Landmarks often become synonymous with a city. It is difficult to think of Paris without imaging the Eiffel Tower, London without seeing Big Ben. Seeing some of the famous landmarks in Europe for the first time can be quite an awesome moment.
I remember being blown away when I visited Vatican City for the first time. I spent every Sunday of my first 18 years going to a catholic church and I couldn’t quite grasp the fact that I was actually at the Vatican!
.Gaining a photo of oneself at a famous landmark is almost a rite of passage – the ultimate proof that you visited that city and had that moment. As someone who loves photography I am always trying to think of a unique way to capture famous landmarks – fooling myself that somehow I will find something many more skilled experts have not before me!
Visiting a famous monument can often be an item for the bucket list – and quite a good one at that! So here are 16 Famous Landmarks in Europe that I believe have all earnt the right to make it onto that list.
- 16 Famous Landmarks in Europe
16 Famous Landmarks in Europe
1. The Colosseum
Could over 7 million people be wrong – and that’s just in the last 12 months! That is how many people visit Italy‘s most popular tourist attraction the Colosseum in Rome each year. This ancient amphitheater was the site of Rome’s famous public spectacles like those seen in the movie Gladiator.
The Colosseum was the biggest amphitheater in the world during its time, seating over 70,000 people. The structure was constructed in 70 AD – yes it’s that old. It is 157 feet tall and remarkably well preserved considering its age.
Every ticket to the Colosseum also includes access to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. The Roman Forum is located next door to the Colosseum and Palatine Hill is also part of the area.
When you purchase this ticket online you will be given options for different times on the day you want to visit. Of course, the further ahead you book the more options will be available.
⇒ Read my Skip the Line Colosseum Complete Guide
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2. The Eiffel Tower
Built between 1887 and 1889 by French engineer Gustav Eiffel, the Eiffel Tower is made of iron rather than steel. It was built to be one of the main attractions at the Paris World’s Fair in 1889.
Parisians quickly fell in love with The Eiffel Tower and more than 2 million visited in the first year that it was open. The tower symbolised French know-how and industrial genius.
Today nearly seven million people visit The Eiffel Tower every year. The top of the Eiffel Tower which can be visited is at 276 metres. The other key view point is on what is called the second floor which is at 116 metres.
Ticket prices vary depending on how high you want to go and how you want to get there – stairs or lift. It is possible to take a lift all the way to the top (with the option to stop at the second floor) or to walk up to the second floor and then get a lift to the top.
July and August are the busiest times of year to visit The Eiffel Tower but it is usually quite busy all year round. It is possible to book tickets two months in advance of your visit. I would highly recommend booking a skip the queue ticket for the Eiffel Tower ahead of your visit to Paris.
3. Big Ben
As the Eiffel Tower is to Paris, Big Ben is to London. Big Ben is actually a nickname that stuck. The name refers to both the clock and the clock tower that sits at the north end of the Palace of Westminster in London.
The tower was completed in 1859. At that time it was the largest and most accurate clock in the world. Big Ben became a UNESCO listed site in 1987.
In August of 2017 Big Ben was silenced. This market the beginning of a four year project to fully repair and restore bot the clock and the clocktower. They also plan to install a lift which should make life much easier for those charged with keeping Big Ben in good condition ongoing.
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The exceptions to the silencing are New Years Eve and Rememberance Day. There are no public tours available during the restoration period. However, one clock face can still be seen through the scaffolding.
4. Leaning Tower of Pisa
This freestanding bell tower is not just a famous monument but possibly one of the most famous buildings in the world. The “lean” is nearly four degrees and is because the foundation of the building is unstable.
The tower began to lean during its construction in the 12th century and unfortunately got worse up to its official completion in the 14th century. By 1990 the lean was 5.5 degrees. Repairs work took place during 1993 and 2001 that corrected the lean-to just under 4 degrees.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is not particularly tall at just over 55 metres – I remember being quite surprised at how small it was when I visited. The tower is located in Pisa’s Cathedral Square and also includes Pisa Cathedral and Pisa Baptistry.
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If you’d like to go inside the tower and climb up to the top paid entry is required. It is possible to book a skip the line ticket for the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Otherwise there is no charge to see the building from the exterior and to take the famous photo where it looks as if you are holding up the tower!
5. La Sagrada Familia
The Sagrada Familia is perhaps the world’s most famous unfinished landmark. Construction began on this Catholic Church in Barcelona Spain in 1882. La Sagrada Familia was designed by famous Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi.
Construction of the church began under the supervision of another architect, Francisco de Paula del Villar. However, Gaudi took over in 1883.
Progress on the construction of Sagrada Familia was slow as funding was private and it was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War. When Gaudi died in 1926 the church was only one quarter finished. He is buried in the crypt of Sagrada Familia.
Revolutionaries broke into the construction site in 1936, partially destroying Gaudi’s original model and setting the timeline back even further.
The latest estimate for the completion of Sagrada Familia is 2026.
Sagrada Familia receives approximately 4.5 million visitors every year. The number of tickets for sale as well as the entry times is limited. This is definitely a European landmark you want to book a skip the line ticket ahead of your visit.
Tickets can be purchased up to 2 months in advance and are available in 15 minute slots. Once you have entered Sagrada Familia you may stay for as long as you like. Entrance to the towers costs extra.
6. Arc de Triomphe
The Arc de Triomphe sits at the western end of the Champs-Elysee in Place Charles de Gaulle and in the middle of one of the scariest roundabouts in the world.
This famous European landmark is a tribute to those who died fighting for France in the Napoleonic and Revolutionary Wars. The names of all French victories as well as the generals are inscribed on the arc. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War 1 lies underneath the Arc de Triomphe.
The Arc de Triomphe was commissioned in 1806 by Napoleon. However, it was not completed until 1836. By this time Napoleon had been banished to Elba. He was never able to see the Arc de Triomphe but his remains passed through it on the way to Les Invalides.
Every year the Bastille Day parade on July 14 starts at the Arc de Triomphe and the Tour de France also finishes here.
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It is possible to visit the Arc de Triomphe. Whatever you do don’t try to cross the road to get there – remember this is the world’s scariest roundabout. Instead take the underground passage from the Champs Elysee or one of the other roads leading into Place Charles de Gaulle.
It is free to visit the base of the Arc de Triomphe. However, there is a charge to climb the 280 stairs to the top of the Arce de Triomphe and some lovely views of Paris. And you won’t be surprised to hear that I highly recommend you book a skip the line ticket for the Arc de Triomph.
7. Brandenburg Gate
The Brandenburg Gate was commission as an entrance to Berlin’s most famous road, Unter den Linden, by Frederick William II. Construction of the gate finished in 1791.
The Brandenburg Gate has had a starring role in many of Berlin’s most well known moments. Napoleon paraded from Brandenburg Gate in 1806 after the Prussian defeat. Between 1814 and 1919 only the Royal Family was able to pass through the central archway.
The Nazis often used Brandenburg Gate as a party symbol. The gate managed to survive World War II albeit with some major damage. After the war, Brandenburg Gate was located in the Soviet zone. The Berlin Wall passed directly by the western side of the gate which meant passage was again closed.
After the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, Brandenburg Gate came to symbolise freedom and the re-unifacation of Germany.
Today, the Brandenburg Gate is closed to traffic but it is easy to walk under its arches. Visiting the Brandenburg Gate is free.
8. The Acropolis
The Acropolis is a fortress that sits on a flat rock overlooking Athens and contains the remains of several buildings of architectural significance such as the Parthenon.
The earliest origins of The Acropolis can be traced back to the fourth millenium BC. The composition of The Acropolis has of course changed over time. Various temples and buildings were built and destroyed over the course of the years. A major restoration project of The Acropolis began in 1975 to reverse the decay and damage of the centuries.
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When visiting the Acropolis there are two ticket options. One ticket covers entry only to the Acropolis. The second ticket combines The Acropolis with six other archeological sites. Book a skip the line ticket to visit The Acropolis.
9. Palace of Westminster
The Palace of Westminster is located in London, England and is where the two United Kingdom Houses of Parliament meet: the House of Lords and the House of Commons. It was named after nearby Westminster Abbey.
Westminster Palace is 900 years old. From 1087 to 1100 the Palace of Westminster was the home of the monarch and the Palace of Westminster is still owned by the Crown.
Much of the palace was destroyed in a fire in 1834. The palace was rebuilt after the fire and this is the London landmark that we now know so well.
Today the palace is known as the Houses of Parliament or often just Westminster. It is the centre of UK parliamentary life and its most well known tower is of course Big Ben, another European landmark.
There are several ways to visit the Palace of Westminster. If you are a UK resident you are able to take a free tour called the Democratic Access Tour. If you’re not a UK resident guided paid tours are held on weekdays when Parliament isn’t in session and on Saturdays.
Book a skip the line ticket to the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey.
10. The Louvre Museum
The Louvre Museum is located in Paris, France and is the world’s largest art museum. In 2019 the Louvre was the most visited museum in the world, receiving over 9.6 million guests.
This iconic French museum opened in 1793 with just 537 paintings (there are over 38,000 objects on display these days). IM Pei’s iconic glass pyramid was completed in 1989, adding another element to this Parisian landmark.
Perhaps the most well known item in The Louvre Museum is the Mona Lisa. The original of this famous painting hangs in the Louvre today and has been since 1804.
Online tours are available but of course they don’t touch visiting the real thing. Tickets purchased on line are slightly more expensive than those purchased at the museum but they do offer the opportunity to skip the line with a timed ticket for The Louvre.
Built over 5,000 years ago, the stone circle for which Stonehenge is best known was erected around 2,500 BC. Each stone is about 4 metres high, just over 2 metres wide and weighs about 25 tons.
Stonehenge is owned by the Crown but managed by English Heritage and became a UNESCO site in 1986. Today nearly 1 million visitors head to Stonehenge each year and crowds flock to see the Winter and Summer solstices set in each year.
It is possible to visit Stonehenge for free but alas you will struggle to capture a good photo from that distance. The standard tour of Stonehenge involves a 2.6 mile one way circular path with a handset filling you in on the history of Stonehenge.
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The tour does bring visitors quite close to Stonehenge so it is possible to get some great photos. As always queues at Stonehenge can be lengthy so you may want to book a skip the line ticket for Stonehenge.
12. The Alhambra
Located in Granada, Spain, the Alhambra is a palace and a fortress. It began as a small fortress which was built in 889 and was turned into a palace in the 13th century.
The name Alhambra comes from the arabic for “red or crimson castle“. But it is not just a castle. It is also a royal palace, a fortrees, gardens, a town and a summer retreat. It became a UNESCO site in 1984 and receives about 2.7 million visitors every year.
Tickets to the Alhambra can be purchased up to one year in advance and there are 6 different ticket options depending on what you want to see and experience in your tour. None of these options come with a guide and you can book skip the line ticket for the Alhambra.
13. Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace began life as a house. The core of today’s palace was built as a home for the Duke of Buckingham in 1703. It was acquired by King George II in 1761 as a private residence for Queen Charlotte.
The building was enlarged in the 19th century and became the London home of the monarch under Queen Victoria in 1837. Today it is still the home to the monarch Queen Elizabeth.
Unlike some of the landmarks in this article, Buckingham Palace is still very much a working palace. It regularly plays a large role in major events in the United Kingdom with the Queen and her family appearing on the balcony for key events.
Buckingham Palace is only open to the public between July and October. Visitors can see the State Rooms and the gardens. If you are visiting at other times of the year the closest you can get is outside the gates (which still allows for some good photos), seeing the free changing of the guard, or visiting the Royal Mews.
14. The Sistine Chapel
The Sistine Chapel is is a chapel in Vatican City. The chapel was restored between 1473 and 1481. However, it was between 1508 and 1512 that Michelangelo painted the ceiling of the chapel in what is regarded as one of the most significant artistic accomplishments of all time.
Today the Sistine Chapel is where the papal enclave is held. This is the process by which a new pope is selected.
It is not possible to visit The Sistine Chapel on its own – you must have a ticket for the Vatican Museums. The Sistine Chapel is actually free to visit once you have a ticket for the Vatican.
⇒ Book your skip the line ticket for the Vatican.
15. The Trevi Fountain
The Trevi Fountain is located at a junction of three roads and was one of the original sources of water in Ancient Rome. A competition was held in the 1700s by Pope Clement XII for a new design for the fountain. Nicola Salvi was awarded the prize.
The Trevi Fountain was finished in 1762, 11 years after Salvi died. Work on the fountain was completed by four other sculptors. More recently restorations have been conducted in 1988, 1998 and 2013.
Legend has it that if you throw one coin into the Trevi Fountain you will return to Rome. Two coins mean that you will return to Rome and you will fall in love. Three coins mean you will return to Rome, find love and marry.
The coin is supposed to be thrown by the right hand over the left shoulder for maximum results. In 2016 about USD$1.5 million was thrown into the Trevi Fountain. The money goes to the needy of Rome.
The Trevi Fountain is free to visit and gets very busy. The hours between midday and 7 pm tend to be the busiest so do try to avoid them. The fountain lights up once the sun goes down which can make for some lovely photos.
16. Notre Dame
Notre Dame’s full name is Notre Dame de Paris. This means Our Lady of Paris. Construction of the cathedral began in 1160 and was mostly completed by 1260.
Notre Dame was damaged during the French Revolution in the 1790s. But it was Victor Hugo’s novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame that really drove interest in the cathedral.
In April of 2019 Notre Dame caught fire whilst it was being restored. Serious damage was done but restoration plans began quickly. The aim is for Notre Dame to be restored to all of its glory for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
Unfortunately it is not possible to visit the inside of the Cathedral during this restoration work. However, it is of course possible to come and see this stunning building.
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