One of the most fascinating elements to take in while traveling is a new city’s architecture. The styles vary greatly based on the city’s history, its resources, and the way it functions. Architecture can be one of the coolest ways to understand a foreign city. Most people head home with a lot of respect, and a newfound passion. Here are some of the coolest cities to check out in 2018.
It should go without saying that the city with the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the World, is a must see for anyone interested in architecture. It remains a mystery how the Egyptians built the pyramids, though most of their structures were made of mud, since wood was not available. The Giza Pyramid Complex lies on the outskirts of Cairo. The most known and impressive are the Great Pyramids, which date back to 2532 BC. The area also holds ancient temples and smaller pyramids all along the Nile River. Kanark is a mile and a half north of Luxor, with more impressive temples and pyramids, notably the Karnak Temple and the Luxor Temple.
This capital city is a hotbed for old, gorgeous architecture, combined with modern design, which makes it a fascinating visit, basically an imprint of time past and present utilized in one singular place. For the old, look no further than the incredible Forbidden City, completed in 1420, and was, you guessed it, forbidden to anyone outside the imperial court, until they were forced out in the early 20th century. The city’s largest temple, the Lama Temple, is a Buddhist retreat, colorful and spectacular in vision.
Also striking is the Miaoying Temple. Inside, the holds the famous White Dagoba, which was built in honor of the fifth Dalai Lama in 1651. The Ming Tombs, the new National Olympic Stadium, the ultra-modern CCTV tower, and the traditional Temple of Heaven are all must-sees and offer an impressive array of diversity. But, the biggest to do is the Great Wall of China, which is just a two-hour drive away.
It would be difficult to fully capture all of the City of Light’s immense architectural history, but suffice it to say it was once a Roman territory, complete with baths and temples, just like many Roman claims. In the middle ages, much of that architecture was replaced with gothic style, the most famous being the Notre Dame Cathedral. The Sacre Coeur Basilica does have historic significance, although the architecture itself is one of the most unique and stunning in the world. While the French loath the Eiffel Tower, built for the World’s Fair and to their horror remained, you can still marvel at the shimmering lights the tower emits each night. The Arc du Triomphe, the Louvre and its famous modern pyramid in the courtyard, as well as old chapels like Sante-Chapelle make Paris a must for any architectural enthusiast.
Remembering that Turkey was once the helm of the Ottoman Empire makes this one of the oldest and most fascinating architectural visits in the world. The 5th century BC brought on the Walls of Constantinople, but that isn’t the most impressive relic in Istanbul. Rather, the Serpentine Column (formerly a serpent shape), brought over from Delphi in 334 AD by Constantine the Great marked Istanbul (nee Constantinople) the new capital of the Roman Empire. The history and literal references surrounding the column itself could fill a book. Now, this relic stands in the Hippodrome of Constantinople.
But that’s not all there is to see in Istanbul. A city that’s experienced massive changes, one can find the Topkapi Palace from Ottoman era, the stunning Blue Mosque, and, most notably but not completing the massive list of historic sites, the Hagia Sophia. The Hagia Sophia is a Byzantine structure, and was the third church to reside on that particular location. For over one thousand years this was the largest cathedral in the world. About that point it converted into a mosque, and remained as such for another five hundred years, until it secularized in 1931, as it is today, a museum. The architectural dome and the Muslim markings replacing the original Christian symbols are fascinating to observe.
What’s interesting isn’t always old. This new city was founded in 1960 as the new national capital. Building a city from scratch in the modern era is a challenge, but also a luxury, as it’s a true blank slate for architects. Commissioned were heavy weights like Oscar Niemeyer and Lucio Costa with Roberto Burle Marx doing the landscape architecture. So stunning is the city, that’s it’s been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Points of interest are the Culture Company of the Republic, Palacio da Alvarado and the Three Powers Square (Praca dos Tres Poderes), the locations where Brazil’s three powers of government work.
In Hanoi, the lucky traveler can easily see the progression of the city over time. In the Old Quarter, “36 Streets,” one finds the old working neighborhood from the Chinese era of rule. Here, tubular houses are common, shaped as short and long for storefront space, as well as remaining below the height of the king’s palanquin.
Outside the city, a trip to the old Co Loa Citadel, from about 257 BC, is worth the look. Also residing in the neighborhood are temples and pagodas, as one might expect in this part of the world. But with the French take over in 1875, buildings took on a totally different aesthetic. Ornate, classical French styles adorned new buildings like the Palace of the French Resident Superior and the Court. The Hanoi Opera House is a stunning spectacle, modeled after Paris’ Palais Garnier, but painted bright yellow. Art Deco infused some architecture in the 1930s, and even today, modern design is creating some sleek new spaces.
Perhaps too obvious, but the heart of the former Roman empire should ignite great interest in any architectural observer. The old Roman forum is an incredible sight, from a planning and layout perspective. Much of the forum is in substantial ruin, of course. The Coliseum, built in 72 AD, is in excellent condition though. One of the best examples of Roman engineering and design, it is also a top attraction in the ancient city. Centrally, don’t miss the Pantheon, whose domed roof has a hole in the ceiling (the light of God that drapes across the floor). The Trevi fountain, the Temple of Vesta, the Vatican, the Spanish Steps, the Borghese Gardens… Rome has more history and beauty in a square mile than most of the world.
What’s next on your list? Dubai? Athens? Florence? The architectural options are hard to nail down in one list. What’s your favorite structure in the world?