Europe is home to many different countries, filled with a melting pot of ideas, influences and creative inspiration. Therefore, it follows that some of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring architecture in the world can be found on this historical continent. In this guide, we’ll take a look at just a few of the must-see buildings and other structures that you should visit in Europe at least once in your lifetime.
Barcelona in the Catalan region of Spain is home to some of the best loved and most recognisable architecture in the world. Antoni Gaudí was a Catalan architect working in the 19th and early 20th centuries. His major influences were natural forms, his Catholic faith and other artists such as William Morris, John Ruskin and those involved in the oriental arts movement. His work can be found all over the city of Barcelona, perhaps most recognisably in the Basílica de la Sagrada Familia and Park Güell, where he lived for 20 years. Lesser known but no less impressive examples of his work can be found in the lamp posts of Plaça Reial (his first project upon graduation), the Rosary of Montserrat (a group project with other Catalan artists) and Casa Calvet. Gaudí’s work is an unrivalled example of Catalan modernism and each piece is truly unique.
The tiny city-state of Monaco is home to some of the finest examples of Belle Epoque architecture in the world. For such a small space, it contains a wide variety of different building styles but Belle Epoque is the one that has become synonymous with the country’s image. The flowing style of Art Nouveau-influenced buildings such as the Villa Blanchy, the Oceanographic Museum and, of course, the famous Monte-Carlo Casino epitomises Monaco’s abundance of luxury. Whereas many of us are now more familiar with accessing our entertainment through the on-screen design of Livexlive, PokerStarsCasino or 9GAG, the Monte-Carlo Casino delivers music, table games and theatre in a rich, opulent brick-and-mortar setting. Such examples of this beautiful era in architecture are fast disappearing due to the demand for space in such a petite country, so it’s imperative that you visit as soon as is possible.
London is well-known for its divisive architecture such as 30 St Mary Axe (or ‘The Gherkin’) and The Shard, as well as classic examples like the Houses of Parliament, St Paul’s Cathedral and Buckingham Palace. One building that certainly divided opinion when it was first proposed is the Royal National Theatre located on the South Bank. Built in the Brutalist style made popular in the mid-20th century across Europe, this behemoth of concrete building blocks is loved by some yet hated by others.
Alongside the Theatre is the BFI Southbank and the Southbank Centre, an arts venue that houses performance spaces, cafés, galleries and more within the same hulking Brutalist shell. For many, this very modern take on building looks out of place, but others argue that it complements the surrounding skyline beautifully. Whichever camp you’re in, this complex is a must-see for anybody craving a modern refresher after taking in the established historical architecture of London.
Mention Vienna to anybody and immediately you will conjure up images of soaring confectionary creations made from real stone and glass. The Baroque buildings of this fairy-tale city are famous the world over for their romantic facades and opulent interiors. Massive imposing examples such as Schonbrunn Palace, the Belvedere and Liechtenstein Garden Palace dominate their surroundings and are testament to the ambition of the 18th century Austrian elite and their chosen architects. Schonbrunn Palace by itself houses over 1400 rooms and the Belvedere estate is about a kilometre in length. This is architecture on a grand scale, with the Baroque buildings taking centre stage within an environment built to highlight rather than hide them. Inside the city itself, you’ll find the perfect pink interior of Schottenkirche, refurbished in the mid-17th century, and the Old Vienna City Hall, a Gothic building that was given a Baroque facelift. Truly fascinating.
Italy’s capital city houses some of the most famous examples of ancient architecture in the world. Buildings such as the Colosseum, the Pantheon and the Pyramid of Cestius are astonishing samples of the architectural skills of days gone by. However, Italy is a modern and fashionable country and, in keeping with this, Rome also contains important illustrations of modern architectural style. British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid first designed MAXXI, a contemporary art and architecture museum, in the late 90s but her dream wasn’t fully realised until the structure was finished in 2010. Hadid is a globally renowned architect, famous for projects such as this one as well as the Guangzhou Opera House and the London Olympics Aquatics Centre. Just to add to the MAXXI’s style credentials, it’s currently rented by Italian fashion house Fendi as a space in which to launch sales campaigns.