21 Famous European Landmarks: How Many Have You Seen?

What are the most famous European landmarks? Breathtaking sights, rich history, and undeniable charm, Europe sets the bar incredibly high. 

What are the most famous European landmarks? When it comes to breathtaking sights, rich history, and undeniable charm, Europe sets the bar incredibly high. 

From towering architectural marvels to ancient ruins that have stood the test of time, the continent offers an array of landmarks that are as diverse as they are awe-inspiring. So, how many of these iconic spots have you had the chance to witness in person? 

In this blog post, we’ll take a virtual journey through 21 famous European landmarks that should be on everyone’s travel bucket list

Whether you’re a seasoned jet-setter or a dreamy wanderlust, you’ll find yourself transported to each magical locale as we delve into what makes them so captivating. Buckle up for an unforgettable visual and historical tour—let’s see how many you can tick off your list!

Most Famous European Landmarks

paris famous European landmarks

Eiffel Tower – Paris, France

Location: Paris, France
Best Time to Visit: Late spring to early fall
Admission: Ticket required

The Eiffel Tower is more than a spire of wrought iron in the Paris skyline; it’s a symbol of French ingenuity and an icon of romantic fantasies worldwide. Built as the entrance arch for the 1889 World’s Fair, it was initially met with scorn by French intellectuals but has since become one of the world’s most-visited monuments.

The tower consists of three levels, each offering a different experience. The first level houses a restaurant and a small museum dedicated to the tower’s construction and history. The second level offers various shops, while the third level is an observation deck with stunning views of the City of Light.

Legend has it that Gustave Eiffel, the tower’s engineer, had a private apartment at the top where he hosted esteemed guests like Thomas Edison. Visitors today can enjoy dinner at the Michelin-starred Jules Verne restaurant on the second floor or indulge in champagne at the top-level bar. For a less touristy experience, consider visiting at dawn to witness the sunrise over Paris.

My personal preference is to simply admire the tower from the park or from the Basilica of Sacré Coeur in Montmartre. If you’re up in the tower, you’ll just see a city without the famous European landmarks, because you’d be right in it. So do yourself a favour and go up to the tower of the basilica, and then you’ll have a good view of the landmark. 

Colosseum – Rome, Italy

Location: Rome, Italy
Best Time to Visit: Late fall or early spring
Admission: Ticket required

The Colosseum is not just a marvel of Roman engineering; it’s a haunting echo of Rome’s imperial past. With a capacity to hold up to 80,000 spectators, the amphitheatre hosted a variety of public spectacles, including gladiator contests, animal hunts, and mock sea battles.

Built of concrete and sand, the Colosseum is largely intact despite suffering damage from earthquakes and stone robbers. Inside, you can almost hear the roar of the crowd and the clash of swords as you walk through the labyrinthine corridors that once held combatants and beasts alike.

According to legend, the Colosseum was built on the site where Emperor Nero had his lavish Golden House. After his death, his successors sought to erase his legacy and constructed the Colosseum as a gift to the Roman people. For a unique experience, take a moonlit tour to explore its underground chambers and hear tales of bravery and brutality under the stars.

Rome is one of the busiest cities in the world, but also one of the prettiest of them all. Without a doubt, Rome is my favourite city in Europe. To see the Colosseum, you’ll need to pay for the ticket. It’s usually super packed, so go early. If you can, avoid Rome during summer, it’s just too crowded and hot. 

I was there in December, and the weather was perfect. 

Stonehenge – Wiltshire, England

Location: Wiltshire, England
Best Time to Visit: Late spring or early fall
Admission: Ticket required

Stonehenge, the prehistoric monument located in the English countryside, continues to be an enigma that fascinates archaeologists and tourists alike. The stone circle, primarily made up of massive sarsen stones and smaller bluestones, was erected around 5,000 years ago for reasons still not entirely clear.

Myths surrounding Stonehenge are numerous, including claims that the wizard Merlin built it with magical assistance. It’s also thought to be a celestial calendar or a site for ancient religious ceremonies. To avoid the crowds and for a magical experience, consider visiting during the Summer or Winter Solstice, when the site is open for free public access.

Sagrada Familia – Barcelona, Spain

Location: Barcelona, Spain
Best Time to Visit: Spring or fall
Admission: Ticket required

Antoni Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia is not just another cathedral; it’s a vertical tapestry of intricate designs, biblical stories, and astronomical wonders. Although construction began in 1882, the project remains famously incomplete, offering an evolving masterpiece that mesmerises visitors.

Gaudí envisioned the Sagrada Familia as a “Bible in stone,” and every corner is laden with symbolism—from the nativity façade depicting Christ’s birth to the passion façade representing His suffering. 

Local legends often speculate about hidden messages and codes within its architecture. To beat the crowds and experience the cathedral’s stained glass in all its glory, consider visiting during a late afternoon when the setting sun casts ethereal colours inside the cathedral.

visit acropolis how I spent 7 days in Athens, Greece what is athens famous for

Acropolis – Athens, Greece

Location: Athens, Greece
Best Time to Visit: Spring or fall
Admission: Ticket required

The Acropolis of Athens is not just a historical site; it’s a citadel that stands as a testament to human ingenuity and the intellectual revolution that originated in ancient Greece. Dominated by the Parthenon, a temple dedicated to Athena, the city’s patron goddess, the Acropolis offers an immersion into ancient life, politics, and religion.

Myths related to the Acropolis include the contest between Athena and Poseidon to become the patron deity of Athens. Athena won by offering the citizens the olive tree, symbolising peace and prosperity. 

If you’re visiting, make sure also to check out the Acropolis Museum, which holds treasures unearthed at the site. The early morning offers a quieter experience and soft lighting for photographs.

Palace of Versailles – Versailles, France

Location: Versailles, France
Best Time to Visit: Late spring to early fall
Admission: Ticket required

The Palace of Versailles is a lavish royal residence turned museum, epitomising the extravagance of the French monarchy. Built under King Louis XIV, the Sun King, the palace is famed for its opulent architecture, beautiful gardens, and significant role in world history.

A popular legend is that Marie Antoinette, the ill-fated queen, said, “Let them eat cake,” upon hearing that the French peasants had no bread. While the quote is likely apocryphal, the Hall of Mirrors and her private estate, the Petit Trianon, still bear the imprints of royal luxury. To fully explore the vast gardens and interiors, consider visiting on a weekday and avoid French holidays.

St. Basil's Cathedral - Moscow, Russia

St. Basil’s Cathedral – Moscow, Russia

Location: Moscow, Russia
Best Time to Visit: Late spring to early fall
Admission: Ticket required

St. Basil’s Cathedral, officially known as the Cathedral of Vasily the Blessed, is not just another church; it’s a kaleidoscope of colours and patterns that defies architectural norms. Built under Ivan the Terrible, its distinctive design is inspired by the shape of a bonfire rising into the sky.

Legend has it that Ivan was so impressed by the architects’ work that he blinded them to prevent them from creating something as magnificent again. If you’re visiting, don’t forget to explore the interior, where each chapel has its own unique decor and atmosphere. Visiting early in the morning can help avoid crowds and offer better photography options.

Matterhorn – Swiss-Italian Border

Location: Swiss-Italian Border
Best Time to Visit: Summer for hiking, winter for skiing
Admission: Free to view

The Matterhorn is not just another mountain; it’s an emblem of the Swiss Alps and a mecca for climbers and tourists alike. Its iconic, pyramid-like shape has captured imaginations, making it one of the most photographed mountains in the world. The mountain itself is free to view, but activities like skiing or taking the cogwheel train will cost extra.

Local lore often tells tales of the spirits inhabiting the Alps, and the Matterhorn is no exception. Whether you’re an avid hiker or prefer the comfort of a cable car, the Matterhorn offers activities year-round. Summer is ideal for hiking, while winter offers world-class skiing conditions.

Neuschwanstein Castle – Bavaria, Germany

Location: Bavaria, Germany
Best Time to Visit: Late spring to early fall
Admission: Ticket required

Neuschwanstein Castle is like stepping into a fairy tale; it even served as inspiration for Disney’s Cinderella Castle. Commissioned by Ludwig II of Bavaria, this 19th-century Romanesque Revival palace is set against the rugged backdrop of the Bavarian Alps.

There’s a popular legend that King Ludwig, often called the “Fairytale King,” built the castle as an escape from the public eye. 

In fact, he spent much of his time in seclusion here before his mysterious death. For an exclusive experience, try booking a horse-drawn carriage ride up the hill and don’t miss the castle’s interior, which features scenes from Wagner’s operas.

Edinburgh Castle – Edinburgh, Scotland

Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
Best Time to Visit: Late spring to early fall
Admission: Ticket required

Edinburgh Castle isn’t just a fortress; it’s a living symbol of Scotland’s turbulent history. Dominating the Edinburgh skyline, this castle has witnessed many significant events, from royal ceremonies to military sieges.

The Stone of Destiny, a symbol of Scottish kingship, is one of the most famous legends associated with the castle. It was taken by the English but later returned and is now displayed in the Crown Jewels exhibit. 

The best time to visit is during the early morning or late afternoon, and make sure to catch the One O’Clock Gun, a tradition dating back to 1861.

Charles Bridge – Prague, Czech Republic

Location: Prague, Czech Republic
Best Time to Visit: Late spring to early fall
Admission: Free

Charles Bridge is more than just a pathway across the Vltava River; it’s a journey through history and art. Built under the auspices of King Charles IV in the 14th century, the bridge is adorned with 30 statues, each with its own story and significance.

One of the most popular legends is about St. John of Nepomuk, a priest who was thrown off the bridge for refusing to divulge the queen’s confessions to King Wenceslas. 

Touching the statue is said to bring good luck and ensure your return to Prague. To enjoy the bridge without the throngs of tourists, consider a dawn or late-night visit.

The absolute best views of the bridge are from the river, so make sure to book an evening cruise on Vltava (book at sunset). 

Leaning Tower of Pisa – Pisa, Italy

Location: Pisa, Italy
Best Time to Visit: Spring or fall
Admission: Ticket required

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is a marvel of engineering—both for its iconic tilt and its structural integrity. Built over 199 years, from the 12th to 14th centuries, it was intended as a freestanding bell tower for the adjacent cathedral. The lean, caused by unstable soil, began during its construction but was never fully corrected, creating its famous slant.

Legends abound about the tower, one of the most famous being that Galileo Galilei dropped two spheres of different masses from the tower to demonstrate that their time of descent was independent of their mass. Though this story is likely apocryphal, it adds to the tower’s scientific allure.

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can climb the tower’s 294 steps for a unique perspective of Pisa. The climb is steep and somewhat disorienting because of the lean, but it offers an unbeatable view at the top.

Mont Saint-Michel – Normandy, France

Location: Normandy, France
Best Time to Visit: Spring and fall
Admission: Ticket required for abbey

Perched on a rocky island amid stretches of sand and sea, Mont Saint-Michel appears almost mystical, rising from the mists of the French coast. This small landmass in Normandy hosts an astonishing abbey, quaint shops, and winding streets. The island is best known for its dramatic tides, which can vary greatly—as much as 46 feet.

Legend has it that the Archangel Michael appeared to Aubert, Bishop of Avranches, instructing him to build an abbey on the rocky island. Initially sceptical, Aubert was convinced when Michael burned a hole in his skull with his finger.

Inside the abbey, visitors can explore the ethereal church, charming cloisters, and impressive defensive structures. Timing your visit for low tide allows you to walk along the sandbanks, but be cautious, as tides can come in surprisingly quickly. An evening visit provides the added bonus of fewer crowds and a stunning sunset.

While the island itself is free to explore, there’s a fee to enter the abbey.

This is me in front of the Brandenburg Tor. Before How to miss your train in Berlin happened Brandenburg Gate

Brandenburg Gate – Berlin, Germany

Location: Berlin, Germany
Best Time to Visit: Late spring to early fall
Admission: Free

The Brandenburg Gate stands as a symbol of Berlin’s turbulent history and its subsequent reunification and revival. Completed in 1791, this neoclassical gate was modelled after the Acropolis in Athens. During the Cold War, the gate became a poignant symbol of division as it was situated just beside the Berlin Wall, separating East and West Berlin.

The legend of the Brandenburg Gate revolves around its quadriga, the statue of a chariot drawn by four horses on top of the gate. When Napoleon invaded Berlin, he took the quadriga to Paris as spoils of war. However, after his downfall, the quadriga was returned to Berlin.

The Brandenburg Gate has witnessed countless historical events, from Nazi parades to joyful celebrations following the fall of the Berlin Wall. Today, it’s a gathering place for tourists, locals, and even political rallies. 

A visit in the late afternoon or early evening offers magical lighting for photographs, and since it’s open to the public, you can walk right up to and under the gate without a ticket.

Alhambra – Granada, Spain

Location: Granada, Spain
Best Time to Visit: Spring and fall
Admission: Ticket required. Due to its popularity, it’s highly recommended to book in advance.

The Alhambra is a palatial fortress that graces the skyline of Granada, offering a glimpse into Spain’s Moorish past. Built primarily in the 13th and 14th centuries, this sprawling complex includes palaces, gardens, and fortified walls. 

The architecture is a sublime fusion of Islamic art and Iberian traditions, featuring intricate tile mosaics, arabesque motifs, and ornate stucco work.

Legend has it that the Alhambra is haunted by the spirit of a Moorish princess named Fatima, who was in love with a Christian knight. Their love was forbidden, and the legend says she can still be heard weeping in the palace halls.

Visitors can explore the Nasrid Palaces, the Generalife Gardens, and the Alcazaba Fortress, each offering its own unique set of wonders. The Palacio de Carlos V houses two museums and is a later Christian addition that stands in stylistic contrast to the rest of the complex.

Given its popularity, booking tickets in advance is highly recommended. Late afternoon visits offer softer lighting and cooler temperatures, making your exploration all the more enjoyable.

Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque – Istanbul, Turkey

Location: Istanbul, Turkey
Best Time to Visit: Late spring to early fall
Admission: Free

Known formally as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, the Blue Mosque is an iconic symbol of Istanbul, renowned for its striking blue tiles that adorn its interior. Built between 1609 and 1616 during the rule of Ahmed I, it features a unique combination of Ottoman architecture and Byzantine Christian elements — an homage to the Hagia Sophia that stands just a short distance away.

Legend has it that the Sultan ordered the mosque to be adorned with gold (altın) tiles. However, the artisan misunderstood and instead decorated the mosque with blue (altı) tiles. Whether or not the story is true, the effect is mesmerising.

Unlike many other religious sites, the Blue Mosque remains a functioning mosque while also accommodating millions of tourists each year. 

Before entering, it’s essential to remove your shoes, and women are typically required to cover their heads (bring a scarf in your bag). The best time to visit is in the late afternoon when the tourist crowds have thinned out, and you can experience the mosque during one of its daily prayers for a more authentic atmosphere.

I visited in late spring. Although entry to the mosque is free, visiting with a guide is such an improved experience. For that, consider purchasing the Istanbul Tourist Pass. I have a complete review of the Istanbul Tourist pass.  

The Louvre – Paris, France

Location: Paris, France
Best Time to Visit: Late spring to early fall
Admission: Ticket required

Home to the famous Mona Lisa, the Louvre is the world’s largest and most visited art museum, boasting a collection that spans over 9,000 years of history. Located on the Right Bank of the Seine River, this former royal palace is a masterpiece of architecture with its iconic glass pyramid entrance designed by I. M. Pei.

Legends surrounding the Louvre often focus on its art pieces, like the enigmatic smile of the Mona Lisa or the armless beauty of the Venus de Milo. Some even speculate that the museum itself is filled with hidden chambers and secret histories, contributing to its allure.

The museum is divided into several departments, including Near Eastern Antiquities, Islamic Art, and Decorative Arts, among others. To truly appreciate the Louvre, consider multiple visits or a guided tour that highlights the must-see artworks and hidden gems. 

If you’re planning to see the Mona Lisa, try to go early or late in the day to avoid the crowds. Also, it’s wise to buy Louvre tickets in advance to skip the often long ticket lines.

Sistine Chapel – Vatican City, Rome

Location: Vatican City, Rome
Best Time to Visit: Late fall or early spring
Admission: Ticket required

The Sistine Chapel is an unparalleled masterpiece of Renaissance art, housing what is perhaps the most famous ceiling in the world, painted by Michelangelo. Commissioned by Pope Julius II, Michelangelo spent four gruelling years, from 1508 to 1512, painting the intricate frescoes that depict scenes from the Book of Genesis, including the iconic ‘Creation of Adam.’

According to legend, Michelangelo wasn’t enthusiastic about the project at first and felt more at home as a sculptor than a painter. Nevertheless, the result is an awe-inspiring work that has moved millions for centuries. Some believe that the paintings contain hidden messages and codes, adding to the chapel’s enigmatic allure.

Visitors often find themselves gazing upwards for an extended period, taking in the details of the sprawling work of art overhead. 

Photography is not allowed, so you’ll need to capture the beauty of the space with your eyes and memory alone. 

Since the Sistine Chapel is part of the Vatican Museums, it can get very crowded, especially during the high tourist season. Booking tickets in advance and opting for a guided tour can help you get the most out of your visit.

Plitvice Lakes National Park – Croatia

Location: Central Croatia
Best Time to Visit: Spring and early fall
Admission: Ticket required

Plitvice Lakes National Park is one of Croatia’s most enchanting destinations, known for its chain of 16 terraced lakes connected by waterfalls. It offers a harmonious blend of azure, green, and grey waters, framed by lush forests that teem with wildlife.

According to local folklore, Plitvice Lakes were created after a prolonged period of drought. Desperate for water, the people prayed to the Black Queen, a mythical figure. Moved by their prayers, she created violent storms that filled the valley with these terraced lakes.

For the best experience, you’ll want to dedicate at least one full day to exploring the park. Boardwalks and hiking trails make it accessible for visitors of all fitness levels. Taking a boat ride on Kozjak Lake, the park’s largest lake, is a must. Depending on the time you visit, you can witness the lakes in different shades—ranging from crystal clear to shades of green and blue, due to minerals and organisms in the water.

It’s worth noting that swimming is not allowed in the lakes to preserve their natural state. Tickets can be purchased at the entrance, but due to the park’s popularity, especially in the summer months, buying tickets online for a guided walk at Plitvice is a good idea.

Rila Monastery – Bulgaria

Location: Rila Mountains, Bulgaria
Best Time to Visit: Late spring to early fall
Admission: Free, donations appreciated

Nestled amidst the scenic Rila Mountains, Rila Monastery is a symbol of Bulgarian identity and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Founded in the 10th century by the hermit monk Ivan of Rila, the monastery complex has long been an important cultural, educational, and spiritual centre. Of course, you should add this famous European landmark to your one-week Bulgaria itinerary

According to legend, Ivan of Rila lived in a cave not far from the modern-day monastery. He performed miracles and attracted a community of followers, eventually leading to the foundation of this sacred space. The monk was canonised, and his cave is now considered a holy site.

The monastery itself is a marvel of architecture and art. Its balconied buildings are crowned with dark, conical roofs and a central tower enclosing a cobblestone courtyard. The vibrant frescoes on the outer walls, which depict biblical scenes and figures, are the masterpieces of the famous Bulgarian artist Zahari Zograf.

When you visit, don’t miss the Monastery Museum, which houses a collection of artefacts, including an intricately carved wooden cross containing biblical scenes and figures. The work is so detailed it’s said to have taken the monk who created it over a decade to complete, ultimately costing him his eyesight due to the strain.

If you are visiting Dublin, in Ireland, this place can be a one day trip from Dublin. So what is the story of the Giant's Causeway?

Giant’s Causeway – Northern Ireland

Location: County Antrim, Northern Ireland
Best Time to Visit: Late spring to early fall
Admission: Free for the natural formation, Visitor Centre requires a ticket

Situated on the northeast coast of Northern Ireland, the Giant’s Causeway is an awe-inspiring natural formation of approximately 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of ancient volcanic activity. This UNESCO World Heritage site has captivated travellers and scientists alike but is perhaps best known for the myths that surround it.

Legend has it that the columns are the remnants of a causeway built by the Irish giant Finn McCool to face his Scottish rival, Benandonner. Depending on the version of the tale you hear, either Finn outwits Benandonner to protect his home, or he flees in fear, tearing up the causeway behind him to prevent pursuit.

The peculiarly symmetrical formations make for stunning photographs, especially during sunset when the columns are awash with golden light. For a more interactive experience, consider hiring a local guide to delve deeper into the history and folklore of this mysterious place.

Although the causeway itself is free to visit, the Visitor Centre requires an admission ticket. Here, you can learn more about the geological processes that shaped this natural wonder, as well as the legends that have been passed down through generations. The area can get crowded during the tourist season, so early morning or late afternoon visits are advised for a more tranquil experience.

Iulia Vasile

Iulia is a travel expert, blogger, engineer, freelance copywriter, and a curiosity-driven personality. She sees travel as the ultimate tool for self-improvement and personal growth, and that's the main topic of her blog, Juliasomething.com.

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