3 mins

12 of the world’s most incredible buildings, from castles to cathedrals

From Ethiopia's ancient rock churches to Indian palaces, these are the impressive buildings that travel bloggers, including Wandering Earl and Uncornered Market, think you should explore and admire...

Hungarian Parliament at night (Dreamstime)

1: Sultanahmet Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey

Debra Corbeil (The Planet D)

Sultanahmet Mosque (Dreamstime)

Sultanahmet Mosque (Dreamstime)

We’ve had the good fortune to see some of the greatest skylines on Earth, from Shanghai to New York, but there is something about Istanbul that keeps us coming back.

The Sultanahmet Mosque is better known by its nickname: the Blue Mosque. Its six minarets dominate the skyline of the old city, while looking back from the Bosphoros.

You may wonder why it is known as the Blue Mosque when it isn’t even remotely blue, but it became famous around the world because of the more than 20,000 blue ceramic tiles adorning its inside ceiling and walls.



2: Parliament Building, Budapest, Hungary

Robson Cadore (Love & Road)

Hungarian Parliament at dusk (Dreamstime)

Hungarian Parliament at dusk (Dreamstime)

The Hungarian Parliament Building is one of the most impressive constructions in the world. It’s positioned in Budapest’s prime location, facing the Danube river and with stunning views of the Buda Castle.

The building has a Gothic Revival style. It was inaugurated on the 1000th anniversary of the country in 1896, although it was fully complete only on 1904.

To snap the best photos of the Hungarian Parliament, head to Margaret bridge or cross the Danube river to frame the whole building.



3: Corvin Castle, Hunedoara, Romania

Derek Baron (Wandering Earl)

Corvin Castle (Dreamstime)

Corvin Castle (Dreamstime)

One of the largest and best-preserved in Europe, picturesque Corvin Castle is surprisingly not a major tourist destination, giving visitors an opportunity to explore its beautiful Gothic-Renaissance style without any crowds.

From the bridge leading over the moat to the many levels, rooms, grand halls and towers, it's like a playground for castle-lovers, and one of the most impressive sights in all of Romania.

As soon as you turn the corner and catch your first glimpse of this place, the adventure begins and you'll be extremely happy that you added this castle to your itinerary.



4: Church of St. George, Lalibela, Ethiopia

Audrey Scott (Uncornered Market)

Church of St. George (Dreamstime)

Church of St. George (Dreamstime)

The 12th century rock-hewn, cross-shaped Church of St. George in Lalibela, Ethiopia is one of the most remarkable buildings we’ve ever seen.

King Lalibela’s vision was to build a New Jerusalem after it became too dangerous for Ethiopian Christians to make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem itself. To protect this place, he carved the churches top-down from a single piece of solid rock below ground, so that invaders could not see them from afar. Once the rough shape of the structure was carved away from the rock, work would begin on carving the church from the outside in to create columns, altars, walkways and a place for people to worship.

It’s also remarkable that St. George and other Lalibela churches have been used continually, filled with hundreds of people chanting and praying every Sunday for almost 900 years.



5: City Palace, Jaipur, India

Stefan Arestis (Nomadic Boys)

Exterior of Jaipur's City Palace (Dreamstime)

Exterior of Jaipur's City Palace (Dreamstime)

The city of Jaipur in Rajasthan, India has some of the most incredible palaces and temples we’ve ever seen. Our favourite is the City Palace, which is full of courtyards, gardens and other beautiful Instagrammable features.

Interestingly, Jaipur is nicknamed The Pink City because the former Maharaja Ram Singh painted the whole city pink to welcome his guest Queen Victoria in 1876, as pink is regarded as the colour for hospitality in India.



6: Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain

Anna Phipps (Global Gallivanting)

Ceiling of Sagrada Familia (Dreamstime)

Ceiling of Sagrada Familia (Dreamstime)

I often find places of worship to be some of the most impressive buildings across the world. The Sagrada Familia in Barcelona is an extraordinary building that I enjoy visiting again and again.

What makes the Sagrada Familia so special for me is not just the fantastical architecture and passion of Antoni Gaudi. I find it so enchanting because there’s always something new to see every time to visit, as, even now, 90 years after Gaudi’s death, this huge church is still being built. 

The outside façade is striking and so unique. Each side looks entirely different. The interior of the church is heavenly.

The views over Barcelona from the towers are another reason to visit. The dedication of those who continue with Gaudi’s labour of love to complete this mammoth project that has stretched over three centuries is just as impressive as the architecture. 



7: Palacio da Pena, Sintra, Portugal

Emma Higgins (Gotta Keep Movin’)

Palacio da Pena (Dreamstime)

Palacio da Pena (Dreamstime)

Built high on top of the hills at Sintra, near Lisbon, Portugal’s Palácio da Pena is one of the most striking buildings in the country.

King Fernando II acquired the building in the mid-19th century and, inspired by the fairytale castles of Germany, turned the abandoned monastery into an extravagant palace that dominates the landscape. 

One of the most beautiful things about Palácio da Pena is its contrasting colours, and these bear significance: the palace’s crimson red parts denote the old monastery, while the ochre yellow side represents the additions made to the building as it was brought back to life. 



8: La Casa Rosada, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Claudia Tavani (My Adventures Across the World)

La Casa Rosada (Dreamstime)

La Casa Rosada (Dreamstime)

One of the most interesting buildings I’ve seen in my many years of travels is La Casa Rosada (The Pink House) of Buenos Aires, which is the office of the President of Argentina and one of the most iconic buildings in the country.

The building often hosts art exhibitions. It also faces Plaza de Mayo, where the mothers, and now grandmothers, of the desaparecidos (the disappeared men and women who were abducted during the regime and never made it back) meet every Thursday to call for justice. 

It's from the balcony facing Plaza de Mayo that Eva Peron, wife of the then-President, addressed the Portenos. It is said that the pink colour of the Casa Rosada is a representation of President Sarmiento's attempt to make peace during his term, which lasted from 1868 to 1874, between the Federalists (whose colour was red) and the Unitarians (whose colour was white). It's actually more likely that the white paint was mixed with bovine blood, which was a common practice in the late 19th century. 



9: The Duomo, Florence, Italy

Alex Waltner (Swedish Nomad)

The Duomo (Dreamstime)

The Duomo (Dreamstime)

The Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, also known as Florence Cathedral or The Duomo is the main church of Florence and a must-see for anyone who visits the city.

When I first stood in front of this cathedral complex, I was in awe and I still am. The details are priceless, and The Duomo almost feels unreal, even though you see it with your own eyes. Unfortunately, they don't make masterpieces like this anymore. It's probably the most detailed church I've ever seen.

This church is both one of my favourite buildings, as well as a favourite photo spot. Go early in the morning, when there are no tourists. It's really something special to see it and photograph it at that time.



10: The Treasury, Petra, Jordan

Nataly Osmann (Follow Me To)

Petra's Treasury (Dreamstime)

Petra's Treasury (Dreamstime)

Al Khazneh or The Treasury, at the ancient city of Petra in Jordan, is one of the most important examples of a threatened environment from around the world. The city was once an important capital and trading place for the Nabataean empire, from around 400BC, but it was left empty for centuries, until it was discovered in the 1800s. It’s now a protected UNESCO World Heritage site and the most popular attraction in Jordan.

The Treasury is an incredible achievement. When you stand on a hill in front of the monastery, it's not enough to call such a moment majestic.

You also need to explore the city of Petra at night, when the rocks shine with the soft light from the candles. At that moment, you have an incredible sensation that the stars will fall in your arms after a couple of minutes.



11: Manitoba Legislative Building, Winnipeg, Canada

Dalene Heck (Hecktic Travels)

Manitoba Legislative Building at dusk (Dreamstime)

Manitoba Legislative Building at dusk (Dreamstime)

Why would a government building in Canada have sphinxes on the roof? That’s the big question. The Manitoba Legislative Building in Winnipeg, or the ‘Leg’ as it is known locally, has been called an “architectural crossword”, as it contains a series of hidden hieroglyphic inscriptions, numerological codes and symbols.

While construction on the building finished in 1920, it took one recent historian over a decade to decode all of the hidden symbolism. Guided tours by the historian himself are available to give others the chance to unscramble all the clues for themselves.



12: Bam Citadel, Bam, Iran

Joao Leitao (Nomad Revelations) 

Fortified walls of Bam Citadel (Dreamstime)

Fortified walls of Bam Citadel (Dreamstime)

Situated along an important Silk Route crossroads, Bam Citadel’s massive 44-acre footprint and pre-Achaemenid structure makes it one of the largest adobe constructions in the world.

Perfectly aligned for the most central and broad defensive view from within the fortress city, its architects foresaw the entire city’s layout and the building’s fluidly interconnecting geometries from it’s inception.

An important UNESCO World Heritage Site, later afflicted by near-complete earthquake destruction in 2003, the Iranian government prioritized the Citadel’s refurbishment, inspiring assistance from several other countries. 



(Buildings not listed in any particular order; numbers don’t equate to rankings.)

Main image: Hungarian Parliament Building, Budapest (Dreamstime)

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