Over the centuries, Europe has amassed an impressive collection of architectural wonders. All across the continent, you can find Roman ruins, Gothic churches, and modern temples, quite unlike anything else in the world.
Although Europe is a small continent, its architectural styles can vary every few miles on the remnants ancient kingdoms' historical boundaries, giving us a diverse collection of structures. Thankfully, many of these buildings are protected by local governments, and some are even designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The next time you find yourself in Europe, be sure to seek out the continent's marvelous architecture.
One of Europe's most famous landmarks, the Colosseum once dominated the City of Rome. While it's been a couple thousand years since the Colosseum was at its peak, visitors from all over the world flock to see this iconic Roman ruin.
Built in the first century CE, the Colosseum was at the center of Roman entertainment, where gladiators battled each other, wild animals, and even the elements. Roman engineering was so advanced, they could flood the arena for naval battles. The Colosseum is a popular tourist destination, and visitors can take guided tours or wander its corridors themselves.
9 Red Square
Forget the dreary, frozen landscape of Russia you think you know, and discover Moscow's Red Square, home to the colorful St. Basil's Cathedral. The square is undoubtedly Russia's most well-known city square, linking the Kremlin, the President's official residence, to the historical Kitay-gorod merchant district.
Although St. Basil's Cathedral looks like it could be made out of candy, it was built in the 16th century by Ivan the Terrible after the capture of Kazan, an important military victory for Russia. Visit the square and cathedral to soak in hundreds of years of Russian history.
8 Notre-Dame Cathedral
One of the most magnificent examples of medieval Gothic architecture is at Paris' Notre-Dame Cathedral. The gargantuan building inspired Victor Hugo's entire novel, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, popularising the building. And ever since, religious pilgrims and beauty seekers have flocked to its vaults and buttresses in admiration.
The cathedral has stood since the 13th century, but in light of the recent fires, even more Notre-Dame enthusiasts have voiced their love for the cathedral, and many have donated to the current renovation effort.
7 Acropolis & Parthenon
The Acropolis — where ancient Greeks worshiped the goddess Athena and contemplated art and philosophy. At about 2,500 years old, it's a wonder the Parthenon still stands atop the rocky hill. For thousands of years, people have come from near and far to gaze upon the hill.
When visiting Athens, the Parthenon is a go-to for many tourists, but make sure you wear the proper footwear — the rocks can be slippery! While you're there, you can tour the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, the massive amphitheater at the base of the Acropolis.
6 Brandenburg Gate
The Brandenburg Gate, at the heart of Berlin, has seen the best and worst of German history. The 18th-century monument was built as a commemoration of the restoration of power during the Batavian Revolution.
The gate has been at the center of many important events in Germany since, and has flown the colors of the Nazi Party, the Soviet Union, and finally the back, red, and gold of unified Germany. And while it once stood to represent the divide between East and West Berlin, today the Brandenburg Gate is a symbol of unity and peace in Europe as well as Germany.
5 Sagrada Família
Barcelona's Sagrada Família is the largest work of the legendary architect, Antoni Gaudí. Gaudí's works can be seen Barcelona's distinctive, whimsical architecture, and although the church looks like a medieval work, its construction only began in the late 19th century.
But did you know the Sagrada Família isn't even completed? When construction began in 1882, Gaudí didn't have a building permit, but now, 137 years later, the city has finally issued the permit for the completion of the church, and once it's finished in 2026, it will be the tallest cathedral in the world. However, Barcelona is holding firm to the 136 years' worth of unpaid building fines.
Brussels' main city square, the Grand-Place, is world famous for its intricate surrounding architecture and biennial flower carpet. It's the most popular tourist destination in Brussels, and centrally located near many of the city's other attractions.
The square dates back to Brussels' earliest beginnings in the 10th century, and although it was well developed over the centuries, it was burned in 1695 by French armies during the War of the League of Augsburg. Almost everything was destroyed except the facade and tower of the City Hall, the Grand-Place's only remaining medieval structure.
3 Buda Castle
Many travelers don't think of Hungary as having the most stunning architecture, but think again. Budapest, the capital, is experiencing a renaissance of tourism, with more backpackers and Westerners taking to this ancient city than ever.
Buda Castle is a staple of Hungarian architecture, and this UNESCO protected castle has been the residence of Hungarian kings since the 13th century. The current Baroque castle is at the head of the Castle District, known for its architecture that spans several centuries of styles.
2 Urnes Stave Church
Norway is known for its dramatic landscapes and striking fjords and less so its architecture, but this little wooden structure is the country's most famous church. Built just after the end of the Viking Age in 1130, the Urnes Stave Church is the oldest stave church in Scandinavia.
The intricate carvings on the church walls are stunningly well-preserved examples of Norse art with heavy Viking and mythological influences combined with Christian theology. Sitting on the edge of Sogn og Fjordane, the site is rich in Norse culture.
1 Mosque of Córdoba
You might not expect the Mosque of Córdoba, a massive medieval mosque to have been erected in southern Spain, but that area of the country was ruled by Muslim Berbers for hundreds of years. The Umayyad Caliphate conquered Spain in the 8th century, and during the Islamic Golden Age, built beautiful mosques and palaces across the country.
After the Reconquista, the Mosque of Córdoba became a Christian cathedral, and today remains under the governance of the Vatican. But that doesn't deter thousands of tourists from marveling at the Moorish architecture each year.