There’s something special about visiting a place of worship. Whether it’s a church, cathedral, temple or mosque, I love the amazing architecture, the sheer size of some of these buildings, and finding out the stories behind the places.
I also enjoy taking my kids to different places of worship- at school, they learn about all religions and what makes each one different. Taking them to a place of worship is an educational experience!
I’ve asked travel bloggers from around the world what their favourite place of worship is. Each blogger has contributed one of their own images and shared a short background story about the place and why it’s their favourite.
Which one do you love the most?
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Places of worship in Europe
The Duomo, Milan, Italy
Dish Our Town has chosen The Duomo in Milan:
Having spent most of my professional life in the luxury retail industry, the Italian fashion capital of Milan was a destination often visited. During the famed fashion weeks, amidst all the glitter, and what was often masked by all the beautiful clothing, was hard work. My job often hinged upon the success of the season. Not that anyone should be praying for success, but I did; and my favorite place to do it was the Duomo in Milan. This Gothic Structure is architecturally magnificent on the outside, replete with gargoyles and grotesques. The inside is often cool, almost cold, warmed by candlelight and echoes of prayer. It is my favorite place to worship.
Vangen Church, Aurland, Norway
Jo from She Escapes:
Looking at the beautifully-maintained Vangen Church, it is hard to imagine that the graceful, simple stone structure was first built in 1202. Nestled at the tip of Aurlandsfjord in Aurland, Norway, the church’s surroundings are just as idyllic. Grass-roofed houses dot the road leading to its village from famous Flam, and homes painted in classic Norwegian gold, red, or white nestle all around it. Still in use today, its hearty congregation was hosting an outdoor ice cream social on the 32F°/0°C day I stopped by in March.
Monasteries of Meteora, Kalabaka, Greece
Chrissy from Travel Passionate:
The monasteries of Meteora are situated in the prefecture of Thessaly in central Greece and are one of the most important religious centers of the country. What makes these monasteries special is their location on the top of a complex of giant sandstone rock pillars. They were created at the end of 9th century AD when a group of monks decided to live in caves at the top of these pillars and slowly built the monasteries. There used to be more than 20 monasteries in the area but now only 6 have survived which are also open to the public.
Aya Sofya, Istanbul, Turkey
Andrew and Audrey from Gumnuts Abroad:
The Aya Sofya (Hagia Sophia) in Istanbul was built in 537 and is one of the world’s greatest surviving examples of Byzantine architecture. It was a Christian church for over 900 years until it was converted in 1453 to an Islamic mosque. It was – and is- so extraordinarily beautiful many of Istanbul’s mosques are modelled after it. Amazingly some Christian features remain including a stunning mosaic of the Virgin Mary with Child. It’s one of the most incredible places of worship we’ve seen and we were mesmerized by its rich history and ethereal beauty.
St John’s Co-Cathedral, Valetta, Malta
Shannon from In Search Of Mexican:
The inside of Saint John’s Co-Cathedral is a classic Baroque style that was built to rival the churches of Rome. And it does. From top to bottom every inch is richly decorated and covered in golden shades. Inside there are 9 chapels, each as richly decorated as the last. The Cathedral is also home to a Caravaggio masterpiece, The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist. It is one of the most popular tourist sites in Malta, for a very good reason. There’s a hushed reverence from the moment you walk in coupled with a sense of awe. They simply don’t make them like that anymore.
Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, St Petersburg, Russia
Sam from Travelling Sam:
Russia is a country dominated by Russian Orthodox Christianity. Russian Orthodox churches and cathedrals are extremely elaborate and lavishly adorned. None more so than the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood. The church was built on the site of where Emperor Alexander II was injured in St Petersburg. It has had a tumultuous history having been a church, then a morgue during the Second World War and then a vegetable storage facility post war. Today it stands as a museum rather than a fully working church and rightly so with incredibly intricate mosaics from floor to ceiling.
Pilgrimage Church of Weis, Steingaden, Germany
Natalie from Cosmos Mariners:
Just off of Germany’s Romantic Road is a large church with an intriguing history. This rococo style building houses a wooden carving of Jesus that (it is claimed) cries tears of blood and can cure those who pilgrimage to see it. The small statue of the crucified Jesus first started gathering admirers in the mid-1730s, when locals noticed that it would weep on occasion. As word started to get out, pilgrims began to flock to the area, so the community build a small chapel for the statue. The number of people interested in the statue quickly outgrew the tiny space, so the current church was finished in 1754. The UNESCO World Heritage site invites visitors to tour the large church, see the statue (protected behind the alter), attend a worship service, and peek inside the original pilgrimage chapel.
Church at Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain
Jub from Tiki Touring Kiwi:
Watching a game of football is the holy grail for soccer fans around the world with the Barcelona FC team full of superstars. What you might not know is along the tunnel leading players out to the field is a small chapel which you can also visit on the stadium tour. Spain is a religious country with Catholicism the most popular. You’d think that visiting church would be one of the last things on the mind of a playing in front of nearly 100,000 fans at full capacity, but apparently, some players do have a quick prayer before game time.
La Sagrada Familia Basilica, Barcelona, Spain
Dan from Honeymoon Always:
La Sagrada Familia Basilica located in Barcelona, Spain is a one of a kind building designed by Antoni Gaudí. It has been under construction since 1882, but is already open to visitors with great popularity, requiring advanced reservations. Once completed in 2026, it will be the tallest church building in Europe. The exterior is covered in facades depicting the birth, crucifixion, and glory of Christ. From afar the most notable characteristics are the large towers, many of which have not been constructed yet. The interior is full of large supporting columns looking like trees that branch out to support the ceiling. Surrounding the interior is colorful bright glass windows. Depending on the time of day, different colors shine through illuminating the interior. Having visited many cathedrals and temples around Europe, La Sagrada Familia is one of a kind, a complete departure from the traditional design of religious buildings and an architectural wonder.
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Sofia, Bulgaria
Alex from The Wayward Walrus:
Located in the heart of Bulgaria’s capital, the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia is a looming structural marvel to take in. With its Neo-Byzantine grandeur and dome views that peak up throughout the city, the cathedral is a symbol of national pride for Bulgarians. Construction began in 1882 to honor those who lost their lives in the Russo-Turkish War when Bulgaria was liberated from the Ottoman Empire. As one of the largest Eastern Orthodox cathedrals in the world and its optimal city centre location, Alexander Nevsky Cathedral brings in crowds of tourists and locals alike to relish its magnificence.
Biertan Fortified Church, Biertan, Romania
Ana from Jaunting Trips:
Romania, and Transylvania especially, is home to hundreds of medieval fortified churches, the most important ones being included in the UNESCO World Heritage Patrimony. Biertan was built between 1492-1516 and it is one of the largest fortified churches in the country. With three concentric walls, seven towers, two bastions and three buildings, it was designed to be virtually impenetrable to the Ottoman invasions. But the fascinating story behind Biertan is actually related to the way it dealt with divorce. The couples were locked in the Prison Tower for two weeks and forced to communicate: there was only one bed, one table, one plate and one set of cutleries. The result: in Biertan there has been only one divorce in the past 300 years.
Kamppi Chapel, Helsinki, Finland
Evan from Pretty Wild World:
Helsinki is famous for many things, but for some reason, it is also famous for its churches despite the fact that most of the Finns are not religious at all. Nevertheless, Helsinki’s Kamppi Chapel is indeed one of a kind! First of all, this Lutheran Church is situated in the middle of two busy buzzling malls! Also, its structure is one of a kind – it looks like an odd looking bowl made out of wood. Though the service is not frequent, the number of tourists that flock their way to this infamous chapel is indeed a lot, and according to statistics, about half a million people have visited this very church in just two years after it opened to the public! Impressive? I think so!
Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France
Kirsty from Barts Go Adventuring:
The Notre Dame cathedral in the centre of Paris is really special – it’s a medieval building and was completed in 1345. I found it a really impressive church – I’d seen so many pictures and had visited other large cathedrals but I was really blown away by how beautiful and intricate the carvings around the doors were and just how grand it was. The Notre Dame is a Roman Catholic cathedral but it’s open for anyone who wants to attend a service – we visited on Christmas Eve and they do special international services. It’s perfect for showing to kids too as they’ll no doubt know the story of the Hunchback of Notre Dame!
Mamma Loves Travel: If you’re looking for places to stay in Paris near the Notre Dame, check out this handy guide.
Salisbury Cathedral, Salisbury, England
Josh and Jessica from Roaming the North East:
You’ll see the spire of 13th century Salisbury Cathedral long before you arrive; it’s the tallest in England. The city center is mostly pedestrian, not to mention old and charming, and it would be a worthy destination even if it didn’t contain the cathedral. Thankfully, however, it does. Marvel at the building from the outside, and plan for an hour+ of experiencing the grounds, the nave, the 14th century clock, the crusaders’ tombs, and the best original copy of the Magna Carta. The Cathedral Close is truly one of the most beautiful public spaces in England.
Places of worship in the Americas
Leon Cathedral, Nicaragua
Dawn from 5 Lost Together:
One of the most stunning places of worship I have visited on my travels was the Leon Cathedral in Nicaragua. The Cathedral is the largest one in Central America and from the outside may not look too impressive with its blackened facade. Take a peek inside and you will see a impressive, but standard cathedral. The real magic happens when you ascend to the roof and you see the 34 white washed domes that will make you think you are in Santorini. You can walk all over these roof top domes for great views over the city. The Leon Cathedral is located in Leon, Nicaragua and dates from 1747, although it took 50 years to build.
Monasterio de San Francisco, Lima, Peru
Julianna from The Discoveries Of:
The Monasterio de San Francisco is a co-joined monastery and church in Lima Peru and was the home of Lima’s Franciscan monks for several centuries. It’s situated in Lima’s old town, where the large majority of the city’s colonial buildings are located. It’s one of the things I always recommend people seeing in Lima because it is such a striking complex of buildings. The Monastery and Iglesia (Church) were completed in 1774 and showcase a beautiful baroque-styled architecture and interior that together create one of the most remarkable buildings in Lima. You can visit the church section and exterior for free, but need to take a tour to see the interior of the monastery – it’s well worth the small charge. Guides (in Spanish or English) take you around the different sections of the monastery, explaining their history and uses – including the creepy catacombs where over 25,000 people are buried. Read more about the Monastery of San Fransisco.
Church of Santo Domingo de Guzman, Oaxaca, Mexico
Dean from La Vida Global:
Just a block away from the Town Square of Oaxaca, the most Mexican of towns, is the religious centre of the city. The Church of Santo Domingo de Guzman, at almost 300 years old, may be modest in comparison to the great Churches of Europe but it has an interior that stands tall in any company.The highlight of this UNESCO listed building is undoubtedly the incredible family tree of Saint Dominic, the founder of the Dominican Order in 1215, which adorns the ceiling immediately inside the main doors.
Places of worship in Australia
St Paul’s Cathedral, Melbourne, Australia
Stef from Mel365:
One of my favourite places of worship in Melbourne is the St Paul’s Cathedral, right in Federation Square, the city meeting point. It is an Anglican cathedral and the seat for the Archbishop of Melbourne. Interestingly enough the structure was built in two different phases because the diocese ran out of money in 1891. For 35 years the cathedral had no spires. They were built in a later stage however they were made of a different stone and that is why, if you look closely, the spires have a completely different colour from the rest of the building, another secret of Melbourne.
Places of worship in Africa & The Middle East
Ganga Talao, Mauritius
Verushka from The Spice Goddess:
Every year for Shivarathri, thousands of Hindu locals and visitors from around the world embark on a pilgrimage to the sacred lake of Ganga Talao, in a secluded mountain area deep in the heart of Mauritius. Hindu legend states that the God Shiva and his wife Parvati were circling Earth, with the river Ganges balanced on Shiva’s head. Upon finding a deserted island, they decided to land and as they did so, Shiva spilled a few drops of the Ganges onto the island, creating the lake Ganga Talao. The lake is home to the largest annual Hindu pilgrimage outside of India.
Umayyad Mosque, Damascus, Syria
Danijela from Glimpses Of The World:
The Umayyad Mosque is by far one of the most important buildings in Syria’s capital Damascus. On the same spot there was once the Aramaic temple over which the Roman building was erected in the 2nd century AD. Then, in the 4th century the Basilica of John the Baptist rose up. Three centuries later the church was converted into a grand mosque dedicated to the Arab Umayyad dynasty founder, khalif Valid the First. Opened between 705 and 715 AD, it is actually one of the oldest stone mosques in the world that served as an architectural example to future Muslim temples. Aside from 100 square meters of Byzantine mosaics, the Mosque also houses one important relic. They say that John the Baptist’s head is kept here
Masjid Al Haram, Makkah, Saudi Arabia
Sudais from Sudais Asif:
This is the Masjid Al Haram located in Makkah, Saudi Arabia.It is the Holiest place for Muslims & was built by Prophet Ibrahim & his son Hazrat Ismail.Millions of Muslims visit the House of Allah every year for pilgrimage, either Umrah or Hajj.The covers on the Kabah are changed once every year and the black stone located on it is called Hajra-e-Al-Aswad.It was put into position at the time of The Holy Prophet Muhammad PBUH & since has been there.Nowadays the Masjid is being expanded. It is to be noted that no Non-Muslims are allowed in Makkah.
The Garden Tomb, Jerusalem, Israel
Brittany from The Sweet Wanderlust:
The Garden Tomb in Jerusalem is believed by many Christians to be the site of Jesus’ burial and resurrection from the dead. It is a peaceful garden set in a busy city, where the Muslim call to prayer can be heard while Christians worship in song and prayer. As a Christian, it is a very powerful place to worship, surrounded by believers from all over the world. It is not uncommon to hear familiar hymns sung in several languages, uniting Christians in belief and song.
Places of worship in Asia & India
Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Allison from Urbanite Diary:
The 272 steps to the cave temple at the top of the hill, Batu Caves is the most sacred site for Hindus in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Home to the largest Lord Murugan statue in the world and covered with 300 litres of gold paint, Batu Caves offers an unique experience to the Hindu religion up close. During the annual Thaipusam festival in February, Batu Caves turns into a jam-packed place filled with Hindu pilgrims from all across the country to perform their religious rituals and rite. You’ll find some mind blowing rituals such as body piercing the skin, tongue or cheeks, as part of the offering to the gods. Also, don’t forget to have a little fun with wild monkeys all around Batu Caves when you’re making your way up to the cave temple.
Swayambhunath Stupa, Kathmandu, Nepal
Sandra from Heading For The Hills:
Described as a place of peace and power, the Swayambhunath Stupa sits on top of a hill on the western edge of the Kathmandu Valley. A gilded spire rises from the whitewashed dome where the four faces of Buddha stare out across the valley. Thousands of prayer flags flutter above the stupa, each with mantras said to be carried to the heavens by the winds. The sacred site was founded around 2000 years ago, long before Buddhism came to Nepal. You can reach the Swayambhunath Stupa from the centre of Kathmandu by walking up 365 ancient steps. You can also take a taxi to the summit. The views across the valley are amazing. We visited on a stormy afternoon. As the grey clouds gathered, they created an enigmatic mood. Visiting the stupa was one of the highlights of our trip to Kathmandu.
Jokhang Temple, Lhasa, Tibet
Melanie from Adventures In Overland:
The Jokhang Temple in Lhasa, Tibet is considered the most sacred and important temple in Tibet. The oldest parts of it were built around 652. As you approach the temple, with its gilded bronze roof tiles glistening in the sun, you will come across pilgrims offering prayers and prostrations. Parts of the interior of the temple are a dark labyrinth of chapels that are windowless and sometimes crowded. There are over 3,000 images of Buddha and other deities in the temple complex. If you can abide the smoke and the smell of burning incense and yak butter candles, (which when inside can be quite overpowering) it’s an incredible experience. You get to see it how people use it as part of their daily life and to experience how important it is to them. It’s definitely a memorable experience.
Sensoji Temple, Tokyo, Japan
Kemkem from Next Bite Of Life:
The Sensoji temple, in the Asakusa district, is the oldest Buddhist temple in Tokyo. It was built in 645 A.D as a tribute to the goddess of mercy. The picturesque Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate) is one of the most famous landmarks of the city, but it’s well worth venturing inside to see the beauty of the inner gates and Kannon-Do Hall, the interior place of worship with its golden decorations. The beauty extends to the grounds with various temples scattered around the Sensoji Garden. The five story pagoda, along with the waft of incense and devotion of the worshipers is truly an amazing and unforgettable experience.
Tirta Empul Temple, Bali, Indonesia
Miguel from Travelsauro:
Located in the little town of Tampak Siring, in central Bali, Pura Tirta Empul is a Hindu temple and mountain spring. The complex, founded in 960 A.D., is said to have been created by the god Indra and to have curative properties. The name of the temple means “holy water spring” and it has a rectangular pool filled with twelve fountains.It’s one of the most interesting temples you can visit in Bali because not only is it a beautiful place, it’s also full of tradition and spirituality. You can see (respectfully and in silence) how the Balinese take a purification bath, make an offering and pray to their gods. It’s really a magical place.
Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei
Matilda from The Travel Sisters:
The Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque is a beautiful Islamic mosque located in the center of Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital of Brunei. Surrounded by an artificial lagoon that acts as a reflecting pool, the mosque is beautiful both in the day and at night when it is all lit up. Completed in 1958, the mosque was named after the 28th Sultan of Brunei who initiated its construction. Although the 171 ft golden dome can be spotted from almost anywhere in the city, it is definitely worth taking a closer look. Non Muslims are allowed to enter the mosque at specific posted times.
Floating Mosque, Kota Kinabalu, Borneo
Crystal from Castaway With Crystal:
Built in a classical style the Floating Mosque is easily Borneo’s most beautiful mosque, and possibly Malaysia’s most attractive mosque too. Nestled next to the South China Sea on the outskirts of Kota Kinabalu, the reflection of this dramatic structure gives the impression that the mosque is floating. In fact, the lagoon is a man-made optical illusion built around the mosque. The mosque was completed in early 2000 and was modelled on the famous Nabawi Mosque in Saudi Arabia, which was the final resting place of the Prophet Mohammed. It can accommodate up to 12, 000 worshippers and houses an ATM, three madrasas and a palliative care clinic. Non-Muslim people outside regular prayer times can enter it, however, covered clothing must be worn or hired.
River Ganga, Varanasi, North India
Joanna from The World In My Pocket:
Varanasi must be the most shocking city I have ever travelled to, the holiest out of the seven sacred cities in Hinduism. I didn’t really know what to expect before I arrived, knowing what happens there and I couldn’t imagine how daily life can go on undisturbed. Varanasi is a holy city because of the river Ganges, that passes through. Hindus believe that death in Varanasi brings salvation to the soul and therefore many people, when they feel the end approaching, travel to the city to die here. There are three main Ghats on the shore of the river Ganges, where the bodies are cremated, day and night, with their ashes thrown in the water. In the same river, men bathe and women do the laundry. A few meters up, animals are cooling down in the cold water. Every evening, the river is worshiped thought a Hindu religious ritual, Angy Pooja – The Worship of fire, which lasts for an hour. During this time people lay little flower baskets on the water, symbolising five elements: space, wind, fire, water and earth. This is a way of showing the deities of the river your humility and gratitude.
Jama Masjid, Delhi, India
Sudipto from Salt And Sandals:
Built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, Jama Masjid is one of the oldest and largest mosques in India. It is made of red sandstone and can house more than 25,000 people on the prayer area. The areas leading up to the mosque are filled with some of the best street that Old Delhi has to offer. Best time to visit is from October to February.
Thank you to all of our contributors for sharing their images and a little about what makes their favourite place of worship so special!
Do you have a favourite place of worship? Which of the places in this post did you find the most beautiful, fascinating or intriguing? Share your comments below!