Advertisement

Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle
Getty Images

Germany has many gorgeous castles, but the most storybook one has to be Neuschwanstein in Bavaria. Dubbed ‘the fairy-tale king,’ Ludwig II was so inspired by the mountain scenery that he wanted to create a romantic castle-like in the poetry of yore – and he succeeded. Unfortunately, he wouldn’t live to see the completely finished castle, because he was found dead in a lake under mysterious circumstances in 1886; the castle wasn’t mostly completed until 1892. Neuschwanstein seems to float above the surrounding countryside, and though the castle isn’t that high, it gives that impression because of its mountain perch, which also made the construction of the castle difficult. Its beauty, though, is unparalleled.

Rent one of these European castles and live like royalty. Learn more here.

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat
Getty Images

This intricately decorated Buddhist (originally Hindu) temple complex in Cambodia became an important pilgrimage site in the Middle Ages. Today, Angkor Wat is revered by those of all religions for the sophisticated construction its of five towers, bas reliefs (3D pictures sculpted into stone), and impressive size as the largest religious monument in the world. In addition, it looks like something out of an adventure movie, as the jungle reclaimed some of the ruins and became one with the architecture – huge trees seem to grow out of the stone itself. The entire Angkor area contains many temples worth exploring, but Angkor Wat is considered the best of the region and even appears on Cambodia’s flag.

St Basil's Cathedral

St Basil's Cathedral
Getty Images

This vivid church looks like a candy confection with its bright colours, lively patterns, and swirling stripes on domes that look like icing on a cupcake. (They’re actually called onion-shaped domes, but we like cupcake icing better.) Completed in 1561 by Ivan IV, known as Ivan the Terrible, this Russian landmark in Moscow’s Red Square looks in some ways like a confusion of colours and shapes, but the unexpected whimsy of the design is also part of its appeal. The layout is surprisingly orderly, with eight chapels around a central church. Originally, the colour scheme may have been white with gold domes; the hues were added 100 years later, giving it a totally unique style.

Discover the secret chambers inside these famous landmarks.

The Empire State Building

The Empire State Building
Getty Images

This Art Deco skyscraper has entered into legend: King Kong climbed it, lovers marry on Valentine’s Day atop it, it’s the most photographed building in the world, and it’s dominated the New York skyline for nearly 100 years. Opened in 1931, the Empire State Building has 102 floors, stands at 381 metres high, and was the world’s tallest building until the World Trade Center was built in 1970. Its sleek silhouette leads up to a glass tube flanked by modern ‘bird-wing’ buttresses that add to the 1920s and ’30s style. At the tube’s top, just before the spire, is the 102nd floor. The only NYC skyscraper to rival its beauty is perhaps the Chrysler Building, which opened in 1930 – but the Empire State overtook its rival in both height and popularity to become the top landmark of the city.

According to more than 1000 travel experts, the Big Apple is one of the world’s most beautiful cities.

Petra

Petra
Getty Images

The ancient ‘Rose City’ of Petra, Jordan, emerges from the reddish-pink sandstone of Jordan’s canyons, and it was an important location on the Middle Eastern trade routes 2000 years ago. Gradually abandoned after an earthquake, the ruins are now a haunting reminder of that desert kingdom. One of the most incredible structures at Petra is the Treasury, located at the bottom of a gorge, an oddly elegant sight in the natural terrain. Its gorgeous facade became even more famous when it appeared in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.  The Monastery is another awesome sight, a building carved right out of the rock from which it’s made.

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu
Getty Images

More of a city than just a structure, this astonishing Incan complex in Peru was hidden in the midst of a tropical jungle in the Andes mountains 740 metres above sea level until it was rediscovered in 1911. Built-in the 15th century, Machu Picchu was abandoned a century later after the Incas were conquered by the Spanish. The main Citadel is surrounded by terraces for farming. Other buildings were used for religious and astronomical purposes, including the Sun Temple, whose window is aligned with the summer solstice. No one knows exactly why Machu Picchu was built, but there’s no doubt it’s a sacred place – and even today we can’t help but be moved by the sight of it.

Advertisement

Stonehenge

Stonehenge
Getty Images

Another mysterious structure aligned with the solstices, the stone circle of Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England, is bewitchingly alluring. It seems to serve no practical purpose, so it’s assumed to have been made for spiritual reasons. Built 4500 years ago in the Neolithic Age, we also don’t know exactly how it was constructed, as the stones are up to 30 tonnes. But its measurements are so precise, it’s clear that the engineers and builders knew what they were doing – and they accomplished it with only rudimentary tools. That it’s still standing today makes it even more awe-inspiring. You can visit virtually with Stonehenge’s live ‘Skyscape’, which lets you view the sky from inside the stones in real-time, or take a virtual tour.

Find out which ancient mysteries researchers still can’t explain.

Versailles

Versailles
Getty Images

A masterpiece of extravagant proportion and exorbitant decadence, the palace of Versailles is one of the grandest royal residences ever to be constructed. Originally built as a hunting lodge just outside of Paris, the chateau was greatly expanded by King Louis XIV, the ‘Sun King,’ beginning in 1661. He constantly added to it until his death in 1715, in a successful attempt to convey his power and wealth, and held huge parties and ceremonies here. The palace’s immense facade is matched by its opulence inside: Its famous 73-metre-long Hall of Mirrors contains 357 of them. The grandeur of Versailles has seldom been equalled, and it also has some of the world’s most unforgettable royal gardens.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa

The Leaning Tower of Pisa
Getty Images

This bell tower owes some of its unique beauty to nature and some to the mistake of its ambitious builders. But they might be forgiven, as the bell tower was one of the tallest of the Middle Ages. Plus, their error is our gain: the unstable foundation resulted in the tilt that’s made the tower so famous. Begun in 1173 and finally completed 200 years later, the tower in Pisa, Italy, has undergone many different restoration efforts to try to halt the lean and prevent the tower’s collapse, and in 2008, they seemed to have been successful. The lean is currently at four degrees, with the top about five metres off the vertical from the base below, and it should hold that way for the next 200 years. Would the Leaning Tower be so celebrated without the ‘leaning’ part? It’s still a very beautiful structure, with each of its middle six stories containing 30 white marble arches, with 207 columns in total.

The Parthenon

The Parthenon
Getty Images

This iconic ancient Greek temple stands on the Acropolis, a rocky mount and natural fortress high in the centre of Athens, making the structure visible from across the surrounding city. Even though it’s in ruins, the power of this temple to mystify those who look upon it remains. Built around 440 BCE, this building dedicated to Athena, the goddess of war and wisdom, is made of marble and decorated with statues and reliefs of gods and battles. One collection of the Parthenon’s statues were removed and taken to the British Museum; called the Eglin marbles, the subject of their return is an ongoing debate today.

Don’t miss these tourist rules you never realised you had to follow.

Never miss a deal again - sign up now!

Connect with us: