Baroque is not only of the most famous architectural styles in the world, it also encompasses the fields of music, painting, sculpture, fashion, and more. It is well known for its opulence but always developed a distinct flair according to the local traditions. We have asked fellow travel bloggers for their favorite examples of Baroque architecture in Europe.
What is Baroque Architecture?
Baroque architecture developed in Rome in the early 17th century, directly following the Renaissance. Its popularity was directly tied to the Catholic Church which was increasingly re-gaining influence at the time. The extravagant style of Catholic Baroque cast a striking contrast to the austere and modest style of protestant churches. It quickly spread from central Italy to France, the Iberian peninsula, and Austria.
Baroque is characterized primarily by its opulence, whether it be in rich ornamentation or liberal use of gold. Other elements frequently used were twisted columns and forced perspective. Although earliest examples are ecclesial, Baroque architecture soon took over civilian life as well. Today, it is recognized as one of the major architectural styles in Europe.
Best Examples of Baroque Architecture in Europe
1. Vienna, Austria
With a predominantly Catholic populace and an imperial past, it should come as no surprise that Vienna is one of the best cities to see Baroque architecture in Europe. In the 17th and 18th century, the Habsburg Empire was at its political peak and one of the most influential countries in all of Europe. With power came wealth and several buildings were erected in the ornate Baroque style during the time.
A few of the best examples of Baroque architecture in Vienna are the St. Charles Church, Schönbrunn Palace, Belvedere Palace, the Old Vienna City Hall, the Imperial Stables, and many, many more. Especially the palaces built during that time are important tourist attractions in Vienna today. However, the most intriguing examples is without a doubt the St. Charles Church.
Known as Karlskirche in German, the church was completed in 1737. It was designed by Austrian architect Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach. Although the church is very imposing from all angles, it is best known for its ellipsoid dome and two flanking twisting columns. They display scenes from the life of Charles Borromeo to whom the church is dedicated.
2. Copenhagen, Denmark
Being a primarily Protestant country, Baroque architecture in Denmark is generally understated. This is aided by the fact that Baroque also arrived in Denmark relatively late and was strongly influenced by the Dutch Baroque. At the time, Copenhagen was still a relatively young city and characterized by urban development by King Christian IV. In fact, many notable buildings in Copenhagen date back to this reign.
Some of the most important Baroque buildings in Copenhagen are the Round Tower, Charlottenborg Palace, and the Church of Our Savior. Interestingly, all three buildings served completely different purposes. Out of the three, the Church of Our Savior is probably the best example of Baroque architecture in Copenhagen and also one of the most recognizable buildings in general.
The church is known for its famous twisting spire, which sways ever so slightly with the wind. Its gilded edges represent the Baroque era beautifully as does the twisted element. The interiors of the church are in keeping with the Lutheran take on Baroque, with white walls and only few monumental decorative pieces.
Other notable Baroque buildings in Copenhagen can actually be found just outside the city limits, such as Charlottenlund Palace or the Eremitage Hunting Lodge.
3. Noto, Italy
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The southern Sicilian city of Noto might have remained forever undiscovered, were it not for the 1693 earthquake that devastated the eastern coast of the island and the city of Reggio di Calabria.
The city of Noto was one of the worst affected, and it was decided to rebuild it on a new site, as quickly as possible. This happened to be near the end of the Baroque period, with the result that a whole new town was rapidly built, all in a similar, harmonious style from warm, local honey-colored stone.
Noto’s entire old town is built in the Baroque style, and it’s centered around the Duomo, or Cathedral of San Nicolo. The entire town, as well as others in the region including Ragusa and Modica, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Duomo of San Nicolo is the most impressive building in the city. Its beautifully proportioned façade stands at the top of a grand flight of stairs leading up from the main street, Corso Vittorio Emanuele. The central dome collapsed in 1996 but has since been restored to its former glory.
There are several other Baroque masterpieces on the same square as the Duomo – the church of San Salvatore, to the right of the Duomo in this shot, and the church of San Carlo, whose tower gives the best vantage point in the city. Just out of shot on the left, the front of the Palazzo Nicolaci di Valladorata has some outstanding carvings of heads supporting balconies.
Noto is very unusual in that it’s all built in such a unified style – comparisons include Georgian Bath in England and Art Deco Napier in New Zealand, which was also rebuilt on the aftermath of an earthquake.
4. Olomouc, Czech Republic
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You may have never heard of Olomouc but know this – it’s a real Baroque pearl. Traces of Baroque will follow you wherever you head in Olomouc, except the city’s outskirts. From the Holy Trinity Column built in the 18th century after a 2-year plague to various churches, as well as the 6 Baroque fountains scattered around Olomouc city center.
One of the best showcases of Baroque, though, is the Church of the Visitation of the Virgin Mary on the Holy Hill just outside Olomouc. The unique building was even consecrated by the Pope and received a title of ‘Basilica Minor’. It was built in the 17th century on the spot of a small chapel, where locals would come to pray and thank the Virgin Mary for ending the Thirty Years’ War.
The interior is even more breathtaking than what you can see from the outside. It features ornate decorations of saints and there’s not an inch on the wall that wouldn’t be decorated. If you walk in and there’s no one else but you, the eerie feeling will overwhelm you. Depending on the occasion, the church can emit a very different vibe which makes it worth visiting several times. When you visit Olomouc, you shouldn’t leave out the Basilica. Especially because it’s only a bus ride away from the city.
5. Santiago de Compostela, Spain
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You see the first glimpses of the great plaza from a distance as you walk down the narrow street leading to the center of the town. Suddenly the street empties out into the imposing cobblestone square, the Praza do Obradoiro. Nothing prepares you for the site of the massive church on the western side of the square, the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. The building’s architectural style is a unique blend of Baroque, Romanesque and Gothic.
Legend has it that St. James, one the 12 apostles lies buried in the underground vaults of the Cathedral. True or not, the legend has caused pilgrims to travel up to thousands of miles to the farthest reaches of western Europe to pray at this cathedral since the 8th century. Throughout the centuries, this pilgrimage has grown into what is now the Camino de Santiago. Pilgrims can travel many routes to arrive at the Cathedral to receive the certificate confirming their journey.
The cathedral has undergone several renovations and restorations over the centuries. Architectural styles have changed along with their creators as artists died and new architects come on to take their place. The most notable and visible baroque structures in the cathedral is the façade which has become a symbol of the city and is therefore imprinted on the back of several Spanish Euro coins.
6. London, United Kingdom
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London is a great city to see Baroque architecture. English architects started to adopt the Baroque style in the 17th century in a manner that came to be known as English Baroque. While there were a few English Baroque buildings constructed in the earlier part of the 17th century, The Great Fire of London in 1666 left London as a shell and gave many architects – particularly Sir Christopher Wren a relatively free hand to employ Baroque aesthetics as they redesigned the city.
As a result, you can find English Baroque buildings dispersed throughout London, and particularly in The City of London – but the best-known is Wren’s St Paul’s Cathedral. St Paul’s is one of the must-visit spots in London – with an absolutely stunning exterior, that changes appearance depending on the position from which you view it and an even more striking interior.
One of the elements of Wren’s Baroque design was the sheer size of St Paul’s. When it was completed, St Paul’s Cathedral was the tallest building in London – a position that it held until the 1960s. It’s still the second largest church in the United Kingdom.
7. Madrid, Spain
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There are plenty of architectural styles to discover in Madrid, but Baroque is the one that stands out amongst some of the city’s main sights. You can’t travel to Madrid and not visit The Royal Palace, the official residence of the Spanish royal family and one of Europe’s largest palaces.
Dating back to the 18th century, it’s considered the most important Baroque palace in Spain. It has a square layout with an interior courtyard, and its exterior facades are embellished with pilasters and ornaments that create a dramatic and regal look.
The palace itself contains more 3,400 rooms decorated with paintings, sculptures, frescoes, and other decorative elements. Inside the palace, you can also see extensive use of marble, stucco, and mahogany. If all of that is not a Baroque celebration, I don’t know what is.
Another Baroque-style main sight in Madrid is Plaza Mayor, one of the city’s most famous squares. With a big square layout, colorful facades adorned with beautiful paintings and ornaments, and dramatic arches, it is a must-visit spot in Madrid for architecture lovers. Other places to enjoy Baroque architecture in Madrid are Plaza de la Villa (one of the city’s oldest squares), Palacio de Santa Cruz, and churches like San Jose, San Antonio de los Alemanes, and San Miguel.
8. Lecce, Italy
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Lecce is a beautiful city in the southern Italian region of Puglia and has been dubbed “the Florence of the South”. But, whereas Florence is famous for its Renaissance architecture, Lecce is all about the Baroque. The city has its own distinctive take on this architectural style, which is known as
While you can find examples of this style all over town, the best place to start is the Piazza del Duomo (Cathedral Square). It’s here that you’ll find the Cathedral, of course, along with the attached Episcopio (Bishop’s Palace). The most unusual feature of the Cathedral is that it has two façades – the northern one that faces the square, and a secondary one that faces West. Both are covered in ornate sculptures. The northern façade especially is considered to be a masterpiece of Baroque art.
The interior is no less richly decorated and is covered by a coffered wooden ceiling with four framed paintings by Giuseppe da Brindisi. More paintings can be found in the 12 side chapels, while the main altar is made of marble and gold-plated bronze. Even the 12th-century crypt underneath the Cathedral has been given a Baroque facelift.
You’ll notice that the Cathedral and most of the other buildings in Lecce take on a unique yellow hue. This is the natural color of the local limestone, which is sometimes called “Lecce stone”.
9. Prague, Czech Republic
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Prague is a city full of beauty and elegance. The age of baroque turned the capital of Bohemia all the more special. One of the hottest spots in Prague is the old town square. Some of the old town square’s building facades, outer walls, are in the Baroque style.
Baroque in a religious building can be discovered in the Strahov Monastery which is located near the Prague castle. The monastery is famous for two baroque libraries, the theological and the philosophical library. Unfortunately, visitors can’t see the libraries per se. One can view them from the doorway only. Nonetheless, the libraries are known to be some of the most beautiful in the world. This is a reason enough for you to visit Strahov monastery and to discover the baroque libraries on your next visit to Prague.
Visitors to Prague can also spot baroque elements in other religious buildings such as the St.Nicholas Church and the Saint James the Greater Church. Both churches are located in the old town and are not too far from each other. On the way between the two churches, look out for the Kinsky Palace. All in pink, the beautiful Kinsky museum was build in baroque with a rococo facade, revealing that the building was a late baroque architectural masterpiece.
10. Valencia, Spain
Recommended by Teresa from Brogan Abroad
Valencia is often overlooked by visitors in favor of the more famous cities such as Madrid and Barcelona. But Valencia has a lot to offer and it’s definitely worth a stop for any traveler. This is particularly true for lovers of food, history, and architecture.
Valencia is a treasure trove for lovers of architecture, with all the styles represented from Romanesque to Baroque, from turn-of-the-century Modernism to Futuristic. But let’s talk about Baroque.
During the 17thcentury, a lot of buildings in Valencia, mostly religious, were built in the Baroque style. Existing Gothic buildings were also ‘updated’ during that time to the style of the time. Today, most of the Baroque examples can be found in Valencia Old Town, which means they are within walking distance from each other.
The best example of the Baroque style found in the city is the Virgen de los Desamparados Basilica, which is located in the Plaza de la Virgen in the heart of the city. In the same square, you can also find the River Turia fountain, which symbolizes the ancient eight ‘acequias’ or streams that irrigate the rural areas surrounding the city. And right next to the Basilica, you find the Cathedral of Valencia, whose main entrance and interior are fine representations of the Baroque movement.
But one of the very best examples of Baroque architecture in Valencia is the Marqués de Dos Aguas Palace, which now houses the González Martí National Museum of Ceramics and Decorative Arts. Admittedly, it was ‘re-updated’ to the Rococo style, which gives it its over-the-top look, but you can still see and appreciate its Baroque features.
11. Lisbon, Portugal
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Mouth-watering food, incredible history, beautiful beaches, and striking architecture, Lisbon has it all. Admittedly, its churches are filled with golden details from the metal found in Brazil, but it’s also a reminder that the Baroque style had a different chronology, and even influence, in Portugal than in the rest of Europe.
As a predominantly Catholic city, Lisbon has Baroque churches sprinkled all over the town, such as Sao Roque and Encarnacao churches. However, the church of Santa Engracia, which today is also known as the National Pantheon, deserves special attention.
This remarkable building is a white gem shining in Lisbon, near the Tagus River. The imposing façade has four tall columns welcoming its visitors through a portal with two angels holding the coat of arms of Portugal. The interior is decorated with colored slabs of polished marble in geometric patterns on the floor and walls, and the Baroque organ has its curved pipes pointing at the sky as if they were praising the Lord.
Needless to say that the large central nave together with the imposing dome are impressive. The National Pantheon of Lisbon is a building like no other in the city.
12. Kiev, Ukraine
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One of the best cities for Baroque architecture is Kiev, Ukraine. While this is not the city that flashes to one’s mind when thinking of this architectural style, which would be a shame because you can see pieces of Baroque mixed with several other styles that are completely contrasting of one another.
The Baroque architecture in the country is actually known as Ukrainian Baroque style and it can usually be seen on the Ukrainian Orthodox monasteries that the city is teeming with. The style emerged during the Cossacks rise in Ukraine during the 17th and 18th centuries.
Ukrainian Baroque rarely gets the credit that it deserves because the style of architecture in Western Europe tends to be more elaborate and ornate while Ukrainian styles are usually characterized by simplicity and a constructivist flair. After this emergence of Ukrainian Baroque saturated the city of Kiev, the next generations came in and made the churches more elaborate on the interior and exterior – and they also added more domes to the churches and monasteries.
The best place to see it in all its glory is at the UNESCO World Heritage site, Kiev Pechersk Lavra. There are many things to do in Kiev and visiting this cave monastery and the once epicenter of the Orthodox religion is an absolute must. Kiev Pechersk Lavra is a prime example of a monastery that was built in a simplistic manner and then was donned later with a lot of pizzazz. You can visit it for a small fee and walk the grounds or head to the inside of it.
13. Versailles, France
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Versailles is one of the best cities to see Baroque architecture in France! Versailles is historically known for being the principal residence of the French monarchy since King Louis XIV (XVII century) until the start of the French Revolution in 1789, under Louis XVI. The Sun King and his successors turned Louis XIII’s hunting lodge into a magnificent Baroque palace home of their royal power and consequently, Versailles became under King Louis XIV a “royal city”.
Today, Château de Versailles is the best example of Baroque architecture in France. It was designed by Louis Le Vau, a French Classical Baroque architect who worked at the service of the king for the construction of Versailles and other palaces.
However, the Versailles Estate is much more than Versailles Palace and gardens. Spread over 800 hectares it is composed of the Palace, the gardens, the Park, the Trianon and several buildings in town.
The town of Versailles grew during the Ancien Régime by order of the kings. It spread outwards from the Palace, preserving the strict royal symmetry, as new residences and private mansions sprang up to house the population linked to the Court.
The first two neighborhoods to be developed in the “new town” of Versailles were the district of Notre Dame and the district of Saint Louis, destined to accommodate the growing numbers of people serving the Court and King. In both districts, visitors can admire today beautiful Baroque buildings such as Notre Dame church or some hotels
14. Belgrade, Serbia
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The Balkans are likely not the first place you think of when thinking of Baroque architecture, but that is ignoring the influence of Austria-Hungary on the Balkans. Much of what is now the Balkans was once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, including parts of Serbia and Bosnia & Herzegovina.
In fact, Belgrade was pretty much at the border of where the Austro-Hungarian empire ended, and some of the suburbs of modern-day Belgrade such as Zemun were actually part of Austria-Hungary. As a result, Belgrade was influenced greatly by its neighbors, and the result is visible in some of the architecture around Belgrade, most notably its churches.
Generally, most Baroque churches are Catholic due to its roots in Italian architecture so it is somewhat unusual to see Baroque style used in Eastern Orthodox churches, the likes of which you’ll find in Belgrade. There is an interesting blend of late Baroque architecture and traditional Orthodox architectural features such as the iconostasis in these churches. The best example of this synthesis is Belgrade Orthodox Cathedral (Saborna Crkva) in the Old Town of Belgrade.
This church was built in between 1837 and 1840 and was dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel. It features a very typical Baroque bell tower (quite unusual in Orthodox churches, which rarely have bell towers) and an interior rich with opulent color, including many beautiful Orthodox icons with gold and bronze gilding.
Even more Baroque architecture can be found in the suburb of Zemun, including the Church of St. Nikolaj (Nikolajevska) located nearby Gardoš fortress as well as the Monastery of St. Gabriel the Archangel. If you’re a fan of architecture, a walk around Zemun is one of the essential things to do in Belgrade!
15. Holasovice, Czech Republic
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Baroque has many faces and one of them can be found in the little villages in Central Europe. Rural Baroque, Folk Baroque or Bohemian Baroque is the style that developed in the 19th century in the rural parts of Bohemia (today’s Czech Republic). The Rural Baroque uses elements of the mainstream Baroque architecture and combines them with traditional Bohemian ones thus creating an extraordinary architectural style, characterized by colorful elements, volutes, and stylized ornaments.
The most famous example of Rural Baroque in South Bohemia is Holašovice – a tiny village of only 23 houses with beautifully preserved and restored façades of the period. The uniqueness of this architectural heritage was recognized in 1998 when Holašovice was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Although it’s a World Heritage Site, the little village is not another open-air museum or a tourist trap. Walk around and admire the colorful façades and try to guess what profession their owner had, as in 9 out of 10 cases it will be depicted on the façade. There’s a lovely ethnographic exhibition in the local tourist information in the village and one of the farmsteads houses a museum.
Holašovice is not the only place where you can find those architectural gems. Actually, the whole region of PodKlety in South Bohemia is dotted with Rural Baroque villages: Plástovice, Malé Chrášťany, Vodice, Záboří, Břehov, just to name a few. It would be a good idea to stop at least two or three villages if you are traveling to the south of Prague. Holašovice is also a perfect day trip from České Budějovice or Český Krumlov.
16. Krakow, Poland
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Poland’s second city and historic cultural capital is also a representation of a great cross-generation architecture exhibition. As one of the few Polish cities spared destruction during World War 2, most buildings in Krakow very much resemble their original structures.
In the home city of Pope John Paul II, Krakow is home to a selection of some grand places of worship. Many with certainly Gothic and Romanesque influences but also noticeable are the Baroque exteriors and interiors.
One of the most striking buildings that you see upon exiting the train station for the Old Town is the Juliusz Słowacki Theatre. This gleaming neo-Baroque revival structure was constructed by Jan Zawiejski in 1893 harking back to the original Baroque period of the 17th century and inspired by the famous opera houses in such as those in Paris and Vienna.
The grand jewel in Krakow’s crown has got to be the Wawel Castle and Cathedral standing atop Wawel Hill. The cathedral at the former crowning location of monarchs of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth resembles an intriguing meeting point of the many different architectural styles that have come to define this city.
Among the other great Baroque churches located at different points of Krakow’s loop-shaped center include the St. Anne’s (near the main Jagiellonian University), St. Florian’s (shortly opposite the main train station) and St. Andrew’s at the foot of Wawel Hill. The classic characteristics of twin towers topped with light blue domes showcase their splendor.
The immaculately painted ceilings and ornate decorations are also found inside some of the other places of worship with more Gothic or Renaissance exteriors, such as St. Mary’s Basilica, one of the defining buildings of the old town center.
17. Paris, France
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Paris is a city that no lover of architecture can ignore. Palaces, museums, churches and even administrative buildings of Paris are remarkable pieces of architecture representing the artistic genius of Paris. When talking about Parisian architecture the first word that comes to our mind is “Gothic”, however, the city has some incredible Baroque landmarks as well.
Some of the best examples of Baroque architecture in Paris are Les Invalides, Luxemburg Palace and surprisingly, the Louvre Museum! Yes, the east façade of Louvre museum is a classic blend of French Baroque and the Italian Baroque style.
If you can make time for a short day trip in your Paris itinerary, you can visit the Palace of Versailles. The spectacular palace is a grand example of the French Baroque architecture.
Paris is a land of revolutionary artists and architects. The Garnier Palace, better known as the Paris Opera house, is one such example of revolutionary architecture. Garnier developed what came to be known as the neo-Baroque architecture, in his dream project – the Paris Opera. The interiors of the Paris opera are a living embodiment of grandeur and opulence.
18. Dresden, Germany
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Dresden, popular as the Florence on the Elbe, is a city of art and music located halfway between Prague and Berlin. This German city is renowned for its stunning Baroque architecture and great cultural heritage. On your visit to Dresden, you can uncover invaluable gold treasures, classical sculptures, paintings by Renaissance artists, as well as ceremonial Weapons.
The best way to start exploring Dresden would be by visiting one of the most beautiful Baroque churches of Germany – the spectacular Frauenkirche on Neumarkt. It is Dresden’s finest sight today and a veritable symbol of the city’s history.
From there, make your way to the Zwinger Palace – another famous Baroque edifice in Germany. Built in 1709, Zwinger Palace was previously used for hosting tournaments, parties, and other cultural events during the reign of Augustus. Here you can get a glimpse of the German high life so don’t forget to take numerous pictures at the spectacular courtyards and pavilions; especially a picture by the Nymphaeum, next to the Rampart Pavilion is not to be missed. It is the most gorgeous baroque fountain in all of Germany.
If you would like to look at the finest collection of paintings from the Baroque period then definitely check out the The Semper Gallery. Dresden is magical and if you are even a bit fascinated by the Baroque architecture, then it is a must-visit German city for you.
19. St. Petersburg, Russia
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One of the best cities to see Baroque architecture
You can see Baroque buildings at every corner in the city center of St. Petersburg and some of the most excellent examples include Smolny Sobor or Convent, Summer Palace, St. Nicolas Naval Cathedral, Kunstkamera Museum, and Stroganov Palace. The most famous baroque building in Saint Petersburg is, however, the Winter Palace, home of the world-famous Hermitage Museum.
Saint Petersburg also has some impressive imperial palaces located just outside the city. Some of them are built in the Baroque style, for example, Constantine Palace, Peterhof Palace and Catherine Palace in Tsarskoe Selo.
Baroque in Saint Petersburg gained popularity in the early 18th century when Peter I invited some of the most famous architects in Europe to help to build a splendid European capital, even
Now, what do you think? What is your favorite example of Baroque architecture in Europe? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!