10 of the Most Beautiful Gothic Buildings in Britain

10 of the Most Beautiful Gothic Buildings in Britain

Originating from France in the 12th century, Gothic architecture flourished throughout Europe during the High and Late Middle Ages.

There are three main periods of English Gothic: Early English Gothic (1180-1250), Decorated Gothic (1250-1350) and Perpendicular Gothic (1350-1520).

Although its popularity declined in the 16th century, English Gothic reappeared three centuries later with the Gothic Revival (1820-1900), becoming of the most popular movements of 19th century architecture.

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The Gothic style is characterised by the pointed arch, high vaulted ceilings, enlarged windows, strong vertical lines, the flying buttress, pinnacles and spires.

Gothic was most commonly used in cathedrals, but was also seen in castles, palaces, universities and great houses.

Here are 10 key examples of Gothic buildings in Britain.

1. Salisbury Cathedral

Built between 1220 and 1258, Salisbury Cathedral is widely recognised as one of the finest examples of English Gothic architecture.

It was one of the 20 cathedrals built after the Battle of Hastings in 1066 when William the Conqueror seized control of England and Wales.

The cathedral is built in the Early English Gothic style. Although it looks like a collection of buildings, the entire composition is ruled by a disciplined architectural order.

A coherent system of horizontals and verticals unite in a simple layout in the shape of a cross, topped by the tallest church spire in Britain.

The cathedral is also known for having one of the surviving four copies of the Magna Carta.

2. Canterbury Cathedral

The nave of Canterbury Cathedral (Credit: David Iliff / CC).

One of the oldest cathedrals in England, Canterbury Cathedral has a long history that can be traced back to the 6th century.

The original church was completely rebuilt in the early 11th century, and then rebuilt again 100 years later in the English Gothic style following a fire.

As with many Gothic church buildings, the interior of the choir was richly embellished with pointed arches, rib vaulting and flying buttresses.

The cathedral was the scene to one of the most infamous assassinations in English history – the murder of Thomas Becket in 1170.

3. Wells Cathedral

Wells Cathedral (Credit: David Iliff / CC).

Described as “unquestionably one of the most beautiful” and “the most poetic” of English cathedrals, Wells Cathedral serves the second smallest city in England.

Built between 1175 and 1490 entirely in the Gothic style, the cathedral’s architectural highlight is the West Front.

The West Front of Wells Cathedral (Credit: Tony Grist / CC).

Flanked by two towers, it depicts the history of the world as told in the Bible. On its completion, the West Front boasted the largest collection of figurative statues in the western world.

4. Lincoln Cathedral

Lincoln Cathedral (Credit: DrMoschi / CC).

For over 200 years, Lincoln Cathedral was the tallest building in the world until its central spire collapsed in 1548.

With key Gothic features such as flying buttresses, ribbed vaults and pointed arches, it is considered a masterpiece from the medieval period.

John Ruskin declared:

I have always held … that the cathedral of Lincoln is out and out the most precious piece of architecture in the British Isles and roughly speaking worth any two other cathedrals we have.

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5. All Souls College Oxford

All Souls College Oxford (Credit: Andrew Shiva / CC).

Much of this Oxford University college has a Gothic base but the best example is its chapel, completed in 1442.

Built between 1438 and 1442, the chapel features Perpendicular Gothic elements in its stained-glass windows, vaults and portals.

6. King’s College Chapel

Cambridge King’s College Chapel ceiling (Credit: FA2010).

Built between 1446 and 1515, King’s College Chapel is the architectural symbol of Cambridge University and an outstanding example of the late Perpendicular English Gothic style.

The chapel was built in phases by a succession of kings over a period which spanned the Wars of the Roses, and its large stained glass windows were not completed until 1531.

The chapel features the world’s largest fan vault, sometimes described as one of the architectural wonders of the world.

7. Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey (Credit: Sp??ta??? / CC).

Constructed in the 13th century as a burial site for King Henry III, the present church was built when the Gothic style was relatively new.

Practically ever Gothic element can be seen in the abbey, from statues to its famous vaulted ribbed ceilings.

Westminster Abbey Chapter House (Credit: ChrisVTG Photography / CC).

The Chapter House, boasting an extraordinary tiled medieval floor, was described by the architect Sir G. Gilbert Scott as:

singl[ing] itself out from other beautiful works as a structure perfect in itself.

Westminster Abbey has hosted almost every coronation of English monarchs since 1066, when William the Conqueror was crowned on Christmas Day.

8. Palace of Westminster

Palace of Westminster (Credit: OltreCreativeAgency / pixabay).

Much of the royal palace’s medieval structures were destroyed in the Great Fire of 1834, and reconstructed by the Victorian architect Sir Charles Barry.

With the assistance of Augustus Pugin, a leading authority on Gothic architecture, Barry rebuilt the new Palace of Westminster in the Gothic Revival style, inspired by the English Perpendicular style.

The exterior is a beautiful symmetrical combination of stone, glass, and iron that has led to the palace being one of London’s most iconic structures.

9. York Minster

The heart-shaped West Window of York Minster (Credit: Spencer Means / CC).

York Minster is the second largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe and clearly charts the development of English Gothic architecture.

Built between 1230 and 1472, the cathedral dates from a period when York was the most important political, economic and religious capital of the north.

The wide decorated Gothic nave contains the largest expanse of medieval stained glass in the world. At its west end is the Great West Window, containing a heart-shaped design known as the ‘Heart of Yorkshire’.

10. Gloucester Cathedral

Vaulted ceiling of Gloucester Cathedral (Credit: Zhurakovskyi / CC).

Built over several centuries from 1089-1499, Gloucester Cathedral features a smattering of different architectural styles, including every style of Gothic architecture.

The nave is topped with an Early English roof; the south porch is in the Perpendicular style with a fan-vaulted roof. The Decorated Gothic south transept serves as the earliest surviving example of Perpendicular Gothic design in Britain.


10 most beautiful historic university campuses in the UK

Inside view of the famous iconic St John's College buildings of Cambridge University in Cambridgeshire. Source: Travelling.About/Shutterstock

Who hasn’t dreamt of sweeping through the hallways of grand castles, studying in the halls of historic landmarks and treading in the footsteps of great men and women of the past?

Part of the charm of studying in the UK is that this dream isn’t too farfetched. The wee little islands of the United Kingdom are home to tales of Kings and Queens, knights of the realm, and treason and intrigue spanning centuries. Many of the grand buildings that witnessed these events still stand.

There’s nowhere better to gain inspiration for your studies than in some of the most remarkably beautiful campuses in the world while sharing your study room with some of the plotters, planners, politicians and history makers of the past.

Radcliffe Camera and All Souls College, Oxford University, Oxford, UK. Source: Skowronek/Shutterstock

This one will come as no surprise. As the oldest university in the English-speaking world, the University of Oxford has seen some impressive names walk its halls, including a remarkable 58 Nobel Prize winners.

Established in 1096, the university’s campus has become truly iconic. And as an added bonus, scenes from the Harry Potter movies were filmed here so you can live out your own Hogwarts fantasy.

King’s College, Cambridge University. Source: Shutterstock

This medieval university boasts some pretty impressive alumni amongst its ranks, including Charles Darwin, Alan Turing, Oliver Cromwell, and members of the royal family to boot.

It’s also got some of the most beautiful architecture to be found in the UK, including the grand King’s College and its Chapel, renowned for its Gothic English architecture and large medieval stained-glass windows.

Not to mention, Cambridge is considered one of the most prestigious higher education institutes in the world. Just sayin’.

This one might be a bit more of a surprise. While it only became a university in 1962, Keele campus is located on the Keele Estate which was once owned by a medieval military order before passing into the hands of a merchant family who managed the estate until the early 20th century.

Not only does it boast medieval buildings but also has a stunning rural setting with lakes and forests on its self-contained 620-acre campus.

4. Royal Holloway, University of London

Royal Holloway, University of London, Founder’s Building. Source: Facebook – Royal Holloway

If you want history, this has it in spades. Opened by Queen Victoria herself in 1886, it was originally established as an all-women college but later began admitting men in the mid-1990s.

The central campus building, known as the Founder’s Building, is now Grade I listed and has been described by The Times as “one of Britain’s most remarkable university buildings”.

Durham Castle, UNESCO site. Source: Amra Pasic/Shutterstock

The University estate is home to a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site. Like Oxford and Cambridge, Durham is split into colleges, one of which is housed in the 11th-century Durham Castle. This means some lucky students get the chance to not only study in the historic grounds, but actually live in the castle!

Cardiff University, Wales, UK. Source: Billy Stock/Shutterstock

Cardiff University is slightly younger than some of the UK’s better known institutions, but its Main Building rivals Cambridge and Oxford’s ancient lecture colleges.

Queen’s University Belfast. Gena_BY/Shutterstock

The centrepiece of this stunning campus is the red-brick gothic Lanyon Building, which opened in 1849 and is named for its architect, Charles Lanyon. The Queen’s University of Belfast is Northern Ireland’s highest-ranked university, currently standing at 195 th in the world. With roots in the earlier Royal Belfast Academical Institution, which was founded in 1810, the uni is considered one of the UK’s 10 oldest universities.

Edinburgh Law School Building, Edinburgh university. Source: Complexli/Shutterstock

The university’s Old College is one of the historic city’s landmarks. Its foundation stone was laid in 1789, but it stands on the original site of the university’s first building. The courtyard has a central grass lawn which provides a serene location for outdoor study.

Aberystwyth university. Source: Sigitasd/Shutterstock

The Old University Building at Aberystwyth University in Wales was designed specifically to look like a medieval castle in 1795, perfect for curling up with a history book.

Solidifying its place in history with a very modern love story is St. Andrew’s University, Scotland. It’s no wonder Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge fell in love in these stunning ancient buildings and peaceful campus grounds.


Built London: Top Ten Most Beautiful Victorian Buildings in London

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What we think of as “Victorian” architecture more refers to the period rather than a particular architectural style. In fact, there were really several styles prevalent during the period that were revivals of previous designs: Gothic, Italianate, Romanesque, Renaissance, Queen Anne, and Neoclassical. Other methods and styles also developed as new materials came into prominence and led to an increase in iron-framed glass buildings such as the Crystal Palace that played host to the Great Exhibition. Many of the buildings constructed during Victoria’s reign still stand. We’ve identified our top ten favorites, but you can let us know your own favorites in the comments.

East Wing, Buckingham Palace

We might as well start with a building that is the directly a result of Queen Victoria herself. Buckingham Palace on the whole isn’t Victorian since it was primarily constructed during the reigns of King George III and King George IV in the 18 th Century. However, the East Wing qualifies since it was commissioned by Victoria herself to support her and Prince Albert’s growing family. Albert oversaw the construction and kept it in the Neoclassical style to mirror the rest of the palace. Once finished, it became the public face of Buckingham Palace and its balcony used for many public events.

Victorian Pavillion, The Oval

As sporting fields go, The Oval is one of the oldest sporting fields in London. It was established in 1845 as a cricket ground and one pavilion was built before the current Victorian Pavilion built 1895-1897. The Pavilion features many sash windows which became popular during the Georgian and Victorian periods and reflects the Italianate style.

King’s Cross Station

King’s Cross opened in 1852 as the terminus of the Great Western Railway. Lewis Cubitt designed the station in an Italianate style, one of the most obvious elements of which is the station’s clock tower. The double-arched roof that covers many of the platforms is an excellent example of the steel and glass work that saw increased use during the period.

All Saints, Margaret Street

A largely unknown gem of Victorian church architecture, All Saints church on Margaret Street was built in the 1850s. The architect, William Butterfield, relied heavily on the Gothic Revival style and unlike similar Neo-Gothic buildings of the era, Butterfield did something different by constructing the church with brick instead of stone. The interior is absolutely gorgeous with patterned tiles, geometric patterns, and many tiled Biblical scenes.

Tower Bridge

And speaking of Gothic Revival architecture, the style is also apparent in one of London’s most famous landmarks. Tower Bridge is one of the most famous examples of a bascule bridge, built to cater to the increasing traffic along the River Thames. If you ever visit, be sure to go up to the pedestrian foot tunnel for one of the best views of the river you’ll get.

Palm House, Kew Gardens

If the Crystal Palace had not perished in a fire, it would certainly take this spot on the list, but as it is no longer with us, one of the best examples of cast-iron and glass buildings in London is the Palm House in Kew Gardens. A greenhouse meant to generate and sustain a rainforest environment, Richard Turner designed and built the structure form 1844 to 1848.

St. Pancras Station

Designed by William Henry Barlow, St. Pancras Station was built in the Gothic Revival style from red brick much as All Saints was. The single-span trainshed roof was the largest cast-iron and glass structure of its type at the time. The accompanying St. Pancras hotel was designed by Giles Gilbert Scott to front the station and departed from Barlow’s plans by focusing on Italian Gothic style and borrowing many different elements in his grand design.

Royal Albert Hall

One of the finest examples of Italianate architecture in London goes to the Royal Albert Hall which is also one of the best concert venues. It opened in 1871 as a tribute to Prince Albert along with the Albert Monument across from the hall and was the world’s first domed amphitheater along with many other advanced features for its time. The dome is a glass and wrought-iron structure that is freestanding and the hall also has mosaic frieze 800-feet long that encircles the building.

Natural History Museum

A must-visit Victorian building in London is the Natural History Museum. Construction on this building began in 1873 under the design of Alfred Waterhouse, who mixed the Gothic Revival style with the Romanesque architecture he’d fallen in love with on the Continent. Appropriately for the building, he incorporated designs inspired by living and extinct species, with living species in the west wing of the museum and extinct species in the east. The central hall, called Hintz Hall, feels more like a cathedral than building dedicated to science, and is only one of the fantastic elements of the building.

Palace of Westminster

After the previous palace had burned down, Parliament opted to construct a new building rather than take up King William IV’s offer to move into Buckingham House. A commission chose Charles Barry’s Gothic Revival design and the structure was built from 1840 to 1876. The exterior is a wonderful symmetrical combination of stone, glass, and iron that has led to the palace being one of the world’s most recognized structures.

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About John Rabon

John is a regular writer for Anglotopia and its sister websites. He is currently engaged in finding a way to move books slightly to the left without the embarrassment of being walked in on by Eddie Izzard. For any comments, questions, or complaints, please contact the Lord Mayor of London, Boris Johnson's haircut.


12 gorgeous buildings you have to visit in Cambridge

Cambridge is known for being one of the most picturesque cities in the UK.

Every year the tourists pile in to come and visit the grand buildings and small cobbled streets.

So what are the prettiest places to see around the university city?

Well, we have scoured Cambridge for the most gorgeous buildings that every tourist would love to explore.

And if you like these, check out our A to Z guide to Cambridge for even more attractions to visit in our lovely city.

King&aposs College Chapel

We know it&aposs obvious, but this impressive chapel is a definite must-see.

With architecture from the late Gothic period, the chapel contains some of the finest medieval stained glass in the world.

But you can visit the beautiful building at Christmas as well, when it broadcasts its great Christmas Eve Carol service ‘A festival of nine lessons and carols’.

King&aposs College Chapel, King&aposs Parade. Entrance £9 adults, £6 children and students. For opening hours and more information click here.

Bridge of Sighs, St John&aposs College

Take a walk over this St John’s College bridge - or perhaps get a better view from a chauffeured punt tour from the Cambridge Punt Company.

The bridge is well known for being named after the Bridge of Sighs in Venice.

No matter which way you decide is best to look at it, you will always be able to see its remarkable 19th-century structure.

St John&aposs College, St John&aposs Street. Entrance £10 adults, £5 students, senior citizens and children aged 12-17. Children under 12 free. For hours and information click here.

Sainsbury Laboratory

A laboratory may not seem like the most gorgeous place to visit but the Sainsbury Laboratory is set in Cambridge University&aposs lush Botanic Gardens.

After it was built in 2010, it won a host of architectural awards for its beautiful glass design.

The modern lab even has a public café where you can sit and take in the views of the impressive gardens.

Cambridge University Botanic Gardens, 1 Brookside. Admission £6 adults, £5.50 students and senior citizens. Children under 17 free. For more information click here.

Trinity College Great Court

This magnificent structure is the main court at Trinity College in Cambridge.

It’s not just another beautiful building to look round, but also holds the Great Court run.

This involves running around the court within the length of time it takes the college clock to strike 12.

Many members of the college take part each year at noon on matriculation day - so why not go and see what the fun is all about?

Trinity College, Trinity Street. Entrance £3 adults. For more information click here.

Portugal Place

This narrow, picturesque street of houses is a passage which links Bridge Street to Jesus Green.

At one end of the street you are able to see St Clement&aposs Church which leads into the city centre, while the other opens up onto Jesus Green, a popular summer spot for family and friends.

The Round Church

Also known as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, this is one of the four medieval round churches still in use in England.

One of the best places to start exploring the city, the Round Church is Cambridge’s second oldest building, after the Leper Chapel off Newmarket Road.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Bridge Street. Entrance £3.50 adults, £1 students. For more information click here.

Kettle’s Yard

This house and art gallery found in Castle Street, Cambridge, has a collection of artwork from one of its owners Jim Ede.

Jim, a former Tate curator, created the wonderful Kettle’s Yard between 1958 -73 when he lived there.

As well as the beautiful house, filled with everything from paintings to specially selected stones, Kettle&aposs Yard has a new gallery that has just opened.

Kettle&aposs Yard, Castle Street. Admission free but ticketed. For more information click here.

Lloyd&aposs Bank, Sidney Street

The usual trip to the bank wouldn’t be particularly interesting, but if you get a chance take a look up at the stunning ceiling and neo-Gothic architecture throughout this Lloyd&aposs bank, it isn’t like many others.

This particular Lloyd&aposs bank is in Sidney Street in central Cambridge.

Lloyd&aposs Bank, 3 Sidney Street. Open 9am to 5pm Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, 9.30am to 5pm Wednesday and 9am to 4pm Saturday.

Senate House

This Cambridge University building is in the centre of town so extremely easy to access.

It is used mainly throughout the summer to hold the university&aposs graduation ceremonies.

If you are keen to take a look round book with Cambridge Highlight tours to learn about its fascinating history.

Senate House, King&aposs Parade. Entrance only by guided tour. For more information click here.

The Old Hall, Queens&apos College

The beautifully-designed building is definitely worth visiting.

It still includes many of the original features of the building when it was built in 1448.

If you fancy, the hall is also used for wedding breakfasts and private banquets, so why not try it out?

Queen&aposs College, Queen&aposs Lane. Entrance £3.50, children under 12 free. For more information click here.

Westcott House

This is one of Cambridge University&aposs theological colleges, which train priests.

Tucked away off Jesus Lane in the city centre, it has beautiful peaceful gardens, and you can sometimes hear the music of practising choirs drifting from the doorways.

Westcott House, Jesus Lane.

The Cambridge Mosque

The beautiful new mosque is being built on Mill Road and will be Europe’s first eco-mosque.

It has a giant golden dome and a main prayer hall. The building itself is set to hold 1,000 worshippers.

Once it is fully developed the mosque will be open to all visitors and it will definitely be worth taking a few photos. Even now it looks pretty spectacular, as the enormous dome has been lifted into place.

The Cambridge Mosque, Mill Road.

You can keep up to date with all the latest news in and around Cambridge by downloading our free app.

It is available for the iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store or the Android version can be downloaded from Google Play.


10 of the most historic cities to visit in the UK

The UK is teaming with historic tales told through the architecture, geography and iconic locations of some of our cities. Here are 10 of the best cities to visit in the UK if history is your hobby.

Built on seven hills, the resplendent city of Bath in North Somerset has been a centre for recreation for more than 2,000 years &ndash becoming famed for its honey-toned Georgian architecture and picturesque Regency-era streets. Home to one of the UK&rsquos few natural thermal springs, the area has been the stuff of legend since King Bladud allegedly cured his leprosy by bathing in the warm mud some 3,000 years ago. But it was the Romans who really established the city &ndash naming it Aquae Sulis and creating a grand complex so they could bathe in its balmy waters. The baths have more or less remained at its heart, and today you can still immerse yourself in these relics of the Roman Empire. But there&rsquos more to Bath than the Romans: during Saxon rule, in a crowning ceremony that shaped the one carried out today, Edgar &ndash the first king to rule over a united England &ndash was coroneted in the city&rsquos monastery.

In the 18th century, Bath was the place to see and be seen after Queen Anne visited in the early 1700s, leading to grand developments such as Queen Square and Prior Park. The city was also home to Jane Austen for five years and featured extensively in Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. So rich is its history, the entire area has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the only one of its kind in the country.

Visit: Bath is culturally rich, but history lovers will appreciate Pulteney Bridge, the landscaped lawns of Prior Park and the Regency-era splendour of the Royal Crescent. To see it from a whole new perspective, don sensible shoes and set out on the Skyline Walk &ndash a 10km footpath through hidden valleys and tranquil woodlands.

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Settlers first ascended the heights of Castle Rock (now the site of Edinburgh Castle) in around 900BC &ndash its location on a volcanic crag providing a natural defensive position perfect for warding off intruders (although having been captured by both Edward I and Oliver Cromwell, it&rsquos clearly not impenetrable). Built on craggy hillsides, the city is intertwined with its landscape, and in the 18th century was dubbed &lsquoThe Athens of the North&rsquo, owing to it being a centre of culture and architectural majesty.

Visit: from the remains of the 16th-century Flodden Wall, built after the Scots&rsquo defeat by the English in 1513, to the National Monument of Scotland (Edinburgh&rsquos answer to the Acropolis) and the head office of RBS (one of the most beautiful banking halls in Britain), the city is a historical treasure trove with many little-known gems to rival the famed Royal Mile and Castle &ndash although they&rsquore pretty good, too.

Chester&rsquos ancient city walls are the oldest, longest and most complete in the country &ndash some parts date back more than 2,000 years. By the 1700s, the ramparts were less a fortress and more an elegant walkway, along which locals would promenade &ndash a custom that many still enjoy today.

Visit: a bustling market town since the Middle Ages, Chester is home to the magnificent medieval shopping rows of Watergate and Bridge Street. Alongside its ancient barricades, the city is also home to the nation&rsquos oldest racecourse, largest Roman amphitheatre and a 1,000-year-old cathedral.

Situated ten miles from the Scottish border, Cumbria&rsquos capital, dubbed the &lsquoDebatable Lands&rsquo has been the backdrop to many bloody battles between feuding Border reivers. A vital stronghold for the Romans, from 122AD they set about building Hadrian&rsquos Wall &ndash a coast-to-coast fortress running from Bowness on-Solway, through the city, and then all the way to Wallsend on the River Thyne &ndash which marked the northern edge of their vast Empire.

Visit: the most scenic way to arrive in the city is by rail, aboard the Settle-Carlisle line, which winds through the Yorkshire Dales and North Pennines, famously traversing the Ribblehead Viaduct. Once you&rsquove reached your destination, visit the brooding Norman castle on the north side, or the spectacular 12th-century cathedral, whose ceiling is painted like a starlit night sky (seen above).

Recorded in the Domesday book as &lsquoLancastre&rsquo (meaning &lsquoRoman fort on the River Lune&rsquo), the county town of Lancashire has a long and varied history. The 11th-century Norman castle was built as a defence against the Scots, but it is perhaps most famous for its dark past as a place of persecution and punishment. As home to the oldest working courtroom in Britain &ndash where more death sentences were passed than anywhere in the country &ndash it earned Lancaster the grim nickname of &lsquohanging town&rsquo. It was here that the infamous Pendle witches were put on trial in 1612. Enter at your own peril.

Visit: take a turn around Williamson Park, where you&rsquoll find the grand Ashton Memorial, built in the early 1900s. For unparalleled views of the Lune, head to the 18th-century aqueduct, and when your feet get tired from walking, see the city from two wheels via the Way of the Roses cycle route, which passes right through .

As Chaucer documented in his famed tales, pilgrims have been making their way to Canterbury in Kent for more than eight centuries, following the infamous assassination of Archbishop Thomas Becket in 1170. But the city&rsquos religious significance far pre-dates his death. In 597AD, St Augustine was sent by the Pope to demonstrate the Christian way to the pagans of England. Arriving on the Isle of Thanet, he was received by King Aethelberht I of Kent and permitted to settle in Canterbury, where he and his monks successfully converted many to Christianity, including the king himself. The next year, Augustine was consecrated Bishop of the English and, since that time, the cathedral has been the primary ecclesiastical centre of the country. Today, parts of the city, including the cathedral, have been granted UNESCO World Heritage status.

Visit: on the site of the cathedral, you&rsquoll find the ruins of St Augustine&rsquos Abbey, where he and his monks lived. Head to a 14th-century priests&rsquo hospital &ndash now Canterbury Heritage Museum &ndash before some shopping and a coffee in the city&rsquos medieval alleyways.

Home to the oldest university in the English-speaking world, which dates back to the 11th century, Oxford has long been associated with academia. The relationship between &lsquotown and gown&rsquo however, was initially fraught with tension and when, in 1209, a student fled Oxford after allegedly murdering his mistress, the townspeople hanged two scholars in retaliation. Tensions continued for more than 100 years, with one riot in 1355 leading to the death of 93 students and townsfolk. To escape such violence, many academics fled to Cambridge where they established a new university.

Visit: Oxford&rsquos cobbled lanes and honey-hued college buildings moved poet Matthew Arnold to name it &lsquothe city of dreaming spires&rsquo. Walk in the shoes of scholars by visiting the Bodleian Library &ndash one of the world&rsquos oldest public libraries, and Christ Church &ndash the largest of Oxford&rsquos colleges, founded in 1546. Also interesting is the anthropological Pitt Rivers Museum, which is home to half a million objects from all over the world.

This small Wiltshire city was first founded on top of an Iron Age hill fort called Old Sarum, which had been inhabited by Romans, Saxons and Normans. But tensions between the church and army resulted in its relocation two miles south &ndash thus New Sarum (or Salisbury as it&rsquos known today) was built &ndash laid out in a medieval grid system still in place. The Market Place has been holding regular exchanges since 1227.

The winding city is home to one of the nation&rsquos grandest Norman cathedrals, created after the coffin of the miracle-working Bishop of Lindisfarne (aka Saint Cuthbert) was buried on the site in 995AD. In the 11th century, the Normans invaded and, under the orders of William the Conqueror, built Durham&rsquos turreted castle &ndash now a World Heritage Site along with the cathedral (which doubled as Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films).

After the Norman invasion, this idyllic riverside city became William the Conqueror&rsquos base of operations in the north. He reconstructed old Viking buildings in stone and fortified city walls to make York a city of great economic importance. Much of its medieval architecture remains today and the city&rsquos Shambles (above) is one of the most well-preserved streets from that era in Europe.


25 of Britain’s best stately homes

We’ve toured the British Isles to bring you 25 of Britain’s best stately homes, from the World Heritage Site of Blenheim Palace to the ‘real’ Downton Abbey, Highclere Castle…

The number of heritage buildings still standing proudly across our land never fails to amaze us. Most of our stately homes have hosted kings and queens, prime ministers, actors and poets – all manner of illustrious guests.

Here are some of Britain’s best stately homes, from examples of architectural brilliance to places that hide unbelievable stories. So read on, enjoy, and start planning your next trip.

1. Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire

We simply had to mention Blenheim, the sprawling Oxfordshire estate that was built for John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough. The palace was built on land gifted to Churchill by Queen Anne. Anne also awarded him £240,000 for his victory over the French in the War of the Spanish Succession.

It was at Blenheim almost two centuries later that one of the duke’s descendants, Sir Winston Churchill, was born. The future prime minister even chose to propose to Clementine Hozier here, by the Temple of Diana, in 1908.

The house – the only non-royal or non-episcopal country house in England to be called a palace – is a masterpiece of English Baroque architecture. Designed by Sir John Vanbrugh and Nicholas Hawksmoor, it includes many beautiful features, such as the painted ceiling in the Saloon.

However, Blenheim’s 2,000 acres of gardens – one of the most exquisite works of 18th-century landscape architect Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown – are what really make it special. It’s small wonder UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site in 1987.

2. Highclere Castle, West Berkshire

Highclere Castle is the ‘real’ Downton Abbey

With news that a Downton Abbey film is in the works, surely it’s time to revisit the glorious Berkshire ancestral home that has formed the backdrop to so many scenes of the Crawley family and their household.

The ‘real’ Downton Abbey, Highclere Castle, is the family seat of the Earls of Carnarvon. It was the current countess, Lady Carnarvon, a close friend of Downton Abbey writer Julian Fellowes, who saw the value in opening the house up to the period drama that has revived the estate’s fortunes.

Although Highclere has been in the hands of the Carnarvon family since 1679, (and its gardens were also designed by Capability Brown), the current house was remodelled in the Jacobean style in 1838 for the 3rd Earl of Carnarvon by Sir Charles Barry, the man who famously rebuilt the Palace of Westminster.

Highclere Castle became the focus of a media circus in 1922 when the 5th Earl discovered the Tomb of Tutankhamun. The earl died shortly after the discovery, leading to the story of the ‘Curse of Tutankhamun’. However the earl’s death could be explained by blood poisoning from an infected mosquito bite.

3. Chatsworth, Derbyshire

The state apartments of Chatsworth House are extraordinary. Credit: Paul Barker

Few English estates draw such delight as this one in the heart of the Peak District. Chatsworth is known to many as Pemberley in the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, starring Keira Knightley. Eagle-eyed viewers may also remember it from another Knightley film, The Duchess.

Chatsworth has been the seat of the Dukes of Devonshire since 1549 and has passed through the hands of 16 generations of the Cavendish family.

The house is famed for its art collection, which spans four centuries, but its state apartments, overhauled to accommodate a visit from King William III and Queen Mary II that never actually happened, are extraordinary.

4. Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire

Hardwick Hall, more glass than wall. Credit: Eleanor Scriven/Robert Harding World Imagery/Corbis

Bess of Hardwick was one of the most influential figures in Elizabethan times – she was second in wealth only to Queen Elizabeth I – and Hardwick Hall was one of her homes.

It is a magnificent example of a prodigy house – showy properties built to house the queen on her annual progresses.

The plentiful windows – an extravagance as glass was expensive – led to the rhyme, ‘Hardwick Hall, more glass than wall.’

5. Wentworth Woodhouse, South Yorkshire

The East Front of Wentworth Woodhouse, the longest country house frontage in England. Credit: Leo RosserAlamy

The largest private residence in Europe, Wentworth is twice the width of Buckingham Palace. This 18th-century mansion has recently been bought and will undergo £40m of restoration work over the next 20 years.

It was once the home of Charles I’s ill-fated administrator, Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford. Wentworth was tried and beheaded for treason in 1641. The house also hosted a visit by King George V and Queen Mary in 1912.

6. Lacock Abbey, Wiltshire

The Cloisters at Lacock Abbey, Wiltshire. Credit: National Trust Images/Mark Bolton

This quirky country house, near the historic town of Lacock, was built on a former nunnery and represented the ‘real’ Wolf Hall, the family seat of the Seymours, in the recent TV adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s novels.

Scenes depicting King Henry VIII’s bedroom and his lodgings at Calais were also filmed here. In real life, Henry sold Lacock to one of his courtiers, Sir William Sharington, following the Dissolution of the Monasteries. It is now in the care of the National Trust.

7. Stonor, Oxfordshire

Edmund Campion printed his famous Decem Rationes at Stonor

Although it is one of our oldest manor houses, Stonor is also one of our lesser-known stately homes, despite the fact that one of the most significant religious events in British history took place here.

In 1581 Edmund Campion hid in the roof space while he printed 400 copies of his famous treatise, Decem Rationes, arguing for Catholicism. However, he was soon caught and tortured before being hung, drawn and quartered.

The house is open at select times from April to September and holds a rare copy of the Decem Rationes.

8. Castle Howard, North Yorkshire

It took over 100 years to build Yorkshire’s castle Howard

So ambitious was the vision for Castle Howard, the private residence of the Howard family for more than 300 years, that the Baroque building took over 100 years to complete. The result was astounding, though, with two symmetrical wings and a central dome.

Although much of Castle Howard was devastated by fire in the 1940s, over the years many rooms have been restored. However, when the house was used as the backdrop for the film version of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited in 2008, parts were superficially restored and the East Wing remains a shell.

9. Crag Hall, Derbyshire

You can hire out the whole of Crag Hall

Until recently this sandstone Georgian country house with views over Peak District National Park was the private shooting lodge and holiday home of the Earl and Countess of Derby, but now you can hire it for your own gathering.

Located amid historic royal hunting ground, this 12-bedroomed property can accommodate up to 21 guests. A perfect set-up for living out your Downton Abbey fantasies.

10. Kenwood House, London

The newly restored library at Kenwood House. Credit: English Heritage/Patricia Payne

Hidden in London’s Hampstead Heath, Kenwood House is a Robert Adam’s house, remodelled by the architect in 1764 to include a new entrance, attic-storey bedrooms and one of his most famous interiors – the Great Library, which was restored to its original colours during a major restoration project in 2013.

The grounds are home to ancient woodland and landscaped gardens, probably designed by Humphry Repton, and feature sculptures from the likes of Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore.

11. Lyme Park, Cheshire

The Dining Room at Lyme Park. Credit: National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Best known for its starring role as Mr Darcy’s Pemberley in the 1995 BBC adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (yes, that scene when Colin Firth emerges from the lake), Lyme Park is a fine example of an Italianate palace.

Outside, the 1,300 acres are home to a medieval herd of red and fallow deer, while inside you’ll find an incredible collection of English clocks and the famous Mortlake tapestries. The Edwardian era was when Lyme Park was in its heyday and the house is a time capsule of that period.

12. Buscot Park, Oxfordshire

Buscot Park is home to the impressive paintings of the Farringdon Collection. Credit: The National Trust Photolibrary/Alamy

This stately home was built in the Renaissance Revival style of architecture between 1779 and 1783 for Edward Loveden Townsend. Buscot also houses the Farringdon Collection, with paintings by Rembrandt, Reynolds, Rubens and Van Dyck.

13. Great Chalfield Manor and Garden, Wiltshire

15th-century Great Chalfield Manor, Wiltshire. Credit: National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

The stand-in for Thomas Cromwell’s home of Austin Friars in TV’s Wolf Hall, Great Chalfield is as pretty an English country house as you can imagine.

The 15th-century moated manor house is set in tranquil countryside and features a gatehouse and stunning oriel windows, all of which withstood a siege by Royalists during the English Civil War. The private residence offers guided tours, or you can book into one of Chalfield Manor’s reasonably priced gorgeous four-poster bedrooms for the night.

14. Burghley House, Lincolnshire

Burghley is one of England’s great Elizabethan houses. Credit: Andreas von Einsiedel/Alamy

Described as ‘England’s greatest Elizabethan house’, Burghley was built and designed by William Cecil, Lord High Treasurer to Queen Elizabeth I, between 1555 and 1587. Its grounds includes 2,000 acres of Capability Brown gardens, (which were added later), and a deer park.

The interior is lavish and features sumptuous fabrics and carvings by Grinling Gibbons. In the Pagoda Room are portraits of Queen Elizabeth I, King Henry VIII, Oliver Cromwell and members of the Cecil family.

Some say that beneath its foundations lie the remains of the medieval settlement of Burghley, mentioned in the Domesday Book, which so far has evaded archaeologists.

15. Mount Stuart, Isle of Bute

Mount Stuart is a house of many firsts. Credit: MST and Keith Hunter

It may come as a surprise that the first house in Britain to have an indoor heated swimming pool is hidden on the tiny Isle of Bute in the Firth of Clyde in Scotland, but then Mount Stuart is no ordinary place. It was also probably the first property in Scotland to have electric lighting, central heating and a passenger lift – a horse-drawn railway was needed to build the house.

The Gothic Revival building, which replaced an earlier Georgian property, is a feat of Victorian engineering. It was created for John Crichton-Stuart, 3rd Marquess of Bute – the richest man in Britain in the late 19th century.

16. Woburn Abbey, Bedfordshire

A Stag at Woburn Abbey Safari Park. Credit: VisitEngland/Woburn Safari Park

Woburn has been in the Russell family since King Edward VI gifted it to John Russell in 1547. In 1550 John was made the first Earl of Bedford.

It’s been the family seat since the 1620s and it was turned into the English Palladian home in the 1800s. The estate first opened to the public in 1955 and its impressive art collection includes the largest private collection of Venetian views painted by Canaletto on public view and the Armada Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I.

17. Longleat House, Wiltshire

Longleat is set amid 900 acres of Capability Brown landscaped parkland. Credit: VisitBritain/Britain on View

Completed in 1580, Longleat is another of our great Elizabethan houses. Set in 900 acres of Capability Brown parkland, it also has one of the largest book collections in Europe. Look out for the bloodstained waistcoat of King Charles in the Great Hall – he reportedly wore it at his execution.

Now home to the 7th Marquess of Bath and run by his son, Viscount Weymouth, Longleat has come a long way from the property bought by MP John Thynne in 1540 for £53.

18. Llancaiach Fawr Manor, South Wales

Llancaiach Fawr Manor House was once visited by King Charles I. Credit: Keith Beeson/Alamy

Built circa 1550 for Dafydd ap Richard, this house is a great example of a semi-fortified manor house. It’s laid out much as it would have been in 1645 when King Charles I visited. Charles must have angered the owner, Colonel Edward Prichard, as he switched allegiances to the Roundheads.

19. Luton Hoo, Bedfordshire

Luton Hoo is now a lavish hotel

A house has stood at Luton Hoo since at least 1601 when Sir Robert Napier, 1st Baronet, purchased the estate. The house we see today dates from the late 18th century. At the time it was the seat of the 3rd Earl of Bute, then prime minister to King George III. Like many of Britain’s best stately homes, it too has Capability Brown designed gardens.

Guests at Luton Hoo hotel can enjoy the Edwardian Belle Epoque interiors introduced by the people behind the Ritz. One highlight is the Wernher Restaurant, named after the owner who ordered the works. Over the years the estate has fulfilled many roles, including testing tanks during the Second World War.

Today it’s a fantastic place to get a taste of the English country life. Take afternoon tea or have a go at archery, much as past guests of its distinguished owners would have done.

20. Hatfield House, Hertfordshire

Hatfield House is easily accessible from London

Within easy reach of London, this Jacobean-style property was built for Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury, on the site of Hatfield Palace. Cecil had exchanged Hatfield with King James I for the nearby Cecil family home of Theobalds.

Like the king, Robert Cecil wasn’t keen on the rather old-fashioned Hatfield Palace, which had been owned by King Henry VIII, and so he rebuilt it as Hatfield House.

It was here that Henry VIII’s offspring, Mary, Elizabeth and Edward played as children. Elizabeth was even supposedly told of her ascension to the throne at Hatfield.

The Marble Hall takes its name from the chequered black and white flooring where guests would have danced at balls. Guests were overlooked by the Rainbow Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I – perhaps the most colourful portrait of the Tudor era. The inscription ‘Non sine sole iris’, meaning ‘no rainbow without the sun’, reminds viewers that only the queen’s wisdom can ensure peace and prosperity.

21. Norton Conyers, North Yorkshire

Did Norton Conyers provide inspiration for Jane Eyre’s woman in the attic?

It is one of the most enduring images in English literature: the mad woman locked away in the attic. And it was at Norton Conyers that Charlotte Brontë is said to have taken inspiration for her novel, Jane Eyre.

Charlotte Brontë visited the medieval house in 1839, before she wrote her seminal novel. Could it be mere coincidence that Norton Conyers has its own legend of a woman hidden in an attic? The discovery of a blocked staircase in 2004, much like the one in the novel, seemed to confirm the theory. The house has recently been restored and reopened to the public on a few select days each year.

22. Blickling Hall, Norfolk

The South Drawing Room at Blickling Hall. Credit: National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

Was this red brick mansion built on the site of the birthplace of Anne Boleyn? The house was built on the ruins of the former Boleyn home during the reign of King James I. Anne’s parents lived here from 1499 to 1505, so if Anne was indeed born in 1501 then it’s highly probable.

On the staircase of the Great Hall there are reliefs of Anne and her daughter, Queen Elizabeth I. Anne’s ghost is also said to appear carrying her severed head every year on the anniversary of her execution. The South Drawing Room, with its Jacobean-style chimneypiece and ceiling, is also highly impressive.

23. Montacute House, Somerset

Montacute House. Credit: National Trust Images/Stuart Cox

This late Elizabethan house was Greenwich Palace in TV’s Wolf Hall and is considered a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture. The house’s biggest draw by far is its Long Gallery, the longest of its kind in England. Montacute’s Long Gallery displays over 60 Tudor and Elizabethan portraits loaned to the house by the National Portrait Gallery.

24. Sudeley Castle, Gloucestershire

Sudeley Castle is the final resting place of Catherine Parr. Credit: VisitBritain/Britain on View

The final resting place of King Henry VIII’s last wife, Catherine Parr, this beautiful private castle is perhaps as well known for its colourful gardens as its restored Tudor buildings.

Situated in the heart of the Cotswolds, in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, just a few miles from Broadway, Sudeley lay in ruin for almost 200 years following the English Civil War when Cromwell ordered its ‘slighting’, until an ambitious restoration project began in 1837.

25. Somerleyton Hall, Suffolk

Somerleyton Hall is open to the public from April to September

This gorgeous Tudor palace opens to the public from April to September. It grounds feature one of Britain’s finest yew hedge mazes and a 70ft-long pergola.


5. Cathédrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg – France

Recommended by Derek & Mike from robe-trotting.com

One of the best things to do in Strasbourg is to visit the gorgeous and unique Strasbourg Cathedral. It’s considered one of the best examples of high Gothic architecture and parts of it are even Romanesque architecture. That’s because construction began on the cathedral in 1015 and it was not completed until 1439. In short, the construction of the cathedral straddled two periods of architecture and was a project left to multiple architects.

Perhaps the most unique feature of the cathedral is the single spire at the top of the structure. The exact reason for the unique design was lost over time, but theories claim it was due to a lack of funding, the change in design preferences and that the structure was too heavy to be properly supported with a second spire.

Inside the cathedral are beautiful stain glass windows, an astronomical clock, a crypt of notable Renaissance burials and a massive pipe organ. Visitors can also climb to the top of the church and walk around the landing for a great view of the city.

This really is the most famous church in France!


5. York Minster

One of the two largest Gothic cathedrals in northern Europe (alongside Cologne Cathedral in Germany), York Minster dominates the skyline of the ancient city of York. York Minster incorporates all the major stages of Gothic architectural development in England. The present building was begun in about 1230 and completed in 1472. The “Great East Window” inside the cathedral is the largest expanse of medieval stained glass in the world.


English Gothic architecture

English Gothic is an architectural style that flourished from the late 12th until the mid-17th century. [1] [2] The style was most prominently used in the construction of cathedrals and churches. Gothic architecture's defining features are pointed arches, rib vaults, buttresses, and extensive use of stained glass. Combined, these features allowed the creation of buildings of unprecedented height and grandeur, filled with light from large stained glass windows. Important examples include Westminster Abbey, Canterbury Cathedral and Salisbury Cathedral. The Gothic style endured in England much longer than in Continental Europe.

The Gothic style was introduced from France, where the various elements had first been used together within a single building at the choir of the Abbey of Saint-Denis north of Paris, completed in 1094. [3] The earliest large-scale applications of Gothic architecture in England were Canterbury Cathedral and Westminster Abbey. Many features of Gothic architecture had evolved naturally from Romanesque architecture (often known in England as Norman architecture). The first cathedral in England to be both planned and built entirely in the Gothic style was Wells Cathedral, begun in 1175. [4] Other features were imported from the Ile-de-France, where the first French Gothic cathedral, Sens Cathedral, had been built (1135–64). [5] After a fire destroyed the choir of Canterbury Cathedral in 1174, the French architect William of Sens rebuilt the choir in the new Gothic style between 1175 and 1180. The transition can also be seen at Durham Cathedral, a Norman building which was remodelled with the earliest rib vault known. Besides cathedrals, monasteries, and parish churches, the style was used for many secular buildings, including university buildings, palaces, great houses, and almshouses and guildhalls.

Stylistic periodisations of the English Gothic style are

    or First Pointed (late 12th–late 13th centuries) or Second Pointed (late 13th–late 14th centuries) or Third Pointed (14th–17th centuries). [6][7]


The architect and art historian Thomas Rickman's Attempt to Discriminate the Style of Architecture in England, first published in 1812, divided Gothic architecture in the British Isles into three stylistic periods. [8] Rickman identified the period of architecture as follows:


From the 15th century, under the House of Tudor, the prevailing Gothic style is commonly known as Tudor architecture. This style is ultimately succeeded by Elizabethan architecture and Renaissance architecture under Elizabeth I ( r . 1558–1603 ). [9] Rickman excluded from his scheme most new buildings after Henry VIII's reign, calling the style of "additions and rebuilding" in the later 16th and earlier 17th centuries "often much debased". [8]

Architect and art historian Edmund Sharpe, in The Seven Periods of English Architecture (1851), identified a pre-Gothic Transitional Period (1145–90), following the Norman period, in which pointed arches and round arches were employed together. [10] Focusing on the windows, Sharpe dubbed Rickman's Gothic styles as follows:

  • Rickman's first Gothic style as the Lancet Period (1190–1245)
  • Rickman's second Gothic style divided into the Geometrical period (1245–1315) and then the Curvilinear period (1315–1360)
  • Rickman's third style as theRectilinear period (1360–1550). [10] Unlike the Early English and Decorated styles, this third style, employed over three centuries was unique to England.


In the English Renaissance, the stylistic language of the ancient classical orders and the Renaissance architecture of southern Europe began to supplant Gothic architecture in Continental Europe, but the British Isles continued to favour Gothic building styles, with traditional Perpendicular Gothic building projects undertaken into the 17th century in England and both Elizabethan and Jacobean architecture incorporating Gothic features, particularly for churches. [11]

Classical-inspired architecture predominated after the Great Fire of London The rebuilding of the City of London was so extensive that the numbers of workers employed broke the monopoly of the medieval livery company of stonemasons and the Worshipful Company of Masons and the role of master-mason was displaced by that of the early modern architect. [11] The new St Paul's Cathedral designed by Christopher Wren and his Wren churches mostly dispensed with the Gothic idiom in favour of classical work. [11] Outside London however, new ecclesiastical buildings and repairs to older churches were still carried out in Gothic style, particularly near the ancient university towns of Oxford and Cambridge, where the university colleges were important patrons of 17th-century Gothic construction. [11]

By the 18th century, architects occasionally worked in Gothic style, but the living tradition of Gothic workmanship had faded and their designs rarely resembled medieval Gothic buildings. Only when the Gothic Revival movement of the late 18th and 19th centuries began, was the architectural language of medieval Gothic relearned through the scholarly efforts of early 19th-century art historians like Rickman and Matthew Bloxam, whose Principles of Gothic Ecclesiastical Architecture first appeared in 1829. [12] [11]

Alongside the new Gothic building work of the 19th century, many of England's existing Gothic buildings were extensively repaired, restored, remodelled, and rebuilt by architects seeking to improve the buildings according to the Romantic, high church aesthetic of the Oxford Movement and to replace many of the medieval features lost in the iconoclastic phases of the Reformation, the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. In the process of this Victorian "restoration", much of the original Gothic architecture of the Middle Ages was lost or altered beyond recognition. However, medieval works left unfinished were often completed or restored to their "original" designs. According to James Stevens Curl, the revival of Gothic architecture was "arguably, the most influential artistic phenomenon ever to spring from England". [11]

The various English Gothic styles are seen at their most fully developed in cathedrals, monasteries, and collegiate churches. With the exception of Salisbury Cathedral, English cathedrals–having building dates that typically range over 400 years–show great stylistic diversity.


St. Patrick's Cathedral [10]

St. Patrick&aposs Cathedral is possibly the most famous church in America and definitely the most famous in New York City. The enormous church spires stretch to the sky and the Neo-Gothic structure stands out beautifully amidst the office buildings of 5th Avenue. St. Patrick&aposs was constructed in the mid 19th century and was funded primarily by poor immigrants who were seeking to lay a foundation in a country supportive of religious freedom. You may tour this grand structure free of charge and group tours and walk-in tours are provided.

Have you visited any of these historical churches? What is the coolest church or cathedral you have ever seen? Tell us in the comments, and don&apost forget to like and share with your friends!


Watch the video: The Top 10 Most Beautiful Churches in the World Part 1