Architectural Wonders: 45 Iconic Modern And Historical Structures In The World

By Jishnu B December 31, 2023

This article was originally published on travelerdoor

Almost all living things were given the ability to make a home or find shelter. That’s how evolution has shaped us. Birds make nests, rabbits dig holes in the ground; meanwhile, monkeys live on trees. However, humanity and its advancement toward better shelter is an ongoing process.

It started off with our ancestors who lived in caves. Now, we have structures that could kiss the sky. We are one of the few creatures who appreciate the aesthetic value of their homes. Hence, humanity has developed the craftsmanship of architecture for many centuries.

In this listicle, we have gathered astounding building structures from all over the world. Some are from thousands of years ago, while others were built fairly recently. Fair warning: you might want to book plane tickets after reading this.     

Hawa Mahal, Jaipur

We couldn’t resist it. We had to start with something we’ve seen in real life. If you think this looks beautiful in the picture, you couldn’t imagine how devastatingly gorgeous it looks in person. The Hawa Mahal is pink and red, just like all other buildings in the “Pink City.”

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It was the home of the Rajput Family. Hawa Mahal was a part of the royal harem. Since the ladies had to maintain strict ‘Purdah,’ they were separated from the males. Whenever a festival or any other spectacle happened, the women could enjoy it through the 953 ornate windows of the Mahal. 

Drachenburg Castle, Germany

When we think of European castles, this magnificent construction comes to mind. It’s like a real-life fairytale. We could totally see Disney doing a live-action movie here. However, this is no royal castle. It was made by a wealthy Baron, Stephan von Sarter.      

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Despite being located in Germany, the castle wasn’t actually made by German designers. The Baron had initially hired architects from his own country. However, after a quarrel with them, he brought in architects from Paris. Sadly, Starter died too soon. However, we get to admire this beauty in his memory. 

Westminster Abbey, London

Westminster Abbey is Britain’s most prominent religious structure. A tour of London is never complete without visiting this beauty. Aside from being a cathedral, it also contains the burial site of many British monarchs and other prominent figures. It’s the definition of gothic architecture.  

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The cathedral contains all the features of a classic gothic-style building. The pointed arches are supported by many flying buttresses, and there’s also the stained glass and the gorgeous rosette window. We are jealous of the 16 kings lying there. Spending forever in such a beautiful building isn’t such a bad deal.  

Cliff House, San Francisco

The cliff house was built in San Francisco next to the Pacific ocean 159 years ago. It’s hard to miss it since it’s not every day you see a massive castle on the edge of a cliff. The building is quite old and has been renovated severally over the years.

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Its late 19th-century version as a massive Victorian castle was the most impressive. Unfortunately, a fire razed most of it down in the early 1900s. A newer, modern building was built in the exact location. It’s beautiful, but it’s no Victorian castle. 

Leuven Town Hall, Belgium

We have a soft spot for gothic architecture. As you read more of this listicle, you’ll often see us obsessing over buildings made in this style. We can’t help it. They are simply too beautiful. They have an elegant yet haunting vibe that no other architectural trope can offer.  

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The Leuven Town Hall was constructed in Brabantine Late Gothic architecture back in 1469. This style was popular during the 14th century and survived till the renaissance era. The town hall’s exterior and interior have exquisite detailing that never fails to impress.

Les Espaces D’abraxas, France

This is a display of mind-blowing modern architecture. After WWII, France was dealing with a rapid urbanization problem. To address this, they commissioned Ricardo Bofill Taller de Arquitectura in 1978 to build the Les Espaces d’Abraxas. It is among their best works. 

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From the top, it may seem as if a massive hole was dug into the ground, and the estate was built there. However, it is nothing but a simple yet genius trick. They placed grass on the top to make it seem level with the ground. In reality, it’s just an illusion. 

The Old Royal Naval College, London

There is no shortage of historical landmarks in London. In a country where the monarchy is still present, you will find many tourist spots and fine architecture. However, the Old Royal Naval College of Greenwich is possibly the finest among them. It is even recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

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The college is often described as the finest representation of British architecture. It was a palace during the Tudor dynasty. Hence, it witnessed the births of many famous and infamous monarchs, such as Henry VIII, Mary I, and Elizabeth I. The building was later transformed into a hospital. 

Hauts-De-France, Northern France

No Europe tour is ever complete without visiting France. However, don’t just frolic in the city of love. France has many better (and more stunning) cities other than Paris. For example, you should definitely visit Hauts-De-France, the northernmost corner of the beautiful country. 

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It does not have the hustle and bustle of the capital. Seeing France from this angle will allow you to have the full European experience filled with breathtaking architecture and lovely quiet streets. Just look at this storefront. Does it not fill you with wanderlust?  

Edo Neighborhood, Japan

If Asia is on your bucket list, we recommend placing Japan somewhere close to the top. It has the perfect blend of history and modern culture. If you go there, you should definitely aim to enjoy both aspects. Don’t just spend the whole tour among the flashing lights of Shibuya.

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Hence, you should definitely visit the Edo neighborhood. It developed in the fifteenth century and was the capital of Japan. At the time, only a few other cities came close to its glory. Though the architecture isn’t flashy, there is something magical about walking through 500-year-old houses. 

Kensington, London

Kensington is sometimes called the Beverly Hills of London. You have easy access to three of England’s major museums from there. The Kensington area has many luxury boutiques and restaurants. Even if you don’t indulge in the grandeur side of life, you can still enjoy this neighborhood.

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They arguably have the best architecture in the residential areas. The buildings are shorter and often painted with pale paint. Their streets have beautiful flowering trees. Walking through Kensington feels like a dream. Just look at this beautiful house. It looks so angelic with the Wisteria trees. 

The Library of Trinity College, Dublin

We love to examine all sorts of beautiful architecture. But what we love even more are books — not those Ebooks, though. While reading, we love to smell the ink from the paper and slide our fingers across the coolness of the hardcovers.   

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You can’t imagine how excited we were to find out about this majestic library. It was built 430 years ago. You will be pleased to know that this library harbors literally every single book in the country. Irish authors must legally submit a copy of their published work to the library.  

Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy

This structure’s resilience is extremely impressive. The ivory-colored tower is covered with Greek Corinthian columns. However, it’s not its beauty that made it so famous. As you can see from the pictures, the tower is miraculously leaning sideways, yet not falling apart.  

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The tower was meant to be the cathedral’s bell tower, hence the giant bell at the top. Construction began in 1173 and took a whopping 199 years to complete. A few years into it, a portion of the unfinished tower literally sunk into the ground. However, they still finished it regardless. 

Hrensko, Czech Republic

When we discuss the scenic beauty of Europe, we always think of countries like Italy, Greece, France, and England. Less famous countries like the Czech Republic ever come up. However, this country’s rural side has some of the finest locations in Europe. Hrensko is one of them. 

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It’s called a hidden gem and grazes the border of the country, only 130 kilometers from Prague. To say Hrensko is stunning is an understatement. You will see many well-designed stone structures like this there. Just imagine sitting in such a cottage while enjoying the sound of the river.   

Shah Mosque, Iran

There could never be a more fitting house for god. Only divinity is worthy enough to reside within such magnificence. Out of all the mosques on the planet, the Shah Mosque simply takes our breath away. Its blue hue and stunning artwork detail are truly mesmerizing. 

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The Shah Mosque is rightfully crowned as the masterpiece of Persian architecture. It employed the four-iwan format with high vaulted halls, which is very common in Islamic architecture. It’s undoubtedly one of the most beautiful religious structures in the world. 

The House of Scientists, Ukraine

We’re primarily focusing on the histories and architecture of the buildings as a whole. However, this grand staircase was so beautiful that we had to give it special attention. You may think this belongs to an expensive mansion or a castle. However, it’s actually from The House of Scientists in Lviv. 

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Fellner & Helmer, the architects behind this masterpiece, took inspiration from European Baroque architecture. While the rest of The House of Scientists isn’t as lavishly designed, they took special care of the lobby where this staircase belongs. Whenever a visitor goes there, they are greeted by this grandeur. 

Royal Portuguese Cabinet of Reading, Rio De Janeiro

Brazil is the land of festivals, great music, and samba. They also have ‘Cristo Redentor,’ one of the biggest statues ever made and one of the seven wonders of the world. Aside from that, they also have gorgeous beaches. It’s hard to have a bad time in Rio.  

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Besides all the colorful festivities of Rio, visit the Royal Portuguese Cabinet of Reading when you go. This 185-year-old library is one of the largest vessels of knowledge. Outside of Portugal, this library alone holds the most extensive collection of Portuguese texts. The beautifully crafted shelves of books are mesmerizing. 

Kailasa Temple, Ellora

This structure is so incredible that many deny it was made by humans. It’s a popular theory that the Kailasa Temple was constructed by extraterrestrial creatures. This temple is the biggest monolithic structure in the world. Which means the whole thing is built from a single stone.

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The temple is carved out of a stone mountain from the top. It has three floors with hundreds of statues of Hindu deities. Four million tons of rock were carved out during its construction. Hence, it’s so hard to believe that humans made it. Even with modern technology, it’s nearly impossible. 

Paris, France

We don’t really need to explain why Paris is the ultimate tourist destination. That’s because everyone is aware of the City of Love. Paris is undoubtedly one of the most famous places in the world — inviting more than 30 million visitors each year to witness her beauty.

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However, not many enjoy the true Parisian experience. Most people are too distracted by locations like the Eiffel Tower and The Louvre. They often ignore the smaller essence, which is sad since many obscure establishments in Paris have such detailed ornate decorations.

The Valley by MVRDV, Amsterdam

The Netherlands has done a great job of safeguarding its 16th-century buildings and gorgeous canals for years. Walking through Amsterdam is simply a sublime experience. Aside from preserving its old architecture, the city has also given birth to many new advanced ones.   

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Amsterdam is one of the best in the world when it comes to modern architecture. The city boasts some of the most spectacularly innovative structures. This building, for example, is called “The Valley” — a project that strives to bring greenness to the office environment.  

Tollymore Forest Park, Northern Ireland

Since we are admiring new architectural designs, we must also appreciate the innovativeness of the old ones. Take this 17th-century gate, for example. It was made nearly 400 hundred years ago. However, it’s still much more functional than some of the modern gates of this century.  

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The gate used to be secured with armed guards back when the Tollymore House was still active. It most certainly looks imposing and beautiful. However, it was also very innovative. To ensure guards never left their posts, they installed small houses within the gates. That way, the perimeter was protected 24/7. 

Shiraz Mosque, Iran

Islamic architecture is heavily underappreciated, and it pains us to our core. Over thousands of years, they have honed their craft and created many of the finest structures the world has ever seen. The Shiraz Mosque in Iran is a prime example of that. It’s hard to believe humans created such beauty.    

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Every inch of the walls is filled with intricate artwork, and stained glass adorns each window. Things like these make you feel grateful for having functional eyes. It’s also things like these that make us resent being broke! We wish we could buy a plane ticket and enjoy this majesty in person. 

    

Alhambra Palace, Spain

Here’s a fun tidbit for you. Did you know that there was a time when Muslim rulers existed in Spain? The Nasrid dynasty ruled the Liberian Peninsula from the thirteenth century. This gave birth to the Alhambra Palace. One of the most incredible feats of Islamic and Moorish architecture. 

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As gorgeous as it looks on the outside, it’s nothing compared to the inside. The interior is filled with masterful Arabic calligraphy and intricate lattice design. As one of the most important displays of Moorish architecture, the palace has both Islamic and Western influences. 

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

Before Istanbul, there was Constantinople. The city was home to the ancient Greek Byzantine empire in 330 CE. As a counterpart of the Roman empire, the Byzantines had a major artistic and technological advantage over their neighbors. One of their greatest architectural achievements was the Hagia Sophia.

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The dome of Hagia Sophia was so tall that it was believed it hung from the heavens by a chain. In 1453, Mehmet, the conqueror, claimed the city and renamed it Istanbul. Although Constantinople crumbled, the Hagia Sophia remained standing. To this day, this structure is celebrated by both Christians and Muslims.  

Hansel & Gretel Pancake House, Netherlands

Just a while ago, we were praising the Netherlands for its innovative architecture. We can even go so far as to say that they pioneered visual abstractness in modern architecture. Every year thousands of architectural students from all over the world go to the Netherlands to master their creative designs.   

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We don’t blame them. We would also like to see a cottage like this first hand. It’s modeled straight out of a fairy tale, and the result belongs on the cover of a children’s book. It just makes us feel nostalgic for simpler days when all we needed to sleep soundly was a bedtime story.

The Shah Mosque – Iwan Door

We have previously talked about the majesty of the Shah Mosque in this listicle. Yet we were so mesmerized we could not help but devote another section to it! This should tell you how magnificent this sacred establishment truly is. You might as well book a plane to Iran. 

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The Iwan door of the Mosque deserves more recognition. The mosque is filled with intricately executed artworks and calligraphy. Yet the spider web design of the Iwan entrance makes it more mesmerizing. The vaults of the facade were done by using geometry. Hence the prismatic effect.  

Castillo De Colomares, Spain

This one is infuriating, not because of the castle itself but because of to who this creation was devoted. It was Christopher Colombus. The mighty explorer who ‘discovered’ America and also a horrible human being. If you like him, please do further research on him. 

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Esteban Martín created this monument in his honor. The architecture reflects voyages and a “brave” lifestyle. It is one of the largest monuments in the world and also houses the smallest church. All of this magnificence for a sad excuse for a man. They should’ve made it for Betty White instead.

 Taj Mahal, India

We all know The Taj Mahal’s background as a monument of love. Recently, however, there have been speculations on whether Emperor Shajahan made this monument out of love or as a political move. After all, he had several other wives.    

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However, we aren’t here to talk about that. We are here to appreciate the front entrance instead. We went there and witnessed its brilliance ourselves. The construction of the gate employs the rule of optical illusion. Hence, the closer you walk to the door, the further the Mahal gets. 

Château Frontenac, Canada

Since Canada had no monarchy, you may be wondering who exactly built this castle. The answer is the former governor of Canada. He planned on restoring Quebec’s 17th-century aesthetic, so he commissioned this imposing chateau. Currently, it is a hotel and resort. 

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The chateau took inspiration from various schools of architecture. It has 18 floors and is the perfect combination of gothic and Victorian architecture. The structure is currently managed by Fairmont Hotels and Resorts. You can book a room here to sleep like royalty for a night! 

Castillo De Colomares, Spain

We have to laugh. Otherwise, we would cry. But then again, Christopher Columbus thrives off the tears of people. Thus, we shouldn’t give him more satisfaction. Finding out such a beautiful castle exists for one of the most horrible human beings was frankly traumatizing.

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The structure itself is impressive, no doubt, but we don’t understand why Esteban Martín Martín was so obsessed with this guy. The monument has intricate details that reflect Columbus’s sea voyages. As you can see, there are decorations in the shape of underwater corals. 

Sistine Chapel, Vatican City

The Sistine Chapel’s ceiling is perhaps our favorite artwork. It is home to the famed wall painting “Creation of Adam.” The chapel is beautiful from the outside. However, inside is where the true magic happens. The beauty of Michelangelo’s ethereally beautiful biblical artworks that we still admire. 

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Michelangelo refused to paint for the chapel initially. However, the Pope pestered him till he relented. He then created the finest artwork the world had ever seen. During the process, Michelangelo didn’t allow anyone inside, so when devotees first entered the chapel, they thought they had reached heaven.  

Holy Trench, Czech Republic

Since we are appreciating religious structures, we must make space for this hauntingly beautiful monastery. This right here is the Kailasa temple, which was curved from a single slab of rock. This church is quite literally built inside the stone.

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There is a tragic tale about the church. Legends say that the knight Jaroslav of Svojkov and the daughter of a brewer from Velenice had fallen in love. However, the knight’s parents considered the girl to be low-born, so they opposed their union. Thus, the two lovers chose to die inside this church. 

Astronomical Tower, Prague

The Astronomical Tower In Prague holds one of the greatest treasures of the world. An astronomical clock from the medieval ages. It is the third oldest clock in the world and the only one that is still functional. The clock is around 700 years old. 

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The clock can not only tell you the time but can also accurately detect the position of the sun and moon. Other than these exceptional abilities, it is also decorated with sculptures of knights, angels, and skeletons. You should definitely see this clock once before time runs out. 

Le Train Bleu, Paris

We have already established that Paris is one of the greatest architectural hubs in the world. Even the simplest sectors of life have gorgeous designs. There is rarely a dull spot in Paris. Look at this establishment, for example. It looks more like a royal’s chambers than it does a restaurant. 

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This restaurant is located inside the Gare de Lyon train station and was established in 1901, making it more than 100 years old. It certainly looks like an old palace’s interior. It went through a restoration process in 2014. We are glad they retained the original royal atmosphere.  

Ancient Desert House, Libya

There is a reason we admire our ancestors more than we do our peers. We have access to all sorts of technologies and tools, and yet we cannot come up with innovative designs like this. However, ancient folks from Libya and Tunisia made homes like these and lived in them for hundreds of years. 

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They dug a hole out of the desert floor and built a house. What’s more impressive is that this was made in the medieval era, which means it has stood tall for hundreds of years. The structure must be quite solid since it remains unharmed despite being built on unstable desert grounds. 

Baps Akshardham Temple, India

Indians are known for not holding back when it comes to building incredible structures. If you want to witness unique historical architecture but have a constrained budget — go to India. It is worth every penny. They have some of the finest temples and castles the world has ever seen.  

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The Baps Akshardham Temple is rather recent compared to most other buildings on this list since it was completed in 2005. However, they preserved the craftsmanship of their predecessors and employed the same techniques during construction. It’s among the most visited monasteries in Delhi.

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is known for curating and displaying fine art. However, visitors don’t just come to see the art within its walls. The building itself is an embodiment of fine craftsmanship. The museum was designed by the famous architect Renzo Piano. 

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It holds the paintings and sculptures of many legendary artists such as Titan, Botticelli, and Johannes Vermeer. It also gained publicity after experiencing the biggest art heist in history. 500 million dollars worth of paintings were stolen in 1990, and none of the thirteen artworks have ever been seen since. 

Pietragalla, Italy

Italy is undoubtedly the best place to visit for any holiday. The people are amazing, and the food is even better. You’re guaranteed a good time. However, people generally tend to venture to the tourist spots like Milan and Naples, which makes them miss out on a lot.

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Try and visit the rural countryside of Italy. The town of Pietragalla and its ‘palmenti’ (buildings where grapes are pressed and their must fermented to make wine), is definitely worth your while. We assure you that you’ll have the best time of your life since there is nothing like European beauty in its rawest form.

Gran Hotel Ciudad De México, Mexico City

We don’t know how to explain it. This hotel lobby oddly reminds us of ’70s mobster movies — The Godfather trilogy, to be exact. There is something about the golden ambiance and stained glass roof that’s oddly reminiscent of the films. We can picture a Don smoking a cigar in the lobby. 

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We can’t help but wonder how much this cost. It’s odd that none of the other constructions here ever made us wonder such a thing. However, when we look at this photo, it is all we can think about. Maybe it’s the way the architects designed the place. Perhaps the goal was to radiate wealth. 

Great Wall of China

We all know about the great wall. It’s not great just because of its massive size, but also because of how old it is. The first foundations of the walls were laid out even before the birth of Jesus Christ. The goal was to protect the nation from outside threats. 

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Construction progressed exponentially during the Ming dynasty. Though it no longer serves as a shield from the nomads, the structure is still an important symbol to the Chinese. Every year, they strive to cross the massive wall and get to the highest place.  

Galway, Ireland

This has the elegance of Buckingham Palace, accompanied by the serenity of mountains and the woods. If we had to make a palace for ourselves, this would be our inspiration. We want to be royal enough to live in a castle but also wild enough to frolic in the woods. 

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Nature seemed to have reclaimed the palace. Its paint job is not as pristine as the other ones in the listicle. Yet somehow, we like this palace more. If we ever go to Galway, we will surely visit this location. We recommend the same for you. 

Dujiangyan Zhongshuge Bookstore, Sichuan

If photos had the abilities of mythological creatures, this photo would probably be a siren. There is no other explanation for it. It is almost as if it’s seducing us with a silent song. We have seen some spectacular libraries in this listicle before.   

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However, none looked like this. It looks like a library from a science fiction movie. The silver ambiance and c-shaped shelves covering the library’s whole perimeter are astounding. We are left wondering how they even retrieve the books from the top shelves. 

Al-Khazneh, Jordan

The literal translation of Al-Khazneh is ‘treasure.’ There could never be a more fitting name. Just like the Holy Trench, this temple is also curved into sandstone mountains. It was likely built around the 1st AD. Many believed the monastery contained treasures; hence, the name. 

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On the other hand, many believe that this is the mausoleum of the Nabatean King Aretas IV. Others think a Pharaoh hid their treasure here before going after Moses. None of the theories had been confirmed. Still, tourists flock around this temple to witness ancient architecture. 

Red Fort, India

Any trip to India is incomplete without visiting the legendary Red Fort. We know emperor Shah Jahan mostly for the Taj Mahal, the mausoleum he built for his wife. However, he also built the Red Fort, which became the home to all Mughal emperors. 

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It is the perfect place to go if you want to learn about the Mughal Dynasty. The fort had many sections that were used for various purposes. Sadly, it was looted when Nadir Shah laid a siege. Many treasures, such as the ornate throne, were stolen. 

Winter Palace, Russia

Those who learned the history of the Russian Revolution will probably recognize this palace. It was, after all, home to the autocratic Tsars who ruled Russia for many years. Their heightened luxury, in contrast to the suffering of others, kick-started the revolution. 

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The Winter palace was quite literally the face of luxury in Russia. After the monarchy was abolished and the House of Romanov had fallen, the palace was used as the parliament. Currently, it is used as a museum for tourists. You can see items that were used by the royals there. 

Palace of Versailles, France

Many monarchs have walked the face of the earth and built numerous forts and palaces. However, none will ever be as beautiful as the Palace of Versailles. Every inch of this structure screams luxury and wealth. This palace is also at the forefront of the field of Baroque-style interior designs. 

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This magnificent structure was built by King Louis XIV. The palace was the home of kings till the infamous French revolution happened. After the monarchy was abolished, it was used by the first consul, Napoleon Bonaparte. Currently, the palace is a museum for tourists.