There are areas in the world where Mosques, Churches and Temples attract more visitors than a soccer game. These are some of the most popular religious sites around the world.
1. Makkah, Saudi Arabia
Makkah is the holiest city in the world. An average of 13 million Muslims visit Makkah each year. Muslims are encouraged to practice Hajj at least once in their lives if they are able to, but many travel each year. Millions of Muslims come every year to celebrate the Hajj.
2. The Wailing Wall, Jerusalem
The Israeli police estimate that more than 11 million people visited the old city of Jerusalem and the Western Wall (Western Wall). This is a significant increase over the three million people who visited in 2003. Followers of the Jewish faith are the most common visitors with some making more than one trip a year. The wall is also a holy site for Muslims, so control of the wall has long been the subject of disputes between the two groups.
3. Senso-ji Temple and Meiji Shrine, Tokyo, Japan
The Senso-ji Temple has approximately 30 million visitors a year. It is a must for any traveler who travels through Tokyo. Senso-ji was built in AD 628 and is the oldest temple in the city. The five-story pagoda is illuminated in the evening with accent lighting. During the day, street vendors sell food to tourists on the temple’s Nakamise Street. The Senso-ji Temple is a hotspot to celebrate during the New Year celebrations and is one of the top 10 temple visitors in the New Year.
Not far from the Senso-ji Temple is the Meiji Shrine in Shibuya, Tokyo. Construction began in 1915 and ended in 1916. The sanctuary is dedicated to the spirit of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken. It was built in an iris garden where the emperor and empress spent time. The original structure was destroyed in World War II, but it has been restored since then. The new building, which stands in a 170 hectare forest. The surrounding evergreen clearing contains over 365 different tree species, all donated by people from different parts of Japan.
4. Vatican City
The Vatican City in Rome is visited by almost 4.2 million people annually and is part of a pilgrimage for many devout Catholics. The Vatican is an independent city-state in the middle of Rome. The city’s architectural beauty and history draws tourists and architecture lovers in droves. Vatican City is the home of the Pope and is considered the spiritual center of the global Catholic Church. St. Peter’s Basilica is a starting point for services and visits. It was designed by several well-known architects and designers, including Michelangelo and Gian Lorenzo Bernini. St. Peter is considered by many to be the most sacred of the Catholic shrines.
5. Notre-Dame, Paris, France
Notre-Dame Cathedral is another tourist attraction and a place of pilgrimage for Catholics. Located in Paris, Notre-Dame is the most visited attraction in France and the thirteenth most visited tourist destination in the world. The annual number of visitors to Notre Dame is estimated at 13.7 million. The cathedral is one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture and combines naturalistic sculptures and luminous stained glass with earlier Romanesque architecture.
6. Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico City
About 20 million people visit the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe every year. The basilica was built on a sacred Aztec site that was once dedicated to the temple of Tonantizin Coatlaxopeuh. The history of this epic structure is violent. Spanish conquerors destroyed the temple when they conquered the city of Tenochtitlan (today’s Mexico City). In 1921 a bomb was planted in a flower vase in the basilica and much of the interior of the building was damaged. The old basilica was closed for many years after the incident. It is still standing, but now it is joined by its neighbor, the New Basilica, which can accommodate up to 50,000 people for the mass.
7. Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Varanasi, India
The Kashi Vishwanath temple in India is located on the western bank of the Ganges. The river is believed to have healing powers itself, and the temple is one of the most famous in Hindu religion. It is dedicated to Shaiva philosophy – a metaphysical concept of a Supreme Being or Brahman. The Kashi Vishwanath Temple attracts 22 million visitors annually, an average of 3,000 people a day. Almost 10,000 pass through its doors on busy days. The current building was built in 1780 after being destroyed and reconstructed several times in the course of history.