Architecture is considered the pinnacle of human intelligence and artistry. Humans have always been fascinated by monuments. For instance, ancient statues that stood firm through the test of time still remind us of the love empires had for building memorials, monoliths, and monuments. These marvels are a blend of aesthetics, durability, and greatness. If we look back through the ages - from Bronze to Iron Age - we will discover structures built to remember commoners, warriors, queens, kings, polymaths, priests, and Gods, and even those that represent the basic of human emotions such as love.
The buildings left behind by our ancestors are the ones we are marveling over and deriving inspiration from to build our own structures. Today, coupled with modern engineering, architecture isn’t just a way to embellish a person or express sentiment. It has become both a passion and a utility, a way to make our lives more comfortable and our civilization more advanced. The sheer detail and creativity that go into the design of some of these buildings are unrivaled.
These engineering and architectural marvels increase tourism, are an essential source of revenue generation for economies, and double up the grandeur of stunning locales due to their presence. In this list, we have curated 20 of the most beautiful buildings in the world. These buildings may inspire you, like it has inspired several others. We promise you will be awestruck by the magnificence and history of these buildings. Each detail of these structures will take you back to the past and make you ponder their origins.
20 The Dancing House, Prague – Avant Garde
The Nationale Nederlanden building, nicknamed The Dancing House, was originally inspired from two veteran dancers, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The historic landmark, therefore, is also known as Fred and Ginger. Built in Prague, Czech Republic, The Dancing House has 3,000 square meters of office premises, restaurant, gallery, and conference center. The terrace of the building is allocated for sightseeing and gives a panoramic view of the city.
The building looks unusual and avant-garde with its “deconstructive architecture style” and reinforced concrete construction of 99 differently-shaped adjoined facade panels. Fred and Ginger have nine floors with asymmetrical rooms and a dome called “Medusa” for maintaining its shape.
19 Milwaukee Art Museum, Wisconsin – Like Wings Of A Bird
Milwaukee Art Museum is an art museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. There are three buildings in the landmark designed by three virtuoso architects, Eero Saarinen, David Kahler, and Santiago Calatrava. The first of the three buildings, the War Memorial Center, was designed by Eero Saarinen in 1957; the second, Quadracci Pavilion, by David Kahler; and the third, Cudahy Gardens, by Santiago Calatrava.
The museum owns nearly 25,000 artworks on four floors and is said to be the largest museum in the United States of America. You can see paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings, decorative arts, and photographs from the 15th-20th century European and 17th-20th century eras. Facing Lake Michigan, the place is directly linked to Wisconsin via a cable-stayed footbridge.
18 Lotus Temple, New Delhi – Oneness Of The World In Its Petals
The Lotus Temple in New Delhi, India, is the last of seven major Baha’i temples around the world. The lotus-shaped monument was designed by Iranian architect Fariborz Sahba. The building is named after the shape of its design. Sahba received several accolades for his creation even before the completion of the project.
The structure is of white-marble build and enshrines some of the principles of the religions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Islam together. Lotus Temple is open to people of all faiths. According to followers, “It carries the oneness of the world in its petals and stands for peace and unity.” Nine pools of water flow around the petals and the structure is lit at nights.
17 Forbidden City, Beijing – The Mystery Kingdom
From the Ming dynasty to the end of the Qing dynasty, the Forbidden City was home to several dynasties and was the political center of China for half a millennium. It bears its name because commoners during its active years were forbidden from entering the palace. The former imperial palace is ringed with scarlet citadel walls and now serves as the Palace Museum. The palatial heart of China is certified as the largest, best-preserved ancient wooden structure in the world by UNESCO.
On an average, 80,000 tourists visit the Forbidden City every day. Imperial living, governing quarters, artworks, and traditional gardens are a few of the things to see on a visit to the palace.
16 Cologne Cathedral, Germany – The Pride Of Cologne
Overlooking the roofs and chimneys of the German city of Cologne, Cologne Cathedral is a UNESCO world heritage site and the country’s most revered landmark. The cathedral is a wonderful example of Gothic and Neo-Gothic architecture and took six decades to reach completion.
The cathedral has been in the World Heritage list since 1996. Till 1884, it was bestowed with the title of the world’s tallest building. We can see why. One can view the building from everywhere in the city. The twin towers of the cathedral are symbolic of the pride of Cologne’s history. Visitors are allowed to enter the tower as the place is open for visiting throughout the year.
15 Dome Of The Rock, Jerusalem – A Fusion Of Eras
Dome of The Rock, also called the Mosque of Omar, is an Islamic shrine in the Old City of Jerusalem, Israel. The shrine is aesthetically pleasing with its rich Byzantine, Umayyad, and Ottoman architectures, built-in mosaic, faience, metal plaques, and marble works. A wooden dome is mounted on an elevated drum surrounded by an octagonal arcade of 24 piers and columns.
The mosque was built by Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwān in the late 7th century. The structure is decorated in Arabic scripts and vegetal patterns, including images of crowns and jewels, across its surface. The origin of this shrine is often disputed; however, its beauty and elegance are not.
14 La Pedrera, Barcelona – An Epic Stone Quarry
Formally called Casa Milà, La Pedrera is an unconventional rough-hewn modernist building in Barcelona, Spain. La Pedrera or “the stone quarry” is Gaudí’s architectural masterpiece built between the years 1906 and 1912. The unique shape and façade of the building make it a much-loved tourist attraction in Barcelona.
La Pedrera is noted as a cultural center by UNESCO. It also stands as a symbol of Catalan Art Nouveau period. The façade with its unusual design has a rough outer appearance that resembles an open quarry. The roof terrace of La Pedrera is called the “garden of warriors” and has 28 unique chimneys.
13 One World Trade Center, New York – Mammoth Of A Building
One World Trade Center is the tallest skyscraper in the Western part of the Northern Hemisphere and the fourth largest skyscraper in the world. It is 1,776 feet high with 104 floors. The tall structure was designed by architect David Childs.
The mammoth of a building has 3 million rentable square feet of space and a 55 feet-high office lobby. The building is bound by West Street to the west, Fulton Street to the south, Washington Street to the east, and Vesey Street to the north.
12 Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur – Built To Withstand A Hurricane
The 88-storey Petronas Towers are a twin set of skyscrapers nestled in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Held at the staggering height of 1,483 feet, Petronas Towers was named the tallest skyscraper in the world back in 1996. At the foot of Petronas Towers lies a world-famous shopping mall called Suria KLCC, which attracts shopaholics from all over the world.
The beautiful structure consists of 899,000 square-feet of stainless steel extrusions, and took 6 years to construct. Laminated glasses were installed to stop heat and harmful UV rays from penetrating the building. Inspired by multiple local and foreign styles of architecture, the building was built to showcase the Malaysian identity and the country’s Islamic culture. The building is built to resist even hurricanes.
11 Leaning Tower Of Pisa, Italy – Unsung Bells
One of the most fascinating buildings in the world, the Leaning Tower of Pisa is famous for its angular tilt, which has interesting legends surrounding it. Plundered loot, engineering missteps, treacherous subsoil, and one embarrassed dictator are the alleged reasons behind the slant of the tower.
Leaning Tower of Pisa hosts a large number of visitors every day, who climb to the top of the tower to gaze at the city. There are seven bells on the top of the tower, each of which represents a musical note from the major scale. However, the bells haven’t been rung since the last century as engineers fear it would make the tower lean even more and potentially fall.
10 The Kaaba, Mecca – Eternal Beauty
Located in the center of Al-Masjid Al-Ḥarām in the Hejazi city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Kaaba is an Arabic word that translates to “cube”. Considered the most sacred place of the followers of Islam, Kaaba draws millions of people during the annual pilgrimage, Hajj. Kaaba is draped in a silk and cotton veil.
One portion of the cubical building is about 45 feet high, with meter-wide walls occupying around 627 square feet of area. The building is constructed from grey stone and marble, and is imbibed with intricate details and artistic architecture. The four corners of the Kaaba face the four points of the compass.
9 The Shard, London – Unparalleled 360-Degree View
The Shard is a 95-storey skyscraper, designed by architect Renzo Piano, and sits in the heart of London. It is the second tallest free-standing structure in the UK. The construction of Western Europe’s tallest building commenced in 2009 and was completed by 2012.
The exterior of the building accounts 11,000 glass panels, which is equivalent to eight Wembley football pitches. The Shard is often described as a “vertical city where people can live, work and relax”. Built along river Thames, the top of The Shard gives an unparalleled 360-degree view for up to 40 miles.
8 Lloyd’s Building, London – Inside-Out Building
Known as the Inside-Out Building, Lloyd’s Building is a stylish office structure situated in London’s Lime Street. Home of the insurance institution Lloyd’s, this building is a standing example of the radical Bowellism architecture. The creative building was constructed by architect Richard Rogers.
Donning a futuristic look, Lloyd’s Building transforms the entire street into a sci-fi-esque environment or a rocket launch pad. There are three main towers and three service towers around a central rectangular space of the building. Built between the period of 1978 and 1986, the Bowellism structure has ducts and lifts located on the exterior of the building to maximize space.
7 Colosseum, Rome – The Structure That Inspired Our ‘Stadiums’
The Colosseum is an oval amphitheater in the heart of Rome. Noted as one of the greatest architectural wonders ever constructed by the ancient Romans, the gladiatorial arena was capable of hosting 50,000 spectators. The construction of the Colosseum began in 72 AD and finished in 80 AD.
The amphitheater is built with concrete and stone, and manpower of tens of thousands. Today, modern-day stadiums are inspired from the Colosseum. With 880 entrances, the Colosseum measures 50 meters high. The Colosseum used to host “sporting” events such as gladiatorial combats and wild animal hunts. An emperor named Honorius finally banned gladiator sports after a moment of great epiphany.
Hundreds of years since, tragic history, earthquakes, vandalism, and fires faded two-thirds of the Colosseum. But, the place still attracts thousands of spectators from all over the world.
6 Sydney Opera House, Sydney – Masterpiece Of The 20th Century
The performing arts center, Sydney Opera House is one of the greatest architectural works of the 20th century. Built by architect Jorn Utzon from Denmark, the place was flung open to the public in 1973. The structural design of the Sydney Opera showcases works of creativity and innovation.
The Sydney Opera House comprises three groups of interlocking shells, out of which two are categorized as performance halls and one as a restaurant. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2007, the Sydney Opera House is an iconic symbol of not only the city but the whole continent.
5 Space Needle, Seattle – A See-Through Deck At 500 Feet
The Space Needle is an observation tower and icon of Seattle in the Pacific Northwest, USA. The revolutionary architecture is 184 meters high and 42 meters wide, and was built for the 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle Center. Built by architects Edward E Carlson and John Graham, the landmark drew over 2.3 million visitors on its inauguration day itself.
The former tallest structure west of the Mississippi River, is built to withstand winds up to 200 mph and earthquakes of up to 9.1 on the Richter scale. The hazard-resistant building also has 25 lightning rods.
It has an observation deck with a rotating restaurant called SkyCity and the world’s only see-through rotating glass floor.
4 FallingWater, Pennsylvania – Nature’s Twist
Falling Water is the most remarkable house in the world. The building was built by the world-famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright for his client Edgar J Kaufmann in 1937. It sits in the dense forests of southwestern Pennsylvania.
Frank Lloyd gave a natural twist for the man-made building by constructing the cantilever tiers of the Falling Water such that it is suspended from a 30-feet waterfall. It is mostly made of stone and wood. It is said that Wright sketched the plan of Falling Water in just two hours. The landmark, although private and restricted to the Kaufmann family, captures people’s imaginations.
3 Potala Palace, Tibet – Snowy Majesty
Located in Lhasa, Tibet Autonomous Region, China, the Potala Palace is named after the Mount Potalaka. Until the Tibetan Rising of 1959, the Potala Palace was the residence of the 14th Dalai Lama. He later fled to Dharamsala in India. The palace comprises of thirteen storeys, 1,000 rooms, 10,000 shrines and 200,000 statues.
Overlooking an often snowy valley, the Potala Palace looks absolutely majestic. The fortress-like walls, magnificent chapels, golden stupas, and prayer halls are enchanting and mesmerizing to the eyes of the visitors. You can get a close, personal view of the apartments of the 13th and 14th Dalai Lamas at the Potala Palace.
2 Flatiron Building, New York – A Wedge In New York
Flatiron Building, an outlandish structure recognizable from the skyline of New York, was designed by Chicago architect Daniel Burnham. Built in 1902, the Flatiron Building fills the wedge-shaped space located at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Broadway. The 22-storey Flatiron Building has a distinctive-triangular shape and is at a height of 307 feet.
A century later, the amazing building is still highly regarded in the works of photographers and artists. Though the Flatiron Building is not the tallest skyscraper in the New York, it is still famous for its unusual steel-framed skyscraper appearance. The wedge-shaped building that towers all other structures surrounding it, is one of the world’s most photographed buildings.
1 Burj Khalifa, Dubai – Colossus Of Buildings
The sky-hugging Burj Khalifa is a world-famous skyscraper in Dubai, UAE. The historic building was designed by architect Adrian Smith. The tallest man-made structure in the world is a package of creativity, glamour, and glitz. Standing straight at the height of 2,716.5 feet, with more than 160 storeys, Burj Khalifa is a colossus of a building.
Burj Khalifa has several records and titles to its name, including the tallest free-standing structure in the world; the highest occupied floor in the world; and the elevator with the longest travel distance in the world, to name a few. Three times taller than the Eiffel Tower, Burj Khalifa’s looks are based on a flower called the Spider Lily.