When it was first built in the mid-19th century, Notre Dame Basilica (or the Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal, in French, still the primary language of Québéc) was the largest church in North America. It has since been eclipsed in terms of square footage by the modern evangelical mega-churches in the South and Midwest, but Notre Dame still surely ranks as one of the most spectacular. And with a prime spot in the heart of Old Montreal fronting onto Place D’Armes, its quaint environs of cobblestone streets and European architecture add to its old-world charm.
You don’t need to squint too hard to see the French-Catholic influence, but then this is the Québécois heartland, after all. With the twin towers on the outside reminiscent of its Parisian namesake, the Gothic revival interior is extraordinarily ornate, combining incredible detail and the traditional Gothic sharp arches with a modern twist of dramatic accent lighting in a range of hues, especially a rich blue. The effect isn’t what you’d call subtle, and it’s perilously close to something Disney would dream up, but it is quite something to behold.