Of the many reasons to book a trip to Europe, touring its magnificent cathedrals is near the top of the list. Awe-inspiring artwork by masters like Michelangelo draws an abundance of tourists, but the extravagant exteriors—some of which took centuries to complete—are every bit as picture-worthy as the biblical treasures displayed inside. Walk where kings were crowned, and view some of the most stunning basilicas, churches, and mosques in the world. From island monasteries sprouting from the sea to design-savvy contemporary chapels occupying capital cities, here are 20 cathedrals that should top your list of must-see sites in Europe.
NOTRE-DAME DE PARIS, FRANCE
One of the most famous Gothic cathedrals of the Middle Ages, the gargoyle-topped Notre-Dame de Paris was constructed over 850 years ago in the birthplace of Paris—Île de la Cité. Climb the 387 steps to the top of the 13th-century bell tower, or stroll through the treasury to admire precious relics like the Holy Crown of thorns, believed to be worn by Jesus.
PHOTOGRAPH BY ANEESH KOTHARI, ROBERT HARDING PICTURE LIBRARY/NAT GEO IMAGE COLLECTION
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