Throughout Europe, the history of the region has shaped the construction of cities and architecture of buildings. For those who are enchanted with the beauty of centuries of construction art, Europe is a sightseeing wonderland. Here are some of the best locations across the continent to see and learn about thousands of years of architectural design.
The region that is now the city of Barcelona is believed to have been inhabited since as early as 5000 BC, and initial founding of the city is storied to have been completed by Hercules or Hamilcar Barca, father of Hannibal of Carthage. The first true civilization known to inhabit the area was the Romans, who conquered much of Europe during the tenure of their empire. The area was captured by the Visigoths in the 5th century and conquered again by the Arabs in the 8th century. All of these influences shaped architecture in the region, and the fragments of Roman walls have been incorporated into the Catedral Basilica Metropolitana de Barcelona, which was founded in 343.
Barcelona has many famous buildings from every century in the past two millennium. It is home to a number of gorgeous cathedrals that took hundreds of years to complete construction. The city also can be broken down into architectural areas, where the style of different time periods is shown in all the buildings. My personal favorite site in the region was La Sagrada Familia. Be sure to get a picture of yourself or travel group in front of the majestic cathedral. On an extended trip, I always try to send at least one photo card to my family to let them know I am doing well and tell them about my experiences. An easy way to do this (even from a hotel computer room) is using a card maker tool I have used for years called Smilebox.
Here are some of the best architectural sites in Barcelona:
• La Sagrada Familia – Cathedral, 1882
• Palau de la Musica Catalana (Palace of Catalan Music) – Music Hall, 1905
• Gaudi’s Surrealist Park – Attraction, 1914
• Casa Battlo – Attraction, 1870
• Quadrat d’Or
The capital of Czechia, Prague was one of the only major European cities in the region not decimated during World War II. The city’s architecture winds its way through history, with features of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Classicism. Similar to Barcelona, the city is full of traditional architecture but still is host to a number of gorgeous Modernist and contemporary pieces.
Much of Prague’s history comes from its storied past with the Holy Roman Empire, as the city was home to several different emperors. Today, one of the most iconic pieces of architecture in the area, Prague Castle, is home to the office of the President of Czechia. It is also the home of the Bohemian Crown Jewels. The castle was built in the 9th century and includes Gothic and Romanesque stylings.
Here are some iconic architectural sites in Prague:
• Prague Castle – Presidential Office, 870
• St. George’s Basilica – Church, 920
• Municipal House – Civic building, 1912
• Dancing House – Architectural site, 1994
• Powder Tower – Old city gate, 1475
The city of Munich officially became a city in the 12th century and lacks some of the earlier architectural styles that can be seen in the previous two cities. However, Munich is a shining example of medieval architecture and gorgeous cathedrals that have withstood the test of time. Munich has always been a wealth of arts and culture, with funding coming from the Holy Roman Emperor and other patrons.
If you are a fan of medieval cathedrals like I am (especially those that have been under construction for hundreds of years) then Munich is a fantastic destination. The history of Munich can be seen in the architecture like age in the rings of a tree. Frauenkirche, a beautiful cathedral complete with two domes began construction in 1468. During World War II, it was badly damaged and is still undergoing restorations today.
Here are some iconic architectural sites in Munich:
• Frauenkirche – Cathedral, 1468
• Neues Rathaus – Government Building, 1867
• Nymphenburg Palace – Palace, 1675
• Theatine Church – Church, 1663
• Justizpalast – Courtroom, 1897
For those who enjoy modern or contemporary architecture more than the medieval or gothic architecture that can be found in the other cities mentioned, Copenhagen is the right destination for you. The Danish capital is one of the pioneers for sustainable architecture in Europe, and has been building new, sustainable buildings for the past few decades. The new method of building has led to some fascinating buildings that are a refreshing mix-up from the rest of Europe.
One of my favorite landmarks in Denmark is the Royal Library, also called the Black Diamond thanks to its cubic shape and slick black exterior. This is just one of many contemporary buildings that can be found all around the city. If you are looking for an interesting place to stay while in Copenhagen, the Bella Sky hotel is the perfect place. The hotel consists of two 75 meter towers patterned with geometric shapes and connected by a bridge. The hotel also has a sky-lounge bar with fantastic views of the city.
Here is where to check out some of the modern architecture in Copenhagen:
• The Royal Library
• Ordrupgaard – Museum
• Bella Sky Hotel
• Kalvebod Waves – Art installation
•Copenhagen Opera House
If you are looking for a phenomenal vacation with architectural sites to last a lifetime, Europe is certainly the place. Whether you hope to see the marvels of the old world, or take in some new architecture, the previously mentioned cities will deliver. Simply wandering around the cities during the day will afford you any number of sites, so take the plunge and delve into the architectural culture of Europe.