Sunday, 27 October 2013

Beautiful & Interesting Historic Buildings in Europe: Architectural Landmarks to Remember

Flicking through European travel photos, it can be striking how many of them feature some sort of imposing stone structure or impressive beamed building. There is an abundance of colourful history out there and it feels so real, standing in front of any one of these structures dwarfed by their size, presence and atmosphere.

The following buildings, and types of architecture are really something special, making great sights and points of interest in beautiful and interesting European locations - whether famous or off the beaten track.

Historic European Architecture #1: Palais Des Papes, Avignon - France

This stunning medieval stone palace was the old seat of the Vatican in the 1300s. Views from the top are beautiful and the atmospheric city of Avignon - which, with its intact city walls and Rhone River setting, makes a beautiful place to admire world-class cuisine and history as well as French culture.

Surrounding attractions are the towns of Aix-en-Provence (home town of Paul Cezanne) and Orange (the site of a wonderfully preserved Roman Amphitheatre). The South of France and glittering coast are easily within reach also, by road and rail.

Historic European Architecture #2: Hofburg Palace - Vienna, Austria

The magnificent green and gold dome of the Hofburg palace rises up over the detailed, ornately cut stone of the Baroque facade. Walking down central Vienna's streets with designer shops and cafes of either side just adds to the feeling of luxury and pomp. 

This beautiful building was home to the Hapsburg dynasty - one of Europe's most important royal houses. The Hapsburgs ruled the Holy Roman Empire between the mid 1400s and mid 1700s. 

Historic European Architecture #3: Strasbourg Cathedral - France

The stunning pink sandstone cathedral of Strasbourg is a major attraction in the Alsace region and due to its impressive height it can be seen from much of the area around the city and even the region. It was built from the 1200s to the 1400s, with a distinctly gothic style. The cathedral is located in the wonderful city centre of Strasbourg in the pedestrianized main square.

Traditional Alsatian restaurants or 'wistubs' line the streets along with a large choice of varied gift shops and ornate architecture to compliment the focal Cathedral.

Traditional Alsatian cuisine is something unique and memorable. Particularly the light and crispy Tarte Flambee  - much like a pizza but thinner and with sour cream, little bacon bits, and caramelised onions. Whilst in Strasbourg La Petite Venise is also a must-see with its canals and pretty little buildings. In the surrounding region as well as neighbouring region Lorraine, the Vosges mountains make a peaceful and beautiful retreat with great low-key skiing in the winter and delightful sleepy villages.

Historic European Architecture #4: Provincial Court, Markt (Market Square), Bruges - Belgium

The Market Square in Flemish city Bruges showcases a whole host of majestic architecture, and Provincial Court built in the 1800s being one of the most ornate. The nearby pubs and chocolate shops spill local delights, and the stunning canals of the city are within a few minutes' walk. Bruges is an extremely clean and beautiful city, within easy reach of the UK even for a day trip.


Historic European Architecture #5: Toledo Cathedral - Spain

In the heart of the ancient city of Toledo, this enormous prominent gothic structure can be found in a large square, towering over the surrounding historic town. The Cathedral was built in the 1200s but has foundations from even more ancient times. Its ornate and immense façade is a wonder, and its grandeur fits in well with Toledo's important past as Spain's old capital.

The narrow streets of Toledo are an exciting place to wonder around, with the typical colourful Spanish tiles gleaming at you from unexpected corners and the wonderfully historic buildings pressing in from all sides.

Historic European Architecture #6: San Gimignano Medieval Towers - Tuscany, Italy  

This extremely unique medieval settlement is found perched strangely amongst rolling green Tuscan hills between the famous cities of Pisa, Florence and Siena. The six or seven tall, plain towers rise up into the air like strange ancient skyscrapers, watching over the town. The towers once each belonged to a rival family, growing higher and higher, thriving with competition.

Views from San Gimignano into the verdant farmland and typical Tuscan countryside are achingly beautiful, and the town itself is a stunning place for a stroll amongst the history and excellent gift shops and cafes. 

Historic European Architecture #7: Duomo - Milan, Italy

The Milan Duomo, or cathedral, is a wonderfully unusual gothic structure with an impressive, detailed façade, and majestic towers and pillars along the roof. Visitors can climb to the top to admire the intricate architecture and sculptures, as well as excellent views of the city, and the surrounding alps on a clear day.

The climb to the top of the cathedral roof is via a very narrow staircase but well-worth the effort. There is a lift available also.

Milan is a city which was heavily bombed in WWII, however the history that remains is fascinating, not to mention the fashion and shopping scene, and the famous La Scala Opera house with its world-class acoustics.

Historic European Architecture #8: Mole Antonelliana, Turin - Italy

Originally a synagogue built to its sheer size by architect Alessandro Antonelli in the 1800s for Turin's brief period as a capital city. The view from the top offers fantastic views of the city and distant alpine vistas on a good day. The glass lift to the top is great, with beautiful views of the inside of the roof.

This is found in the North-East corner of the city centre on Corzo San Maurizio.

Historic European Architecture #9: Beamed Alsatian Buildings


The pretty and historic beamed buildings of Alsace have a strong German influence due to the undecided national identity of the area throughout history. They can be easily appreciated, reflected picturesquely in the canals of  the Petite Venise area of Strasbourg and the little town of Colmar. Other nearby towns and villages in and around the Vosges Mountains also have fine examples of these unique and well-preserved buildings. 

Historic European Architecture #10: Renaissance Architecture of Tuscany 

The stunning contrasted marble of the Duomo Cathedral and surrounding buildings is unique and awe-inspiring. This cluster of detailed and historic architecture dates back to the early 1200s and is situated in the centre of Florence at the Piazza San Gionvanni.

Nearby walled city of Lucca also houses so extremely fine examples of Renaissance architecture, and is well known for its rivalry and contrast to nearby Gothic city Sienna.

Medieval San Gimignano - mentioned above - makes a great additional point of interest in Tuscany if visiting any of these areas.

Historic European Architecture #11: Matthias Church in Budapest, Hungary

With foundations of a church from the early 13th century, this splendid and visually stunning church has undergone many changes throughout time. From 1500s Turkish mosque conversion to more recent Habsberg embellishments, the church has had many influences and enjoys a fantastic mixture of architectural styles. The colourful ceramic tiles on the roof are a signature of its Hungarian art nouveau heritage and the beautifully detailed neo-gothic carvings represent its earlier Gothic beginnings, many of which are carved from the stone of the earlier church which stood here before invasion.

The church is a stunning sight and makes a wonderful photograph perched on the hill in Buda, seen from across the river in Pest. It is also beautifully lit at night and a visit up Castle Hill using the late 1800s funicular railway is a lovely excursion in the evening. The atmosphere in the church grounds is great in the evening and it is easy to picture medieval times in Buda when strolling around, admiring the view from the many turrets and stairs around the church, over-looking the beautiful city of Budapest and the grand Danube river.


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  3. Quite explicit; these European architecture are. And I do hope they remain standing for the next generations.

  4. Really beautiful... Sharing an article about Castello Sforzesco in Milan in the Castello Sforzesco in Milan in youtube


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