NYC Top Religious Sites Walking Tour, New York

NYC Top Religious Sites Walking Tour (Self Guided), New York

Other than high-risers, New York City is also famous for the variety of beautiful places of worship renowned for their architectural splendor. After 1830, inspired by a love for all things medieval imported from England, the Gothic style developed in the metropolis, as first illustrated by the Grace Church (1846). The best example of this style, however, remains St Patrick’s Cathedral, which covers the whole block between famous 5th and Madison avenues, making it one of the most visible symbols of the Catholic Church in the United States. Immaculate both outside and inside following restorations, the Cathedral’s marble, stained glass and gold fixtures are out of this world.

Walking a couple blocks from St. Patrick’s on Fifth Avenue, you’ll find the early 20th century Gothic-style St Thomas Church amongst towering skyscrapers. Though it holds many lovely elements, the stunning ‘reredos’ behind the altar prove to be the focal point, catching the eye as soon as you enter. The wide work of art – perhaps the largest in the world – displays recesses with 60 carved statues (representing Christ, saints and other figures), similar to those in England’s Winchester and Canterbury cathedrals.

Meanwhile, the Central Synagogue, restored after a 1999 fire, is considered NYC’s best example of Moorish-Islamic Revival architecture, and a visit to the elegant Temple Emanu-El provides the unique opportunity to see a Jewish landmark as large and spectacular as any European cathedral. The temple could, in fact, be easily mistaken for a Catholic one due to the stained-glass windows, but aside from depictions of biblical scenes, a close look will reveal the tribal signs of the houses of Israel.

To explore these and other top religious sites of the Big Apple, join us on this self-guided walking tour.
How it works: Download the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from iTunes App Store or Google Play to your mobile phone or tablet. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and its built-in GPS navigation functions guide you from one tour stop to next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

Download The GPSmyCity App

Download 'GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities' app for IOS   Download 'GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities' app for Android

NYC Top Religious Sites Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: NYC Top Religious Sites Walking Tour
Guide Location: USA » New York (See other walking tours in New York)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 7
Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 7.0 Km or 4.3 Miles
Author: doris
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Temple Emanu-El
  • Central Synagogue
  • Saint Thomas Church
  • St. Patrick's Cathedral
  • St. Malachy's Church
  • Holy Cross Church
  • Grace Church
Temple Emanu-El

1) Temple Emanu-El

One of the most beautiful synagogues in the world, the Temple Emanu-El is also one of the largest Jewish houses of worship. It sits on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, NYC and serves the large local Jewish community.

At first, shortly after the Civil War, the Emanu-El congregation, consisting of German Jews, worshiped in a temple north of 42nd Street in Lower Manhattan. That temple eventually proved too small for the growing congregation, plus the location was unsuitable because of the commercial activity in the street that made it difficult to focus on prayers. It was therefore decided to relocate to a custom-built spacious synagogue in a tranquil place that would meet the needs of the worshipers.

The new Temple Emanu-el was built just off Central Park in 1927-1929, shortly before the stock market crashed. The spectacular limestone building featuring Medieval style with Romanesque details resembles a European cathedral and can easily be mistaken for one due to the presence of stained-glass windows, except the imagery there is Jewish. The wheel-like window on the facade is a traditional Magen David – the six-pointed Star of David. Inside the temple there is a large (100 feet wide, 175 feet long, and 103 feet high) sanctuary capable of seating up to 2,500 people. The sanctuary has more than 60 stained glass windows and a beautiful glass and marble mosaic arch that frames the bimah.

This stunning temple is well worth a visit if you're in the area, and is open to the public free of charge from 10 am to 4:30 pm Sunday through Thursday (except on Jewish holidays) for self-guided tours of the sanctuary.

If you go to the side entrance (1 East 65th), get yourself buzzed in and tell them you want to tour the sanctuary. Since it's self-guided, it might be a good idea to download a self-guide brochure from their website. You may also wish to take an elevator to the small museum upstairs that features a permanent and rotating exhibits of Judaica – historical objects from the 14th-20th centuries, as well as art installations relating to Judaism.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Central Synagogue

2) Central Synagogue

Central Synagogue is a Reform synagogue located at 652 Lexington Avenue, at the corner of East 55th Street in Midtown Manhattan. It was built in 1870–1872 to the design by Henry Fernbach and represents the Moorish Revival-style copy of Budapest's Dohány Street Synagogue. The building has been in continuous use by a congregation longer than any other in the state of New York, and is among the oldest synagogues still standing in the United States.

In 1966 it was designated a New York City landmark and four years later was added to the National Register of Historic Places. In 1975 the synagogue was designated a National Historic Landmark. The building itself is quite unusual in terms of appearance because it is huge and is more like a Christian church on the inside. Outside it has a wonderful memorial dedicated to the millions of victims killed in WW2.

On Wednesdays at 12:45 pm there is a free docent-led tour of the place, which starts at the front entrance and offers a great deal of interesting information about the Jewish faith and the history of the synagogue.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Saint Thomas Church

3) Saint Thomas Church

The Saint Thomas Church is an Episcopal parish church located in the heart of New York City. It is one of the few churches where the old Anglican choral tradition is still preserved.

Previously, the congregation of Saint Thomas's worshiped in three other locations before the present one was built. Designed by architects Ralph Adams Cram and Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue in High Gothic style, featuring plain limestone exterior and sandstone interior, the current church was built between 1911 and 1916 looking absolutely fantastic among the towering skyscrapers. The intricate stonework on the reredos – white carved screens behind the altar and interesting carvings on the choir stalls showing “modern” inventions like the radio and telephone – was done be sculptor Lee Laurie, while the fine stained glass windows were created by English artist, James Hunphries Hogan, of Powell and Sons (Whitefriars) Ltd. of London.

Music is an important part of worship and liturgy at St Thomas's, in large part thanks to the design offering excellent acoustics, as well as the three old and one new incredible Dobson pipe organ (worth $11 million) added in 2008. There are free organ recitals most Sundays, the sound of which is profoundly moving. The church's choir performs traditional Anglican Evensong, a 45 minute service of music by young boys aged between 8 and 13. This choir is supported by the St Thomas choir school that was founded by the parish in 1919 and is one of four remaining choir schools in the world.

While everyone goes to check out St Patrick's, and quite rightly so, you still might be cheating yourself if you don’t visit St Thomas's, which is just a few blocks away. Its beautiful altar area, stained glass and ceiling are absolutely worth a look, and will leave you in awe. Highly recommended!
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
St. Patrick's Cathedral

4) St. Patrick's Cathedral (must see)

St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of New York. Built of brick and clad in white marble, this is the largest Gothic style temple in the country. Centrally located – directly opposite the Rockefeller Center, it receives annually over 3 million visitors.

The current structure replaces an old St. Patrick’s Cathedral and is now used as a parish church. The Archdiocese of New York was created by Pope Pius IX in 1850. American architect James Renwick designed the building, as the seat of the Archbishop, in decorated geometric ecclesiastic Gothic style, popular in Europe between 1275 and 1400. Construction began in 1858 but stopped during the Civil War. Works resumed in 1865, seeing the cathedral completed in 1878 and dedicated in 1879. It has stained glass windows from France and England, as well as the Great Rose Window – the finest work of American stained glass artist Charles Connick, and three magnificent organs.

The cathedral holds daily masses so you can take the opportunity to go inside and admire the interior or just enjoy the peacefulness – either way you won't be disappointed. There is a gift shop selling books and religious items and visitors can check the schedule to attend one of the organ concerts frequently performed at the Cathedral.

Why You Should Visit:
Step into another world and revel in the atmosphere inside this historic building. Now that all of the renovations are complete you can get to enjoy the full beauty of the architecture.

If possible, try to attend a daily Mass with impressive organ music and solo vocalist. Also, on a Sunday afternoon, if lucky, you may happen upon a chorale concert which is nothing short of heavenly.
The armed NYPD officers outside ensure security, so you should be prepared for bag searches prior to entry.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 7am-8:30pm
St. Malachy's Church

5) St. Malachy's Church

Mere footsteps from Times Square, St Malachy’s church is nestled among the theaters of Broadway and, if you don’t keep your eyes open, you’ll miss it easily – overshadowed by soaring buildings all around. Better known in New York City as the Actor’s Chapel, this catholic church was built in 1920, the year the theater district moved into the area, and it thus became the place of worship of several well-known actors and dancers till the 1960s.

The church chimes play, “There’s no business like show business” in honor of the many distinguished theatrical parishioners who worshiped at its pews. Famous members of the congregation include Bob Hope, Ricardo Montalban, Rosalind Russell, Irene Dunne and Gregory Peck. Designed by renowned ecclesiastical architect, Thomas J. Duff, St. Malachy’s has been the venue of multiple weddings and funerals of famous actors and dancers. Among them are the marriage of Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Joan Crawford, funeral of Rudolf Valentino, and the baptism of Herb Shriner’s children.

Rev George Washington Moore, who took over in 1976, was the most active among pastors of the church and he extended the church services to help the poor, the elderly and the homeless. For his services to the parish, Rev Moore was given a Tony award. Today the church offers community services called Encore to help the elderly residents of the parish.

In 1991 extensive repairs were carried out to make St Malachy’s a comfortable and beautiful place to worship. Inside, the space produces a rather intimate feeling and is usually packed during Saturday vigil mass. Advertised as an actors’ spiritual retreat, the chapel's posted mass times include an 11 pm weekday mass “post-theater”.
Holy Cross Church

6) Holy Cross Church

Located on 42nd Street just opposite the Port Authority Terminal, the Holy Cross Church is the first structure you'd notice getting off the bus at the Port Authority. Housed in the Italianate Gothic style edifice with a red brick facade and two towers, designed by Henry Engelbert, this Roman Catholic Church offers a bit of “calmness in the storm of the Big City”.

The interior shows a combination of Georgian, Classical, Romanesque and Byzantine styles – wooden benches, stained glass windows on the lower and upper levels. The altar area is a one-half oval shape and there are statues along the walls, with only fans to try to keep the congregation cool during hot summer days. The nine stained glass windows were imported from Munich, and Louis Comfort Tiffany designed the mosaics below the Dome. Mass is celebrated with choral music and congregational hymns sung in both English and Spanish.

The church is also called “Father Duffy’s church” after its most popular pastor, Reverend Francis P. Duffy, who was decorated for serving as chaplain of the 69th New York regiment that fought in World War I. Holy Cross Church operates a food pantry serving the poor and needy, and also offers a religious program, called LAMP, to provide counseling for parishioners and visitors. The church works in consonance with the local authorities to fight crime and drug trafficking in the neighborhood.
Grace Church

7) Grace Church

Grace Church is a historic parish church in Manhattan, NYC which is largely regarded as "one of the city's greatest treasures". This French Gothic Revival masterpiece was designed by James Renwick Jr., the same architect as did St Patrick’s, when he was only 23, and was his first major commission. The church is part of the Episcopal Diocese of New York and is located at 800-804 Broadway, at the corner of East 10th Street, where Broadway bends to the south-southeast, bringing it in alignment with the avenues in Manhattan's grid. Grace Church School and the church houses – which are now used by the school – are located to the east at 86-98 Fourth Avenue between East 10th and 12th Streets.

“A solace for the spirit and a feast for the eyes,” the Grace Church is a National Historic Landmark designated for its architectural significance and place within the history of New York City, and the entire complex is a New York City landmark, designated in 1966 (church and rectory) and 1977 (church houses). Its stained glass and mosaic floor are particularly worthy of more than just a passing glance and are simply beautiful!

Once inside, grab a tour pamphlet for a self-guided "15 minute tour of Grace Church," which gives quite a bit of history and is full of interesting info helping you notice things that you otherwise would have certainly missed. If lucky, on a Thursday afternoon you may catch a Bach organ concert in process – just take a seat in one of the pews and drink in the beautiful music. Otherwise, if time permits, sit down and take in the serenity and calm before launching out again to join the rat race outside.

You may be intrigued to learn that P.T. Barnum, founder of the Barnum & Bailey Circus, portrayed by Hugh Jackman in The Greatest Showman movie, used this church for the wedding of his famous midget, General Tom Thumb, in 1863. That must have been quite a spectacle!

Walking Tours in New York, New York

Create Your Own Walk in New York

Create Your Own Walk in New York

Creating your own self-guided walk in New York is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Best of Lower Manhattan Walking Tour

Best of Lower Manhattan Walking Tour

Every part of Manhattan is terrific, but if you are looking for one that affords the best overview of New York City’s architectural styles, it’s Lower Manhattan – or the Downtown – that would get the most votes. This is where it all started, where New Amsterdam was founded, where Canal Street used to be a canal and where Wall Street used to be a wall marking the end of town. It’s also...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.4 Km or 2.7 Miles
Brooklyn New York Walking Tour

Brooklyn New York Walking Tour

One of New York City’s five boroughs, Brooklyn occupies the western tip of Long Island and is connected to neighboring Manhattan via the iconic Brooklyn Bridge. The area is known primarily, these days, for its ethnic diversity, but also abounds in a variety of recreational, cultural and historic attractions.

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s main entrance is literally across the street from...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.4 Km or 3.4 Miles
Manhattan Shopping Tour

Manhattan Shopping Tour

Midtown Manhattan is certainly the shopping hub for New York City, and the famed Fifth Avenue has long been synonymous with a shopper's paradise where you can find every kind of store imaginable, ranging from the affordable to ultra-fancy fashion brands and luxury goods. Whether it’s Prada, Tiffany or Bergdorf Goodman, these brands, among many others, symbolize wealth and social standing,...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.4 Km or 3.4 Miles
NYC's Chinatown and Little Italy Walking Tour

NYC's Chinatown and Little Italy Walking Tour

New York's Little Italy and Chinatown were places that attracted Italian and Chinese immigrants in the late 1800s, with densely packed ethnic communities having grown around them, as they brought their customs, food and language. In the 1960s, however, right around the time that Italians stopped coming to the city in large numbers, Chinese immigrants did the opposite, hence why Little Italy...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.6 Km or 1 Miles
Times Square to Central Park

Times Square to Central Park

A leisurely self-guided stroll from Times Square to Central Park will take you to some of NYC’s prominent locations, each worth visiting in their own right.

At 49th Street, Fifth Avenue lives up to its lofty reputation with the Rockefeller Center, one of the world’s biggest business and entertainment complexes, and a triumph of Art Deco architecture. Like the neighboring Times Square, the...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.2 Km or 2 Miles
Midtown Manhattan Walking Tour

Midtown Manhattan Walking Tour

Welcome to the iconic New York City that so many tourists dream about before they visit – spectacular skyscrapers, iconic public buildings, large neon flat screens above ground level and the non-stop activity on city streets.

They say if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere, and Times Square, Broadway, is definitely a part of that slogan. Day time or night time, it’s one of the...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.1 Km or 2.5 Miles

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip

Bar Tour of Lower East Side, New York City

Bar Tour of Lower East Side, New York City

The Lower East Side has been described the most livable neighborhood in NYC. Unique and dynamic, LES has boutique shops, cafes and restaurants alongside great bars and museums.In this historic neighborhood, residents strive to preserve its roots. Here, you can find young professionals who challenge...
NY Villages Best Tea and Coffee

NY Villages Best Tea and Coffee

This is a guide to the best tea and coffee shops and houses in the East, West, Washington Square and Greenwich Villages of Manhattan. None of these are chains, so tourists looking to avoid Starbucks can find sanctuary in this app. All of these run the gamut between W and E 14th Streets, and down 1st...
NYC Souvenir Guide: 15 Authentic New York City Products to Take Home

NYC Souvenir Guide: 15 Authentic New York City Products to Take Home

In keeping with the song, one might think that, if they can make it in New York City, they can make it anywhere. Well, not always... Some of the things made in New York City aren't made anywhere else, and you'll definitely want to try or keep at least some of them to prolong your NYC...
NYC Beer Tour

NYC Beer Tour

There are many great places to drink in New York City. Still, discerning connoisseurs are likely to find themselves awash in a sea of mediocre beer without first gaining a proper lay of the beer land. For those whose curiosity and taste buds urge them to venture beyond ubiquitious draft staples like...
9 Best Drinking Places in Upper West Side, NY

9 Best Drinking Places in Upper West Side, NY

With “Bar Tour of the Upper West Side” sample a cross section from NYC’s great gamut of drinking establishments, including a Belgian Brasserie, a wine bar, Irish pubs, and one dive — just for fun! These spots offer something a little extra, like craft beers, inspirational artwork, a chance...