To some, architecture just means the simple construct of a building. However, architecture encompasses more value than the eye can even fathom. Architecture, in most places, serves as a cultural and religious marker, a work of art and a visual representation of a city’s history. Today, we’re exploring five of the most architecturally rich cities in Europe.
As if you needed another reason beyond exemplary foods and diverse cultures to fall in love with Europe, you now have one. Such influences, including Baroque and Art Nouveau, Neoclassical and Modern architecture, have built the foundation for cities we love to find ourselves in. Below, we’re exploring five of the most architecturally rich and varied cities in Europe.
There are strokes of Antoni Gaudí painted everywhere among the clusters of architectural bliss in Barcelona. While the Spanish architect was no painter – that we know of – he was a masterful artist in constructing buildings that evoke emotion from the residents and tourists that roam the cobblestone streets of Barcelona. Contributing to the reign of Gothic Architecture, Gaudí’s name alone is the reason why most visit Barcelona. A must-see among others is the Sagrada Família cathedral. It’s unfinished but not unappealing. And when you’re not getting lost with your head up in the sky admiring all the beautiful buildings, you can take this city for everything it has. It’s rich in culture and culinary confections, plus it serves as an ideal creative background for your Europeans travels.
The city of Budapest is unique for many reasons. While you can see touches of Budapestians everywhere, the city’s architecture offers fervent diversity. What marks the beginning of grand architecture in this city is the year of 1896, the 1,000th anniversary of the arrival of the Magyars to Hungary. In honor of this celebration, many buildings in Budapest were commissioned to honor this milestone. The Budapest we know now is not only credited to this moment in history but the culmination of Gothic Revival, Roman influences, Turkish baths and so much more. To see the Roman ruins, head to the Roman City of Aquincum in Old Buda or Óbuda. To marvel at the creation of Gothic architecture – constructed with a signature pointed arch and ribbed vault – head to Matthia’s Church and Fishermen’s Bastion. Lastly, to see the remains of the Turkish occupation – check out their architectural influences when you venture to Király Baths and Rudas Baths. Budapest is one of the few places in the world with functioning Turkish bathhouses, so it’s a must-see when you plan your trip here. For other interesting sights, visit The Hungarian State Opera House, Dohány Street Synagogue and the iconic Chain Bridge (Széchenyi Iánchíd).
It seems that the city of Vienna has been charmed by different art movements of the past. While you’re in Vienna, it would be silly not to visit the towering and magnificent, Baroque-style St. Charles’s Church. However, Vienna also welcomes another art movement that stands out in more places than one. Architects such as Otto Wagner and Adolf Loos contributed to the conception of Art Nouveau. Popular between 1890 and 1910, this style of art inspired natural forms and structures in response to the academic art of the 19th century. When this art movement was taking place, Wagner designed the City Railway of Vienna and Postal Savings Bank (Postsparkasse), with the bank serving as a “milestone in the history of modern architecture”. Other notable architectural pieces that are conservatively grand include Palmenhaus at Schonbrunn Park, Stephansdom Cathedral and Wohnpark Alt-Erlaa – designed by Harry Gluck in the 1970’s.
Way back in the 17th century, and during the Dutch Golden Age, Amsterdam was considered one of the most important ports in the world. Today, the canals that line this city are a must-see for European travelers. Crossing over the canals and roaming the streets invites the curious traveler to get lost in colorful, steeped gable facades. The canal houses and boat homes that once served as a place for families to dine in is now home to museums, hotels and offices. Veer off into the hidden alley ways to discover secret gardens and treasures left behind. Ask anyone who stops to take a photo here – this place is beyond charming.
You can get to know the city of Lisbon, Portugal’s capital, just by studying the city’s architecture. Riddled with stories from a different time, each building contributes to the rich history of Lisbon. However, what makes the architecture of this city stand out is beyond just how they stand, it’s where they stand. Lisbon’s most popular river, Tagus, flows right through the city – offering a twinkle of serenity and light that is brightly reflected off the buildings. When visiting Lisbon, you want to make sure to visit São Jorge Castle. Guarding a rich history within its walls, this building was once a Roman settlement and is now one of the most visited attractions in the entire city. While you’re out exploring, you must stop by Torre de Belém. Voyagers such as Vasco da Gama made way for discovery when they left from this famous port. However, sometimes you don’t need to leave the city to discover greatness as architect Custódio Vieira once thought. In 1731, he built what is considered to be a masterpiece of 18th-century engineering – Águas Livres Aqueduct. And don’t forget to check out Baixa Pombalina, Monument to the Discoveries and Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown - notable works of art from both recent history and centuries long, long ago. Lisbon offers a plethora of architectural gems, so try to squeeze in as many as you can before the end of your journey.
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