural design of St. Paul's Cathedral is quite perfect; no wonder why Sir Warren later inspired the construction and design of St. Peter's Basilica as well. When compared to it, St. Paul's Cathedral in London is equally impressive despite its considerably smaller dimensions.
Today, the stunning edifice in London symbolizes the nation's power and togetherness while overlooking many other buildings within London's financial district.
16 Santa Maria Del Fiore, Florence, Italy
This fantastic cathedral, located in the picturesque city of Florence, is an explosion of art, spirituality, and culture.
Officially consecrated in the 14-the century, this Italian masterpiece is home to the beautiful Museum of the Opera as well as the Crypt of Santa Reparata, the Campanile of Giotto and the Baptistery of San Giovanni. Also, the masonry arch, built and designed by Brunelleschi, gives its architecture a sense of grandness and uniqueness.
With its gorgeous facade, bell tower and an authentic outdoor museum, The Santa Marie Del Fiore Cathedral makes a fantastic day out in the colorful city of Florence.
15 León Cathedral, León, Spain
Situated in northern Spain, The León Cathedral is an exceptional Gothic architecture with beautiful stained-glass windows. Many centuries ago, the splendid cathedral served as the Royal Palace of the Spanish King Ordogno II who later donated the majestic palace to the church, placing it in the hands of the Mighty God. Decades passed until the works for the building began. The reconstruction of The Leon Cathedral was guided by the architect Maestro Enrique until 1255 when the works were first put on hold, then resumed with the support of Bishop Fernandez and the King of Castile & Leon, Alfonso X.
14 Saint Charles Cathedral, Vienna, Austria
With its pompous dome and baroque architecture, the Cathedral of Saint Charles in Vienna, Austria, is a cherished location by both photographers and churchgoers.
Despite its delicate frame and elegance, this Austrian beauty boldly overlooks the entire city of the Waltz.
Also known as The Karlskirche, the Cathedral of Saint Charles in Vienna was designed by the Austrian architect, Bernhard Fischer von Erlach, best known for his extravagant architectural designs and elaborate ideas.
Officially completed in 1739, this elegant edifice in Vienna, Austria, is also home to gorgeous gardens and colorful frescoes by Johannes Rottmayr. Now you've got just another lovely reason to explore it, right?
13 Winchester Cathedral, Winchester, UK
The Winchester Cathedral is historically known as the seat of the Benedictine community. In fact, Winchester Cathedral, built in 1079, remains one of the most beautiful Christian churches. A few decades ago, the Winchester Cathedral was retrofitted with beautifully carved wooden roofs with the shape of dragons, flowers, riders, and plants. Today this grand cathedral is also the main church of the Anglican Diocese.
As majestic as it is, the Winchester Cathedral also hosts the throne of the Bishop of Winchester and its many chapels immortalizing the memory of the bishops who used to lead the church.
12 St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City, Italy
The imposing architecture of the world-famous St. Peter's Basilica in Rome took over a century to complete. For its beautiful and delicate construction, The City of Rome engaged the world's most skillful and gifted architects of its time. Admittedly, St. Peter's Basilica is a beautiful reflection of the late-Renaissance architecture. Upon entering this magnificent place of worship, travelers will find themselves encircled by Tuscan colonnades. The Basilica itself consists of a large square with a 25-m obelisk at the center. As for its baroque facade, the Italian architect Maderno sketched a spectacular cathedral built entirely from travertine stone, and the result is quite breathtaking.
11 The Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain
Saying that Sagrada Familia is only charming would be such an understatement.
Built between 1852-1926, this legendary cathedral is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to the Passion & Nativity towers. From there, visitors can also access other hugely significant attractions, including the Nave, Crypt, and Museum.
As one of the largest Roman-Catholic churches in Europe, Sagrada Familia was the vision of the Catalan artist Antoni Gaudi who planned the project but couldn't live to see the day of its grand appearance. Although it may seem to be fully developed, the extravagant architecture of The Sagrada Familia is predicted to be 100% completed in 2026.
10 St. Stephen’s Basilica, Budapest, Hungary
After the Hungarian Parliament, St. Stephen's Basilica is the largest one in Budapest. The construction of this fabulous cathedral, which stands at 96 m (the maximum height allowed in the capital city), took over half a century to complete.
Also known as the Szent Istvan Bazilika, St. Stephen's dome nearly collapsed in the past, so the entire basilica had to be rebuilt again. Gladly, the finished product was worth the time and efforts. Today this majestic cathedral is favored by a sea of international tourists.
Flanked by two beautiful bell towers, St. Stephen's Basilica boasts panoramic city views as well. Take the 365 stairs to climb up to the top where you can take in the beauty of Budapest.
9 "The White Column", Kolomenskoye, Russia
Have you seen such a unique architecture before? Well, this dazzlingly white structure is located in the Russian town of Kolomenskoye, and it somehow departs from the traditional Orthodox designs and shapes. But unlike other extravagant Russian cathedrals, like the one in Dubrovitsy, The White Column has been referred to as an elegant structure with unparalleled beauty. The fabulous facade of The White Column was the work of a Russian royalty who built it as an opulent declaration of the birth of the new Russian prince, Ivan. Later on, this prince would become Ivan the Terrible aka the conqueror of Siberia.
8 St. Peter’s Basilica, Riga, Latvia
This extravagant European city is home to one of the world's most beautiful and distinct cathedrals dating from 1209.
St. Peter's Basilica in Riga, Latvia, has been retrofitted with an elevator that goes to the top of the cathedral. Once you get there, be ready to be mind-blown by the colorful views of the charming city of Riga; however, if you prefer the old-fashioned way of climbing up the stairs, just feel free to do it.
To the right of the basilica stands the city's museum, which is also another fantastic tourist location. The baroque church, which is nearly 403 foot tall, towers over the charming town of Riga, while its hall reaches a height of 30 meters.
7 The Kölner Dom, Cologne, Germany
The Magnificent Kölner Dom is technically the most spectacular Gothic cathedral in Europe. Its soaring twin spires and challenging staircase to the top makes it all the more interesting and exciting. This impressive gothic cathedral overlooks the beautiful city of Cologne while also keeping watch along the German Rhine River.
With its massive scale, spiritual heart and twin spires, The Kölner Dom is merely packed with art and treasures. For those feeling overwhelmed by the grandeur of the Kölner Dom, there's a steep climb to the top of the Dom where the daredevils can enjoy remarkable city views.
6 Hallgrimskirkja, Reykjavik, Iceland
Is that an optical illusion? Is that an actual rocket that's about to soar into the sky? Well, that's hardly the case here. In fact, this unusual and almost overly modern church is Iceland's biggest tourist attraction. This extraordinary version of a church even puts on a light show at night.
The construction of Hallgrimskirkja, which now sits at the top of Skolavordustigur Street, started in 1986 and it took almost four decades to complete.
As a symbolic landmark of Reykjavík, the Hallgrimskirkja Church is virtually visible from any point in Reykjavik. This fantastic building stands at 74,5 m and boasts heavenly views of the city of Reykjavík.
5 The Holy Mother Of God, Dubrovitsy
Also known as the "Temple of Our Lady," The Mother of God Temple was built of white stone somewhere between 1690-1703. Although the architecture is quite unusual and almost too humble for Russia, it's one of the most beautiful sights in the village of Dubrovitsy, Moscow. This impressive Orthodox church, located in the district of the Moscow region, is built by an ally of Peter the Great.
In Greek, "The Mother of God" is almost quite literally translated as "The Church of the Theotokos". Today this beautiful Russian temple sits south of the capital and overlooks the Desna River.
4 St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague, Czech Republic
Situated in the gothic city of Prague, St. Vitus is, indeed, one of the most dramatic cathedrals with gothic vibes and features all over the place.
With its threatening spires and Medieval looks, The Cathedral of St. Vitus makes such a fantastic choice for travelers who love reading about mysteries and legends. As impressive as it is, the Medieval Basilica of St. Vitus rises high above the Prague Castle.
To get a sense of its scale, St. Vitus is visible from almost any point in the city of Prague. According to the city legend, St. Vitus was a Christian chased down by Romans. Although little is known for the man, who was eliminated by the Romans around 303 AD, the Cult of St. Vitus still evolved in parts of the modern Czech Republic and Germany.
3 Borgund Stavkirke, Borgund, Norway
This unique Norwegian stave structure is nothing like the modern temples around the world. Not only does it look like an ancient Asian temple, but Borgund Stavkirke seems to be a pretty authentic example of what the Norwegian churches looked like in the old days.
Located in Borgund, Norway, this otherwise marvelous place of worship is built with steeped roofs running into a cross at the top.
Known as Borgund Stavkirke, this traditional stave-style structure is entirely made from vertical wooden boards, making it such a unique stop during your vacation in Norway. When compared to the other exquisite cathedrals, it sure looks different, but it's just as impressive.
2 Le Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
As another historically significant place of worship, Le Mont St. Michel is now listed as a UNESCO site as well. This gorgeous place, situated on an island, is now one of the most fantastic sights in Normandy. In fact, Le Mont Saint-Michel was built in the 8th century AD, and it used to be a strategic fortification as well as the seat of an ancient monastery.
At the time of its construction, Le Mont Saint-Michel used to sit on dry land until the water levels rose high, turning it into a surreal island.
With no more than two or three dozens of people living on the island, Le Mont St Michel houses several great halls, an abbey, and a beautiful monastery.
1 Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius, Sergiyev Posad, Russia
When it comes to ornate devotional spaces, Russia is a great place to explore such mesmerizing sights. Well, countries like Italy or France may boast beautiful cathedrals, but Russia is home to some of the most extravagant temples around the world.
For instance, Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius in Sergiyev Posad clearly shows Russia as a religious country with millions of Russian devotees. The country's distinct architecture is like a reflection of some other world. Today, Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius is home to over 300 monks who live and pray within its beautiful stone walls. This marvelous ensemble of temples is also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
References: lonelyplanet.com, orbitz.com, theitalianeyemagazine.com, allthatsinteresting.com