Gorgeous French Churches and Cathedrals to Visit

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The land of love and champagne, France is much more than the Eiffel tower and Paris in winter and charming chateaus. France is also home to some of the most beautiful and historic churches in Europe. From Gothic cathedrals to ornately modern churches, each one showcases a different aspect of the rich cultural and religious heritage of this regal land. With spires touching the skies, incredible architecture, stunning stained glass windows and serene carvings, you’ll definitely want to visit these beautiful French churches.

1. Notre Dame de Fourvière Basilica, Lyon

By Lisa Garrett of Travel to Lyon

Artistic Interior of Notre Dame Lyon.
Notre Dame de Fourvière Basilica
By Lisa Garrett of Travel to Lyon

The Notre Dame de Fourvière Basilica is one of the most famous attractions in Lyon, France.

Construction started in 1872, and it was consecrated in 1896. It was built to honor the Virgin Mary for saving the residents of Lyon from the bubonic plague in 1643.

The Notre Dame de Fourvière Basilica is a unique blend of Romanesque and Byzantine architecture and is nicknamed ‘the upside-down elephant’ for its four octagonal towers.

The interior is stunning, with gorgeous stained-glass windows and enormous gilded mosaics decorating the basilica’s walls. You can even take a guided tour to the rooftop, where you’ll enjoy fabulous views of the nave, the caryatids, and the gilded Madonna.

This basilica sits atop Fourvière Hill, so when you visit be sure to enjoy the spectacular views of Lyon!

2. Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris

By Elisa from World in Paris

Gothic architecture of Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris.
Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris
By Elisa from World in Paris

Notre Dame Cathedral is Paris’ beating heart. One of the first Cathedrals built in Gothic style, it is located on Ile de la Cité in Paris’ 4th Arrondissement.

Notre Dame Cathedral is dedicated to the Virgin Mary (Notre Dame in French). Construction started 850 years ago on the site of four previous religious buildings and lasted more than 100 years. The building’s numbers are impressive: the towers measure 69 meters, while the spire is 97 meters high. The rose windows in the north and south façades have a diameter of 13 meters.

Notre Dame is one of the most unique places to visit in Paris. Following the 2019 fire, Notre Dame of Paris is closed for reconstruction works, but its reopening is scheduled for the end of 2024.

3. Cathédral de Notre-Dame de Reims

By Paul from Paulmarina

Exterior of Cathédral de Notre-Dame de Reims.
Cathédral de Notre-Dame de Reims
By Paul from Paulmarina

The Cathédral de Notre-Dame de Reims has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1991.

All French kings, starting with king Clovis the Frank in the 5th century, were anointed and crowned in the Reims cathedral.

The nave of the cathedral was built large enough to accommodate all the coronations. Master builders of the cathedral designed it in such a way that the light floods in through the high vaults and large windows.

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The stained-glass rose window is one of the highlights, and it will most definitely take your breath away when you enter the holy sanctum of this stunning architectural marvel.

4. Sainte-Chapelle, Paris

By Amber from Vegetarian in Paris

Interior of Sainte-Chapelle, Paris.
Sainte-Chapelle, Paris
By Amber from Vegetarian in Paris

Sainte-Chapelle is a royal chapel in Paris, France, that’s best known for its incredible stained glass. The chapel was damaged during the French Revolution and later repaired, but it remains one of the most extensive collections of 13th century stained glass in the world.

The chapel was built in the Gothic style and is located within the Palais de la Cité or Palace of the City in Paris. The absolute best time to visit is on a day when the sun is shining through the stained glass panes on the chapel walls.

If you decide to visit Sainte-Chapelle, be sure to walk to the nearby Le Marais neighborhood for some of the best vegetarian-friendly restaurants in Paris.

5. Rouen Cathedral in Normandy

By Leyla of Offbeat France

Facade of Rouen Cathedral in Normandy, France.
Rouen Cathedral in Normandy, France
Pic by Leyla of Offbeat France

Rouen Cathedral in Normandy, France is famous for its three towers, each built in a different style – from Early Gothic to Late Flamboyant – over eight centuries. But its greatest claim to fame comes from its façade. Impressionist artist Claude Monet was so taken by it that he painted it more than 30 times! In fact, he rented a studio across the street so that he could observe the light playing over the carvings at all times of day and in different seasons. The paintings are now scattered around the world, including five in the Orsay Museum in Paris. You’ll even find copies at souvenir stalls all over Paris.

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6. Strasbourg Cathedral or Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg

By Sharon of Exploring Our World

Inside the Strasbourg Cathedral in France.
Strasbourg Cathedral Pic by Sharon of Exploring Our World

The Strasbourg Cathedral sits at the crossroads of Europe and offers a place of prayer and peace to visitors. Built between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries, this cathedral is a fine example of late Gothic architecture. It soars skyward and was the world’s tallest building in the mid-1600s to the mid-1800s. Inside, you will find elegant stained glass and a large pipe organ.

The Strasbourg cathedral is also home to an Astronomical Clock built from the 1500s on. You can see the clock whenever the church is open, but from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. if you buy a ticket, you will see the charming clock figures move at the half hour. A 20-minute video explains the design of the clock. If you venture to lovely Strasbourg, be sure to include a visit inside this world-renown cathedral.

This is a work in progress list of the must-visit French cathedrals and churches. There are many that still need to be added. If you would like to contribute, ping abby@abbyshearth.com

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Pinterest images of Interior of Sainte-Chapelle and exterior of Notre Dame Paris.
Pinterest images of Cathédral de Notre-Dame de Reims and interiors of Notre Dame de Fourvière Basilica.

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