Architecture has significantly evolved over the years. Different works of art in the form of intricate infrastructures and buildings are all over the world, so it can be quite challenging to identify which places are a must-see for travelers.
If you are wondering where you should start, Europe is the place to be. Filled with lots of rich history and culture, many iconic structures in Europe are worth visiting and seeing even just once in your lifetime. The fact that most of these buildings are already centuries old and had been built before the advent of modern technology yet still stands to this day makes them even more impressive.
So, what are the top five must-visit architectural sights in Europe?
1. La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain
Despite being unfinished, La Sagrada Familia remains one of the most iconic places in Europe and a top travel destination among many tourists around the globe. The construction of the basilica began in 1882 and is supposed to be completed by 2026 on the 100th death anniversary of its architect Antoni Gaudí. But Covid-19 happened, essentially delaying the completion of the building even further.
Nevertheless, La Sagrada Familia continues to offer a spectacular view filled with intricate symbolism and colorful history behind it. Currently, the basilica has only eight towers, but once complete, it will have 18 in total — twelve of which will represent the apostles, four will stand for the evangelists, one will symbolize the Virgin Mary, and the highest one will embody Jesus Christ.
La Sagrada Familia is anticipated to be the tallest religious building in Europe once its construction is finished, with the middle tower expected to be 170 meters tall. But Gaudí was a firm believer that nothing man-made should ever be higher than God’s work. So he deliberately planned for the La Sagrada Familia to be a few meters less than Barcelona’s highest point, the Montjuïc.
2. Westminster Abbey in London, United Kingdom
One of the most popular landmarks to visit in the UK is Westminster Abbey. Known as the coronation church of British monarchs since 1066, the venue of 17 royal weddings, and the burial site of thousands of prominent British personalities, the Westminster Abbey is considered a Gothic architectural masterpiece that features the highest Gothic vault in England at 102 feet.
Westminster Abbey is technically no longer an abbey. While it was initially founded and inhabited by monks, it became a cathedral by 1540. It was then decreed as a Royal Peculiar by Queen Elizabeth I during the 1560s, which means that the monarchy now controls the church instead of the diocese. In 1987, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) classified Westminster Abbey as a world heritage site.
If you are interested in feeling royal for a day or two, you might want to book a ticket with airlines with routes to the UK, like British Airways. Should you encounter delays with them, and they are proven at fault, you are entitled to a British Airways compensation. The length of the delay will also be a factor in the amount of compensation you will get.
3. Palace of Versailles in Versailles, France
The Palace of Versailles will forever be an epitome of French grandeur and opulence. Originally built to mainly eclipse the magnificence of the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, the Palace of Versailles became King Louis XIV’s go-to place for gathering French noblemen and women in an attempt to weaken their authority and gain a powerful hold of France.
As the king turned the chateau into a ridiculously luxurious residence, it came at the expense of those in the lower rung of the social ladder and cost most of France’s national income just to maintain the place.
The Hall of Mirrors, the most popular room and one of the biggest highlights when visiting the Palace of Versailles, is a grand Baroque style gallery that has a total of 357 mirrors and is 73 meters long. The room has witnessed significant historical events, like the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War I, and has seen countless monarch visits over the years. To this day, world leaders, diplomats, and official guests are received in this grand gallery.
If you plan on visiting the Palace of Versailles, you can always book a flight to France and join a tour of the palace. It is open on most days, except on Mondays, so you have plenty of chances to see its grandiose up close. Should you encounter a delay in your flight, you are entitled to a flight delay compensation which you can use to enjoy other sights in France.
4. St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City
St. Peter’s Basilica is one of the four major basilicas in the world, alongside Saint John Lateran, Santa Maria Maggiore, and St. Paul Outside the Walls. A symbol of the entire Christendom, this Renaissance gem took 120 years to fish and saw renowned Renaissance artists such as Raphael and Michelangelo contribute to the making of this masterpiece.
Not only is the St. Peter’s Basilica the most important Catholic Church, but it is also the biggest church in the world with an exterior area of 21,095 square meters and an interior area of 15,160 square meters. It has the tallest dome on Earth at 136.5 meters.
As one of the most recognizable buildings on Rome’s skyline, the St. Peter’s Basilica stands on top of the tomb of St. Peter, who was ordered crucified by Emperor Nero during his persecution of Christians around 64 A.D.
5. The Colosseum in Rome, Italy
Another architectural spectacle in Rome is the Colosseum. Although now in ruins, this large amphitheater continues to attract millions of people from all over the world every year.
Built on the back of tens of thousands of slaves between 72 A.D. and 80 A.D., the Colosseum was a sporting arena that is 189 meters long, 156 meters wide, and 50 meters high. It has 80 entrances and features a maximum seating capacity of around 50,000.
During those times, the Colosseum witnessed thousands of wild animal hunts and gladiator combats which were a popular means of entertainment back then. Aside from these, the Colosseum also hosted plays and even public executions.
After some time, this form of entertainment became boring for the Romans. Their interest in hunts and combat fizzled out. When the Roman Empire fell, the enormous arena was neglected and started to collapse. Earthquakes occurred the following years, contributing damage to the structure, which was already in poor shape. By the 20th century, the majority of the building was already destroyed.
While these places are undeniably beautiful in their own right, it is important that visitors not only take in the view but also take to heart the historical value of these structures. These buildings reflect the social, economic, and political landscape of a community and its people, and they are witnesses to the different cultural changes a community has gone through over the years.
To preserve them, not only do people need to appreciate them, but they also have to learn why these architectural marvels are relevant in the first place.