Traveling through Europe is a great way to experience not only some of the world’s best food, art, and culture, but also some of its best architecture. Architecture in Europe seamlessly blends the ancient with the modern to create a landscape that honors history, while also being innovative and forward-thinking. Though nearly every European city offers up an array of beautiful museums and storied cathedrals, there are a few with magnificent architecture that set them above the rest.
Popular for its sunny beaches along Spain’s Orange Blossom Coast, Valencia is also well known for its breathtaking architecture. The buildings in the historic Barrio del Carmen are from ancient Roman times, while the soaring Basilica de la Virgen de los Desamparados is a Gothic behemoth that towers over the neighborhood’s winding cobble-stoned streets. Famed architect Santiago Calatrava designed the modern architectural jewel of Valencia: the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences. A performing arts venue located at the at the end of the river Turia, the crystalline dome appears lifted straight from the riverbed, and makes for quite the spectacle as it sits glowing on the water at night.
North of Valencia in the Spanish Basque Country lies Bilbao, a small city that’s garnered a large reputation for its impressive architectural wonders. Chief amongst these wonders is the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, one of the most admired creations of contemporary architecture. Designed by Frank Gehry, the museum was built in 1997 along the Nervion River and has since drawn massive crowds of people to gaze upon its warped metallic frame. Many experts have deemed it one of the most important architectural works of the twentieth century, as aside from its impressive construction, the museum is also well-known for its extensive contemporary art collection.
Sintra is best known for its many 19th century Roman architectural monuments, which have garnered this colorful town the honor of being named a UNESCO World Heritage site. Just a quick day trip from Lisbon, tourists flock to this small wonder of a city to check out the prehistoric monuments like the Castle of the Moors and the National Palace of Pena. Several royal residences can also be found in the city, many of them dating back to the 12th and 13th centuries.
Another of Europe’s many UNESCO World Heritage sites is Strasbourg’s historic city centre, Grande Île. Grande Île was the first entire city centre to be placed on the World Heritage list, and for good reason, as many of its streets appear pulled straight out of the Middle Ages. The medieval landscape of ancient Strasbourg is captivating in and of itself, but its crown jewel is the Cathedral of Our Lady. Construction of the cathedral began in 1015 and wasn’t completed until the late 1400s, making it the tallest man-made structure in the world at the time.
Around the same time as many of the buildings in Strasbourg were being built, The University of Cambridge was holding its first classes. Founded in 1209, Cambridge is one of the oldest and longest-surviving universities in the world, and today its name is synonymous with academia, prestige, and history. Its sweeping campus combines richly green lawns with stately, iconic halls, like King’s College Chapel and the Cripps Building at St. John’s College. The most notable feature of Cambridge’s architecture is the patterned brickwork found on many of its buildings, which experts believe to be some of the earliest examples of this style in the world.