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8 Beautiful Must-Visit Cathedrals in the World

Discover the history, architecture, and opening hours of the best cathedrals. Here are some must-visit cathedrals in the world and their tickets. Book yours!

Due to their societal significance, churches have held the means and influence to safeguard history and sponsor creative, often opulent, artistic endeavors. 

While visiting churches may seem repetitive, certain ones transcend the ordinary. 

The finest churches globally are often those steeped in history or legend, boasting beauty that leaves beholders in awe.

Historically, churches served as sacred spaces for prayer and communion with deities. 

Today, they remain hallowed places, yet many visit primarily for special occasions or as tourists. 

Though the world teems with churches, only a select few captivate with their arresting beauty and colossal proportions, elevating them beyond mere places of worship. 

Here is a curated list of the world’s most stunning churches that deserve a spot on your travel bucket list.

1. St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City

St. Peter's Basilica
Image: NiseriN / Getty Images

Opening Hours: 7 am to 7 pm

Year Opened: 1626

Best time to visit: Early morning or afternoon

Ticket price: €25

Location: Piazza San Pietro, 00120 Città del Vaticano, Vatican City | Get Directions

Vatican City, although the spiritual center of the Catholic Church, offers a range of attractions for all visitors. 

St. Peter’s Basilica, the world’s largest church, is a prominent highlight. 

It was named after Saint Peter, one of Jesus’s disciples.

It’s a key figure in the Catholic Church’s foundation. 

The basilica boasts an Italian Renaissance design crafted by architectural luminaries like Bramante, Bernini, Michelangelo, and Maderno. Construction began in 1506 and concluded in 1626. 

This iconic structure houses millennia-old treasures, including paintings, sculptures, and Michelangelo’s renowned Pieta. 

It also serves as the final resting place of St. John Paul II.

2. Notre-Dame Cathedral, Paris

Notre-Dame Cathedral
Image: Anastasia Collection

Opening Hours: 9.30 am to 6 pm

Year Opened: 1345

Best time to visit: Morning

Ticket price: €30

Location: 6 Parvis Notre-Dame – Pl. Jean-Paul II, 75004 Paris, France | Get Directions

Notre-Dame Cathedral, situated in central Paris, France, is an iconic masterpiece. 

Renowned globally, it stands as a pinnacle of French Gothic architecture. 

The cathedral’s fame lies in its exquisite craftsmanship, exemplified by the intricately designed gargoyles and world-renowned stained glass windows. 

Within its hallowed walls, it safeguards priceless relics, including the Crown of Thorns and a fragment of the True Cross. Despite enduring a substantial fire in 2019, 

Notre Dame Cathedral retains its status as an essential destination for Paris-bound travelers.

With the cathedral closed for renovation, you can take an external or virtual tour. 

3. Westminster Abbey, London

Westminster Abbey
Image: Ziva_K / Getty Images Signature

Opening Hours: 9.30 am to 3.30 pm

Year Opened: 1269

Best time to visit: Early morning

Ticket price: €33

Location: Dean’s Yard, London SW1P 3PA, United Kingdom | Get Directions

Westminster Abbey, located in the heart of London, is a church fit for royalty. 

This historic abbey has witnessed centuries of British coronations and is a final resting place for monarchs. 

Dating back to 1065, the current structure near the Palace of Westminster maintains deep connections with the British Royal Family. 

Visitors can explore many attractions in this Gothic masterpiece, including captivating memorials and tombs. 

Poet’s Corner, a section of the church, pays homage to literary giants like Chaucer, Dickens, and TS Eliot, in addition to honoring past royals.

4. Cologne Cathedral, Cologne

Cologne Cathedral
Image: Xurzon / Getty Images

Opening Hours: 10 am to 5 pm (Sunday: 1 pm to 4 pm)

Year Opened: 1880

Best time to visit: Early morning

Ticket price: €24

Location: Domkloster 4, 50667 Köln, Germany | Get Directions

Cologne Cathedral, situated in the heart of Cologne, Germany, is a breathtaking example of Gothic architecture. 

This monumental structure ranks among the world’s largest cathedrals and is an iconic city symbol. 

Renowned for its intricate details, including exquisite stained glass windows, imposing spires, and stunning Gothic design, the cathedral is a testament to architectural mastery. 

With a construction period spanning over six centuries, it is one of Europe’s most remarkable religious edifices. 

Intricate stone carvings and magnificent stained glass windows greet visitors.

This offers a profound journey through European architecture and history. 

Visiting Cologne Cathedral is a must for its incredible craftsmanship and cultural heritage enthusiasts.

5. St. Mark’s Basilica, Venice

St. Mark's Basilica
Image: Aliaksei Skreidzeleu

Opening Hours: 9.30 am to 5.15 pm 

Year Opened: 1094

Best time to visit: At night

Ticket price: €29

Location: P.za San Marco, 328, 30100 Venezia VE, Italy | Get Directions

St. Mark’s Basilica, gracing the renowned Piazza San Marco, is a splendid embodiment of Italian Byzantine architecture. 

It serves as a testament to the luxury and influence of Venice during its heyday. 

Constructed in the 11th century, the basilica earned its moniker “the Church of Gold” for the lavish use of this precious metal in its adornment. 

This is strikingly evident, from the golden-winged lion adorning the church’s front facade to the profusion of golden mosaics that envelop its interior.

St. Mark’s Basilica is a dazzling representation of Venice’s rich cultural and architectural heritage.

6. Duomo di Milano, Milan

Duomo di Milano
Image: Noppasin Wongchum / Getty Images Pro

Opening Hours: 9 am to 6 pm daily

Year Opened: 1965

Best time to visit: Early morning

Ticket price: €20

Location: P.za del Duomo, 20122 Milano MI, Italy | Get Directions

Italy boasts a wealth of magnificent churches and cathedrals, but the Duomo in Milan stands as the country’s largest church. 

Often referred to as the Milan Cathedral, the Duomo is a colossal Gothic marvel that required nearly six centuries to reach completion. 

Its status as the third-largest church globally in terms of area is a testament to its sheer size and grandeur. 

Adorned with intricate details, the Duomo’s ornate spires and pinnacles can be explored up close when visiting its rooftop. 

Stepping inside reveals even more splendor, with its elegantly tiled floor adding to the architectural wonder of this iconic structure.

7. Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Sagrada Familia
Image: Pelin Oleg’s Images

Opening Hours: 9 am to 6 pm

Year Opened: 2010

Best time to visit: Early morning

Ticket price: €33

Location: C/ de Mallorca, 401, 08013 Barcelona, Spain | Get Directions

The Sagrada Familia Basilica, renowned worldwide, began its construction journey in 1882.

Since then, it has become one of Barcelona’s iconic landmarks, drawing millions of visitors from across the globe. 

Entrusted initially to architect Francesc de Paula Villar, the project saw a significant transformation when the visionary architect Antonio Gaudi took over in late 1883. 

Gaudi’s vision was more ambitious and spectacular, envisioning a colossal temple featuring five naves, a transept, an apse, an exterior ambulatory, three façades, and 18 towers.

This project proved to be the most intricate and unique in Gaudi’s career, occupying 43 years of his life. 

The portion designed by Gaudi earned UNESCO World Heritage status in 2005, and construction is expected to conclude in 2026, commemorating the centenary of Gaudi’s passing. 

The Sagrada Familia will be the world’s tallest church upon completion.

8. Cathedral Of Santa Maria Del Fiore, Florence

Cathedral Of Santa Maria Del Fiore
Image: Anastasia Collection

Opening Hours: 10.15 am to 3.45 pm

Year Opened: 1436

Best time to visit: Early morning

Ticket price: $30

Location: Piazza del Duomo, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy | Get Directions

Arnolfo di Cambio designed Florence Cathedral at the close of the 13th century.

It was dedicated to Santa Maria del Fiore, referencing the city’s emblematic lily.

It is the third-largest cathedral globally, trailing only Saint Peter’s in Rome and Saint Paul’s in London. 

When consecrated in 1436, it reigned as Europe’s largest cathedral. Erected atop the earlier Cathedral of Santa Reparata, its remains can be explored via the nave. 

The exterior, now adorned with polychrome marble, saw prolonged incompleteness. 

The original façade, partly constructed per Arnolfo di Cambio’s plan, was razed in the late 16th century and replaced by the current one in the late 19th century. 

Inside, the vast choir encircles the main altar, presided over by the Cupola. 

The cathedral boasts 44 stained-glass windows crafted by eminent 15th-century artists, including Donatello, Andrea del Castagno, and Paolo Uccello.

Things To Remember Before Visiting The Cathedrals Around The World

Before embarking on a visit to cathedrals worldwide, there are some practical considerations to remember. 

These simple guidelines can enhance your experience and ensure that you show respect for the sacred spaces you’ll be exploring. 

So, if you’re a first-time visitor, here are some essential things to remember before stepping into these magnificent cathedrals.

Dress Appropriately

Wearing revealing clothing, like short skirts, sleeveless tops, or low-cut attire, is considered disrespectful in religious settings. 

To avoid any issues, it’s advisable to carry a scarf, shawl, or jacket that can be draped over your shoulders or waist if needed.

Research in Advance

Before visiting a church, it’s a good idea to research the customs and practices associated with that particular faith or denomination. 

Religious practices vary significantly, even within the same religion, based on location and culture.

Maintain Silence

While visiting a place of worship, especially when a service is in progress, it’s crucial to keep noise levels to a minimum. 

Loud talking and shouting should be avoided, as many people are there to worship rather than sightsee.

Respect Photography Rules

Pay attention to any posted signs regarding photography within the church. 

Some places may prohibit photography, while others may allow it without flash.

Using flash can harm priceless artwork and disturb those in prayer.

No Selfie Sticks

Many churches have banned using selfie sticks due to the risk of accidental damage to the interior. 

If you want to take photos, it’s best to do so without a selfie stick or ask someone to help you.

Consider Donating

While entry to many churches is free, leaving a donation is a thoughtful gesture to show your appreciation and support the maintenance of the church.

Check the Schedule

Before your visit, check the church’s opening hours and schedule. 

Some churches may only be open for sightseeing on specific days or times, and they may close during religious services.

Do Not Touch or Climb

Respect the sacred space by refraining from climbing altars, staircases, columns, or touching artwork, candles, or other religious objects. 

It’s essential to maintain reverence for the church’s sanctity.

Attend a Service

Even if you don’t understand the language, attending a church service can offer a unique and meaningful experience. 

While you won’t be able to take photos during a service, it allows you to witness the church in use and create lasting memories of your visit.

FAQs

1. Which country has the best Cathedrals?

Determining the country with the “best” cathedrals is subjective.

However, countries like France, Italy, and Spain are renowned for their stunning cathedrals.

2.  What is a very famous cathedral?

One of the most famous cathedrals globally is Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France, known for its exquisite Gothic architecture and rich history.

3. What is the most famous cathedral, and where is it located?

The most famous cathedral is often considered to be St. Peter’s Basilica, located in Vatican City. 

It is also the world’s holiest church and a significant pilgrimage site for Catholics worldwide.

4. Which city has three cathedrals?

Cologne, Germany, is known for having three prominent cathedrals: Cologne Cathedral, St. Andreas, and St. Ursula.

5. Which city has two cathedrals?

Two notable cathedrals are in Milan, Italy: Milan Cathedral (Duomo di Milano) and the Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio.

6. What is the oldest cathedral in the world?

The title of the oldest cathedral in the world is debated, but one contender is the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City, founded in the late 19th century.

7. What is the holiest church in the world?

The holiest church in the world is St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, as it is the epicenter of the Roman Catholic Church.

8. What is the tallest cathedral in the world?

The tallest cathedral in the world is Ulm Minster in Ulm, Germany, with its towering spire reaching an impressive height of 616 m (531 ft.).

9. Which is the most famous church in the world?

One of the most famous churches globally is the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain, designed by architect Antoni Gaudí.

10. Are cathedrals only Catholic?

No, cathedrals are not exclusively Catholic. 

While many cathedrals are associated with the Catholic Church, some are from other Christian denominations.

They can be Anglican, Orthodox, or Lutheran churches. 
Each denomination may have its cathedrals.

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