This week, we are introducing an 5-part series featuring Europe’s best. To start things off, we are taking you across the continent to explore and delve into some of the most historic architectural masterpieces that are more than just their grand facades.
Parthenon, Athens, Greece
The city of Athens alone is home to numerous architectural beauties, but the Parthenon truly stands out. This former temple sits right atop a hill in the ‘city of the violet crown’, overlooking the entire capital city. Construction of this temple began in 447 BC, which was dedicated to the Goddess Athena, who was at the peak of her power during that time.
The assembly of an exquisite structure such as this is quite amazing. It is said the 100,000 tonnes worth of marble blocks were trimmed and carved by hand to create the iconic Parthenon that is today. Its columns are also known to be an iconic symbol in Greek architecture. While the symmetry of the Doric columns may seem perfect, the corner columns are slightly larger than the others. While it is flawed, the Parthenon’s imperfect symmetry is truly a distinctive quality in Greek architecture.
Palace of Versailles, Versailles, France
The beauty of the Palace of Versailles is absolutely and undeniably indescribable. Tourists who come to France make sure to make a stop in Versailles to visit this vast and stunning château. Despite being the residence of the royal family, the Palace is open to the public. Both the inside and the outside of the Palace is equally remarkable. When you’re outside the Palace, wander around the extensive gardens with lush greenery all around; marvel at the beautiful fountains and bask in the natural beauty of it all.
But once you step foot in the Palace, the first place you’ll want to go to is definitely the Hall of Mirrors. This spectacular room is the central gallery in the Palace – this is where many political meetings were held and peace treaties were signed. Before leaving, make sure to look up towards the ceiling. The paintings of Charles Le Brun depicting the French government’s successes are sure to leave you amazed.
Saint Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow, Russia
Located right at the heart of Moscow’s ‘red square’ is Saint Basil’s Cathedral – standing proud and tall. This cathedral is a centrepiece in the Russian capital and is also the most recognizable church in the country. Contrary to popular belief, St. Basil’s Cathedral wasn’t known to be the bold sanctuary that it is now with such vivid colours. In fact, the original colour of it was white to match the white stones of the Kremlin. It wasn’t until the 17th century when they began to add pops of colour to the basilica.
The church, which is now a museum, consists of 9 chapels that were built around the central church that has a height of nearly 50 metres! The onion-shaped domes were inspired by the Grand Mosque in Kazan in the city of Kazan, which paved the way for orthodox church architecture.
Colosseum, Rome, Italy
Familiar to most and definitely not a stranger, is the remarkable Colosseum. Sitting at the centre of the city of Rome, this enormous oval arena was known as the Flavian amphitheatre where a wide array of public spectacles were held. Some of those included gladiatorial contests, executions, re-enactions of famous battles, as well as festivals. Standing at 189 metres long and 156 metres wide, the Colosseum has over 80 entrances and can accommodate up to 50,000 people at a time!
Its mighty marble exterior may look like it took forever to build. But actually, it only took ten – but it did take over 60,000 Jewish slaves to build this arena. Today, although we only see a third of the original structure, this Roman architectural wonder is considered one of the seven wonders of the world.
Alhambra – an extensive and gorgeous fortress situated in the Spanish city of Granada. This palace is not a single structure, but rather a complex of different palaces and courtyards that emulate the renaissance style and medieval architecture but are not limited to the two. The grounds of the palace are filled with lush natural beauty, overlooking Granada’s Moorish old city.
Despite its majestic exterior, Alhambra has had a trying past. During Napoleonic times, the city went astray and was inhabited by vagrants and illegal settlers and was once a used as a barracks. But Alhambra has come a long way since those times. What makes Alhambra so magical is truly a multitude of things: it’s architectural influences, natural surroundings, rich history, and of course – having the jagged peaks of the Sierra Nevada mountain range as a backdrop.
Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey
What was once a cathedral in 537 CE, then an Ottoman imperial mosque in 1435 has now become a museum since 1935. Today, Hagia Sophia is one of Istanbul’s most impressive sights today. Hagia Sophia is not just one of the greatest architectural beauties in Turkey, but also one of the world’s greatest monuments. The structure of Hagia Sophia is heavily influenced by Byzantine architecture, which boasts a vast interior with an equally extensive and striking exterior.
Historic buildings are more than just structures but are also works of art. Just as much as a majestic canvas painting is. During your travels, take some time to visit the different architectural wonders that the world has to offer.