12 Famous Churches To Visit In Switzerland

churches switzerland

Switzerland is a beautiful place, there is no denying it. The natural landscapes truly make you feel like you are in God’s country. Gazing across the alpine peaks, up valleys, across lakes, and at powerful waterfalls is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this country’s beauty.

But, there is also a cultural side of Switzerland to discover and the churches Switzerland has to offer are quite magnificent.

Made up of three main cultures, German, French, and Italian, Switzerland is a country with many languages and cultural traditions that live in harmony together. When it comes to religion, Switzerland has no official one, but most of the population is Roman Catholic and Protestant.

Just imagine how this mixture of people and religions transfers to the churches in Switzerland. With architectural influences from Germany, France, and Italy over the years, the churches in Switzerland are beautiful and should be visited.

Join me as I run through the most famous churches in Switzerland and the most beautiful churches so that you can explore some of them on your next visit.

Jesuitenkirche/Jesuit Church Lucerne

Jesuitenkirche on the Reuss River in Lucerne
Jesuitenkirche on the Reuss River in Lucerne

The Jesuit Church of St Francis Xavier, aka Jesuitenkirche, can be found in the beautiful city of Lucerne. Its location could not be more beautiful as it sits on the banks of the Reuss River, just where it leaves stunning Lake Lucerne.

It is known as the most beautiful baroque church in the country and was the first large baroque church built in Switzerland.

Construction started in 1666 under the watchful eyes of architects from Austria and Italy. They based the design on the Church of Jesus in Rome, hence the stunning Baroque style of the church.

Jesuit Church Inside, Lucerne
Jesuit Church Inside, Lucerne

The church was consecrated in 1677 but was not fully complete until 1893. Gazing upon it from the outside, the two large towers catch your eyes as well as the Baroque architecture. The interior is lavishly decorated with a stunning ceiling, paintings, stonework, and lots more.

Today the church is used as a catholic school, a place for Jesuit worship, and as a concert hall thanks to the incredible acoustics. Be sure to visit it and try to see a concert there while you are in Lucerne.

Basel Minster

basel minster

Sitting in the heart of the city of Basel on the banks of the Rhine River is the beautiful church of Basel Minster. What I love about this church is the red sandstone it was built with, it is eye-catching and adds a soft texture to the building.

Basel Minster was built between the 11th and 16th centuries and is a gothic and Romanesque church in its style. It started its life as a Roman Catholic church but today is a Reformed Protestant Church.

Standing outside this catholic church, the red sandstone glows in the sun and the two towers can not help but draw your attention.

You can only go inside Basel Minster on Sundays, and inside you will find a beautiful interior and you have the chance to climb the towers, which I highly recommend. The views across Basel and the river are stunning.

Court Church Of St. Leodegar

Hofkirche St. Leodegar
Court Church Of St. Leodegar, Lucerne

The Court Church Of St. Leodegar can also be found in Lucerne. It dates back to the 1600s and was only built after the previous Roman Basilica burned down.

The building started in 1633 and continued until 1639 when it was completed, the architects still managed to integrate parts of the old basilica, including the stunning Gothic towers.

Hofkirche St Leodegar Interior
Interior of the Court Church Of St. Leodegar

The architecture of the church is therefore a blend of Gothic and German Renaissance styles. It is a beautiful church and the Gothic towers with stunning entrances between them are the best bits.

You can visit this catholic church any day you like. The interior is beautiful and the church is in incredible condition. Don’t forget to walk around the church grounds and the cemetery as they are also a sight for sore eyes. The views across Lake Lucerne are also pretty incredible.

St. Peter Cathedral

St. Peter Cathedral
St. Peter Cathedral – Image courtesy of Wikimedia

The St. Peter Cathedral, also known as the St. Pierre Cathedral sits in the center of Geneva, Switzerland. It is the city’s most historical and religious landmark and one of the most important churches in Switzerland.

The St. Pierre Cathedral started out its life as a Roman Catholic Cathedral but became a Reformed protestant church during the protestant reformation. It was even the home of one of the reformation leaders, John Calvin, whose old wooden church is inside.

The church dates back to 1160 with ancient and gothic architectural styles. Sitting on a hill in Geneva, you can climb the towers to see incredible views of the city, Lake Geneva, and the surrounding alps.

The stained glass windows should not be missed either, as they date back to the 1800s and are some of the most beautiful stained glass windows in Switzerland.

This is one of the churches in Switzerland you don’t want to miss while you are in the Geneva area.

Grossmünster Church

Grossmünster Church in the old town in Zurich
Grossmünster Church in the old town in Zurich

The Grossmünster Church is one of the most important landmarks in Switzerland’s city of Zurich. You will find it in Zurich’s old town close to the banks of the Limmat River.

Construction of the church began in the 1100s and was not completed until 1250. It is thought it was built on the graves of Felix and Regula, the patron saints of Zurich.

Inside the Grossmunster Church in Zurich
Inside the Grossmunster Church in Zurich

The church has a Romanesque style to it and the two towers are its most striking features. These were actually added in the 1400s and when you visit you can climb one of the towers to see amazing views of Zurich, Lake Zurich, and the mountains beyond.

This church was also used during a reformation, the Swiss-German Reformation led by Huldrych Zwingli and Heinrich Bullinger. When this happened, the decorated interiors were stripped down, which was a shame.

Abbey of Saint Gall

Abbey of Saint Gall from above
Abbey of Saint Gall from above

The Abbey of Saint Gall is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has been since the 1980s and it did not get this award without reason. It is one of the most important pilgrimage sites and religious landmarks in all of Switzerland.

It is located in the north of Switzerland in the town of St Gallen and is a Baroque Abbey that dates back to the 8th century. As well as an abbey, it is also a monastery and has a stunning Baroque cathedral within its magnificent grounds.

Architecturally, the abbey precinct and all the buildings are incredible, as are the interiors. It is also home to the most complete set of historic bells in the country and the famous Abbey Library.

The library is one of the oldest on the planet and contains 170,000 books and more documents. The oldest architectural plan drawn is housed here.

If there is one church in Switzerland to visit, it is this one as it is Switzerland’s best and most important if you ask me.

Chiesa di Santa Maria degli Angeli

Church of Santa Maria Degli Angeli
Church of Santa Maria Degli Angeli – Image courtesy of Wikimedia

The Chiesa di Santa Maria degli Angeli, or Church of Santa Maria Degli Angeli is found in Switzerland’s city of Lugano, in the Ticino Canton of southern Switzerland.

Ticino is the Italian-speaking canton of Switzerland as it is right next to the border with Italy. The church is built on the shores of the beautiful Lake Lugano in the heart of the alps, its location could not be more beautiful.

If you are lucky enough to visit Lugano then taking some time to admire this church is a must while you are there.

It is in the heart of Lugano and was part of a Franciscan monastery. The church features a Romanesque style to it and is architecturally beautiful thanks to its Renaissance style. Gazing at its exterior, you will see the famous renaissance fresco in the entire country.

The fresco shows the “Passion and Crucifixion of Christ” through numerous scenes and it portrays it in an incredible way.

Einsiedeln Abbey

Einsiedeln Abbey
Einsiedeln Abbey

The Einsiedeln Abbey is one of the most important religious sites in Switzerland and has been a place of pilgrimage for more than 1000 years for Roman Catholics and a Marian devotion site too.

The Einsiedeln Abbey was founded in 835 CE by a Benedictine monk called Saint Bernard and it is one of the most incredible religious buildings in the country. It was built with a Baroque style and you can feel this building’s presence as you stand outside of it.

Some of the iconic pieces include the statue of the Black Madonna at the back of the church. It was built in 1466 out of limewood and shows her holding a child. Another beautiful piece is the fountain in the courtyard dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

You can find this impressive church in Einsiedeln in central Switzerland close to the shores of Lake Sihl.

The Cathedral of Bern

Bern Cathedral
Bern Cathedral

The Cathedral in Bern is a dominating presence in the skyline you see from the Aare river as you approach the city. Like the Parliament Building nearby, they both tower above the Bern Old town.

This is perhaps not surprising as the main tower of the cathedral is just over 100m tall, making it the tallest cathedral in the whole of Switzerland. The tower itself was only completed in 1893, despite the cathedral having begun construction way back in 1421. Various additions and improvements were made over the century to get this stunning cathedral to where it is today.

Cathedral of Notre Dame

Cathedral of Notre Dame, Lausanne
Cathedral of Notre Dame, Lausanne

The Cathedral of Notre Dame can be found in Lausanne along the shores of Lake Geneva in western Switzerland. This stunning cathedral was built in the 13th century and was finally consecrated in 1275 after more than 50 years of construction.

For me, this is one of the most beautiful examples of Gothic architecture in Switzerland and it is no surprise that it has similarities to the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, being so close to the French border and being in the French-speaking part of Switzerland.

The cathedral is one of the most popular sites in Lausanne and it is a must-see while you are in the area.

Be sure to look at the painted portals on the southern wall of the church as they are remarkable. So much so that they are one of the top Swiss Heritage sites. The Rose Window should not be missed either. It’s huge at 8 meters across and is one of the most iconic rose windows in Europe, along with the ones in Paris and Chartres.

Madonna del Sasso

Madonna del Sasso
Madonna del Sasso – Image courtesy of Wikimedia

The Madonna del Sasso is a sacred site and has been a place of Roman Catholic pilgrimage since 1480 after a vision of the Virgin Mary occurred there.

In my eyes, the Madonna del Sasso has one of the most beautiful locations a church could have in Switzerland and that is saying something.

Nestled in the hills above the city of Locarno on the shores of Lake Maggiore, you can only get to the church via a funicular railway. The views across the lake and the rest of the Ticino region are magical and it is worth visiting the church for this reason alone.

Water Church

Wasserkirche/Water Church opposite the Grossmunster on the Limmat River, Zurich
Wasserkirche/Water Church opposite the Grossmunster on the Limmat River, Zurich

The Water Church, aka Wasserkirche, is a piece of Zurich’s religious history that is tucked away in the city’s old town.

It was built on the site where the city’s patron saints, Regula and Felix were executed and it dates back to the 15th century. It was thought of as a shrine as well as a place of worship known as the “temple of idol worshippers.”

The church was originally constructed on an island in the Limmat River but today is on its bank. It was used as a library until it was restored and now it is a cultural and religious site.

It is well worth strolling past while you are in Zurich, especially to see the beautiful Choir windows that compare the life of Jesus with modern times today.

Fraumünster Church

Fraumünster and the Münster bridge in Zurich
Fraumünster and the Münster bridge in Zurich

Directly across the river from the Water Church is the Fraumünster Church in Zurich which is another church worth taking a look at while you are in Zurich’s Old Town.

Considering how long the church has been in Zurich, it has become an important place of worship, providing a space for it for more than 1000 years.

Architecturally the church features both Gothic and Romanesque styles and its best features include the awesome stained glass windows made by Marc Chagall.

The interior is stunning, and you will find a gigantic organ along with a museum and parts of the reformation’s history too!

Oldest Churches in Switzerland

The Fraumünster Church is one of the oldest churches in Switzerland. Although the exact date of construction isn’t known, it is believed it was built as far back as 853 on the site of an old Aristocratic abbey for women. Some people also say St Peter’s in Zurich is the oldest church in the country.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there churches in Switzerland?

Yes, there are hundreds of churches in Switzerland. Half of the Swiss population are Christians, so, that is certainly no surprise.

Do churches pay tax in Switzerland?

Registered members of each religion pay what is known as church tax in Switzerland, as part of their normal tax payments. The exact proportion varies by canton and religion.

Written by Ashley Faulkes
As a twenty-year resident of Switzerland, I am passionate about exploring every nook and cranny of this beautiful country, I spend my days deep in the great Swiss outdoors, and love to share these experiences and insights with fellow travel enthusiasts.

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