When it comes to architecture, it doesn’t get much better than Europe. Home to some of the most impressive monuments, buildings, and structures in the world, Europe is a playground for anyone who loves to explore architecture while taking in the sights of a new city. Whether you love Renaissance castles and medieval monasteries, or Art Nouveau hotels and cutting-edge tower buildings, there is something for every possible taste in Europe.
So, if you’re looking to book a long weekend in a European city soon, why not put one of these architectural hotspots on your holiday wishlist?
Arguably one of the most culturally and architecturally rich cities in the world, Athens is home to some of the oldest and most enduring monuments and buildings. The most famous monument of all, the Parthenon, was built on the sacred Acropolis Hill during the Classical period in 448 BC. Although it has been damaged throughout the years, restoration work continues on it every year.
Ancient Greece was also the birthplace of theater, so there are open-air amphitheaters dotted all over the city. One of the oldest is the Theatre of Dionysis, which was built in 600 BC and can accommodate up to 20,000 people.
The neighborhoods of Plaka, Thision, and Monastiraki all have wonderfully preserved Roman monuments, while the central streets of Athens play host to stunning 18th and 19th-century neoclassical structures such as the National Library and the Academy.
Famous for being the home of Catalan Modernist architect Antoni Gaudí, Barcelona is also the setting for a plethora of other architectural delights. From Roman columns and Gothic mansions to Art Nouveau hotels and Modernist masterpieces, there is a photo-worthy building at every turn in this vast and beautiful city.
The Gothic Quarter – El Barri Gòtic – may well be the best-preserved Gothic city center in the whole of Europe. A veritable feast of Gothic spires, towers, and turrets, walking through here immediately transports you back in time.
The famous Modernisme styles can be seen in the Casa Milà (La Pedrera) located in the district of Eixample, and the impressive Palau de la Música Catalana, which also happens to be on the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Make a stop to see the views from the 60-meter-tall Columbus Monument before checking out the latest architectural gem – the 142-meter-tall office tower Torre Glòries. And of course, you can’t visit Barcelona without exploring the work of Gaudí, which you can see at the Torre de Bellesguard, Casa Vicens, Casa Batlló and the Basilica Sagrada Familia.
Venetian architecture has evolved throughout the years to take on a wholly different aesthetic from the rest of Italy. Built on stone foundations resting on thousands of wooden pylons sunk into the lagoon, the buildings of Venice have been at the forefront of architecture since the 7th century. Byzantine basilicas, Romanesque archways, and Venetian Gothic spires blend so beautifully in this city that the eye discovers something new at every turn.
The dawn of the Renaissance era brought a more grounded approach to architecture in Venice, which is reflected in the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana and the Casino di Venezia, which first opened its doors in 1638, although it moved location to the Renaissance building in 1950.
Color also played a huge role in Venetian architecture, with deep reds, muted yellows, and rich blues taking center stage until the Renaissance era, when colors were softened, and the finish was polished. The diversity in the design and buildings of Venice makes it a truly fascinating place for any architecture enthusiast to visit.
Prague, Czech Republic
The medieval streets of Prague are like a set from a movie scene. Wandering around the Old Town is a trip through 8 centuries of architectural history, from Romanesque rotundas in the Prague Castle Complex to the Functionalist boxy styles of the Veletrzní palác in Holesovice.
The most beloved architectural highlights of Prague, however, are undoubtedly the buildings from the Gothic era. With soaring towers, spires, and buttresses adorning everything from the Old Town Hall and Astronomical Clock to the foundations of the famous Charles Bridge.
Renaissance buildings can also be spotted, most notably in the Schwarzenberg Palace on Hradcanské námestí, and buildings from the Baroque era can also be seen – just look for the bright pink Goltz-Kinsky Place on Old Town Square.
The turn of the 19th century brought with it the Art Nouveau and Cubist eras, and notable examples of both can be seen in the Obecní Dum and House of the Black Madonna.
With so many architectural gems to choose from, your only problem is going to be deciding which city to see first.