Europe’s historic cities are home to incredible architecture, grand churches and ancient ruins. Here are the top ten landmarks in Europe that everyone should see at least once in their lifetime. Add them to your bucket list of travel destinations.
Stonehenge – Wiltshire, England
Located in southern England, Stonehenge is one of the most famous landmarks in Europe and draws nearly one million visitors to the site every year. The monument is comprised of colossal rocks in a circular pattern, leaving historians puzzled by what this site was meant to represent when it was built thousands of years ago. Today there are various theories that suggest the grounds were used for rituals and burials, but the true reason for its creation we may never know.
The London Tower – London, England
No European jaunt would be complete without seeing the historic Tower of London on the north bank of the River Thames. Its roots go all the way back to William the Conqueror and it has served as a fortress, prison, palace and even a way station for the Crown Jewels at various points in English history. Now a world famous tourist attraction, the Tower is a World Heritage Site that hosts millions of visitors per year. Now, you can’t book this in advance, but it is worth it to try to get on a tour with a Yeoman Warder, the iconic guards at the Tower, and hear their stories.
Eiffel Tower – Paris, France
The Eiffel Tower has easily become a recognizable cultural icon of France since being unveiled in 1889 as the tallest man-made structure in the world. The iron-lattice tower symbolizes romance, charm and the Parisian joie de vivre that the city is so well known for. This destination is at the top of many travel bucket lists, making it the most visited paid European landmark. If you take a trip up the tower, make a stop on the first level where a glass floor was opened in 2014.
The Kinderdijk Windmills – Netherlands
Windmills are the epitome of Holland. The windmills of Kinderdijk were originally built in the 17th century to prevent flooding and turned into a tourist destination in the 1950’s. Travelers began showing up with cameras to watch the windmills at Kinderdijk and the site has since become one of the most photographed places in Holland. The landmark contains a cluster of nineteen pristine windmills, forming an iconic and unforgettable Dutch scene.
Acropolis – Athens, Greece
The Acropolis of Athens is a landmark rich with history that contains the remains of several ancient buildings including the Parthenon, making it the most significant site in Greece. Its monuments and sanctuaries are built from white marble and sit above the city, a magical site to see when you arrive to the metropolis no matter what time of day it is. Needless to say this architectural masterpiece will not disappoint.
Colosseum – Rome, Italy
The Colosseum is a jaw-dropping landmark in Rome that was commissioned as a gift to the Roman people by Emperor Vespasian of the Flavian dynasty. The massive golden structure served as an arena for gladiators and wild animal battles that entertained the 50,000 people that were seated in the audience. Two-thirds of the original Colosseum was destroyed over time, but the site still attracts millions of tourists. Today you can visit the underground passageways to view the area where gladiators and animals awaited their fate, which was opened in 2010.
Hagia Sophia – Istanbul, Turkey
The Hagia Sophia, roughly translated as “Holy Wisdom” is a must-see landmark in Europe and considered one of the most important in Istanbul. The domed monument was built as a cathedral, turned into a mosque and now serves the city as a museum. Tourists flock to the monument for its religious and historical significance; it survived earthquakes and fires throughout the years, emperors were crowned in the monument and sultans were laid to rest outside of the building in lavish tombs. Today you can expect to see spectacular domes and exquisitely colorful mosaics.
La Sagrada Familia – Barcelona, Spain
La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona is a must-visit destination for any tourist passing through the city. Antoni Gaudi´s masterpiece is the largest unfinished Roman Catholic Church on earth and has been under construction for 130 years. The church is an extraordinary interpretation of Gothic architecture; the exterior inspires awe by its sheer size and brilliance, while the interior has an unexpected delicate beauty from the massive amount of stained glass and art. Take a half-day to explore this dazzling landmark in Europe.
Saint Basil’s Cathedral – Moscow, Russia
Saint Basil’s Cathedral is a church and centerpiece of the Red Square in Moscow that now serves as a museum to the public. The dream-like building is shaped like a flame from a fire rising into the sky; this and the vibrant colors of the cathedral’s domes have made it a highly visited landmark in Europe. The church is made up of nine small chapels that are aligned to points on the compass. Saint Basil’s has been a museum and tourist attraction since 1929 and in 1990 it became part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Neuschwanstein – Bavaria, Germany
Neuschwanstein is a 19th century castle located in the hills of Bavaria. The picturesque palace was opened to the public shortly after the king’s death in 1886 and is now one of the most visited castles in the world. On a guided tour of the ornate castle, you’ll have access to fourteen rooms including the king’s bedroom and dressing room, among others. Don’t miss Marienbrücke on your visit, the bridge that hangs over a waterfall and has one of the most amazing views of the castle. It’s rumored that Walt Disney actually modeled the castle in the movie Cinderella after it!
Hungarian Parliament Building – Budapest, Hungary
The Hungarian Parliament is the tallest building in Budapest and a breathtaking sight to see as it faces the River Danube, which is one of the reasons why it has become such a popular tourist destination. The parliament is symmetrical and has two identical halls on each side of the building, one is used for legislation and the other is used for guided tours. When visiting the parliament you can expect to see brilliant Gothic architecture, numerous significant statues and beautiful paintings.
Which landmarks in Europe are on your travel bucket list? Tell us in the comments below.