11 iconic cathedrals to visit during in Easter holiday in Europe

With Easter around the corner – barley 24 hours – a profound sense of reverence and wonder envelops the ancient cathedrals that dot the landscape of Europe. Whether you’re a fervent believer or an admirer of architectural marvels, these hallowed sanctuaries beckon visitors to embark on a transcendent journey through the annals of history and culture. From the soaring Gothic spires that pierce the heavens to the intricate frescoes and mosaics that adorn their hallowed walls, these 11 cathedrals offer a transformative experience that will leave you spellbound and forever changed.

In the serene havens of cathedrals, find comfort in their tranquil corners. Marvel at the magnificence of their architectural wonders. Each cathedral offers a profound experience that enriches the soul. Be humbled by the remarkable creativity and devotion that went into these towering structures. They stand as testaments to the enduring faith of those who dedicated their lives to honoring the divine.

St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City

Architects: Michelangelo, Carlo Maderno, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Donato Bramante
Built In: 1626
Highlights: Michelangelo’s iconic dome, Bernini’s Baldachin, Pietà sculpture, Sistine Chapel
Location: Vatican City, Rome

The epitome of Renaissance architecture, St. Peter’s Basilica is an awe-inspiring marvel that sits at the heart of the Catholic faith. As you step inside, Michelangelo’s breathtaking dome immediately commands your attention, its intricate frescoes and soaring heights a testament to the genius of its creators. Bernini’s Baldachin, a massive bronze canopy, adds grandeur to the central altar, while Michelangelo’s Pietà, a poignant sculpture of Mary cradling the lifeless body of Jesus, is a true masterpiece that evokes deep emotion. Beyond its architectural splendour, St. Peter’s Basilica holds immense spiritual significance, serving as the burial site of St. Peter, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ.

Cologne Cathedral, Germany

Architects: Gerhard von Rile, Master Gerhard
Built In: 1248 (completed in 1880)
Highlights: Gero Cross, Shrine of the Magi, towering spires and intricate stone carvings
Location: Domkloster 4, 50667 Cologne

A true Gothic masterpiece, Cologne Cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that has stood as an iconic landmark in the heart of Cologne for centuries. Its imposing twin spires soar over 500 feet into the sky, their intricate stone carvings and flying buttresses a testament to the skill of medieval artisans. Inside, visitors are greeted by the awe-inspiring vastness of the cathedral’s nave, where the Gero Cross, a breathtaking example of Ottonian art, and the magnificent Shrine of the Magi, believed to contain the remains of the Three Wise Men, captivate the eye. As sunlight streams through the stained glass windows, the cathedral’s interior is bathed in a kaleidoscope of colors, creating an atmosphere of spiritual tranquility.

Notre-Dame Cathedral, Paris, France

Architect: Maurice de Sully
Built In: 1163 (completed in 1345)
Highlights: Iconic flying buttresses, gargoyles, rose windows, relics (Crown of Thorns, a fragment of the True Cross)
Location: 6 Parvis Notre-Dame – Pl. Jean-Paul II, 75004 Paris

Rising majestically from the heart of Paris, Notre-Dame Cathedral is a true embodiment of French Gothic architecture. Its iconic flying buttresses and intricate gargoyles have captivated visitors for centuries, while the cathedral’s stunning rose windows cast a warm, ethereal glow on the interior. Although tragically damaged by a fire in 2019, the resilience of this historic landmark shines through as restoration efforts continue to restore its former glory. Within its hallowed halls, Notre-Dame houses priceless relics, including the Crown of Thorns and a fragment of the True Cross, adding to its profound spiritual significance.

St. Mark’s Basilica, Venice, Italy

Architects: Greek architects
Built In: 1092
Highlights: Opulent Byzantine-style mosaics, Pala d’Oro altarpiece, Tetrarchs sculptures
Location: Piazza San Marco, 328, 30124 Venezia VE

A true gem of Byzantine architecture, St. Mark’s Basilica is a stunning masterpiece that has graced the iconic St. Mark’s Square in Venice for centuries. As you approach, the cathedral’s opulent facade, adorned with intricate mosaics and ornate carvings, sets the tone for the breathtaking interior. Inside, the walls are covered in millions of glittering mosaics, depicting scenes from the Bible and the lives of saints. The Pala d’Oro, a magnificent altarpiece crafted from gold and precious gems, is a true masterpiece of Byzantine art. The Tetrarchs, a set of ancient marble sculptures, add to the cathedral’s rich artistic heritage. A visit to St. Mark’s Basilica is a journey through the grand cultural traditions of Venice, where East and West converge in a visual feast of unparalleled beauty.

Duomo di Milano, Milan, Italy

Architects: Simone da Orsenigo, Francesco di Giorgio Martini
Built In: 1386 (completed in the early 19th century)
Highlights: Gothic-style exterior, intricate terraces, stained glass windows, Madonnina statue
Location: Piazza del Duomo, 20122 Milano MI

The Duomo di Milano is a true architectural gem that seamlessly blends Gothic and Renaissance styles, creating a breathtaking masterpiece that has graced the heart of Milan for centuries. As you approach, the cathedral’s towering spires and intricate Gothic facade will leave you in awe, while the interior reveals a harmonious fusion of styles, with soaring vaulted ceilings and ornate stone carvings. The highlight of the Duomo, however, is its stunning terraces, which offer panoramic views of the city and a closer look at the intricate details of the cathedral’s exterior. As sunlight streams through the magnificent stained glass windows, the Duomo is transformed into a kaleidoscope of colors, creating an atmosphere of spiritual transcendence.

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain

Architect: Antoni Gaudí
Built In: Construction began in 1882 and is ongoing
Highlights: Unique blend of Gothic and Art Nouveau styles, towering spires, intricate façades, stained glass windows
Location: C/ de Mallorca, 401, 08013 Barcelona

The Sagrada Familia is a true masterpiece of modernist architecture, a testament to the visionary genius of Antoni Gaudí. As you approach, the cathedral’s towering spires and intricate façades, adorned with intricate carvings and symbolism, will leave you spellbound. Inside, the play of light and shadow through the stained glass windows creates a mesmerizing atmosphere, while the soaring ceilings and organic, nature-inspired designs transport you to a realm where art and spirituality converge. Despite being an ongoing construction project for over a century, the Sagrada Familia’s grand vision and architectural innovation continue to inspire awe and wonder. A visit to this iconic cathedral is a journey through the mind of a true artistic visionary, where the boundaries of traditional design are pushed to their limits.

St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague, Czech Republic

Architect: Peter Parler
Built In: 1344 (completed in the 20th century)
Highlights: Gothic architecture, intricate stone carvings, stained glass windows, panoramic views from towers
Location: III. nádvoří 48/2, 119 01 Praha 1-Hradčany

Sitting majestically atop Prague Castle, St. Vitus Cathedral is a true masterpiece of Gothic architecture and a symbol of Czech national pride. As you approach, the cathedral’s towering spires and intricate stone carvings will leave you in awe, while the interior reveals a breathtaking harmony of soaring vaulted ceilings, ornate chapels, and stunning stained glass windows. Among the highlights is the St. Wenceslas Chapel, adorned with exquisite semi-precious stones and intricate frescoes, and the Royal Mausoleum, where generations of Bohemian kings and emperors have been laid to rest. A climb to the top of the cathedral’s towers rewards visitors with panoramic views of Prague’s iconic skyline, making St. Vitus Cathedral a true architectural and cultural gem.

Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence, Italy

Architects: Arnolfo di Cambio, Filippo Brunelleschi
Built In: 1296 (with Brunelleschi’s iconic dome completed in 1436)
Highlights: Brunelleschi’s innovative dome, Giotto’s Campanile (bell tower), Ghiberti’s bronze doors
Location: Piazza del Duomo, 50122 Firenze FI

The iconic Santa Maria del Fiore, or the Duomo of Florence, is a true embodiment of the Renaissance spirit, where art, architecture, and engineering converge in a breathtaking display of human ingenuity. As you stand in awe of Brunelleschi’s iconic dome, a masterpiece of architectural innovation that defied the limitations of its time, you can’t help but marvel at the genius that brought it to life. The cathedral’s façade, adorned with intricate marble carvings and Ghiberti’s celebrated bronze doors, is a true work of art. Inside, the vastness of the interior is balanced by the warm glow of stained glass windows and the intricate frescoes that adorn the walls. A visit to the Duomo is a journey through the rich cultural heritage of Florence, where the Renaissance spirit lives on.

Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, Assisi, Italy

Architects: Jacopo Tedesco, Filippo da Campello, Giovanni da Gubbio
Built In: 1253 (with later additions)
Highlights: Romanesque and Gothic architecture, frescoes by Giotto and Cimabue, tomb of St. Francis
Location: Piazza Inferiore di S. Francesco, 06081 Assisi PG

Nestled in the picturesque town of Assisi, the Basilica of St. Francis is a true architectural gem that combines Romanesque and Gothic styles in a harmonious blend. As you approach, the basilica’s imposing façade, adorned with intricate stone carvings and arched entrances, sets the tone for the artistic treasures that await within. Inside, the upper and lower churches are a veritable gallery of medieval art, with frescoes by the masters Giotto and Cimabue adorning the walls, depicting scenes from the life of St. Francis. The highlight, however, is the tomb of St. Francis himself, a site of immense spiritual significance for followers of the Franciscan order. A visit to this sacred place is a journey through the life and teachings of one of the most revered saints in Catholicism.

St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna, Austria

Architects: Unknown
Built In: Construction began in the 12th century, with expansions and renovations through the 15th century
Highlights: Gothic architecture, colourful roof tiles, intricate stone carvings, catacombs
Location: Stephansplatz 3, 1010 Wien

Rising majestically above the heart of Vienna, St. Stephen’s Cathedral is a true embodiment of Gothic grandeur and a symbol of the city’s rich cultural heritage. As you approach, the cathedral’s iconic colourful roof tiles and soaring spires immediately capture your attention, while the intricate stone carvings and statues that adorn the exterior hint at the architectural wonders that await within. Inside, the vast nave and vaulted ceilings create a sense of awe, while the intricate details of the stone pillars and stained glass windows showcase the skill of medieval artisans. For those seeking a unique experience, the cathedral’s catacombs offer a journey through history, with ancient tombs and burial sites dating back centuries.

Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Paris, France

Architect: Paul Abadie
Built In: 1875-1914
Highlights: Distinctive Romano-Byzantine architecture, intricate mosaics, panoramic views from dome
Location: 35 Rue du Chevalier de la Barre, 75018 Paris

Perched atop the Montmartre hill, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart is a true architectural marvel that blends elements of Romano-Byzantine and Gothic styles. As you approach the cathedral, its distinctive white domes and towering spires immediately capture the eye, hinting at the artistic wonders that await within. The interior is a feast for the senses, with intricate mosaics adorning the walls and ceilings, and the warm glow of stained glass windows casting a serene ambiance throughout the space. For those willing to climb the 300 steps to the top of the dome, the reward is a breathtaking panoramic view of Paris, offering a unique perspective on the city’s iconic landmarks.