The Best Churches in Nuku’alofa for Tourists
Sunday in Tonga is regarded as a day of rest. That’s why you will find no shops open, no flights scheduled and no tours operating. You will, however, find churches alive with song! Visitors are welcome at most churches across Tonga to experience a Sunday service, regardless of their religious status. For visitors, attending a Sunday service is more of a cultural experience. So which churches should you check out in Tonga’s capital? Check out some of our recommended churches in Nuku’alofa to experience as a visitor.
For more Sunday inspiration in Tonga, check out 10 Things to Do in Tonga on a Sunday.
Church Etiquette in Tonga
- Wear formal clothing, covering the knees and shoulders
- While the below churches are just recommendations, any church is usually welcoming to visitors – ask your accommodation host which is the best church to go to closest to where you’re staying!
- Church services on a Sunday typically begin at 9 am or 10 am, then again at 3 pm or 4 pm. Signs outside of churches state service times
- If you arrive late at a church service, discretely walk into the church and sit at the back
- Different churches have different rules about taking photos inside. Assume it is disrespectful to take photos during a church service. Usually, it is acceptable to take photos of the church interior after the service with permission
- It is Ok to take photos of a church from the outside
- Stand when the locals stand to sing, however, you are not expected to sing along (unless you know hymns in Tongan).
Find out more about church etiquette in our guide, Tonga Etiquette: Respecting the Local Customs & Traditions.
1. Sai’one Centenary Church
Also known as the “King’s Church”, Sai’one Centenary Church is where Tonga’s royal family go each Sunday to worship. This inevitably makes it one of the most popular churches in Nuku’alofa for visitors to experience. Regardless of denomination or religious status, you’ll be welcomed here as a visitor. Relax and enjoy the booming harmonies of the congregation, which begin at 10 am on a Sunday.
Location: Wellington Road, Kolomotu’a, Nuku’alofa.
Denomination: Free Wesleyan. Learn more about the most popular denomination in Tonga in The Guide to the Religions in Tonga.
2. St. Mary’s Cathedral
On the waterfront of Nuku’alofa near Faua Wharf, St. Mary’s Cathedral boasts a picturesque setting for photos. The attractive church also has pretty rose gardens, as well as a stained glass facade to admire. St. Mary’s Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. is one of two grand Catholic churches in Nuku’alofa, the other being the Basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua (see below).
Location: Vuna Road (opposite the wharf market), Ma’ufanga, Nuku’alofa.
3. St. Paul’s Anglican Church
The largest Anglican church in the Kingdom of Tonga, St. Paul’s Church is worth checking out for its Sunday service. The interior of the church boasts some impressive features, such as the altar with carved whales, dolphins, turtles and seashells. The church went through a refurbishment in 2014, making its architecture well worth getting a photo of from the outside.
Location: Corner of Fatafehi Road and Wellington Road, Kolofo’ou, Nuku’alofa.
4. Basilica of St Anthony of Padua
Often open throughout the week for visitors to check out the interior (and for local worshippers, of course), the Basilica of St Anthony of Padua is worth a visit at any time. See gorgeous stained glass windows, hand-carved furnishings and wooden beams. The Catholic church is one of the most distinctive buildings in the city in terms of its architecture, an unmissable sight near the Royal Tombs – one of the 30 Best Things to Do in Nuku’alofa.
Location: Taua’ahau Road and Laifone Road, Nuku’alofa city centre.
5. Centennial Church
Standing across the road from the Royal Tombs, the Centennial Church (more commonly known as just “The Free Church of Tonga”) is a magnificent and unmissable building. Unfortunately, the old building was severely damaged by Cyclone Gita. So while visiting for a church service is off the table, it’s still worth a look at what’s left of the European-inspired architecture. Free Church of Tonga services in Nuku’alofa now take place out of the FCT on Salote Road, Ma’ufanga. Learn more about cyclones in How to Prepare for a Cyclone in Tonga.
Location: Corner of Laifone Road and Tu’i Road, Nuku’alofa city centre.
Denomination: Free Church of Tonga.
More About Churches in Nuku’alofa and Tonga
That’s it for for our guide to the best churches in Nuku’alofa to experience as a visitor. For more experiences in the capital, as well as other beautiful churches across The Kingdom, take a look at the following:
- Nuku’alofa Transport: 10 Ways to Get to (& Around) Nuku’alofa
- 10 Best Churches in Tonga for Tourists
- Where to Stay in Nuku’alofa: The Best Accommodations