If you are looking for grand cathedrals, Europe is your best bet. In the middle ages, it was a mark of a real city if it had a cathedral, thus, almost every major city in Europe has at least one. Even the smaller towns might have a cathedral, or at least a really nice church. This year, we ended up spending quite a bit of time in various European cities, so we ended up seeing a lot of churches!
Milan is a more than a great place to catch a train to your next destination. We spent one day there, and thoroughly enjoyed both the cathedral and other sites. The Duomo di Milano was amazing! It was built in Gothic style grandness, so you can get your fill of spikes, spires, gargoyles, and more.
The exterior is covered with elaborate stone carvings, so make sure you take some time to walk around the entire building.
At the very top is a golden statue of Mary. Since you would need binoculars to get a good look, they made a replica and placed it inside the cathedral.
The inside continues with gothic themes of tall pillars, pointed arches, and numerous carvings.
It is really quite elaborate.
The stained glass windows are huge, and the number of scenes in each a bit overwhelming.
And if you want to see the model that was used to create the cathedral, or want to get a closer look at some of the gargoyles, or other cathedral artifacts, consider going to the museum which is included with your cathedral ticket. We weren’t expecting much, but were pleasantly surprised when the boys really got into the gargoyles.
On our day trip along the Amalfi Coast, we stopped in Amalfi, making time to see the Duomo di Amalfi. There is a small admission fee, but the beauty of the main cathedral is worth it.
The attention to detail was quite good. We particularly liked the beautiful paintings on the ceilings.
There is also a museum cathedral, which has some very old artwork, much of it in fairly poor condition. The crypt is a bit more ornate and impressive, but the main cathedral is stunning.
Our Amalfi Coast base was in Sorrento. We visited quite a few churches, and found even the smaller ones to be quite beautiful:
And Pompeii is only a short train ride from Sorrento, and well worth visiting as a day trip. Just remember that there is no food available past the entrance gate, that the ruins are massive, and that you need to time your visit carefully to avoid needing to leave early due to hunger. On one end of the Forum, you can find the ruins of the Basilica.
In the Lake Como region, we based in Varenna. You can visit several churches in the main square:
In the fall, Jeremy made a solo trip to Europe so he could take a 10 day bike tour from Amsterdam to Paris. Along the way, he saw a lot of cool churches and cathedrals.
His first day of biking ended in the town of Gouda. Beyond just enjoying the (Gouda) cheese, he also enjoyed the Church of Sint Jan (St. John), right off the town square:
He reached Breda – which was a unexpectedly pleasant town in South Holland – the second day of the tour Near the town square, he saw the Great Church of Breda:
Continuing on to Belgium, Jeremy reached the Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp on the third day. The artwork inside was very elaborate:
On day 4, their group reached Ghent. This city is known for being a very adorned river side city. He is St Bavos church:
On his fifth day he reached the Tournai Cathedral. Tournai is in Belgium, but on the French-speaking side. One thing that kept striking him was how these (now) relatively small cities had such elaborate churches and long histories.
Entering France, he stayed in Saint Quentin, not to be confused with the famous California prison with a similar name. The Basilica of Saint Quentin was quite beautiful.
On Jeremy’s eighth day, he made a lunch stop in Noyon and saw the Noyon Cathedral. Charlemagne himself was crowned king on that site in 768.
And somewhere between Compiègne and Senlis on his ninth day, he spotted this church:
And later that day, he arrived in Senlis, where he was prevented from touring the Senlis Cathedral by a wedding.
Austria and Germany
We spent 3 weeks of our summer in Austria and Germany, so I made a separate post highlighting the churches in these countries. Our road trip started in Cologne, went into Austria, then through Martin Luther’s and Johann Bach’s stomping ground, then back up to Berlin. We also stopped in Vienna for a few days earlier in the summer.
We only spent a week in Ukraine, but given the number of churches we saw and the uniqueness of the orthodox churches, I also made a post that only covered the churches in this country.