Old and historic churches rank among the most impressive historical places in the world. From famous churches such as Britain’s Westminster Abbey and the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul to more obscure examples, such as the fortified church at Prejmer, historical churches have given us stunning examples of art and architecture to rival anything in ancient or modern times.
While traditional Christian churches are often built in the shape of a cross, the wide variety of design and architecture thrown up by historic churches means there is no standard type of old church. Indeed, with historical churches from all over the world, the often enthralling buildings on offer can be truly magnificent to explore.
So if you like to potter around famous churches or historic churches on your travels, then the below list of historical churches should get you on your way. This list of old churches and historic churches generally covers those churches built after the end of the ancient era running through to the early twentieth century. For churches built before 500 AD, you can explore our guide to ancient churches.
Click on each historic church for more information or explore our historical church map above.
One of the largest and best known historic churches in the world, Saint Mark’s Basilica is a famous Byzantine cathedral in Venice in Italy, built on a grand scale with ornate decorations throughout.
Lalibela in Ethiopia is famous for its eleven UNESCO-listed medieval rock cut churches, an attempt to create a “New Jerusalem”.
An important Byzantine-era church in Athens, Agios Eleftherios is a small historic church which was nonetheless the most important church in the city until around the 12th century. It is sometimes known as the little cathedral.
One of Russia's most important historical churches, Alexander Nevsky Lavra was built in the eighteenth century by the famous Russian monarch Peter the Great.
A seventeenth century church built in a Baroque style, Basilica de la Virgen de los Desamparados ranks among the most important religious building in Valencia, Spain.
One of many historic churches in Buenos Aires, Basilica de Nuestra Senora Del Pilar was built in the 18th century and lies opposite the famous Recoleta Cemetery.
A beautiful old church in Florence, the Basilica di Santa Croce is most famous for being the burial place of many of the city's most iconic figures.
The Basilica of Sant Angelo is an 11th century church partially made up of the remains of a Roman temple, making it a particularly fascinating place to visit.
One of the more famous churches in France, the Basilica of St Denis was the site where French monarchs were buried until the French Revolution, when many of the tombs were opened and the remains removed.
The Basilica of St Sernin in Toulouse is a UNESCO-listed eleventh century medieval church which formed part of a famous pilgrimage route.
Visually stunning, the Basilique Notre-Dame de Fouviere in Lyon, France, is an iconic nineteenth century church inspired by Byzantine design.
Bath Abbey in the UK was originally built in the late fifteenth century. It was destroyed by Henry VIII and restored under Elizabeth I in a glorious manner, leaving the striking historic church we see today.
One of the most impressive buildings in the city, Berliner Dom was the royal church of the Prussian monarchy in Germany.
An important historical church in the US, Bethel Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, played a crucial role in the US Civil Rights movement. It was attacked on three separate occasions by extremists.
The Boyana Church houses some of the most impressive medieval frescoes in Europe and is a UNESCO world heritage historic site.
Castle Acre Priory was an eleventh century monastery dissolved by King Henry VIII, now only the picturesque ruins of this once famous church survive.
Notable for its ornate artistic decorations, particularly its ceiling frescoes, the Chiesa del Gesu is an historic church in Rome and centre of the Catholic Jesuit Order.
A baroque 17th century church in Cagliari, Italy, the Chiesa di San Lucifero is built on the remains of a sixth century ancient Christian necropolis.
The Church of Agios Lazaros in Cyprus was built in the 10th century AD to house the believed tomb of Saint Lazarus.
The Church of Our Lady in Bruges is an impressive medieval church, built from the 13th-15th centuries and containing Michelangelo’s sculpture of the Madonna and Child.
The Church of St Anne is a beautiful gothic-style church in Vilnius’ UNESCO-listed old town. The distinctive red hue of this historic church can be attributed to the thirty-three types of clay brick used to build it.
The Church of the Ascension in Kolomenskoye, Russia, was built to celebrate the birth of Tsar Ivan IV and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood is a stunningly colourful and ornate nineteenth century church in St Petersburg, Russia.
What could be seen as Ireland's first true city, the ruins of the sixth century monastic settlement of Clonmacnoise can be found in County Offaly and contain the remains of seven historic churches.
One of the most picturesque historic churches of the world, Dunfermline Abbey and Palace was originally built in the 11th century and used as a royal residence. It is the final resting place of many a Scottish monarch.
The site of an historic set of 18th century ironworks, Fagervik Manor is also home to an historic 18th century church, which includes Finland’s oldest operational church-organ.
Fonte Avellana is a charming medieval hermitage in Italy’s Marche region which dates back as far as 1000AD and is still a working monastery today.
One of the most famous medieval churches in Switzerland, Fraumunster is renowned for its stained glass windows, many of which are by famous artist Marc Chagall.
The historical quarter of Sweden’s capital city, Stockholm, Gamla Stan includes the beautiful medieval church of Riddarholmen, one of Stockholms oldest buildings.
Glastonbury Abbey is one of the most important historic abbeys in Britain and the legendary burial place of King Arthur.
Grossmunster is a famous medieval church in Zurich with a history dating to Charlemagne which boasts striking towers as well as a Romanesque crypt.
The Hagia Sophia is a world famous sixth century church turned mosque in Istanbul, built under the orders of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian.
A 13th century historic church, a 15th century mosque and a 20th century museum, the Trabzon Hagia Sophia has a fascinating history and boasts a wealth of historical art and frescoes.
Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de la Concepcion is an 18th century historical church with a history dating back to the 16th century.
Boasting an eclectic range of art and architecture, Iglesia de Santo Domingo de Guzman is a historical church dating mostly to the 17th century.
One of many historic churches in Germany, the fourteenth century Jakobikirche represents one of Lubeck’s best preserved medieval churches.
The Jesuit ruins at Jésus and Trinidad are amongst the best-preserved of their kind. Visitors can explore ornately decorated churches, colleges and cloisters and belfries - all within a beautiful tropical setting.
A popular tourist destination and one of the best known historic churches of the world, Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church is a famous Berlin landmark, boasting stunning frescos and a poignant memorial hall.
Sitting right in the middle of bustling modern streets, Kapnikarea is a beautiful 11th century Byzantine church in Athens.
Kells Priory is a ruin of a fourteenth to fifteenth century historic monastery in County Kilkenny, the Republic of Ireland.
Among the most famous churches in the world, La Sagrada Família is an iconic church in Barcelona with UNESCO status. It is the final resting place of Antoni Gaudi.
Liebfrauen is a thirteenth century UNESCO-listed gothic church in Trier, built atop the ruins of a vast Roman church built by Constantine the Great.
The Lisbon National Pantheon is a pretty domed church and the burial site of many of Portugal’s most prominent figures.
Germany’s third largest church, Marienkirche in Lubeck was consecrated in 1350AD and is renowned for its gothic architecture.
Matthias Church in Budapest, Hungary, is an ornate medieval church which has been the site of royal weddings and coronations for hundreds of years.
The Munich Frauenkirche is one of the city’s most iconic sites and is famous for it of onion-dome topped towers.
Mystras is an archaeological site in Greece housing the remains of a series of Byzantine churches and a medieval monastery.
Built in 1853 in a Neo-Byzantine style, Marseille’s Notre-Dame de la Garde overlooks the city and the harbour, its high position making it a favoured lookout point.
One of several historical churches in Argentina, Nuestra Señora de Loreto was a Jesuit mission, now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Among the most historically significant historic churches in the world, Old North Church in Boston played a vital role in igniting the American Revolution and is part of the Freedom Trail.
Osterlars Round Church is a twelfth century church in Bornholm, built as a defensive structure in order to withstand the possible threat of pirates.
Famed for having Europe’s largest clock face, Peterskirche is an impressive historic church in Zurich.
Pirita Convent was an important fifteenth century nunnery of the order of St. Bridget and now stands as a scenic ruin.
Prejmer Fortified Church in Romania was built in the 13th century by the Teutonic knights and is one of the less frequented of the world’s historical churches.
A thirteenth century historic church, Riddarholm Church has served as the burial site of most of Sweden’s monarchs for hundreds of years.
The Rocamadour Shrine is a holy complex in southern France, containing a range of eleventh-thirteenth century AD churches and chapels.
Roldal Stave Church is an attractive wooden church dating back to around the mid-thirteenth century.
Made famous by Dan Brown and one of the most recognised entries on the list of historical churches, Rosslyn Chapel is a 15th century Catholic Church near Edinburgh in Scotland brimming with mysterious carvings.
Ruinas de Sao Paulo are the dramatic remains of a seventeenth century Jesuit church a built in Macau in 1602 and destroyed by fire in 1835.
St George’s Basilica is a 10th century church in the Prague Castle complex and home of the tombs of the Premyslid dynasty of princes.
One of the city’s largest churches, Saint-Sulpice Church is a huge eighteenth century church in Paris, begun in the mid-seventeenth century completed a century later.
Sainte Chapelle is a stunning thirteenth Century gothic church in Paris and and home to the city’s oldest wall paintings as well as some stunning stained-glass windows.
Sainte-Foy Abbey in Conques, France, was one of the churches along the medieval pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela.
The Saints Francis and Bernardine Church is a fifteenth century gothic church in Vilnius.
The Temple of Saint Augustin is a sixteenth century monastery in Acolman in Mexico, constructed by Augustinian friars between 1539 and 1560.
One of several historical churches in the world to be UNESCO listed, San Ignacio Mini in Argentina is one of the best preserved Jesuit Missions of the Guaranis.
A vast ornate structure lined with chapels, San Lorenzo Church in Florence is a 15th century church commissioned by the Medici family.
The beautiful San Pietro in Vincoli in Rome is a quiet, inconspicuous ancient church containing several stunning sculptures by the famous artist Michelangelo as well as famed religious artefacts said to date back to St Peter.
One of Sardinia’s oldest churches, San Saturnino Basilica was consecrated in the 12th century but includes a Roman necropolis which dates back to the early Christian era.
An impressive sixteenth century church in Rome, Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri was built by Michelangelo using the structural remains of the ancient Baths of Diocletian.
Eglesia de Santa Maria del Mar is a fourteenth century church in Barcelona and an excellent example of Catalan-Gothic architecture.
Sao Miguel das Missoes was one of five Jesuit missions of the Guaranis granted UNESCO World Heritage status.
Skellig Michael is a dramatic and remote medieval monastic settlement off the coast of Ireland. Visits to Skellig Michael involve a particularly steep climb up 618 steps.
St Amand de Coly is a thirteenth century fortified church in France’s Dordogne region which is heavily defended by ramparts and high towers.
St Matthias Abbey houses the grave of its namesake, the apostle, St Mathias. Also found at the site is a Roman cemetery housing the first bishops of Trier, probably dating back to the third century.
Prague’s historic St Nicholas Church was built in the eighteenth century and is a prime example of Baroque architecture.
St Peter and St Paul Church is a 17th century church in Vilnius, built to mark the city’s liberation from Russia.
Perhaps the most famous church in the world, St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City is one of the holiest of Christian sites with a history dating back to Ancient Rome.
St Savior in Chora is an 11th century church turned mosque and, more recently, a museum known as Kariye Muzesi.
St. Stephen’s Basilica is Budapest’s largest church and was completed in 1905> It was built in the name of the canonised king, Stephen I of Hungary.
St-Trophime Church is a UNESCO listed historical church in Arles renowned for its Romanesque architecture.
St. Anna’s Church of Kokar is a pretty, whitewashed stone church in Aland built in 1784 and renowned for its fourteenth century Finnish Franciscan convent.
Tempio Malatestiano in Rimini is a fifteenth century Franciscan church turned lavish Renaissance mausoleum.
Among the more mysterious entries on the list of historic churches, Temple Church in London was established by the Knights Templar in the twelfth century.
The Chapel of the Souvenir Francais is a memorial to French soldiers who fought in the Battle of the Somme.
Urnes Stave Church is an excellent and oldest surviving example of this genre of medieval wooden architecture.
Vezelay Basilica is a 12th century Romanesque church once said to have housed Mary Magdalene’s relics.
Whitby Abbey is a picturesque cliff-top ruin of a thirteenth century church which belonged to a Benedictine abbey in Yorkshire.