You can scarcely turn a corner in Europe sans landing onto a gorgeous landmark; the continent is host to an abundance of riches when it comes to spectacular structures. Many of Europe’s most iconic landmarks don’t need an introduction, whether the Eiffel Tower in Paris or the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
You won’t be short on options on your next big European adventure, thanks to Europe’s wealth of world-famous landmarks. The only hardship will be deciding which one to see first. There is a wealth of architectural splendor, artwork, and history at each location, from 5,000-year-old monoliths to a comical work-in-progress basilica.
Here, we’ve picked together among the most prominent architectural buildings in Europe, each well worthy of a position on your Europe bucket list:
1. Parthenon - Athen's most famous landmarks
Another emblem of European history, the cream-colored, marbled Parthenon temple, is the crowning feature of Athens’s rocky Acropolis summit (the religious center of the ancient city). The picture-perfect temple comprises a harmonizing colonnade of Doric columns and belvedere overlooking Athens.
Dedicated to Athena Parthenos (a colossal gold-and-ivory statue bearing her image was formerly housed there), the patron goddess of Athens, and serving as the city’s treasure house, this monument is one of Greece’s most significant historical sites. Much of the temple’s existence now goes back to the mid-5th century BC.
A difficult hike on foot atop the Acropolis signifies a voyage back in time to the birthplace of Western Civilization. Here, amid the dispersed ruins of ancient times, the 2,500-year-old Parthenon, located at the peak of the Acropolis, stands preeminent.
2. Stonehenge, UK's enigmatic landmarks
Mammoth and enigmatic, this old circle of megalithic columns in the English countryside on Salisbury Plain has attracted viewers of generations. Widely hailed as the most significant ancient monument in Britain, with roots dating as far back as 3000 BC, concerns regarding the importance of the site and its construction linger today.
Some historians claim it was an astronomical observatory (the stones are oriented to the solstice sunrise/sunset). Others think it was a place of remembrance. It’s the 45-ton bluestone and sarsen rocks, some of which came from as far away as nearby Wales, that make this site so unusual for engineers to design for.
See what traces of the history are exposed to you on a visit to the legendary archaeological site—bear in mind that you’ll have to study the strange monoliths from a distance since it’s not permissible to touch the stones.
3. Vatican City's St. Peter's Basilica
In the Vatican City, St. Peter’s Basilica is a primary sanctuary for the Catholic religion and the most prominent Christian cathedral in Europe, marking a pilgrimage destination for Catholics the world over. But you needn’t be devoted to admiring the history and beauty of the place.
Built over St. Peter’s grave, the Renaissance-style basilica was created in tribute to Jesus’s most notable apostle, who became the first pope. The church’s initial roots date to the 4th century AD (which was commissioned by Emperor Constantine), with a later basilica erected on top and extensively enhanced by Italian artists during the 16th and 17th centuries.
4. The Abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel in France
One of the most distinctive sites to visit in Europe, this UNESCO-protected monastery off the coast of Normandy in northern France is the culminating feature of Mont Saint-Michel. This rocky, guarded islet rises spectacularly out of the surrounding water. At least that’s the view when the waves are high—when they go out, the abbey’s pointed tower is instead set against a landscape of shimmering sand flats.
Linked to the shore by a bridge, a visit to the circular isle offers a time-travel getaway, where small lanes lined with 15th- and 16th-century homes-cum-souvenir stores line the rise to the famed monastery. The Gothic-style, Benedictine monastery, established in 906, was erected to house the monks who came to Mont St-Michel in devotion to the archangel St. Michael (Michel, in French—he supposedly revealed in dreams to a local bishop here, back in the 8th century).
5. Pantheon - one of the best-preserved ancient landmarks in Rome
The Pantheon, Rome’s ancient Roman temple turned Catholic cathedral, has been awe-inspiring mortals (and presumably immortals) for over two millennia with its well-preserved Greek names pan (all) and theos (gods). This magnificent monument of ancient Rome, first erected in 27 BC by the politician Agrippa and then renovated by the command of Emperor Hadrian in the early 2nd century AD, is amazingly preserved.
Once you enter through the gigantic bronze double doors and past the foreboding 16 Corinthian columns guarding the entrance, the sheer scale of this architectural wonder becomes apparent. A towering concrete dome and a 27-foot-wide oculus highlight the structure’s ideal 142-foot width and 142-foot height (meant to bring in light and represent a connection between the temple and the gods).