Top Picks For You

The 12 Most Stunning Cathedrals in Europe

Part church, museum, and art gallery, cathedrals in Europe are marked by brilliant stonemasonry, woodwork, and sculpturing.

Towering icons of spirituality, Europe’s cathedrals are also architectural wonders that thrill visitors. Travelers worldwide are drawn to the continent’s cathedrals, often the largest and most important church within a city or town. Their sublime interiors further enhance the tourism appeal of Europe’s cathedrals. They are often part church, museum, and art gallery, decorated by brilliant stonemasonry, woodwork, and sculpturing, and home to a vast collection of ancient paintings. Here are 12 of Europe’s most impressive cathedrals.

1 OF 12

St Patrick’s Cathedral

WHERE: Dublin, Ireland

The world’s most famous saint, Patrick, helped introduce Christianity to Ireland almost 1,600 years ago, conducting his first baptisms in what is now St. Patrick’s Park in central Dublin. The city’s grandest church, St Patrick’s Cathedral, is attached to that green space. Despite being built about 800 years ago, it is in excellent condition due to a recent renovation which spruced up its woodwork, stonemasonry, and glazing. St. Patrick’s story is told via a series of placards inside the cathedral, which has some of Ireland’s finest stained-glass windows.

2 OF 12

Glasgow Cathedral

WHERE: Glasgow, Scotland

Although he lacks the worldwide fame of St. Patrick in Glasgow, no man has ever been more influential than St. Mungo, whose tomb is a key attraction of 12th-century Glasgow Cathedral. Mungo not only created the chapel that later became that cathedral, he is credited with founding this Scottish city, which each year celebrates his life via a huge festival. Glasgow’s oldest structure, this medieval Cathedral, has a vast prayer hall adorned by delicate stonework and sublime stained glass windows.

3 OF 12

Cologne Cathedral

WHERE: Cologne, Germany

For sheer size, few religious buildings on the planet can match the colossal Cologne Cathedral. It is the world’s fourth-tallest church, with the two spires that dominate its façade stretching 157m into the sky. The main church of the little-visited German city of Cologne also has a massive prayer hall, which can accommodate several thousand worshippers at a time. Visitors can admire its array of ancient sculptures and paintings. Or, to gain a phenomenal view of Cologne, they can climb the more than 500 stairs to the cathedral’s tower.

4 OF 12

St. Paul's Cathedral

WHERE: London, England

After the Great Fire of London destroyed thousands of buildings in 1666, legendary architect Sir Christopher Wren was tasked with reviving the city’s soul by building more than 50 new churches. Many of the English capital’s finest churches were designed by Wren, including the commanding St. Paul’s Cathedral. This was one of the structures razed during that catastrophic fire. Then, in 1710, the cathedral was reborn, larger and even more striking than before. Its 111m-tall dome still looms over central London, where tourists flock to photograph its beautiful Baroque architecture.

5 OF 12

Duomo di Milano

WHERE: Milan, Italy

In a country overflowing with massive churches, Milan’s iconic Duomo di Milano is the largest of all. After visitors come to terms with its size, they’ll soon be transfixed by its finer details. Extraordinarily, more than 3,000 sculptures are positioned throughout this cathedral, each crafted by hand. This kind of detailed craftsmanship not only sets it apart from many other cathedrals worldwide but also helps explain why this church wasn’t finished until the late 20th century, nearly 600 years after workmen began this project.

6 OF 12

Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore

WHERE: Florence, Italy

While the Duomo dazzles with its complicated stonework, Florence’s cathedral stands out thanks to its wide palette of colors. Eschewing the grey scale of many other churches, the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore has a white, green, and pink façade decorated with floral motifs, geometric patterns, and generous golden inlays. It, too, is monumental, only slightly smaller than its Milan counterpart, at 90m tall and 153m long. This neo-Gothic wonder dates back to the late 1200s.

7 OF 12

Saint Michael and Saint Gudula Cathedral

WHERE: Brussels, Belgium

The muted, stone exterior of the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula gives way to a far more ostentatious interior, all bathed in polychromatic light due to some of Europe’s biggest and finest stained-glass windows. Its mammoth organ, which boasts more than 4,000 pipes, is especially eye-catching. Starting from the early 13th century, tradespeople spent about 300 years slowly crafting this Gothic masterpiece, which houses the relics of Saint Michael and Saint Gudula.

8 OF 12

Cathedral of Barcelona

WHERE: Barcelona, Spain

Antoni Gaudi’s extraordinary La Sagrada Familia may be the most famous church in Spain, but it is a basilica, not a cathedral. That latter, more exalted title is owned by a smaller yet similarly wondrous church in the heart of the city’s timeworn Gothic Quarter. Housing the remains of Barcelona’s patron Saint, Eulalia, it was built in the late 1200s and is called the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia. One of this cathedral’s most distinctive and photogenic features is its giant cloister, a covered walkway embellished by brilliant stonework.

9 OF 12

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

WHERE: Sofia, Bulgaria

Daylight glimmers off two magnificent golden domes of Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, the number one tourist attraction of Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital and largest city. This Eastern Orthodox church has a striking interior laden with gilded designs, vivid murals, grand chandeliers, and intricately patterned marble floors. Its highlight is the former Royal throne, guarded by lion sculptures and flanked by a mosaic portrait of King Ferdinand and Queen Eleanor in their Imperial gowns.

10 OF 12

Bayeux Cathedral

WHERE: Bayeux, France

Most tourists are drawn to Bayeux, a small town 135 miles west of Paris, to see its remarkable Bayeux Tapestry, one of France’s most valued artifacts. Despite being a petite community, Bayeux has a commanding cathedral, just a few minutes walk from the museum that showcases that 70m long cloth artwork. Some 77m tall, Bayeux Cathedral dwarfs every other building in Bayeux. Tourists can join free guided tours of its hulking prayer hall and its eerie crypt, which dates back to the 11th century.

11 OF 12

Bern Minster

WHERE: Bern, Switzerland

A cluster of graceful limestone buildings surrounded by the picturesque Aare River, Bern’s Old Town is so attractive and well-maintained that it’s been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the core of this historic precinct is the towering Bern Minster Cathedral. By scaling more than 300 steps, tourists can climb to the top of Switzerland’s tallest church tower, about 100m high, to absorb mesmerizing views of this quaint, green Swiss city and the distant peaks of the Bernese Highlands.

12 OF 12

St. Giles’ Cathedral

WHERE: Edinburgh, Scotland

St Giles’ Cathedral in 2024 will turn 900 years old. The most important church in Scotland, it sits next to the world-famous Edinburgh Castle, and for centuries regularly hosted Royalty. Now, it is among the key attractions of this beautiful city, attracting tourists with its deep history and ornate interior. Visitors are attracted by its colorful stained-glass windows, Biblical sculptures, and stunning blue ceiling.

jan47ete January 22, 2024

Sagrada Famalia, Barcelona

diaconudoina January 22, 2024

Strange list. Missing St Peter's in Rome, Toledo, Notre Dame in Paris etc

latinlogos January 19, 2024

How could you leave out Chartres Cathedral, my favorite,  which has the best stained glass anywhere?

BarbBelle December 18, 2023

On dear you haven't included Durham Cathedral in England "The best Cathedral on earth" A quote from Bill Bryson