I often run into travelers that are so completely over visiting churches by the end of their Europe trip. I get it, there’s that phrase “if you’ve seen one church you’ve seen them all.” That couldn’t be farther from the truth if we’re talking churches in Europe. Each church is unique. Stylistically, historically and culturally. If you want a bit of grandeur in your life then popping into some of these churches will satisfy that. Especially if you’re living on a broke backpacker budget seeing as most churches are free to visit. (AKA ME) Which is why I bring you, 10 Churches You Need to See in Europe.
Hallgrimskirkja. Reykjavik, Iceland
Hallgrimskirkja or church of Hallgrimur is easily Reykjavik’s most famous church. If you’ve ever looked up Reykjavik then chances are you already know what the exterior of this church looks like. This structure stands at a whopping 74 meters tall. Not only a place of practice but the tower serves as an observation deck where the views are just INCREDIBLE. It’s free to enter the church but the tower costs a bit to visit more info on how to visit can be found here.
La Sagrada Familia. Barcelona, Spain
I know this one seems obvious but hear me out. Visiting this church is like nothing you’ve ever experienced before. Antoni Gaudi is an icon of Barcelona and his architecture all over town helps define the charm embodied by this Catalonian city. Pulling his inspiration from nature, each detail has been thought out to the greatest measure and I mean with over 130 years of construction under its belt you’d hope that were the case. My two biggest tips are that you ABSOLUTELY should buy your ticket in advance and save yourself the hour-long wait. My second tip would be to go later in the day so you can catch the afternoon sun shining through the stained glass windows forming a rainbow throughout the entire building.
Church of St. Francis of Assisi. Krakow, Poland
Walking through the doors of this church is like passing through the wardrobe into Narnia. This church is HUGE and you would have no idea judging by the exterior. The inside is dark with hues of emerald and blue lining the walls. But the real joy is taking in all of the stained glass designs. Huge portraits, tiny flowers, the colorful glass is inspiring and clearly took a lot of talent. It’s easy to spend at least an hour looking at all of the tiny details this church packs in. They also offer a free audio tour if you want to learn a bit more about the history.
Ljubljana Cathedral. Ljubljana, Slovenia
Prepare to pick your jaw up from off the ground once you walk through the front door of this Roman Catholic church. The sun shines brightly lighting up the ceilings covered in traditional paintings. Being in this church feels more like being inside of one big religious painting. Truly a work of art that needs to be seen. The best part, it’s FREEEEE.
Notre Dame. Paris, France.
You’re going to hate every bit of walking up those steep, spiraled steps. You’ll hate how dizzy you get walking back down. But you know what you won’t hate? The view you’ll get from the top of this famous cathedral. Quasimodo was sitting on some prime Parisian real estate on the Seine. If you want a view of the Paris skyline, skip going to the Eiffel Tower, the real view is over at the Notre Dame. You do have to pay to go to the bell towers in order to see this view and that information can be found here. ALSO LET ME SAY that even if you buy your ticket in advance, brace yourself to still wait in a long line. Not as bad as trying to get in the Louvre but I definitely spent at least 40 minutes waiting in line.
Nestled in the valley of the mountains of Montenegro is the small, quiet former royal capital town of Cetinje. Now when I say quiet, I mean silent. You could drop a pin in the middle of the town square and hear it. But this is what you get from a town where the serene practice of religion is exemplified. There are two places worth seeing and the first is the small Orthodox church found at the edge of town. Modeled in the Eastern Orthodox style, this church is as traditional as it gets. If you want to glimpse into everyday life in Cetinje then go hang out with the grandmas at this church. The monastery is a short walk and a treasure of Serbian Eastern Orthodox Architecture. The entrance fee to the monastery is super cheap and there are really unique relics like the hand of John the Baptist.
Cathedral Church of the Nativity of the Theotokos. Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
This church was built in 1874 and is one of the biggest in the Balkan region. There is so much to drool over in this church. First, let’s talk the marble floor, intricate designs are laid all across the floor created with various hues of marble. Creating flowers and geometric shapes. Then you move your eyes up and see all of the plush, velvet seats and carpets. Like hello, I need this in my house. Then there’s the giant spiral staircase in the middle, OKAY yes, please just teleport into my forever home thank you. Then there’s the design work on the walls. The walls are covered with beautiful geometric designs that you’d find decorated on buildings in the Middle East.
Katholische Hofkriche. Dresden, Germany.
Walking over the Augustus Bridge towards Altstadt and coming up upon the square that this church calls home is a breath taker. Between this church, Hausmannsturm and Zwinger all within walking distance you’re going to feel like you tripped and fell into Beauty and the Beast and you’re Belle marveling at the gorgeous Baroque architecture. The church and Zwinger are free to enter during the day and really cannot be missed.
German Church. Stockholm, Sweden.
I honestly came across this church completely by accident. I was walking around Stockholm going to places that “sounded cool” on the map LOL (I’m such a well-researched traveler). When I saw a church called “German Church” in the middle of Sweden I chuckled and figured I had to stop by. I’m glad I did, walking into the front gate I was greeted by a colorful, lush garden blooming in the early weeks of the Nordic summer. The interior of the church was DRIPPING in gold. Everywhere you looked there were banisters, alters and pulpits COVERED in gold. This German Church would put any hip hop artist to shame in the bling department. This church is also free to visit.
Vatican City. Rome, Italy.
Vatican City is obviously an epicenter of religion. It’s like the grand daddy of churches. There’s a museum housing some of Michelangelo’s finest like his massive portrait titled “Last Judgement”. Then there’s the church that is about as old as old gets. There’s side hallways asking to be explored and relics that will probably be the oldest things you’ve ever laid your eyes on. You may even be lucky enough to walk in on the Pope giving a mass! Ladies, be mindful that in order to go into the church you must have your knees and shoulders covered. Don’t forget to pack that cardigan in your bag for the day.
What are some of your favorite churches in Europe? Let me know in the comments for my next trip out!
**Also, Special Thank YOU to Jackie @ Jacquelyn Carol Co. for helping me out with some Iceland pictures. If you haven’t already checked out her work then you can follow her on Instagram @jackiewhyy **