Churches, mosques, synagogues, and temples have been around for ages, serving as places for meditation, reflection, and expression of faith. Many of these establishments are also known for their rich history and stunning architecture. Whether you’re a believer or not, here are some of the most beautiful places of worship from around the world that’ll take your breath away.
Sagrada Familia (Barcelona, Spain)
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A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Barcelona, Spain’s Sagrada Familia is a stunning Roman Catholic church designed by Antoni Gaudi. Construction is still in the works because of the church’s highly complex design. Detailed facades depicting important scenes in the Catholic Church decorate the exterior, while towering spires contribute to the church’s majestic look. A combination of Art Nouveau, Catalan Modernism, and Spanish Late Gothic, Sagrada Familia is one of Spain’s architectural gems.
St. Basil’s Cathedral (Moscow, Russia)
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Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Russia’s St. Basil’s Cathedral is a Russian Orthodox church known for its colourful decor and unique shape. Now a museum, it was designed to resemble flames rising up in the sky, a design that has no references to Byzantine or Muscovy architecture. Its unusual yet dazzling design continues to attract tourists from around the world. The small “onion” domes are now an iconic part of Russia’s Red Square.
Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque (Brunei)
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Open to non-Muslims during certain hours and days, the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque in Brunei is considered one of the most stunning places of worship in the region. The design is an excellent example of modern Islamic architecture and is a mix of Italian and Mughal styles. An iconic part of the Bandar Seri Begawan skyline, its most striking feature is the main dome that’s coated with pure gold. Surrounding trees and floral gardens create a paradise-like atmosphere, attracting plenty of visitors each year.
Badshahi Mosque (Lahore, Pakistan)
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The fifth largest mosque in the world, the Badshahi Mosque is a tourist hot spot and is the city’s most popular landmark. Also open to non-Muslims, the design is a combination of Mughal and Indo-Islamic architecture. Each of the four corners are decorated with a three-storey minar made of red sandstone, while the courtyard was built using precisely cut brownstone slabs. With its highly precise proportions and amazing symmetry, the Badshahi Mosque symbolizes the best of Mughal architecture.
Sofia Synagogue (Sofia, Bulgaria)
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The largest spiritual centre for South-Eastern European Jews, the Sofia Synagogue in Bulgaria can accommodate 1000+ worshippers. It features a Moorish Revival style, and its structure is based on Venetian architecture. As you step inside, you’ll marvel at the richly decorated walls covered with Venetian mosaics and intricate woodcarvings. Huge columns made of Carrara marble complete the grandiose interior.
Belz Great Synagogue (Jerusalem, Israel)
Image by Nadia Kushnir
Israel’s largest synagogue, the Belz Great Synagogue’s construction took 15 years. With a capacity of 10,000 worshippers, this is where some of the most important Hasidic Jewish events are held. The main sanctuary is illuminated by nine chandeliers that are over 5 metres tall; all of which contain thousands of Czech crystals. Another item of interest is the elaborately designed wooden ark that weighs a whopping 18 tons and is 12 metres high.
Borobudur Temple (Indonesia)
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Located in Central Java, Indonesia, the Borobudur Temple is the world’s largest Buddhist temple. This huge monument consists of 500+ Buddha statues and 2000+ relief panels. Records indicate that this temple was made around 800 CE. Built as one large stupa, it looks like a giant mandala (a Buddhist symbol) when viewed from the top. Scenes from Buddhist cosmology are carved on its stone walls, while the various Buddha statues depict several hand positions.
Shwedagon Pagoda (Burma)
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Hailed as the “crown of Burma,” the Shwedagon Pagoda is a large gold stupa with a crown that’s adorned with thousands of rubies and diamonds. During the day, the sun’s rays reflect on the golden plates that cover the stupa and the precious stones on the crown. A monument that has huge religious, cultural, and political importance for the Burmese people, this pagoda is a popular tourist destination in South East Asia.
When visiting places of devotion, make sure to follow proper etiquette and dress codes. You can do your own research or contact the local tourist centre for tips. If you’re planning to visit any of these destinations, schedule your trip during the off-peak season to avoid huge crowds for a more personal and memorable experience. Don’t forget to check out our cheap airport parking rates to save money on transport costs.