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25 Most Popular Churches in the World to Visit

Most Popular Churches in the World

The world’s most popular churches offer a depth of history, stunning architecture, iconic landmarks, and stunning sacred spaces. This list is based on users of the Visited travel app, which includes bucket list destinations around the world. The app allows you to mark off where you’ve been, get a personalized travel map, and plan your dream getaway. See top travel lists and bookmark your favorite destinations with the Visited app to optimize your travel plans.

These are the 15 most visited churches in the world, according to Visited:

1. Notre Dame Cathedral

The top church destination for travelers around the world is Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France. The iconic Gothic cathedral has stunning stained-glass windows, soaring flying buttresses, and detailed gargoyles. Bishop Maurice de Sully commissioned the cathedral’s construction in 1163 with the support of King Louis VII. Construction of the main structure was largely completed by 1345, although decorative elements and additions continued for some time afterward.

2. Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain, is the second most visited church in the world. The artistic church is a manifestation of Gaudi’s vision. Gaudí, the mastermind behind the design, drew inspiration from trees, plants, and natural rock formations, resulting in a structure that feels alive and ever-evolving. Soaring tree-like columns branch out, supporting the ceiling in a mesmerizing display of nature’s artistry. Josep María Bocabella and the Asociación Espiritual de Devotos de San José played a crucial role in initiating the Sagrada Familia project, which began construction in 1882 and continues to this day. 

3. Saint Peter’s Basilica

Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City is the largest church in the world by interior volume, with its nave accommodating up to 20,000 people. The grand church is a masterpiece designed by renowned Renaissance architects like Bramante, Michelangelo, and Bernini. The majestic dome of Saint Peter’s Basilica towers up to 136 meters and is a prominent symbol in the skyline of Rome. The basilica is built on the site where St. Peter, the first pope, is believed to be buried, and the church is an important symbol for Catholics worldwide. 

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4. The Pantheon

The Pantheon is an architectural wonder located in Rome, Italy. The iconic church has a massive dome that was built of concrete without any support, making it a feat of engineering. The historic church dates back almost 2,000 years. Marcus Agrippa, son-in-law and close friend of Roman Emperor Augustus, commissioned the construction of the original Pantheon during Augustus’ reign (27 BC – 14 AD). The current Pantheon, with its iconic dome, was completed around 125-128 AD during the reign of Emperor Hadrian.

5. The Sistine Chapel

The Sistine Chapel in Vatican City is the fifth most visited church in the world. In the 1470s, Pope Sixtus IV commissioned the construction of the Sistine Chapel. Architects Giovanni dei Dolci and Baccio Pontelli collaborated on the design, and construction was largely completed by 1481. In 1503, Pope Julius II commissioned the renowned Renaissance artist Michelangelo to paint frescoes on the ceiling. 

6. Sacre-Coeur

Sacre-Coeur is a symbol of France located in Paris. The imposing white basilica has four domes and Romanesque-inspired details. In 1873, following the Franco-Prussian War, the French National Assembly commissioned the construction of the Sacré-Coeur Basilica as a national vow. Architect Paul Abadie won the design competition in 1874 and oversaw the construction, which began in 1875 and was completed in 1914. Due to World War I, the basilica’s consecration was delayed until 1919.

7. Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey is an iconic Gothic church in London, England. The Abbey’s origins trace back to the 10th century when King Edgar the Peaceful founded a Benedictine monastery on Thorney Island. In 1042, Edward the Confessor commissioned the construction of a new church on the site, marking the foundation for the present-day Abbey. In 1245, King Henry III initiated a major rebuilding project, transforming Edward’s church into a majestic Gothic structure that is a popular destination for travelers around the world. 

8. Paul’s Cathedral

St. Paul’s Cathedral in London is a symbol of England and a Baroque masterpiece. King Aethelberht I of England founded the first St. Paul’s Cathedral in London in 604 AD. The present St. Paul’s Cathedral, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, replaced its predecessor, which was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666. The cathedral has seen centuries of British history, from Saxon kings to present-day London. 

9. Duomo, Milan Cathedral

The Duomo in Milan, Italy, is a striking blend of Gothic and other architectural styles, including Renaissance and Flamboyant Gothic. The Catholic cathedral is dedicated to the Nativity of St. Mary. Archbishop Antonio da Saluzzo commissioned the building of Duomo, Milan Cathedral. The Milan Cathedral took over six centuries to complete, from 1386 to 1965.

10. Mark’s Basilica

St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, Italy, is nicknamed “The Church of Gold” for its over 8,000 square meters of glittering gold mosaics that adorn the walls, ceilings, and domes depicting Christian scenes. The original 9th-century basilica needed extensive repairs, and in 1063, Doge Domenico Contarini initiated a major reconstruction and expansion of St. Mark’s Basilica. Contarini’s project significantly enlarged the church, added domes, and altered the facade and interior. The main structure was completed by 1094, but decorative work continued for centuries.

11. Santa Maria Del Fiore

Santa Maria del Fiore, also known as the Duomo of Florence, is located in Florence, Italy. The church is known for its breathtaking dome, designed by Filippo Brunelleschi in the 15th century. This revolutionary structure defied the engineering challenges of the time and became a symbol of the Italian Renaissance. Its massive scale, octagonal shape, and terracotta tiled exterior dominate the city skyline and inspire visitors from around the world.

12. Cologne Cathedral

Cologne Cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is considered one of the most significant Gothic cathedrals in Europe. Its twin spires reach a height of 157 meters (515 feet), making it the tallest twin-spired church in the world. Archbishop Konrad von Hochstaden commissioned the building of Cologne Cathedral in 1248. It took over seven centuries to complete, and it was finished in 1880. 

13. Patrick’s Cathedral

St. Patrick’s Cathedral is a renowned Neo-Gothic church in New York City, U.S. Its Neo-Gothic architecture blends traditional Gothic elements like pointed arches, ribbed vaults, and gargoyles with a distinctly American flair. In 1853, the Archbishop of New York, Archbishop John Joseph Hughes, commissioned the building of the New St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The building of the cathedral started in 1858 with Architect James Renwick Jr in Midtown Manhattan.

14. Lisbon Cathedral

Lisbon Cathedral – also called The Cathedral of Saint Mary Major – is located in Old Lisbon, Portugal. The historic Catholic church was built in the 12th century and is one of the oldest churches in Portugal. The original Romanesque architecture has been extended and modified over the centuries, incorporating Gothic, Baroque, and neo-Gothic elements.

15. Hagia Sophia

The Hagia Sophia is one of the most significant monuments from the Byzantine Empire. Located in Istanbul, Turkey, the Hagia Sophia served as the center of the Eastern Orthodox Church for centuries. Its grand interiors, adorned with mosaics and rich artwork, showcase the majesty and power of the Byzantine Empire. The Hagia Sophia was built in the 6th century CE (532–537) under Byzantine emperor Justinian I.

16. Seville Cathedral

The Seville Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Seville, Andalusia, Spain. The grand Roman Catholic church is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world by surface area. The cathedral has soaring ceilings, ornate stained glass windows, and a blend of Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque styles. 

17. Stephen’s Cathedral

St. Stephen’s Cathedral is a Gothic masterpiece located in Vienna, Austria. The majestic cathedral includes pointed arches, ribbed vaults, and flying buttresses. Duke Rudolf IV of Austria commissioned the building of St. Stephen’s Cathedral in 1359. This version of the cathedral was rebuilt on top of ruins from the earlier version of the St. Stephen’s Cathedral from 1147. 

18. Vitus Cathedral

St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague, Czechia, houses the tombs of many Bohemian kings and Holy Roman Emperors, including Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV. The stunning Gothic-style Catholic church was commissioned by Emperor Charles IV in 1344. Construction of the cathedral started on November 21, 1344, with the help of Architect Matthias of Arras and then Peter Parler. 

19. Mont St. Michel Abbey

Mont St. Michel Abbey is an iconic medieval holy monument located on the island of Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy, France. The UNESCO World Heritage Site sits atop a long, winding hill that draws millions of visitors each year. The expansive abbey highlights medieval monastic life and includes a mix of architectural styles, ranging from the Romanesque base to the soaring Gothic spires and Renaissance touches.

20. Trinity Church

Trinity Church is a historic Episcopal church located opposite Wall Street in Manhattan, New York City. The church has one of the earliest examples of Neo-Gothic architecture in the U.S. The history of Trinity Church is closely intertwined with the development of New York City. It served as a prominent religious and social institution for centuries, playing a role in major events like the American Revolution and the city’s growth.

21. Notre-Dame Cathedral, Luxembourg

Notre-Dame Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin, is the only cathedral in Luxembourg City, Luxembourg. The beautiful cathedral has a unique mix of architectural styles, with late Gothic and Baroque elements and Renaissance influences. The Catholic cathedral was originally a Jesuit church dating back to 1613. The cathedral is tied to Luxembourg’s royal family and is the burial place of several Grand Dukes and Grand Duchesses.

22. Canterbury Cathedral

Canterbury Cathedral is one of the oldest churches in England, dating back over 1,400 years. The storied structure has a mix of styles that illuminate its long-reaching roots. The cathedral has Saxon foundations and Romanesque grandeur that came from William the Conqueror’s era. The building incorporates Gothic and Renaissance as well. Within the cathedral are ornate tombs of kings and archbishops from the past. Canterbury Cathedral is located in Canterbury, Kent, England. 

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23. Basil’s Cathedral 

St. Basil’s Cathedral, also called the Cathedral of Vasily the Blessed, is a colorful Orthodox church located in Red Square, Moscow, Russia. The cathedral has nine onion-shaped domes, each adorned with bright colors and intricate patterns to create a unique, festive look. Unlike most churches, St. Basil has no clearly defined facade. Its nine chapels radiate from a central church, forming a geometric structure that changes appearance depending on the viewing angle. Motivated by his 1552 victory over the Kazan Khanate, Tsar Ivan IV (Ivan the Terrible) initiated plans in the same year for St. Basil’s Cathedral, which would become a symbol of Russian power. 

24. York Minster

Built over 250 years ago, York Minster is an Anglican cathedral that showcases the evolution of English Gothic architecture. The cathedral is located in York, North Yorkshire, England. The cathedral has been a central worshiping place since the 7th century and is the second-largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe.

25. Pisa Cathedral

Pisa Cathedral, also known as the Duomo of Pisa, is a medieval cathedral in Pisa, Italy. The cathedral dates back to the 11th century and has an elegant Romanesque architecture style. The exterior features black and white marble stripes in the Pisan Romanesque style, with Islamic influences like pointed arches and decorative elements. The cathedral is in the same complex as the world-famous Leaning Tower of Pisa. The bell tower’s tilt, caused by unstable ground, has become a worldwide tourist attraction. 

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Plan Your Dream Getaway with the Visited Travel App

Have you been to any of the most popular church destinations in the world? You can browse more top travel lists and swipe through bucketlist places using the Visited app. Set a travel goal and optimize your travel plans using the Visited app. 

Want more in-depth travel insights? Thinking of visiting Europe, Lonely Planet’s Best of Europe guidebook has the best travel advise.

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