What lures travelers into visiting one city over another? Of course tourists love stunning beaches, scrumptious dining experiences, museums rich in both culture and history, but ultimately it’s architectural landmarks and masterpiece which define a city and attract visitors from around the globe.
We have the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World to tell us the most fascinating historical landmarks we should all see, and although the Great Pyramid of Giza and the Temple of Artemis are incredible sights, there’s a whole list of monuments which might have been Wonders of the World had they been completed.
There are many reasons why a project, once filled with excitement to see completion could be left unfinished and abandoned. Whether it’s money problems, conflicts or personal affairs, there’s a story worth discovering behind every development. For some, the story leads us to ask even more questions, and perhaps solve a mystery left behind in some bygone era.
While the following monuments may not be one of the Seven Wonders of the World, each and every one has a unique history within its unfinished columns and arches worth discovering. Each tells a tale of a past life, of dreams and hopes that were once set into motion but deserted. We are left with the physical ruins which have stood the weathering of time, and our own imagination to fill the gaps which have been left for us.
20 1. Abandoned Mystical Wells (Quinta de Regaleira, Portugal)
Just 18 miles from Lisbon you can transport into a world of enchantment and magic at the Palaces of Sintra. The World Heritage Site encompasses various palaces with hints of Gothic, Renaissance, Egyptian and Moorish influence. With captivating sites all around you, ensure that Quinta da Regaleira Palace is your first stop. With caves, grottos, subterranean towers, and underground tunnels connecting to each other, you’ll be in awe you’ve never heard of this place before.
The ‘Unfinished Wells’ that spiral 27 meters deep into the earth, are comprised of a twisting tower and spiraling staircase pictured above. While we aren’t quite certain why these mysterious wells were unfinished, it’s clear a great amount of effort and planning were involved with this fairytale fortress.
19 2. Gothic Church Is Now A Gorgeous Wedding Venue (Unfinished Church, St.George's, Bermuda)
Known as the “Unfinished Church”, this Gothic vestige remains in the town of St.George, Bermuda as a sight for tourists and wedding venue for lovers of Gothic architecture. Construction for the doomed project began in 1870 with the intention of replacing St.Peter’s Church which was severely damaged by a storm. The conflict began after parishioners decided they wanted to invest in repairing St. Peter’s rather than finishing the new church.
The project was ultimately abandoned in 1899 when funds which might have gone towards its completion were given to restore St.Peter’s. The church, which was to hold 650 seats, was left to the mercy of time and further damaged in 1925 when a tornado blew its roof off completely. Today, it stands as a beautiful example of a Gothic church left to decay in nature.
18 3. Acropolis Of The North (The National Monument, Scotland)
The National Monument of Scotland, referred to as “Edinburgh’s Disgrace” by locals for it was never finished, was built with the intention to commemorate the sailors and soldiers who fought during the Napoleonic Wars. Modeled after the Acropolis in Athens, Greece, this memorial site began to be constructed in 1826, even though only one third of the funds had been raised.
This regal structure atop Carlton Hill, Edinburgh has remained incomplete for almost 200 years due to lack of funding and was abandoned in 1829. Tourists flock to observe the stone foundation which remains along with the 12 majestic columns which are still standing as a reminder of the failed attempt at grandeur.
17 4. Divine 5th Dynasty Pyramid Left To Crumble (Pyramid of Neferefre, Egypt)
Egypt is known for its lasting legacy of great pyramid structures that have stood the passing of time. From the Great Sphinx to the Pyramids of Giza, the people of Egypt had a deep understanding of infrastructures. However, there is one pyramid they had left unfinished. It was only in the 1970’s that archaeologists found and excavated the unfinished pyramid complex that was to be King Neferefre’s burial chamber.
Only one part of the core was completed before Neferefre passed suddenly at the young age of twenty-two, leaving the pyramid unfinished. What remains today is the massive hole in the middle of the pyramid which was to hold Neferefre’s tomb.
16 5. A Tragic Love Story And Abandoned Castle (Boldt Castle, New York, USA)
In Upstate New York on Heart Island lies a castle built by Sir George Boldt for his beloved wife Louise. With plans for 120 rooms, a yacht club, drawbridge, 90-foot tall tower and extravagant gardens, Boldt employed 300 workers for his imposing castle. The building for the incredulous 6-story private mansion began in 1900, yet construction ceased indefinitely in 1904 when Boldt’s wife passed away tragically. Boldt abandoned his dream of a castle dedicated to his wife and never stepped foot again on Heart Island.
Left to decay in extreme weather conditions, Boldt Castle remained abandoned until restored and improved in 1977, where it has since been open for the public for the summer season.
15 6. World's Almost-Biggest Stadium (Deutsches Stadion, Germany)
In September 1937 construction began for what was to be the largest stadium in the world. Just eighty-one years ago, plans were set into motion for ‘Deutsches Stadion’ in the town of Nuremberg. Planned to be completed by 1945 and equipped with elevators for the spectators, this momentous project never actually saw the light of day.
Ironically when the dictator stated “This building will be standing centuries from now”, he had no idea his dream of the glorious stadium would be over in 1939 with the outbreak of WWII. All that remains are some crumbling pillars from a test site nearby, and its former construction pit which was filled with water and now known as Silbersee Lake.
14 7. Spooky Urban Tower (Sathorn Unique Tower, Thailand)
Beautiful in its own way, the Sathorn Unique Tower in Bangkok appears to be almost complete, but if you look closely, structures are missing, and a dilapidated building with missing floors and daunting luxury balconies stare in your face. Its construction began in 1990, and was to be a mesmerizing building with 50 floors and luxury balconies.
When its architect was arrested in 1993, all construction halted and since then has been half-completed and succumbed to urban decay. This spooky looking building with pillars on its façade is now full of graffiti and a hot-spot for urban explorers. If you’re in the capital city of Thailand you will definitely not miss this immense structure.
13 8. Halted By The Black Plague (Siena Cathedral's 'Duomo Nuovo', Italy)
Nestled in the beautiful Tuscan city of Siena you can find the wondrous monument that is the Siena Cathedral. What’s known as the ‘Duomo Nuovo’ or ‘Facciatone’ is the cathedral’s unfinished façade, but also the best lookout spot in the city with rolling hills and vineyards. In 1339 it was voted that size of the cathedral would almost triple in size but unfortunately was abandoned in 1348 because the city was stricken with the Black Plague.
If completed it would have been the largest Cathedral in Italy. The Siena Cathedral and unfinished façade is still a sight to see, and only 131 steps to the top for a mind-blowing panorama.
12 9. World's Tallest Unoccupied Building (Ryugyong Hotel, North Korea)
This pyramid-shaped skyscraper with clear influence from Ancient Egypt in North Korea is one of the strangest, yet most beautiful landmarks. It was set out to be the world’s tallest hotel. What should have opened in 1989 was delayed and forever stalled because of problems with the buildings material and was officially cancelled in 1993 with not enough funds to continue to completion.
The skyscraper would have not only been a hotel, but would contain office space and apartments. Although the exterior may appear complete, it’s nowhere near safe, and hasn’t been worked on. This ultra-modern yet ancient-inspired structure makes you feel you’re in a futuristic universe.
11 10. Luxury Beach Resort Halted (Prora, Rugen Island, Germany)
You may wonder how the world’s largest tourist resort, with its 3 mile long property fell into disrepair although once having 9000 employees working on site. Comprised of 8 identical rectangular buildings which would have accommodated twenty thousand guests, Prora was one of the first beach resorts in Europe established by the water. The failed dream began in 1936 but was abandoned in 1939 with the coming of the WWII.
The concrete complex has been left empty for decades, and just recently have a few of the complexes been transformed into prestigious luxury apartments right by the ocean. Still one of the most impressive structures in the world, it has always inspired awe,
10 11. Gaudi's World Heritage Site (La Sagrada Familia, Spain)
In the heart of Barcelona is the famous La Sagrada Familia which became the life work of renowned architect Antoni Gaudi. What began in 1882 and was a combination of Art Nouveau and Gothic design has always relied on private donations and therefore went up slowly at times. Gaudi has planned for La Sagrada to have 18 towers, but only 8 were completed when two unfortunate events took place.
The first was when a group broke in and set fire to parts of La Sagrada, burning countless important materials and documents such as Gaudi’s original design document. This put a damper on its completion but Gaudi continued until his passing in 1926 when construction ceased.
It’s expected to be completed in 2026, but until then it remains a signature symbol of Barcelona.
9 12. Would Have Been The Greatest Temple Ever (Ta Keo, Cambodia)
In the ancient city of Angkor sits 5 sanctuary towers surrounded by a moat. The pyramid shaped sanctuary, likely built to represent the Holy Hindu mountain of Mount Meru, began construction around 975 CE under the order of King Jayavarman V. Although never completed, it still holds a significant part of Cambodia's history and was the first building built entirely from sandstone in the ancient Khmer Society.
Ta Keo Temple, in its perpetual state of incompletion, comes with some interesting theories as to why it was never finished. Some say it halted because it was struck by lightning which signifies a bad omen; others are certain it ceased with the passing of King Jayavarman V, just right before reaching the decoration phase.
Whatever the reason, this brilliant looking structure is open to tourists and if you’re brave enough you can go up the steep temple staircases.
8 13. Beauty In An Unfinished Mosque (Hassan Tower, Morocco)
If you visit the Hassan Tower in Rabat, Morocco, you’ll be greeted by royal guards in elaborate outfits, guarding the 12th century mosque that was to be the world’s tallest and largest. This is a majestic feat that was never completed, yet stands today and is still the second most visited site in Rabat.
In 1195, the great sultan Yacoub al Mansur commissioned its construction to be 260 feet high and would accommodate 20,000 worshipers!
This all came to a dramatic halt with the sultan’s passing in 1199, and an earthquake in 1755 which destroyed some columns and pillars which can now be seen scattered about. Hassan Tower remains the most prestigious historical monument in Morocco, and dominates its skyline since the 12th century.
7 14. Colossal Unfinished Monument Left To Marvel At (Mingun Pahtodawgyi, Myanmar)
In the small town of Mingun in northwest Burma King Bodawpaya once dreamed of building the world’s largest pagoda (Hindu and Buddhist temple). The process began to deplete the state’s finances, and its people claimed a prophecy that the entire kingdom would perish as soon as the pagoda was complete. What would have been the greatest Buddhist shrine would have towered over 500 feet, yet only reached a third of its proposed height. King Pahtodawgyi became quite uneasy about the project, fearing his passing would follow its completion.
Never finished, perhaps because of its paranoid creator, the pagoda stands today as the largest brickwork ever.
6 15. Foundation Transformed To World's Largest Pool (Palace of the Soviets, Russia)
Located right near the Kremlin in Russia, if the Palace of the Soviets was completed it would have been the tallest structure in the world. Construction began in 1937 with a base made out of marble and granite, and would have been something like Paris’ Eiffel Tower, as described by one New York Times Journalist.
It was supposed to open in 1942 with 148 elevators and 60 escalators. With the outbreak of WWII, the steel frame was disassembled and used for bridges and defense fortifications.
In 1858, the foundation was changed to hold one of the world’s largest open-air swimming pools, Moskva Pool. The Palace of the Soviets would have been a spectacular sight, and is known as the most famous unfinished architectural project in history.
5 16. Remarkable Elizabethan Manor (Lyveden New Bield, England)
The aesthetically pleasing, yet roofless unfinished summer house in Northamptonshire was to be a summer escape for Sir Thomas Tresham and his family. The exact date of construction is unknown but probably around 1604. When Tresham passed away and the project was passed onto his son, only more obstacles came in the way of the manor’s completion.
The Tresham family was right in the middle of religious turmoil in Britain at that time, and along with a combination of the vast Tresham wealth depleting, the beautiful building was left empty and fell into disrepair. This peculiar yet compelling Elizabethan manor remains as a mark of British history, and still holds to this day one of the grandest gardens from the Elizabethan period.
4 17. Royal Arches Abandoned (Bara Kaman, India)
Bara Kaman in Bijapur India, with its remarkable 12 arches, is the unfinished mausoleum of Ali Adil Shah II of the Adil Shah dynasty. The King who rose to the throne at the age of 18 wanted his mausoleum to be the biggest and most beautiful. Its construction began in 1672 but never reached completion as the King passed away suddenly. Some believe construction was halted in order to avoid it from one day stealing the glory of the grand Gol Gumbaz, a mausoleum completed in 1656.
This mysterious 12-arched structure had always sparked controversy, and although unfinished, Bara Kaman can still be appreciated for its unparalleled architectural brilliance.
3 18. Tallest Building Never Completed (Nakheel Tower, Dubai)
Dubai, a city of wondrous architecture and high-profile projects is also home to a series of unfinished projects. Notably is the Nakheel Tower found on Palm Jumeirah, one of the many fake islands in Dubai.
Made up of 4 towers with 200 stories, the Nakheel Tower was to be part of a larger development which would have included a Nakheel Harbour. It was a visionary dream, and was supposed to be Dubai’s Capitol Building. Construction commenced with high hopes, but subjected to the 2008 financial crisis, the project has been halted ever since with no indication of starting up anytime soon.
The Nakheel Tower, towering over Dubai although still unfinished, has its vertical wind slots in place to keep it steady during high winds due to its height. This incredible monument it a sight worth seeing.
2 19. Incomplete Aristocratic Villa (Villa Trissino, Sarego Italy)
This unfinished aristocratic villa in Italy has remained preserved for generations to see because its creator was the world famous Andrea Palladio who inspired the architectural style "Palladian" which was named in his honor. Villa Trissino in the Sarego area is one of the rare unfinished monuments which holds a UNESCO World Heritage Site title.
Palladio's invaluable influence and genius for architectural designs has made him the most influential architect of the Western world, so it only makes sense that even his unfinished work has remained preserved and renowned.
Although slightly cracked and peeling, this Palladian Villa is an impressive sight and an example of how one man’s genius influenced the world of architecture.
1 20. Doomed Tower Of David In Caracas (Tower of David, Venezuela)
The Tower of David stands tall in the middle of the Caracas, Venezuela. The derelict 45 floor building was designated to be a bank and transform downtown Caracas into a financial district similar to that of Wall Street in New York. Named after its financier David Brillembourg, the tallest building in Venezuela was abandoned in 1994 due to the economic crisis in the country and the developer’s unexpected passing.
What you can see today is a dystopic looking, imposing structure which has become a community of sorts for homeless families living in Venezuela. This massive monument with its future uncertain was even a subject on a BBC World News documentary.