When you are walking around in a particular country and more specific, a particular city, you will find hundreds, thousands of buildings. Most of them are of no meaning whatsoever but are just meant to live, work or recreate in. Of course, every city and even every town has almost always at least one building that has certain value and is of importance to tourists and other visitors. This can be as small as the local town hall or a small museum. Still, there are several world famous buildings that probably everybody has heard of. Most of the times, but not always, those buildings are located in relatively big world cities.
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The Hassan II Mosque is one of the biggest mosques in the world, after the ones in Mecca and Medina (Saudi Arabia), which generally are off limits to travellers. This might just be one of the most famous ones amongst travellers anywhere in the world. It is located in Casablanca, just next to the Atlantic Ocean, giving it some extra charm. The minaret at 210 metres is actually the highest in the world. The architectural style has Moorish influences and has strong similarities with the Alhambra and Great Mosque, both in Cordoba. It is actually one of a few mosques in Morocco that is actually open for non-muslims, so definately worth a visit while you are touring around this Magreb country.
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There are three main mosques in Timbuktu which are on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The Djingareiber Mosque (built between 1324 and 1327) is one of the most impressive and largest buildings in Mali. The Sankoré mosque has an impressive minaret and is worth a visit as well. The Sidi Yéhia Mosque is smaller but equally beautiful and all three mosques are within a short walk of each other. All of these mosques are made out of mud brick, which gives it extra charm and integrates perfectly into the surrouding desert. Timbuktu also is the home of the Koranic Sankore University and other madrasas. The city was a centre of intellectuality and spirituality and for the propagation of Islam throughout Africa in the 15th and 16th centuries. Please pay respect to local customs when taking photos.
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The Pyramids of Giza are the only remaining buildings of the original 7 Wonders of the Ancient World list. They have been enticing international travellers for over two thousand years since Alexander the Greats Army told the Greek world about them. The Pharaohs of the old Kingdom knew how to build a monument to their death. Unfortunately these large pyramids were magnets for tomb robbers who most likely looted them thousands of years ago. Due to the popularity of the Great Pyramid it is best to show up early to buy a ticket and since most tour groups go in the morning it is slightly easier to get a ticket for the afternoon visit at 1:00pm. Today the pyramids continue to be one of the popular tourist spots in the world and still live up to the claim to fame of Alexander the Great.
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The Petronas Twin Towers have a steel and glass façade which resemble motifs found in Islamic art, a reflection of Malaysia's majority Muslim nation. The buildings which dethroned the Sears Towers in Chicago, USA was not designed to be the tallest building in the initial drawings - it was only less than 30 metres from being the tallest. The then Prime Minister of Malaysia Dr Mahathir Mohamed saw the potential of having the tallest buildings and ordered the architects to go back to the drawing board, to which they did and produced the current design. The 451.9-metre-tall buildings were later surpassed by the Taipei 101 in 2004, and again in 2009 by the Burj Dubai.
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The Taj Mahal, an 'epitome of love' is a mausoleum and was built in memory of Mumtaz Mahal, the beloved wife of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. It is a fine example of Mughal Architecture, basically a mix of Ottoman, Persian, Indian and Islamic design. It took 22 years and nearly 10,000 workers to build this masterpiece. In 1983, it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site and in 2007 it was included in the list of New Seven Wonders of the World. Located in Agra on the banks of the river Yamuna, around 200 kilometres south of Delhi, this monument, built in pure white marble is visited every year, by around 2 million people from all over the world. It is believed that the Emperor's original plan was to build a white mausoleum for his wife, and a black version for himself, but his remains also ended up in the white version after his death.
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The neoclassical El Capitolio is one of the main landmarks of Havana, the capital of Cuba. The Cuban Governments seated here until after the Cuban Revolution in 1959, but now it is home to the Cuban Academy of Sciences. The building was named after a referendum, the other possibility being El Palacio del Congreso (Palace of Congress). Although the building was completed in 1929, it took another 2 years to complete the interior, after which it became the seat of the government. Because of the fact that 8000 people worked 24/7 to build it, it took just over 3 years to complete the building, which resembles the US Capitol in Washington, D.C.. The dome towers almost 92 metres in the air and was the highest point in Havana up until the 1950s (the highest now is the José Marti Memorial).
For more information, check the El Capitolio website (Spanish only).
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The Eiffel Tower is one of the most recognisable landmark of Europe, if not the world. It is an iron structure, built in 1889 for the Universal Exhibition of that year in Paris. It is named after its designer, the famous engineer Gustave Eiffel. Standing at 324 metres tall, it was built by 300 workers who joined together 18,038 pieces of puddled iron (a very pure form of structural iron), using two and a half million rivets. It is still the highest building in Paris and one of the most visited (paid) buildings anywhere on planet earth. More than 200 million people have visited the tower since its construction for the Exposition Universelle of 1889. There are 3 visiting levels at the tower, where the first and the second levels are accessible either by lift or by stairs, and the third (and highest) level is accessibly only by lift.
In the evening from sunset to midnight (later in the summer months) the tower sparkles for five minutes, every hour on the hour. Other special illuminations of the tower also take place to celebrate events including the EU presidency by France (the tower was illuminated in blue for 6 months) and the 120th anniversary of the tower (colourful LED lightshow on the Seine-facing side of the tower for 12 minutes at the hour after sunset).
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The Hagia Sophia or Aya Sofia is a former mosque, and former church in the Sultanahmet area of European part of Istanbul. It was the leading church for the Eastern Orthodox church for over 900 years, until the Sack of Constantinople in 1453, after which it was converted into a mosque. It remained a mosque for almost 500 years and in 1935 it was converted into a museum by orders from the first president of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. The building has suffered a great deal of damage over the centuries (especially the dome), because of earthquakes and fires, but has always been rebuilt soon after. A large number of Christian mosaics became visible in the 1930's during restorations, uncovered following removals of white plasters which were put in place during the conversion of the building into a mosque. The Hagia Sophia is also considered one of the best surviving examples of Byzantine architecture.
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It might be strange to add a not yet finished building to the list of Famous Buildings, but the Sagrada Familia belongs in the list for a couple of good reasons. It is a masterpiece in progress, and one of Spain's most visited tourist sites. It's a design by Antoni Gaudí, a Catalan architect who worked on this project for almost 40 years until his death in 1926. The construction of the cathedral began in 1882 and still as yet not finished. It will have 18 towers, of which the central tower of Jesus will be the tallest of them all, with a total height of 170 meters. The design also calls for three grand façades, depicting Nativity (East façade), Passion (West façade) and Glory (South façade). The on-going construction of this cathedral is funded by the proceeds of tickets sold to the visitors of the cathedral and by private donations. The planned completion year of 2026 will coincide with the 100th anniversary of Gaudí's death. When finished, this will be the pièce de résistance of an artist who had already left a huge artistic footprint in Barcelona.
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Situated at the Piazza del Duomo (alternatively known as Piazza dei Miracoli) in Pisa, the Leaning Tower of Pisa was built in different phases over hundreds of years. It began tilting even soon after construction works started, caused by poorly laid foundations as well as loose stratification of the soil that led to shifting direction of the foundations. There are seven floors to the tower, with seven bells in the bell chamber to represent the seven notes of a musical scale. In order to keep the tower standing (yet maintaining a characteristic tilt), restoration works were carried out to straighten some of the tilt from 5.5 degrees to 3.99 degrees, rendering the building stable for at least 200-300 years. There is also a dispute regarding the architect(s) in charge during the first phase of construction, of which many attributed it to Guglielmo and Bonanno Pisano, although some others believe it was a work by Diotisalvi. In 1987, the Piazza del Duomo, which consists of the Leaning Tower, the Duomo, the Baptistry and the Camposanto, was declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
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The Castle Neuschwanstein is the biggest legacy of King Ludwig II of Bavaria. The building of the castle started in 1868 and was completed in 1892, several years after the King's death. The castle is that of a fairytale prince, and has become the inspiration for Walt Disney's Castle of the Sleeping Beauty, and it has been copied in some of the Disney parks. The castle itself was inspired by the operas of Richard Wagner, especially the Opera Tannhauser, in which the Swan Knight Lohengrin is the central figure. Seven weeks after the King died in 1886 the castle was opened to the public. It has become one of Europe's top attractions and is visited by around 1.3 million people every year. The castle is situated in the Alps of southern Germany, near the town of Füssen. Visits can be done pretty easily from Munich, as there are several tour operators offering day trips to the castle, as well as regular train and bus services. Near to the castle also lies the castle of Hohenschwangau, where King Ludwig II lived for most of his childhood years.
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The St. Basil's Cathedral, which proper name is Cathedral of Intercession of Theotokos on the Moat, is a cathedral on the Red Square in the middle of Moscow. The colourful building shaped as a bonfire must be one of the oddest buildings in world. There is no clear indication where Barma and Postnik got their inspiration from. The Cathedral is built as eight churches around one central core. It was built on the orders of Ivan IV (Ivan the terrible) of Russia to commemorate the capture of Kazan in 1552 and Astrakhan in 1556. The 25 coloursful domes (or tents) got their colours between the 17th and the 19th century. During the years the church has been renovated multiple times Since 1928 it serves as a museum, and in 1990 it was listed as an UNESCO World Heritage site, together with the Kremlin and the Red Square.
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The seat of the Catholic church and the largest Christian church in the world, the Papal Basilica of St Peter is founded over the burial site of St Peter. With a capacity of over 60,000 people, it is the site of pilgrimage and papal-association. Also importantly, the basilica is a triumphal evidence of magnificent architecture and home to exquisite Christian arts. Unsurprisingly the building of this basilica was under the supervision of renowned architects of its time, including Bramante, Michelangelo and Bernini, under the direction of a successive of Popes after all begun by Pope Julius II. The basilica was lavishly decorated and adorned, and the interior cleverly proportioned to give an illusion of intimate space within the grandeur in size. Next to the Basilica is the Sistine Chappel with the world famous paintings of Michelangelo.
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The Palace of Versailles, is a royal castle in Versailles. When the château was built, Versailles was a small village, today it is a suburb of Paris, 20 kilometres southwest of the French capital. The court of Versailles was the centre of political power in France from 1682, when Louis XIV moved to Versailles from Paris, until late 1789 when the royal family was forced to return to Paris after the beginning of the French Revolution. Today it is one of the biggest tourist attractions in France, and a popular daytrip from Paris. The castle itself houses 2,300 rooms, and the garden covers a huge area on the westside of the palace, and is largely unchanged for the last 300 years when it was designed.
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The Palace of Westminster, also known as the Houses of Parliament, is the iconic landmark that represents not just London where it is located, but the entire United Kingdom as well. The palace has been rebuilt several times due to fires and bombing. The oldest surviving part of the building is the Westminster Hall, built in 1097, which at that time was the largest hall in Europe. Until 1512, the site was a royal residence, but a fire forced King Henry VIII to move out. However, the site remained a Royal Palace; therefore, its official title is the Palace of Westminster. Today, it is where the two Houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom (the House of Lords and the House of Commons) meet.
The Clock Tower, the main part of the iconic landmark to travellers, is often referred to as Big Ben which is the nickname of the bell housed within the Clock Tower. Big Ben's official name actually is the Great Bell.
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The Burj al Arab (the tower of Arabs) has become a landmark of Dubai virtually overnight. The very recognisable building is shaped to resemble the sail of a Dhow, a local fishing boat. The structure is 321 metres tall, and stands on an artificial island 280 metres away from the beach. It is connected to the mainland by a bridge.
The building serves as a luxury hotel with 202 rooms. A hotel room is not cheap, with the cheapest room costing about US$1,000 a night. The stunning Royal suites will set you back around US$28,000 a night. If you want to arrive in style, or just be ridiculous, from the airport you can be picked up not by a mere Rolls Royce but flown by a helicopter. Even though the rooms might be out of reach, the lobby is not, and a well-dressed traveller can hide out among the super wealthy for a few minutes in this lobby.
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Officially opened on 4 January 2010, Burj Khalifa (Arabic: برج خليفة "Khalifa Tower"), formerly known as Burj Dubai, took six years to complete. The tower is named after Khalifa bin Zayed, the current President of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Abu Dhabi. With a height of 828 metres (2,716 feet), Burj Khalif is the tallest man-made structure in the world, topping the previous recordholder (Taipei 101) by a staggering 319 metres. It also is nicknamed "the Needle" and "The Tower of Bable". It has 168 floors, with the upper 30 to 40 floors being so small that they are useless, apart from storage room. Counting all the floors and the podium, it has 465,000 m² of surface space. In the skyscraper you will find 1,044 luxury appartments, 49 floors of offices and the 7-star Armani Hotel, with 160 rooms that are designed by Armani.
An observation deck, named At The Top, is located on Level 142 of the tower. Tickets for At The Top are available online and also from the reception at the lower ground level of The Dubai Mall, located within the building.
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The three concrete reinforced Kuwait Towers dominate the skyline of Kuwait City. The principle tower is 187 metres high, has a restaurant, a viewing area at 123 metres and can moves around doing a full rotation every 30 minutes. The second tallest tower is used to store water and can hold over one million gallons of water. The third tower controls the flow of electricity to the suburbs of Kuwait City. Opening to the public in 1979 it became a big tourist sight very quickly. The towers were heavily damaged during the war and were restored afterwards. Although a careful eye can still see some damage to the exterior of the towers.
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Where some other buildings on the list are there for artistic reasons, the Alamo, from origin a missionary house, in San Antonio is here for the historical reasons. The battle that took place here is the most well known battle that took place during the Texan Revolution. On the first day of the battle (February 23, 1836) 2,400 mexicans attacked the Alamo, where between 180 and 250 Texan soldiers where housed. After a couple of attacks on the building the Texans ran out of possibilities to fend off the attacks. On March 6, 1836 the Mexicans launched the final assault, resulting in killing all the Texans. After the battle the Alamo gradually became known as a battle site rather than a former mission. The Texas Legislature purchased the land and buildings in the early part of the 20th century and designated the Alamo chapel as an official Texas State Shrine.
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The Chrysler Building was built between 1928 and 1930. At the height of 318.9 metres (including the spire), it was the tallest building in the world. However, just 11 months later, in 1931, it was surpassed by the Empire State building.
The Chrysler Building was built in the Art Deco style that was fashionable during the 1920s and early 1930s. The Chrysler boss at that time instructed the architect, William van Alen, to make some references to the Chrysler cars. Van Alen did as instructed, and on the building you can find gargoyles and eagles that are modeled after Chrysler automobiles, and other references to Chrysler vehicles. The most distinctive part of the skyscraper is the crown that is made from stainless steel and small triangular windows. When it is dark, the illumination on the crown makes it to one of New York's most recognisable sights.
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Located in downtown Toronto, the CN Tower held the title of the "World's tallest free-standing structure" with a height of 553 metres for 31 years. It remains the tallest free standing structure in the Americas to this day. Today it is still a distinct part of the city skyline and a major tourist attraction in Toronto. The tower took three years to build and construction was completed in 1976. The tower was originally owned by the Canadian National Railway and is, today, owned by The Canada Lands Company. The tower is so tall that it can actually be seen from the south in New York State!
At a height of 350 metres, there is a café and several observation posts. For those who want to go even higher, there is an elevator that takes you to an observation platform at a height of 447 metres, which still is the highest observation platform in the world. On clear days the views can be outstanding and worth the long ride up.
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One of the early examples of modern skycrapers, the Empire State Building is still one of the highest buildings in the world. Until 1972 and again since 2001, the years of completion and destruction of the Twin Towers, it has been the tallest building in New York. The building has had a fascinating history, at one time people thought of adding an airship docking area to it! The scene in countless movies, no trip to New York is complete without a quick visit to the Empire State Building. It is also called one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
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One World Trade Center (1 WTC), or Freedom Tower as it was called in the earlier stages, is the tallest building in New York City since April 2012, when it surpassed the height of the Empire State Building. The construction is part of an effort to memorialize and rebuild following the destruction of the original World Trade Center complex during the attacks of September 11, 2001. The building is build on the spot were 6 WTC used to be. On November 2, 2012 the concrete floor of the 104th floor was poured, which meant that the top floor was finished, and the construction of the antenna, which will reach up to 1,776 feet began (the number of feet bing a reference to the year of independence of the USA). The opening of the building is expected in late 2013.
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The Space Needle in Seattle was built for the 1962 World's Fair and is a major landmark in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. It was built to withstand strong winds (up to 320 km/h, Category 5 hurricane-force winds) and high earthquake magnitudes (up to 9.1 on Richter scale). Standing at 184 metres tall, it features an observation deck at 160 metres that opens to magnificent view of Downtown Seattle, as well as the surrounding islands and mountain ranges (including Olympic Mountains). There is also a rotating restaurant at 152 metres for those willing to splurge to dine with a view. Photographs of Seattle often include the Space Needle as part of its skyline, and often appearing to tower over the skyscrapers, thanks to its location over 1.3 kilometres away in the northwest of the downtown buildings.
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The building on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is the residence of every American president since John Adams. While the White House was completed in 1800, it was already expanded a year later. In 1814 the White House burned down during the War of 1812, when it was burned by the British Army. Reconstruction began almost immediately, and President James Monroe could move into a partially reconstructed house in October 1817. Over the year's many additions were made to the building, including the famous oval office. Tours of the White House are available for American citizens, which can be requested up to six months in advance, at his or hers member of Congress. Non-Americans have to make a request at their embassy, which can help to request a tour.
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The Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower, is currently the tallest building in North America. It was also the tallest building in the world until 1998 when the title went to the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It has 108 floors and measures 1450 feet (442 metres) from the ground to the roof.
The Skydeck is Chicago's highest observatory. Located on the 103rd floor or 1353 feet (412 metres) above street level, it gives visitors an amazing bird's eye view over Chicago. Visibility on a clear day can reach as far as 50 miles (80 kilometres) and one can see Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin just by walking around the Skydeck. The best time to visit the Skydeck is after 5:00pm to avoid the crowds and also for great sunset and twinkling night-scape views.
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The Sydney Opera House is one of the main features in Australia. Located on Bennelong Point, the building is often photographed together with its distinctive neighbour, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, one of the world's most famous bridges. It became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007.
The Sky Tower is located right in downtown Auckland, New Zealand.
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This large observation and telecommunications tower is over 328 metres (1,076 feet) tall making it the tallest free standing structure in the Southern Hemisphere and offers great views of the city. For the more adventurous traveller there is even an option to Sky Jump off the tower at speeds up to 85 km/h. A Sky Jump is a cross between a bungy jump and a base jump. Also the Sky City Casino and Event Centre, a large casino and event centre, is located in the Sky Tower complex for a different kind of adventurous traveller. This casino was refurbished in 2006 and has over 1,600 gaming machines. There are also over 100 tables for games like blackjack and roulette.
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Teatro Amazonas, in English The Amazon Theatre, is an amazing opera house built in the city centre of Manaus. Built in a Renaissance style this opera house took seventeen years to build, with construction being completed in 1895. The money for the theatre was funded by the massive rubber boom in the late 19th and early 20th century. The decadence in this building is outrageous with roofing tiles, furniture and murals of the meeting of the waters from Alsace and Paris. From Italy came Carrarra Marble for the stairs, statues and columns, also 198 chandeliers, including 32 made from Murano glass in Venice. The dome on the outside is covered with over 36,000 decorated ceramic tiles painted in the colors of the Brazilian flag. Pretty much everything was imported from Europe, including the bricks, except the wood. After the rubber market collapsed the theatre suffered greatly.
There were no opera performances in the theatre for almost 90 years but when a populist governor got elected into office he pledged to save the theatre. The theatre is now fully restored and has many opera and classical symphony performances every year. Since 2004 the Amazonas Film Festival is held in the theatre now.
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