From the Hoover Dam to the Hermitage, these 20 must-see landmarks around the world are a dose of travel inspiration. Whenever we travel, no matter to far-flung places or in our own backyard, we’re attracted to the world’s most famous buildings and landmarks. We’ve picked 20 of our favorites from our travels around the world. Come discover them with us!
1. Ananda Temple, Bagan
The archeological site at Bagan, Myanmar is dotted with thousands of pagodas as far as the eye can see – over 4,000 to be exact. Many have fallen into disrepair and Burma’s failure to restore them in the original architectural styles lead UNESCO to reject Bagan as a World Heritage Site. A handful of the temples are up kept though and Ananda Temple, said to have been built around 1105 by King Kyanzittha, is the largest, best preserved, most revered and most recognized of the Bagan temples.
2. St. Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow
Commissioned by Ivan the Terrible, the mentally ill Russian tsar built something truly spectacular. The color and shapes are unmatched anywhere else in the world and though it appears chaotic, it is actually a masterpiece of symmetry and well thought out design. Built to commemorate the capture of the Tatar stronghold of Kazan in 1552, the eight domed chapels represent the eight assaults on Kazan. The ninth chapel was added in 1588 to house the tomb of Basil. Read more: St. Basil’s Cathedral and Red Square.
The Casino de Monte-Carlo is truly legendary and is one of the first casinos in the world (the first is recognized as the Casino Baden-Baden built in Baden, Germany in 1765). Even if you don’t intend to play, Casino de Monte-Carlo is worth a visit to admire the posh Roaring Twenties style interior and impressive sea views. Even from the outside, it oozes glitz and glamor as Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Bentleys, Rolls-Royces, Aston Martins and about every other exclusive car you can think of rev their engines in the square. Read more: The Glitz and Glamor of the Casino de Monte-Carlo.
The world’s tallest building is undoubtedly one of the world’s most recognized landmarks. Standing at an astounding 828 meters (2,716.5 feet) tall, the Burj Khalifa is three times as tall as the Eiffel Tower and nearly twice as tall as the Empire State Buildings. Being the world’s tallest building isn’t the only world record it holds – the Burj Khalifa actually holds six other world records. Read more: 10 Fun Facts about the Burj Khalifa
Officially opened to traffic on May 28, 1937, it took just a little over four years to construct the Golden Gate Bridge. Referred to by the San Francisco Chronicle on opening day as a “thirty-five million dollar steel harp”, the bridge has 80,000 miles of wires and 1,200,000 rivets. It’s one of the most recognized US landmarks in the world.
One of the most iconic images of Santorini is the Blue Domed Church in the village of Oia. There are actually many blue domed churches in Oia and the images are the ones typically seen on postcards of Santorini. The whitewashed houses typical of the Cyclades dotting the cliff face, the glassy Aegean sea below , and the bright blue domes make quite the striking image.
One of the most recognizable bridges in the world, the Tower Bridge is often mistakenly called the London Bridge. The Victorian Gothic style of the bridge is in perfect harmony with the nearby Tower of London and has become one of the most famous symbols of London. Taking picture of the bridge is a favorite (and free!) London tourist attraction, but don’t miss visiting the exhibition inside the bridge and taking in the magnificent views of London from the walkway between the two towers.
Construction of the Leaning Tower of Pisa started in 1173, but already by the time work on the tower reached its third story, it was sinking into the ground. The tower remained incomplete for over 90 years and it wasn’t until 1272 that Giovanni di Simone took on the project of stabilizing and completing it. Under his direction engineers built the upper floors with one side higher than the other, and because of this the tower actually curves. The Leaning Tower of Pisa was finally crowned with its seventh and final floor in 1319 by Tommaso di Andrea Pisano.
Often depicted in movies as being in Egypt, the famous temple built into a rock face is actually a landmark in Petra, Jordan. After walking through a narrow gorge, called The Siq, for over a kilometer the massive Treasury suddenly comes into view. It’s the stuff movies are made of – the scene has been immortalized in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – yet, nothing prepares you for the size and sheer magnificence of it. Read more: The Red Rose City of Petra.
To celebrate the centennial of the French Revolution, the French planned to mark the occasion by building a symbol of France’s industrial prowess. It was Gustav Eiffel’s design that won a contest but Parisians protested it as construction began, calling it an “elephant”, a “giraffe”, a “hulking metal beast crouched on all fours”. Eiffel himself had to insure the neighborhoods around the Eiffel Tower, where residents feared it would attract lightning or topple onto their homes, in order for the tower to see completion. After the tower opened, it became a huge hit even amongst the protestors. Except for the stubborn Guy de Maupassant, who would regularly eat his lunch at the second floor restaurant because it was the one place in the city where he didn’t have to see ““this tall skinny pyramid of iron ladders, this giant and disgraceful skeleton.”
11. Atomium, Brussels
Originally constructed for the 1958 World’s Fair, it was designed by architect André Waterkeyn to be a replica of a single unit of iron crystal blown up 165 billion times. Restored and re-opened to the public in 2006, the Atomium is the most visited tourist attraction in Brussels today. There are nine spheres all connected by tubes, though only six are open to the public. Five house exhibitions and the sixth is home to a restaurant with panoramas over the city. The remaining three spheres are reserved for private events. The most adventurous visitors can even abseil off the highest of the spheres.
St. Peter’s Basilica is the world’s largest church and the design symbolizes the arms of the Roman Catholic Church reaching out to embrace the faithful. To prove that St. Peter’s is in fact the world’s largest church, you’ll find gilded bronze markers in the nave to indicate the length of other cathedrals around the world. Not to be missed – though also not for the faint of heart – is climbing to the top of Michelangelo’s Dome for stunning views over all of Vatican City.
13. The Hermitage, St. Petersburg
The Hermitage is St. Petersburg’s most visited tourist attraction as well as one of the world’s largest and most prestigious museums. Founded by Catherine the Great in 1764, it is also recognized as one of the world’s oldest museums. With over three millions items in its collection, it would take you six years to see everything if you spent just a mere two minutes at each exhibition.
Probably one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world, the Colosseum is a symbol of the Eternal City and the reach of the Roman Empire. After all, we’re still modeling our sports arenas after the Colosseum’s design even today. The marble facade and some parts of the Colosseum were even used in the construction of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, another muse-see landmark on this list. Read more: 10 Fun Facts about the Colosseum.
This landmark has been known to Americans for well-over a century, though it didn’t officially become a national park until 1919 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site until 1979. A gorge carved into the rock by the Colorado River and uplifting of the Colorado plateau, red-and-yellow cliffs march across bays and escarpments for mile after astounding mile. Hiking in the Grand Canyon is popular, though should only be done by experienced hikers because there are no easy trails in or out of the Canyon. Park rangers have to rescue more than 250 people every year!
Related: Top 10 Arizona Hikes.
Straddling the Black Canyon, it has been called “The Greatest Dam in the World”. As tall as a 60-story building, Hoover Dam was the highest dam in the world when it was completed in 1935. Its base is as thick as two the length of two football fields and the amount of concrete used in its construction would be enough to pave a road from San Francisco to New York. Hoover Dam is an American icon and a must-see landmark when visiting Las Vegas. Though it is fun just to walk atop the dam and straddle the Nevada-Arizona border, don’t miss taking a humorous Dam Tour.
Wat Rong Khun, otherwise known as The White Temple, is one of the most unique temples to see in Thailand. Glittering, and well, white makes it hard to believe this temple is dedicated to death. But upon closer inspection, you’ll begin to note all the chilling details and grotesque monsters. For the striking exterior alone, it is well worth a visit. Read more: Wat Rong Khun.
September 11th is a day that none of us will ever forget. The skyline of New York City was forever changed that day as we watched horrified as the World Trade Center Twin Towers crumbled in a cloud of dust. Now a memorial to all those lost stands where the Twin Towers once stood. It is incredibly moving to stand at the site, take in the memorial pools, and feel renewed at the sight of the survivor tree.
Catalina’s world-famous icon is the historic Catalina Casino with its Art Deco murals of mermaids, a 1929 pipe organ, and big screen that still shows movies. The theater drips of old Hollywood glitz and glamor while showing today’s biggest blockbusters.
20. Gulfoss, Reykjavik
One of Iceland’s most recognizable landmarks is the powerful Gullfoss waterfall with its double-cascade. On a sunlit day such as the day we visited, the mist clouds surrounding the hammering falls are filled with dozens of rainbows, providing an unparalleled spectacle of color and motion.