There is so much to see and do in Europe that it can be quite daunting to organise. We’re here to lend a helping hand by listing our top ten historical buildings in Europe that you just have to visit!
First on our list of truly miraculous must-see buildings is The Parthenon in Athens, Greece. This ancient Greek temple is one of sheer awe as it looms over the capital of Greece.
The Parthenon can be seen for miles in Athens and its design is known the world over.
It was built between the middle of the fifth century with the building finally being completed in 438 BC with further decorations being added up until 432 BC.
Ancient Greece was full of architects; three of which helped create this structure. The Parthenon was designed by Phidias, the sculptor and Iktinos and Callicrates who were the architects assigned the to job.
Greek politician, Peredies, oversaw the operation. Peredies is often credited for the founding of Athens and the stimulation of the ‘Golden Age of Greece’.
The Parthenon was built in dedication to the Greek Goddess, Athena. This dedication also aptly describes the reason it’s called the Parthenon as the building name derives from the word parthenos which translates to the word virgin, and of course, Athena was the Virgin Goddess.
If you do happen to find yourself in Athens and you don’t go to the Parthenon you haven’t done Athens properly.
On the other hand, if you do decide to make the journey up to it, be warned it can get extremely hot. Take loads of water because the sun bakes the ground and there is little shade to be found alongside the other 20,000 tourists alongside you that day.
A much more relaxed historical structure to visit in the City of Love and although this area of Paris is incredibly serene, it’s background is much less about love and more about war.
Sacre Coeur was built for two reasons. The first was a vow made by Paris to build a church if it’s city escaped unscathed in their war with the Prussians over the years of 1870 and 1871. The second reason was that the defeat of the French army in the war with the Prussian army was seen as a moral condemnation for all the sins of the people of France.
Construction of the church began in 1873 and ended in 1914 and it was called Sacre Coeur as it translates to Sacred Heart which was in reference to Jesus Christ and the love he had for humanity.
This outlook is much more prevalent now as you can enjoy the most breathtaking views, some incredible street performances and even a bottle of the finest French wine right on the bank of the church.
People flock in their hundreds during the sunset hours the capture the red skies over Paris so if you want to get a spot there make sure you go early!
Built by Ivan the Terrible, this once not-so-bright cathedral is a must see if you find yourself wandering through the Red Square in Moscow.
The tyrannical ruler constructed the St Basil Cathedral after his victories against the independent Tatar Khanates of Kazan and Astrakhan.
Back when the cathedral was built, the colours were supposedly white and gold. The spectacular colours and designs that we are so familiar with today weren’t added until 200 years after the cathedral was completed. The colours you see now are said to be a figment of biblical description taken directly from the Kingdom of Heaven in the Book of Revelation.
It is made up of nine chapels which all sit around the tallest central chapel which stands at a massive 156 feet high.
There is no doubt that the St Basil Cathedral is a true spectacle of the modern world and one you absolutely must visit to just stare at. The inside doesn’t quite live up to the exterior but if wandering around the inside of cathedrals is your idea of a fun time then who are we to stop you?
Just go to Moscow and see this mesmerising building.
The amount of times this historic structure has been destroyed and rebuilt should be reason enough to part with your hard earned cash and venture on inside, but just in case it’s not. Here’s why you should soak up the insane history of The Alhambra.
The Alhambra was originally built to be a small fortress in 889 but it was left to rack and ruin until the 11th century where it was renovated for the first of many times after centuries of neglect. Following this first restoration, it was transformed into a royal palace, homing Yusef I in 1333.
After changing its looks, it then changed religion after Catholic Monarchs conquered Andalucia in 1492 and because many Christians used The Alhambra as home, the mosque was transformed into a church soon after the conquering. 35 years later, The Palace of Charles V was built within the complex and became a permanent residence for the monarch.
During the Napoleonic era, the Alhambra once again fell into utter disrepair as it was inhabited by vagrants throughout the Napoleonic era as well as being used as soldiers barracks on numerous occasions.
After this dreadful time period for the famous Alhambra, it was rediscovered in the 19th Century by European scholars and travelers who started the restoration immediately. The French domination of Spain really ruined the incredible structure and the final restoration finished towards the end of the 19th Century.
As of right now? The Alhambra is one of Spain’s largest tourist attractions bringing in over 2,000,000 visitors which equates to a staggering 8,500 per day!
Like we said earlier, if this sheer amount of history and restoration doesn’t tempt you, then the wonderful architecture of the building definitely should.
The next two recommendations, including this one, are very different from the rest of the list and in some circumstances, they may not be for everyone.
Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam, Netherlands, is an incredibly famous landmark.
The Anne Frank house is one of the largest tourist attractions in Amsterdam, attracting over 1,300,000 visitors per year. Due to the size of the attraction though, the queues can be ridiculously long so it’s best to pre-book your tickets if you don’t want to stand in line for 3 plus hours waiting to get in on the day.
Anne was born in Frankfurt and got her diary on her 13th birthday when she was living in the Netherlands. She spent her next two birthdays in the annex of the house we all know in today’s society.
She lived in the annex with her parents, Otto and Edith, her sister, Margot, and four other Jewish people, Hermann and Auguste van Pels and their son Peter and one other man named Fritz Pfeffer.
The residents of this annex were arrested in August 1944 and were taken to Westerbork Transit Camp in Holland before being taken to Auschwitz.
Otto was the only survivor of the Frank family as Anne and her mother died between February and March 1945 just two weeks before British troops liberated the camp.
Her diary was published by Otto Frank on the 25th of June 1947 and it has since become one of the most important and highly regarded pieces of historical literature of the 20th Century.
It’s a remarkable place to see and experience and it’s one we would highly recommend for anyone with an interest in history.
Auschwitz. A place that symbolises terror and devastation. A place that is drastically different from every other place on this list but yet it is arguably a more important structure due to the history attached to it.
This place especially is not for the faint of heart. It’s an extremely emotional and grueling journey from start to finish.
Words cannot aptly describe the aura this place gives off. Exploring the buildings is haunting, as is walking across the many courtyards of the complex.
One in six Jewish people killed in the Holocaust were killed at Auschwitz and over the course of the Second World War, 1,100,000 people perished at the hands of Auschwitz employees.
There really isn’t much you can say that hasn’t already been etched into peoples minds and memories about this place and there are no real persuasion tactics you can use to get people to visit.
If you want to go, you definitely should. If you don’t want to go, it’s totally understandable.
The backstory to Auschwitz is both atrocious and fascinating and if it’s something you’re interested in, do not miss it.
Moving away from the previous two, we arrive at something much more awe-inspiring in the Colosseum of Rome.
This absolute marvel of architecture was the largest amphitheater in the Roman World standing at a staggering 620 x 513 feet with a capacity of around 87,000 people – more than the capacity of the stadium that hosted the World Cup Final in 2018!
The Colosseum was commissioned in AD 70 – 72 by Emperor Vespasian who was a part of the Flavian Dynasty. He created this monument as a gift to the people of Rome.
His son, Titus, opened the Colosseum in AD 80 with inaugural games that lasted 100 days and included gladiator fights and wild animal fights.
Over time though, weather, natural disasters, neglect, and vandalism have all played a part in this great buildings decline into the spectacular ruins we see today.
The most recent restoration began in the 1990s after the aforementioned problems had destroyed nearly two-thirds of the Colosseum. Since this restoration, the Colosseum has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Italy and it’s not hard to see why.
The area surrounding the Colosseum is beautiful, the Colosseum itself is beautiful, everything to do with this place is just beautiful.
Just go and see it with your own eyes. Seriously.
First and foremost, don’t get confused between the church in the middle of the lake and the castle at the top of the hill at the side of the lake. Both are amazing to see but the church in the middle of Lake Bled is definitely the most recognisable aspect of the lake.
The Church of the Mother of God is housed by the most breath-taking views and scenery making it an incredibly popular destination for travelers and photographers alike.
The best part is that you can actually visit the church! You can get a boat across or if you really want to, you can swim! But if you do the latter, you won’t be allowed inside.
If you do manage to get to the church and get inside, one of the main attractions to Lake Bed is the ringing of the wishing bell, which you can do yourself!
Even better, if you believe in God and ring the bell three times, the Pope decreed that you will have said wish granted. So what do you have to lose?
The present form of the church dates back to the 17th Century after numerous renovations following wear and tear and natural disasters and the three side altars are all consecrated to St Sebastian, St Magdalene, and St Anne respectively. These three altars were all built towards the end of the 17th Century.
As beautiful as this place is to look at, the majority of this peaceful serenity comes from listening to the chimes of the wishing bell and listening to the splashes from the water simultaneously.
One of the most picturesque buildings in Europe is also paired with one of the most tragic personal backstories making the Hungarian Parliament Building an absolute must-see.
During the 1880s a competition was held to find an architect for the national Hungarian Parliament Building which would be used to represent the national sovereignty.
The competition was won by Imre Steindel who went on to design and oversee the build of this incredible structure. His building was finally finished after a full seventeen years of construction in 1902 but Imre went blind before his creation was complete and he died the year sessions started taking place.
Imre Steindel didn’t ever see his final masterpiece.
This incredible infrastructure has stood through two World Wars and countless revolutions and uprisings.
Regardless of the building staying the test of time, renovations to the building are almost a constant process due to air pollution and weathering. The insane amount of detail carved into the building is the reason as the carvings are so delicate and intricate that any amount of pollution throws the outside of the building into complete disrepair.
As beautiful as the building is with its intricacies; the real pleasure comes from looking onto the Parliament Building from across the river and seeing it reflect back at you from the water whilst heading up the skyline of Budapest.
The final place on our list to see in Europe is the famous Cologne Cathedral (AKA Kölner Dom). Everything about this just screams gothic architecture and it certainly won’t disappoint.
The former tallest building in the world can be seen from anywhere in the city standing at 516 feet tall. Obviously, it is no longer the tallest building in the world as that title belongs to the Burj Khalifa which stands at a CRAZY 2716 feet tall. The Cologne Cathedral only held this prestigious title until 1884 when it was overtaken by the Washington Monument.
Although it’s no longer the tallest building in the world, the skyline-dominating cathedral is one you just have to see. You kind of owe it to the architects because it took them over 600 years to build…
The Cathedral commenced its process in 128 and was finally completed in 1880.
It too has survived some incredible hardships including being bombed 14 times over the course of the Second World War.
It now brings in over 20,000 visitors per day who flock from all around the globe to listen to the largest swinging church bell the world has to offer and to take in the iconic darkened sandstone.
There are of course hundreds of other incredible sights to behold all across Europe and even the World but these are our top 10 picks.
If you want to see any of the buildings we’ve listed here, here are some links to our trips which will take you to the cities!