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10 of the Most Beautiful Temples, Churches and Mosques

Since the very first brick was laid, architects had to keep a fine balance between what is beautiful and what’s pragmatic, but there was a special kind of building where they could really let their artistic sideshow: temples. These houses of worship, be they shrines, churches, mosques or synagogues, are some of the world’s most imposing and breathtaking buildings in the world, drawing millions of tourists every year. And even though there are some truly amazing ancient temples left behind by our predecessors, we have decided to focus on active temples.
1. Sultan Ahmed’s Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey
Beautiful houses of worship: Blue Mosque Istanbul Turkey
The Blue Mosque, as it is colloquially known, is one of the most recognizable houses of God in the Muslim world, striking an imposing figure in the Istanbul skyline with its six minarets and tiered domes. The building was built on the site of the old Byzantine imperial palace, and its design is heavily inspired by the neighboring former Orthodox church of Hagia Sophia.
2. Temple of Heaven, Beijing, China
Beautiful houses of worship: Temple of Heaven Beijing China
The most famous Taoist shrine, dedicated to the supreme sky deity, this temple has incredible historical significance. As designated representatives of the lord of the sky, the emperors of China would visit this altar with tributes and sacrifice for goodwill and harvest on behalf of the entire nation.
3. Lotus Temple, Delhi, India
Beautiful houses of worship: Lotus Temple
This magnificent lotus-shaped temple in Delhi attracts crowds of curious tourists looking for a good picture to post online, and you can hardly blame them. The temple is dedicated to the Baha’i faith, which believes in one God who has revealed reflections of the divine truth through all of the major religions of the world. Baha’is thus preach tolerance and unity of mankind.
4. Wat Rong Khun, Chiang Rai, Thailand
Beautiful houses of worship: White Temple
If the White Temple looks like a work of art, that’s because it really is one. It was designed and built by Chalermchai Kositpipat, a local artist, in place of the original temple which fell into disrepair. The gorgeously-detailed temple was built as an art exhibit, a center for learning and a temple to the Buddha.
5. The Milan Cathedral, Milan, Italy
Beautiful houses of worship: Milan Cathedral
The gorgeous façade and roof of this monumental church are adorned with dozens of spires and the building represents a fusion of several completely different styles of architecture, including gothic, which makes this cathedral all the more special. It is also the largest church in Italy (the larger St. Peter’s Cathedral is not under Italian jurisdiction as part of the Vatican) and the fourth largest church in the world.
6. Dohány Street Synagogue, Budapest, Hungary
Beautiful houses of worship: Budapest Synagogue
Also known as the Great Synagogue of Budapest, this 19th-century temple is the largest surviving synagogue in Europe, following the destruction of the Warsaw Synagogue at the hands of the Nazis. The synagogue was built in a style that incorporates Moorish and Christian elements and serves the Neolog Jewish community, a progressive denomination of Judaism in Hungary.
7. Meenakshi Temple, Madurai, India
Beautiful houses of worship: Meenakshi Temple
This resplendent temple is dedicated to Meenakshi, an avatar of the goddess Parvati, the consort of Shiva, and it is most notable for its towering gates, adorned with dozens of figures, the tallest of which rises up to 170 feet, and it is built according to Tamil tradition which is unique to South India.
8. Bibi-Khanym Mosque, Samarkand, Uzbekistan
Beautiful houses of worship: Bibi Khanym Samarkand Mosque
This magnificent mosque was erected at the request of the great and terrifying warlord Tamerlane, and it is among the largest and most beautiful mosques in the world. This important and historic monument is truly striking with its twin gates adorned with beautifully-ornate mosaics.
9. Saint Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna, Austria
Beautiful houses of worship: Vienna Cathedral St Stephen's
In a city full of majestic palaces, this medieval gothic cathedral still manages to stand out as uniquely beautiful with its awesome steeple and colorfully-tiled roof. As beautiful, ornate and imposing as the cathedral is from outside, it is even more awe-inspiring from the inside. The charred segments of the exterior wall are a reminder of the damage the building sustained during WWII.
10. Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Beautiful houses of worship: Angkor Wat
This marvelous temple complex has a long and storied history and was initially built and dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, later becoming a Buddhist temple. As a shining example of Khmer architecture, the temple has become a national symbol of Cambodia, even appearing on the country’s flag. The complex houses countless beautiful statues and stone reliefs.
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