Even though sightseeing the most beautiful buildings in the world may not be the first reason why you travel to the other side of the globe, you must acknowledge that stunning architecture is for sure exciting.
Certain buildings carry a lot of cultural heritage, and paying attention to a destination’s architecture helps you learn more about the history of the place.
So if you’re an architecture enthusiast or just an innate curious traveler, this post is for you. We’ll take you on a tour around the most impressive architecture on the globe. From the ancient Great Pyramid of Giza, in Egypt, to the gorgeous Moorish-style Royal Alcazar in Seville, Spain, here are the top 30 most impressive architectural buildings on earth.
Note: Make sure to double-check COVID 19 precautions, protocols, and operating hours before you visit any of these sites.
Beautiful Architecture: What Makes a Building Beautiful?
Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, they’ve said. With beauty being such a subjective and broad subject, we created a diverse list, using a mix of sources. We relied on the experts (World Architecture Awards in 2019), the general public, and, of course, CuddlyNest’s team of travel enthusiasts.
The World’s 30 Most Beautiful Buildings
Palace of Versailles, France
The Palace of Versailles is a Baroque-style royal residence. Listed as a World Heritage Site for 30 years, the palace of this opulent complex was inhabited by Louis XIV until the start of the French Revolution in 1789. In the 19th century, by order of King Louis-Phillipe, Versailles became the Museum of the History of France, with its rooms being devoted to housing new collections of paintings and sculptures.
With 2,300 rooms spread over 63,154 m2, the building is one of Frances’ architectural wonders. Versailles is within 20km from Paris, and during your tour, you can also take some time to see the Estate of Trianon, the gardens, and the Royal Stables.
Taj Mahal, India
Listed as a New 7 Wonder of the World, the Taj Mahal was built by Emperor Shah Jahan from 1632 to 1648 for his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died on June 17, 1631. The monument, which is a mausoleum, was erected in the first half of the 17th century and finished over a 20-year period using more than 20,000 artisans’ labor. It is located in the Northern Indian city of Agra, on the southern bank of the Yamuna river in India, and its architecture is one of the most significant examples of Mughal architecture style. The complex also houses a mosque and guest house.
Made of white marble from Makrana, in Rajasthan, the Taj Mahal combines a range of architectural styles, such as Islamic, Persian, and Indian styles. For the construction, other noble materials were used, such as turquoise from Tibet, jade and crystal from China, sapphire from Sri Lanka and Arabia, and lapis lazuli from Afghanistan.
Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany
The castle is a 19th century Romanesque Revival palace that sits on a hill above the village of Hohenschwangau, in southern Bavaria, Germany. Neuschwanstein was commissioned by King Ludwig II of Bavaria as a retreat and in honor of Richard Wagner, a famous German composer and theatre director. Interestingly enough, the place was built with the King’s personal funds, rather than the Bavarian public money.
Today, when entering Neuschwanstein, you’ll see that many rooms, such as the Singers Hall, were inspired by some of Wagner’s characters. The word “Neuschwanstein”, by the way, literally means “New Swan Castle,” which is a reference to “the Swan Knight,” one of the composer’s characters.
Semperoper Dresden, Germany
Located in Dresden, Germany, the Semperoper State Opera is a concert hall home to the Saxon State Orchestra and the Sempreoper Ballet. The opera was built in the middle of the 19th-century, and it’s a stunning architectural combination between Renaissance and Baroque styles, dotted with Corinthian pillars which are typical to the Greek Classical Revival movement.
Mont Saint-Michel Abbey, France
Did you know that Claude Debussy, the French composer, frequented the Le Mont-Saint-Michel island to gather inspiration for his piano prelude, La Cathédrale Engloutie? The island commune is home to the Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey, a famous cultural attraction in France. Built during the 10th-century, the abbey displays different architectural elements, from the West Roman empire to Roman and Gothic styles. The building is a megastructure divided into multiple parts: the Church abbey and chapels, the “Merveille” and the monk buildings, and more.
To get to Mont Saint-Michel from Paris, take a train at Montparnasse train station and go to Rennes. From Rennes, you can take a coach to the village of Mont St. Michel. Admission to the abbey is free.
The Senedd building in Cardiff, Wales, houses the debating chamber and three committee rooms for the Welsh Parliament. Located 3km south of Cardiff Castle, the building was designed by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, which created a dramatic light-weight, gently undulating roof for the building. The main idea of the architects was to plan a transparent building that looks towards Cardiff Bay, making visible the inner workings of the Assembly and inviting public participation in the democratic process.
City of Petra, Jordan
Petra, in Jordan, dates back from the 1st-century B.C., and it used to be the center of the Arab Kingdom during Hellenistic and Roman times. The city has been inhabited since early 7000 BC, and today is one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. And even though Petra consists of ruins, it’s still an architectural marvel worth seeing. This ancient city is home to the finest examples of Nabatean architecture, such as a 2,000-year-old tomb.
Macallan Distillery, Scotland
Macallan Distillery in Scotland is a piece of modern architecture that you must not miss. Located in Speyside, Macallan is a place where the process of whiskey production is shown to visitors. The building was designed by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, who made sure that the distillery blended perfectly with its surroundings. One of the highlights of the building is the rippling timber roof made of 380,000 individual components – almost none of which are the same.
Hungarian Parliament, Hungary
Hungarian Parliament, located in the very heart of the Pest side of the city, called The House of Nation (Országház), is one of the best examples of Gothic Revival style, having a similar façade and central dome. To decorate the building, 40 kg of gold, 500 000 ornamental stones, and 242 statues are used, and in the night, the building is lit up in yellow, having a strong contrast with the azure blue Danube river.
The Parliament lies just in between the Margarethe Bridge and the famous Chain Bridge, in Budapest. So if you’re in the center, you can walk.
Milan Cathedral, Italy
Milan Cathedral, also known as the Duomo di Milano, dates back to the 4th century when the construction began. The building, which took nearly six centuries to be completed, it’s the largest Gothic church in the world and it displays a roofline with a dense grid of pinnacles and spires supported by flying buttresses. The Duomo Di Milano has over 90 gargoyles and about 3,400 statues.
Make sure to visit the official page to book your time slot in advance.
Hagia Sophia, Turkey
One of the most beautiful architectural pieces in the world can be found in Turkey. The Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque is a place of worship in Constantinople, and it dates back to the 6th century when the city was the imperial capital of the Byzantine Empire. Up to date, it is the largest church in the historical empire territory, and after the fall of the empire was converted into a mosque by Mehmed the Conqueror, remaining as such until 1931, when it was closed to the public and later re-opened as a museum. In 2020, the monument’s status for the building was revoked, and it is now a mosque again.
Foreign visitors are not allowed to enter the mosque during worship hours, but prayer times are determined by the length of the day, which you can consult here.
Florence Cathedral, Italy
One of the most beautiful buildings in the world, and surely in Europe, lies in Florence, which used to be a major trade center during the Renaissance period. The construction of the church started in the 13th century, and it was completed in the 15th century. The exterior and facade dates to the 19th century and has a strong impact on the Gothic Revival style.
Notre Dame de Paris, France
This is undoubtedly one of the most iconic architectural pieces in the world and one of the most famous landmarks in Paris, France. Built between 1163 and 1345, the Notre Dame finest examples of the Gothic style, with its pointed arches and external statues and gargoyles. Its famous twin towers go as high as 69 meters, and a significant number of its stained-glass windows date back to the 13th century.
Mactan-Cebu International Airport, Philippines
Amazing buildings are not always the oldest ones. In fact, one of the most impressive architectural marvels in the world was built in 2018, in the Philippines (read what to do in the Philippines). Designed by the firm Integrated Design Associate, the Terminal 2 of the Mactan-Cebu International Airport boasts an impressive alpine-wood roof, with arches that span every 30 meters, allowing the terminal to be as column-free as possible. The project has even won an award at the World Architecture Festival.
The Louvre Museum, France
It’s no surprise that the Louvre Museum of Paris is one of the most visited museums in the world. Aside from its rich collection of artworks, the museum has a fascinating architectural history. Many don’t know, but the Louvre was actually built in the 12th-century as a fortress and a royal residence. The glass pyramid is probably one of the statement structures on the Louvre. Commissioned by the former president François Mitterrand and designed by the architect I.M. Pei stands at 21 meters high and it’s fully made of glass and metal.
Before you go, make sure you know what you want to see and check the Louvre museum page to plan your visit.
Schwerin Palace, Germany
Built in the middle of the 19th century in the city of Schwerin in Germany, the castle is a great example of the romantic Historian, which was a movement that tried to evoke the “good old times” when the noble life and society were still in order. Designed by Georg Adolf Demmler, the building reflects the admiration of the architect for the elegance and the simplicity of Prussian Neoclassicism and of Tudor Gothic.
Parthenon, the former temple on the Athenian Acropolis, in Greece, was built in the 5th century BC, when the Athenian Empire was at its peak of power. It’s the most important surviving building of Classical Greece. Interestingly enough, Parthenon was turned into a mosque in the early 15th century, but since 1975 it has undergone numerous large-scale restoration projects.
The modernist Freebooter, in Amsterdam, is an apartment complex build in 2019 by the Amsterdam-based studio-loop. The most interesting feature about the building is the fact that it’s made of timbers displayed in a parametric shape, which allows sunlight to flood the apartments while at the same time maintaining the privacy of the inhabitants.
Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Many of the amazing buildings around the world, including Angkor Wat, are temples. Located in Cambodia and surrounded by the country’s natural beauty, this is the largest religious monument on earth by land area, and it was originally constructed as a Hindu temple.
Saint Basil’s Cathedral, Russia
Commissioned in the 16th century by the first Tsar of Russia, Saint Basil’s is an Orthodox church located in the Red Square of Moscow and one of the most popular landmarks of Russia. This extraordinary structure has eight tiny chapels dotted around a tall central nave, aside from ornate onion domes colored with strong pigments.
Saint Basil is open to visitors every day, and you can also take a virtual tour of the building.
Tower of Pisa, Italy
The Leaning Tower of Pisa, or the Tower of Pisa, is a freestanding bell tower that began to lean during its construction in the 12th century. The cause of the leaning was the soft ground, which could not support the weight of the structure and worsened during completion in the 14th century. The structure was stabilized in the 1990s and reversed the tilt from 5.5 to 3.97 degrees.
Lotus Temple, India
The Lotus Temple in Delhi, India, is notable for its flowerlike shape. It was open-ended for worship in 1986 and by 2001 it attracted already 70 million visitors, making it one of the most visited buildings on the globe. There is no pons surrounding the Lotus Temple, and the special exterior lighting of the building makes a must-go in Delhi. The building is a famous example of expressionist architecture.
Cologne Cathedral, Germany
The Cologne Cathedral was built at the beginning of the 13th century and is still in construction. The medieval builders planned the structure to house the reliquary of the Three Kings. Today, it is enlisted as a World Heritage Site, and it’s open to visitors.
You’ll have no trouble spotting the cathedral, as it’s the second-highest building in Cologne.
The Vessel, New York City
New York is home to a multitude of architectural wonders. The city’s skyline is dotted with high-rise skyscrapers and iconic constructions, such as the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building. These are definitely the most well-known structures in New York, but if you’re visiting Manhattan, make sure you also sightsee The Vessel.
This modern New York building looks like a honeycomb and it consists of 154 flights of stairs, 2500 steps, and 80 landings for you to climb. Although many architects see it as beautiful, critics hold that it is too extravagant.
Winter Palace, Russia
Owner of great beauty, the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg, Russia, now holds a museum for the city’s visitors. The palace was a winter residence for Russian Emperors from 1732 to 1917 and now houses the Hermitage Museum. The building as you see it today was erected and altered between the 1730s and 1837, and is, therefore, a magnificent example of various styles and tastes, but most significantly, the Rococo style.
Burj Khalifa, Dubai
The Burj Khalifa, also known as Burj Dubai, is the crown jewel of Dubai’s futuristic skyline. With 162 floors and a height of 2,717 feet, this mixed-used skyscraper happens to be the world’s tallest building.
Fun facts: the Burj Khalifa holds a total of eight world records, including those for the tallest building, the longest elevator travel distance, and the highest habitable floor.
Metropolitan Cathedral of Brasília, Brazil
Designed by the brilliant architect Oscar Niemeyer, who was considered to be one of the key figures in the development of modern architecture, the Cathedral of Brasília is one of Brazil’s most impressive architectural masterpieces.
One of the cathedral’s most impressive features is its sixteen exterior concrete columns that reach up towards the sky representing two hands. The inside of the building is also breathtaking, and it flaunts hand-painted ceramic tiles, four bells donated by Spain, and stained glass windows with different shades of blue, white, and brown.
Chrysler Building, New York
The Chrysler Building is an instantly recognizable landmark and one of New York’s most distinctive architectural features. The world’s tallest building for 11 months after its completion in 1930, this
Art Deco skyscraper was built of a steel frame in-filled with masonry and boasts 3,862 exterior windows.
Fifty metal ornaments protrude at the building’s corners on five floors reminiscent of gargoyles, making this building a true masterpiece in the middle of New York!
La Sagrada Familia Cathedral, Barcelona
A ubiquitous item in any Barcelona travel guide, La Sagrada Familia is a true sight to be seen. Designed by the one-and-only Antoni Gaudí, this monumental cathedral is considered one of the greatest masterpieces of Catalán Modernism thanks to its imponent design.
The church features 18 stunning spires, an eye-popping façade decorated with intricate carvings, and whimsical interiors embellished with multicolored stained glass windows. Simply magical!
The Great Mosque Of Djenné, Mali
Located in the city of Djenné, Mali, the mosque is often considered the greatest achievement of the Sudano-Sahelian architectural style. This unique building is also the largest mud-built structure in the world and flaunts walls decorated with bundles of Rodier palm sticks, that project about 2.0 ft from the surface.
Do you think there are even more beautiful buildings in the world? Leave your comment below.
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