Europe is a continent steeped in history and culture, and it is home to some of the world’s most breathtaking churches. These iconic churches in Europe are not only beautiful but also have significant historical, cultural, and religious importance; from the striking modern design of the See-through church to the centuries-old ruins of Aulne Abbey, these churches offer visitors a glimpse into Europe’s rich cultural and religious heritage.
Whether you’re interested in Gothic architecture, medieval history, or contemporary design, there’s a church in Europe that’s sure to inspire you. So next time you’re planning a trip to Europe, be sure to include one of these iconic churches on your itinerary.
The 11 most iconic churches in Europe – listed
In this list, we’ll explore the 11 most iconic churches in Europe, taking a journey through the centuries to discover the remarkable architecture, history, and cultural significance of these timeless masterpieces. From the towering spires of Gothic cathedrals to the humble beauty of rural chapels, these churches are a testament to human creativity, devotion, and spiritual aspiration.
- Hallgrimskirkja Church in Reykjavik, Iceland
- Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, Italy
- Santuario Madonna della Corona church in the Italian Alps
- St Johann in Ranui Church in the Dolomite Mountains of Italy
- Bell Tower of Curon in the Italian Alps
- Aulne Abbey in Belgium
- Seyðisfjörður church in Seyðisfjörður, Iceland
- Notre Dame de Paris in Paris, France
- See-through church in Borgloon, Belgium
- Le Mont Saint-Michel church on an island in Normandy, France
- Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey
Hallgrimskirkja Church in Reykjavik
Hallgrimskirkja Church is located in Reykjavik, Iceland, and is one of the most iconic churches in Europe. The church’s unique design was inspired by the Icelandic landscape, with its towering spire resembling the country’s volcanic rock formations. The church’s construction began in 1945, and it took over 40 years to complete.
The church’s interior is equally impressive, featuring an enormous pipe organ that has over 5,000 pipes and is one of the largest in Europe. Visitors can take a ride to the top of the church’s spire to get breathtaking views of the city below. Today, the church is not only a popular tourist attraction but also a place of worship for the local community.
Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, Italy
The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, also known as the Florence Cathedral, is a stunning example of Italian Gothic architecture. Located in the heart of Florence, the cathedral took over 140 years to build, from 1296 to 1436. The exterior of the church is adorned with intricate marble designs, while the interior is decorated with beautiful frescoes and stained glass windows.
One of the most iconic features of the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore is its dome, which was designed by Filippo Brunelleschi and is considered a masterpiece of engineering. Visitors can climb to the top of the dome for panoramic views of the city. The church is also home to a museum that houses important works of art from the cathedral’s history.
Santuario Madonna della Corona church in the Italian Alps
The Santuario Madonna della Corona church is located in the Italian Alps and is one of the most unique churches in Europe. The church is built into the side of a mountain, and visitors must hike up a narrow path to reach it. The church’s location provides stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
Inside the church, visitors can see beautiful frescoes and sculptures, including a statue of the Virgin Mary that dates back to the 15th century. The church is a popular pilgrimage site for Catholics, and its remote location adds to its spiritual significance.
St Johann in Ranui Church in the Dolomite Mountains of Italy
The St Johann in Ranui Church is located in the Dolomite Mountains of Italy and is a beautiful example of Alpine architecture. The church’s wooden exterior is decorated with intricate carvings and paintings that depict scenes from the Bible. The interior of the church is just as stunning, with its wooden pews and altarpiece.
One of the most unique features of the St Johann in Ranui Church is its location. The church is situated in a meadow surrounded by the Dolomite Mountains, making it a popular destination for hikers and nature lovers. Visitors can attend mass in the church or simply enjoy the beautiful scenery that surrounds it.
Bell Tower of Curon in the Italian Alps
The Bell Tower of Curon is a unique church located in the Italian Alps. The church was built in the 14th century, but in 1950, it was submerged underwater due to the construction of a dam. Today, the only part of the church that remains visible is its bell tower, which still stands above the surface of the water.
Despite its unusual location, the Bell Tower of Curon has become a popular tourist attraction. Visitors can take a boat tour of the lake and see the tower up close or view it from a nearby hiking trail. The tower serves as a reminder of the church’s rich history and the impact of human development on the environment.
Aulne Abbey in Belgium
Aulne Abbey is a beautiful example of medieval architecture located in Belgium. The abbey was founded in the 7th century and was once one of the most important religious sites in the region. Today, visitors can see the remains of the abbey’s church, including its impressive bell tower and Gothic-style windows.
The abbey’s history is tied to the political and religious conflicts that plagued Europe in the Middle Ages. It was destroyed and rebuilt several times over the centuries, with its final destruction occurring during the French Revolution. Today, the ruins of the abbey are a popular destination for history buffs and architecture enthusiasts.
Seyðisfjörður church in Seyðisfjörður, Iceland
Seyðisfjörður church is a small, but iconic church located in the town of Seyðisfjörður in Iceland. The church’s red and white exterior is instantly recognizable and has become a symbol of the town. The church was built in 1922 and is one of the few buildings in the town that survived a devastating fire in 1929.
The interior of Seyðisfjörður church is equally charming, with its wooden pews and beautifully painted ceiling. The church’s location, surrounded by mountains and overlooking the fjord, adds to its charm and makes it a popular destination for photographers.
Notre Dame de Paris in Paris, France
Notre Dame de Paris is one of the most famous churches in the world and is a stunning example of French Gothic architecture. The church’s construction began in 1163 and took over 200 years to complete. Its iconic features include its flying buttresses, stained glass windows, and imposing bell towers.
Notre Dame de Paris has a rich history, having survived wars, revolutions, and natural disasters. In 2019, the church suffered a devastating fire that caused significant damage to its roof and spire. The restoration of the church is currently underway, and it remains an important symbol of French culture and history.
See-through church in Borgloon, Belgium
The See-through church in Borgloon, Belgium, is a unique and modern addition to the town’s architectural landscape. It was designed by Belgian architects Pieterjan Gijs and Arnout Van Vaerenbergh and completed in 2011 as part of the Z-OUT project, which aimed to revitalize the town’s public spaces.
The church’s design is minimalist, with a steel frame and transparent polycarbonate panels that create a see-through effect. The church’s form is based on the traditional shape of a church, but its transparent exterior blurs the line between interior and exterior space, creating a unique sensory experience for visitors.
Le Mont Saint-Michel church on an island in Normandy, France
Le Mont Saint-Michel is a unique church located on an island in the Normandy region of France. The church’s location on a rocky island surrounded by water makes it one of the most iconic churches in Europe. The church was built in the 11th century and was once an important pilgrimage site.
Today, visitors can climb to the top of the church’s tower for stunning views of the surrounding coastline. The church’s interior is just as impressive, featuring beautiful stained glass windows and a statue of Saint Michael. Le Mont Saint-Michel is a testament to the ingenuity of medieval builders and remains a popular destination for visitors to France.
Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey
Hagia Sophia is a historic church located in Istanbul, Turkey, and is one of the most iconic churches in Europe. The church’s construction began in the 6th century and it served as the primary church of the Eastern Roman Empire for over 900 years. In the 15th century, the church was converted into a mosque and served as a Muslim place of worship for over 500 years.
Today, Hagia Sophia is a museum that showcases the church’s rich history and cultural significance. Visitors can see the church’s impressive dome, as well as its intricate mosaics and frescoes. Hagia Sophia’s unique history and architecture make it a must-visit destination for anyone interested in the history of Christianity, Islam, and the Byzantine Empire.