There are many places in the world that are celebrated for their natural beauty, but there are also destinations that are worth visiting because they are an achievement in structural engineering and architecture. Humans are incredibly destructive, but also creative and artful, and this is proven by the magnificent buildings that exist in the world.
Some of these buildings date back hundreds, and even thousands of years ago, and are located in some of the most naturally beautiful surroundings, they also make us question how construction was even possible. Then others are more modern structures which can be seen in the middle of busy cities. But the one thing that all of these buildings or monuments have in common is they are fine examples of what men can build, and will leave you with lasting memories when you see them.
From India’s Taj Mahal, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most famous examples of Indo-Islamic architecture in the world, to The Eiffel Tower, a monument which has become a landmark in the city of Paris, and was constructed to commemorate the French Revolution.
Below are 20 incredible man-made structures that should be on every traveler's bucket list.
20 The Taj Mahal Was Commissioned By A Mughal Emperor In Memory Of His Beloved Wife
The Taj Mahal is perhaps one of the most recognized landmarks in India, and the building was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983. The beautiful white marble structure lies on the southern bank of the Yamuna River in Agra, India, and according to History, the build was ordered by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved wife.
The Taj Mahal took 20 years to build, and is an excellent example of Indo-Islamic architecture, in fact, according to UNESCO, it is often considered to be the “greatest architectural achievement” of this time.
19 Christ The Redeemer Is A Landmark That Towers Over The City Of Rio De Janeiro
Christ The Redeemer is a 30-meter high statue that stands tall on the summit of Mount Corcovado in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and has become one of the most iconic monuments of the city.
According to Britannica, the construction was completed in 1931, and it is the largest Art Deco sculpture in the world. The creation was a collaboration between Brazilian engineer Heitor da Silva Costa — whose sketches were initially chosen but depicted Christ with a cross in his right hand, and the world in the left — and Brazilian artist Carlos Oswald. However, the design could not have been completed without the work of French-Polish sculptor, Paul Landowski, who further shaped the statue into the Art Deco design we know today.
18 Mount Rushmore Commemorates Some Of America's Most Exceptional Leaders
Mount Rushmore is located in South Dakota’s Black Hills National Forest and depicts the faces of four of the most famous United States leaders, Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt. According to History, construction began in 1927 and took 14 years to complete.
Interestingly, the initial design was meant to depict the Presidents from the waist up, but lack of funding cut the project short. Regardless, the end result is spectacular and is the reason many tourists travel to this region each year.
17 The Eiffel Tower Is A Symbol Of Paris And Love
Anyone who has ever seen photos of France’s capital city, Paris, will be able to recognize one monument in particular, The Eiffel Tower (or La Tour Eiffel, as it’s known in French). The wrought iron tower is a popular tourist attraction and has been an iconic landmark since it’s completion in 1889, which according to LiveScience, was to serve as the main exhibit of the Paris Exposition.
Created by Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel (with help from Maurice Koechlin and Emile Nouguier, who were reportedly responsible for the early drawings), the monument was constructed to mark the 100th year anniversary of the French Revolution.
And it was chosen out of more than 100 designs that were submitted to mark the occasion, History reports.
16 Arc de Triomf Stands Out From The Surroundings In Barcelona
Not to be confused with Paris’ Arc de Triomphe, which was constructed between 1806 and 1836, the Arc de Triomf stands proudly in Barcelona. Created for the 1888 Barcelona World Fair, the arch was to serve as the main entrance to the exposition and was built by architect Josep Vilaseca i Casanovas
Located at the end of the Passeig Lluís Companys, the Arc de Triomf is remarkable not just for its size (which according to Everything Barcelona is approximately 30 meters), but also for the coloring of the red brick, which makes it stand out against the rest of the city.
15 Musée du Louvre Has An 800-Year-Old History
Paris is a city that is filled with impressive monuments, and the Musée du Louvre is yet another must-see, because not only is it a historical landmark, it is also one of the world’s most impressive art museums.
According to Paris Info, the Louvre has an 800-year-old history, and the construction has been influenced by many architectural trends which have been added to over the years (most notably the glass pyramid). However, it was originally built as a fortress in the 12th century.
Among the masterpieces that the Louvre houses are Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Théodore Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa, and the Venus de Milo by Alexandros of Antioch.
14 It Took Over 200 Years Before The Leaning Tower Of Pisa Was Completed
The Leaning Tower Of Pisa is one of the world’s most interesting buildings because, as the name suggests, it is leaning. Located in the Italian city of Pisa, the building was first constructed in 1173, and engineers found that it started to lean when the second story was added because of the soft subsoil, Walks of Italy reports.
Construction was paused for 100 years, and then according to Mental Floss, the work resumed. When workers completed the seventh floor, they found the tower was leaning one degree south. Construction is believed to have been stopped once again, and then over the next 100 years, the building was worked on at irregular intervals. Finally, in 1370, the tower was completed.
13 The Golden Gate Bridge Provided Work During An Economic Downtime
The suspension bridge that connects San Francisco Bay to Marin County, is a feat of engineering, and for this reason, it is a destination that finds itself on many traveler’s bucket lists. According to History, construction began in 1933 when Chicago-based engineer Joseph Strauss and his team took on the project and it created many jobs during an economic depression. In fact, it was not only skilled construction workers that took on this project, but anyone who was physically strong enough to handle the work, including farmers and clerks. It took just five years to complete, officially opening to the public in 1937.
12 The Great Wall of China Is An Impressive Series Of Walls And Fortifications Dating Back 2,300 Years
The Great Wall of China is an impressive series of walls and fortifications in Northern China, which dates back 2,300 years, China Highlights reports. Crafted from sand, soil, stone, and brick, according to the publication, the walls were built in different dynasties to protect their territories.
History notes that the construction was first started by Emperor Qin Shi Huang in the third century B.C. to prevent the barbarian nomads from gaining entry. However, the publication notes that some of the fortresses date back to hundreds of years before the third century.
11 The La Sagrada Familia Is An Example Of Antoni Gaudí's Architecture, And It's Still Not Complete
La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona is one of the most popular tourist attractions and a great example of Antoni Gaudí architecture. But perhaps the most interesting thing about this Roman Catholic church is that it is still under construction after more than 100 years. Barcelona Tourist Guide notes the building was first started in 1882, and before Gaudí’s passing, in 1926, he was involved in the creation of this impressive monument, although he never expected to see it completed in his lifetime.
As for when it is expected to be completed? According to Archdaily, La Sagrada Familia will be completed in 2026.
10 There Are Many Reasons To Visit The Palace of Versailles
The Palace of Versailles is one of the most beautiful and extravagant castles in the world with its hall of mirrors, chapels, and opera auditorium (it was also the location where Kim Kardashian and Kanye West had their pre-wedding celebrations in 2014, Daily Mail notes). The palace was created long before Hollywood’s elite had any interest in it though, and it was initially a chateau that Louis XIII used as a hunting lodge, but it was his son and successor Louis XIV who turned it into an elaborate palace, Live Science reports.
Now, it is a French landmark and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a title which was designated in 1979.
9 Mont Saint Michel Is A Rocky Islet And World Heritage Site
Yet another French landmark that is a must-see is Mont Saint Michel, a rocky islet in Normandy. The island was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979, and has become a pilgrimage site, Britannica reports.
One of the major reasons to visit this island would be to marvel at the Gothic-style Mont Saint-Michel Abbey, which towers over the island. According to Abbaye Mont Saint Michel, the monument infuses many different styles because construction was first started in the 10th century, and restorations were made in the 19th century.
8 China's Impressive Leshan Giant Buddha Was Carved In The 8th Century
Standing at an impressive 71 meters high, the Giant Buddha of Leshan is the largest Buddha in the world, according to UNESCO.
The statue was carved in the 8th century, and the statue along with the surroundings of the summit Mount Emei, was given a World Heritage status in 1996. According to China Discovery, the Chinese monk Haitong is thought to have constructed the Giant Buddha because he hoped the monument would calm the waters of the three rivers which it faces.
7 The Burj Khalifa Is The Tallest Building In The World, But Also Holds Other Records
One of the most impressive pieces of modern architecture is the Burj Khalifa, located in Dubai. It is the world’s tallest building, and according to Lonely Planet, the construction took six years to complete, and the 828-meter building (almost twice as big as the Empire State Building) officially opened in January of 2010.
But Luxe Adventure Traveler notes that it’s not just the world record of the world’s highest building that the Burj Khalifa holds, but six other records so far.
6 The Suspended Temple of Mt. Hengshan Is Something Truly Magical
The Suspended Temple of Mt. Hengshan would be a remarkable piece of architecture even if it was not built into the side of a cliff, but the fact that it was constructed this way in the 5th century (and later restored in 1900) makes it all the more impressive. According to Atlas Obscura, it is believed that the temple was built during the late Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534) and that a monk named Liao Ran is said to have been responsible for its construction.
5 If You Are Interested In Meditation, A Visit To The Global Vipassana Pagoda Is A Must
The Global Vipassana Pagoda is a meditation dome, located near Gorai, northwest of Mumbai, India, and as you can see from the picture above, it’s quite exceptional. Construction for the globe began in 2000, after three years of planning, the website for the building reports, and Tour My India reveals that it was built to show gratitude to Emperor Ashoka and the Buddhist masters.
There is no entry fee or charge to enter the building, but according to the website for the building, visitors will have to take in the views from a gallery as only old Vipassana meditators are allowed to enter the dome.
4 The Vatican City Is The Smallest City State In The World
The Vatican City is a city-state (the smallest in the world) surrounded by Rome, Italy, and it serves as the home to the Pope, the leader of the Catholic Church. In 1984, the Vatican City was designated a World Heritage site, and according to UNESCO, inside the walls of the state are beautiful pieces of art and architecture.
According to History, the Vatican City was founded in 1929 when the Italian government and the Catholic Church signed the Lateran Pacts, allowing the Vatican to become a sovereign state.
3 The Trevi Fountain Provided One Of Rome's First Water Sources
Rome’s Trevi Fountain (Fontana Di Trevi) is one of the most amazing fountains in the world and a testament to the beauty of the baroque design. According to Walks of Italy, it is one of the city’s oldest water sources and the fountain was designed by Nicola Salvi after he won a contest in 1730, held by Pope Clemens XII. The publication notes that water first came out of the fountain 13 years later, but it was not until 1962 when Pope Clemens XIII saw the project to completion, and by this time Salvi was no longer alive.
2 The Statue of Liberty Was A Gift From The French To The United States
The Statue of Liberty is a towering neoclassical sculpture located on Liberty Island in New York Harbor, but it is also a symbol of friendship and freedom. What you may not have known is the statue was a gift to the United States from the French in celebration of the 100th year of American Independence in 1876, UNESCO reports.
The statue was designed in Paris by Frédéric Bartholdi in collaboration with engineer Gustave Eiffel, and was designated a World Heritage Site in 1984.
1 Sydney Opera House Is A Fine Example Of Modern Architecture
You cannot visit Sydney without making a trip to the Sydney Opera House, one of the most iconic landmarks of the Sydney Harbour. The Sydney Opera House became a World Heritage Site in 2007, but creation for the unique building started in 1959 under the direction of Danish architect Jørn Utzon, and later opened in 1973.
Utzon was awarded the project after winning a design competition, and according to the Sydney Opera House website, his vision and modernist architecture are what made the then-relatively unknown architect a clear winner.