22. Architecture inspired by greatness, but with a twist.
Considered by Guinness World Records as the largest church in the world, Basilica of Our Lady Peace in Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast, is one church structure to put on your bucket list. With 30,000 square meters or 320,000 square feet and 156 meters or 518 feet tall, there is no better way to see the whole building than from above! Even if it’s the most prominent church, it can only accommodate 18,000 people, which is no small feat, but when you compare it to St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City that can fit 60,000, it feels a bit small. Nevertheless, the beautiful building is a must-see.
Architect Pierre Fakhoury’s design of the dome and the circle plaza was inspired by the Basilica of St. Peter in Vatican City, which is no wonder why the structure is so familiar. However, it’s not an exact copy of it. The dome is a bit lower but twice the diameter of St. Peter’s, making it a sight to admire. The construction started in August 1985 and was officially opened in September of 1990, with Pope John Paul II attending the ceremony. With all the columns, statues, and beautiful scenery it has, there is no wonder why this basilica looks so cool from above.
21. View the castle that survived through the ages.
This is no ordinary castle in Europe; the Buda castle in Budapest, Hungary, had witnessed the country’s history. From wars, many Kings and Queens, burnings, and constructions. Experts believe people built this in the 12th century, with many architects working on it throughout the centuries. The once home of many royalties for the Hungarian kingdom, it is now the house of the Hungarian National Gallery and The Budapest History Museum and a popular tourist area to visit. The buildings surrounding it are as famous as the castle because of the medieval, Baroque, and Neoclassical homes, monuments, public buildings, and churches. So you can say this whole area is fascinating to see from above, not just because of the massive castle in the middle.
Indeed, this castle has gone through some changes over the years. However, one of the most significant changes was World War II, when the castle was destroyed with hard artillery and almost completely burned to the ground. So in 1948, the government decided to start reconstruction, saving some of the least damaged areas. Although, by now, the original structure from the 12th century was already long gone. Today, they modernized the castle from the outside. Plus, the interior with less ornate than it was previously. What’s interesting is that while reconstruction started, they found areas of the medieval era to preserve. These relics are throughout the castle’s structure. That means this castle’s legacy will live on for more centuries to come.
Bruges, Belgium, is the home of an iconic piece of architecture that dates back to the 1240s and captures the history of this beautiful town and its buildings. The Belfort of Bruges is a medieval bell tower in the middle of town that has been around for hundreds of years. It was once the observation post, a treasury, and even held municipal archives, but now it’s a beautiful place to visit just to watch the breathtaking view of this old town. That is if you dare to climb its 366 narrow steps to the top. Some tragedies have fallen upon this bell tower. A fire in 1280 left the building in ashes, with all of its historic archives getting lost. A lighting strike in 1493 resulted in another fire that destroyed the bells as well.
Presently, the bell tower is part of the UNESCO World Heritage list as part of the Belfries of Belgium and France property. One of the most iconic parts of this tower is the bells in the top, which were part of the city folk’s everyday lives, announcing the time, work hours, as a fire alarm, and many political, social, and religious events. There are 47 bells in total. Some have been around since the 17 century, and on the whole, it weighs approximately 27.5 tonnes. If you think you have seen this building before from different angles, it’s because it was also featured in the 2008 film “In Bruges.” Its beauty was also mentioned in the 2004 novel Cloud Atlas.
Imagine going to a deep rocky forest, and you find a lonely home on the top of a mountain, do you either climb the rock to check it out, or would you run away? The Habitants of the village of Katshi in Georgia did look at it and thought it was a sign from God, and for a very long time, they couldn’t get on top of the natural limestone monolith. It wasn’t until 1944 that a group of researchers climbed up there to study it. They found out that the ruins were from the 9th or 10th century. Furthermore, a hermit owned the area. Most shockingly, he even built their church dedicated to Maximus the Confessor, a crypt, hermit cells, curtain wall, and a wine cellar.
After it was made accessible to the public and restored, the church started seeing people in the 1990s. By the late 2000s, they repaired the monastery. The restoration of the ruins was simple, leaving the medieval style almost intact. Today, the monastery is inaccessible to the public. Now it’s the home of a monk named Maxim Qactaradze. He has lived there for the last 20 years, only coming down once a week. Plus, he has since then restored some parts of the buildings surrounding the monastery. So the best way to enjoy this beautiful old building is by looking at pictures taken from the skies. This is a dream home for any hermit.
18. Here’s to making a controversial design right.
Russia is known for its beautiful tall domes and iconic buildings that are the envy of the entire world. This next building is no exception. The Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow, Russia, is filled with history, destruction, and rebuilds but with an impressive finish. They built it in the 19th century and took more than 40 years to complete. Nevertheless, this cathedral is the third tallest Orthodox Christian church building in the world. The original building was destroyed in the 1930s by order of Joseph Stalin, where he planned on building a palace that never happened. It wasn’t until 1995 that they started construction on the church we see today.
At first, they wanted to build a replica of the original cathedral. However, when the architect was laid off and replaced by architect Zurab Tsereteli, he decided to go for a more modern and controversial design. He replaced the high marble reliefs with modern bronze ones. This new and improved cathedral has many chapels, with Alexander II and Nicholas II statues on the hill to the right. Today, the cathedral has hosted several historical events for Russia. That includes the Canonization of the Romanovs and the funeral of the first Russian president Boris Yeltsin. This majestic cathedral is highly visited. Seeing it from above makes everything else looks small in comparison.
17. Architecture from above uses satellites to capture the image.
It took a satellite to take a picture of a building so attractive that it became an internet meme. Gate to the East, also known as the Gate of the Orient in Suzhou, China, is a very familiar-looking structure with the second tallest building in the region. The design and shape are supposed to symbolize a passage to the city that is quickly modernizing. The location in the heart of the China-Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park is a way to divide what is considered the old town from the new. The construction started in 2004. They finished twelve years later. However, what is this building so notorious in China and the western hemisphere?
Well, if you look at it closely, it resembles a pair of pants rather than a gate. One of the most prominent architectural and design firms in the World, RMJM, a UK-based company designed the structure. This company made award-winning buildings all over the place. Hence, it was surprising for many people to see this structural design as a mockery. Viewing it from this angle takes a bit away from the look of pants, but it is still there if you look at it closely. Nonetheless, the arc building is an impressive feat in the architectural world. It will always be a piece of history that no one will ever forget.
In the middle of a busy town in the Galata quarter in Istanbul, a medieval stone tower dominates the skyline and brings a mystic air to the place. The Galata Towers, also known as Christea Turris, which means the “Tower of Christ” in Latin, is a nine-story tower that, for the longest time, was the tallest structure of the area. This tower was built in 1348 while expanding the territory, but this was not the first time they made the Galata Tower. They built the original one around 528 AD in the era of the Byzantine Empire. However, it was destroyed during the Crusades.
Hundred of years later, and we now have a tower that is part of Istanbul’s history. Over the years, it had been modernized even to have two operating elevators to make it easier for visitors to enjoy the view of the historic peninsula and its surroundings. Today the upper floors host a restaurant and café and a nightclub that even hosts its Turkish show. While people climb the top to see the beautiful city from above, we can now see the whole tower from a higher perspective and admire how such a historic building is still with us today.
15. Revel at this mind-blowing massive Lotus Flower from above.
The Lotus Temple in New Delhi is one of the most visited places on earth, with over 4 million visitors every year. This beautiful place is a Bahá’Í house of worship. Award-winning architect Fariborz Sahba designed it. He spent ten years working on the project and finished it in 1986. The temple’s “petals” are 27, which are free-standing and made out of marble, are arranged in clusters that form into three to nine sides with nine doors that take you to the main hall that has the capacity of 2,500 people inside. This structure looks like it belongs in an angelic and peaceful dream. There is no wonder why it has won so many architectural awards because of its beautiful design.
It’s impressive to look at from above, showing all the shapes and the peculiar flower shape. The Bahá’Í scripture inspired this shape. The scripture talks about what is essential in an architectural character of a house of worship. That is, it needs to have a nine-sided circular shape. Therefore, instead of going with a traditional dome to make the temple, they decided to go with something purer as a lotus flower. Another exciting thing is that they do not allow statues or images, pulpits, or altars. The marble used for the petals came from the Penteli mountain in Greece, the same marble used in many ancient and historical monuments. It is one must-see place to see, and what’s better is that everyone is welcome, no matter their beliefs.
14. Here’s a beautiful city with an unfinished icon.
Barcelona, Spain, is an old city with beautiful architecture that takes you back to a different era. However, the place we will be talking about is the very active neighborhood that is Poblet and its iconic Sagrada Familia church. In the 19th century, this place was once just a neighborhood of low-rise houses and fields. However, when factories started settling in the area, its growth came. This spot because a popular place to live and visit. In the middle of it, it’s the fascinating Sagrada Familia Gothic Church, which was built in 1882 and is still under construction today.
The church design was created by Francesco de Paula Villar and then finished by Antoni Gaudi. Its combination of Gothic and curvilinear art nouveau form makes it one of a kind—no wonder why the church and its surroundings are part of the UNESCO World Heritage sites. It has had many delays over the years, and for a moment, they had a finished day in the year 2026. However, due to the pandemic, it was delayed once again. Thus, it is unknown when they will finish it. We know that this piece of architecture and its surroundings are one of the must-see places for those who love history and exciting places.
13. Stars are not always in the sky, thanks to architecture.
This beautiful place that looks like it came out of a fantasy novel is called the Star Fort in Bourtange in the Netherlands. It was built and completed in 1593 under the orders of William the Silent. Why? To control the only road they had between Germany and the city of Groningen, whom Spain was holding during the Eighty Years’ War from 1568 to 1648. This place was in the correct position to control the link between the two locations, with a network of canals and lakes used as moats for a layer of defense.
While tensions grew, this fort served as a defense network on the German border from the end of the war and forward. It wasn’t until 1851 that they decided it was not worth keeping for defense. Thus, they ordered the fort to become a village. Over 100 years passed, and when the economy and living conditions permitted it, the government decided to restore Fort Bourtange. They transformed the abandoned space into a historical museum. Its shape wasn’t just because it looked “neat.” It was because it gave the guards a panoramic view of any potential attacks, and it worked! Now we can all admire this fantastic design from the sky and be impressed by how marvelous this fort is.
12. The twisted tower of Shanghai is one interesting architectural feat.
Shanghai has a very modern and futuristic skyline that feels like it’s the inspiration for many sci-fi novels. We can talk about many of the skyscrapers and exciting buildings in the area, but today we are focusing on one in particular: the Shanghai Tower. It was created by the American architectural firm, Gensler, with architect Jun Xia as the design team leader. This 128-floor building is all enclosed in an inner layer of glass façade which has an outer layer of glass that gives the effect of a twisted structure. Another exciting thing about this building is that both layers of the façade are transparent, eliminating the need to make any of the layers opaque.
There are nine indoor zones for visitors to find anything from restaurants, cafés, beautiful gardens, and shops. At the same time, they can enjoy a panoramic view of the city and its other fantastic buildings. Speaking of that, the Shanghai Tower joined forces with the Jin Mao Tower and the SWFC to have the world’s first adjacent grouping of three skyscraping buildings, which will turn into a 258 room hotel and include a museum. Having the opportunity to view these massive buildings is a privilege to admire. Sadly, the building is not entirely open, and there are a few areas are still under construction and expected to be available in the future.
11. A different type of architecture means a different way of living — and looking at things.
Not everything on this list has to be glamorous or filled with riches. However, this area of the world is still a significant one that we need to address. This is Dharavi, a locality in Mumbai, Maharashtra. People consider it one of the biggest slums in Asia, with around one million people in 277,136 kilometers. That figure makes it one of the most important densely populated areas in the world. It’s crazy seeing such a small area be filled with houses all close together. Plus, seeing it in this shot from the sky makes you wonder how small each home is.
The British Colonial era founded the area in 1884. Things started getting complicated, and factories were laying off people by the hundreds, so most of them ended up moving to this area. They used recycled items put together by the community for all of the housing. This includes people who made their living selling leather, textiles, pottery, and other goods. Even if they live a very humble life, with many disasters suffered by the people living here, including a plague, you just wondered how the construction of the houses started. Furthermore, how it grew over time to what it is today.
10. These ancient towers of Chittorgarh reveal a stunning aerial view.
Seeing buildings and towers that had survived over centuries of wars, bad weather, and fires is something that we need to be thankful for having the opportunity to witness and appreciate the hard work ancient civilizations went thru. The Jaya Stambh and Kirti Stambh towers in Chittorgarh, India, have been there since the 13th and 14th Centuries! The oldest one, Kirti Stambha (which means “The Tower of Fame”), is climbable. A merchant named Jeeja Bhagerwala crated this 72-foot-tall tower in honor of the first Jain Tirthankar, Adinath. Adjacent to it is another tower that dates over 100 years later.
This “newer” tower is called the Jaya Stambh (which means “The Tower of Victory) and was another tribute piece, but this time to honor the triumphs of King Rana Kumbha defeating the Malwa and Gujarat armies. This impressive tower is 120 feet high and has 157 spiral steps to the top, where you can view this ancient town. They also dedicated this tower to the Hindu God Vishnu. You can see this god in many of the carvings all over the building. Both towers center around an even older town, with some inscriptions that date back to the 1st and 3rd Centuries! The whole area has so much history and secrets that researchers are still trying to figure out—seeing those ancient towers still up after all this time makes us wonder how they survived after many centuries.
9. Look at the city where arts and science are the future of architecture and learning.
In our book, it’s always a must when you visit a new town to check their museum or educational place and learn something new. Well, if you see the city of Valencia in Spain, going to the City of Arts and Sciences is the one-stop you need to make. This cultural and architectural complex is considered one of the 12 treasures of Spain and one of the most important tourist destinations of the area. Santiago Calatrava and Félix Candela designed it in a former riverbed of Turia after the area flooded in the late 1950s. They started construction in July of 1996. The city inaugurated the building just two years later, in April of 1998. However, they’re still more building to do.
It kept expanding until 2009 when the last building, “L’agora, was opened to the public. The interesting thing is that initially, it was only going to be three buildings, but it has expanded about three times that. Each building has a different theme. There’s “Palau de Les Arts Reina Sofia” — an Opera house and performing arts. Also, check out the Planetarium and Imax Cinema, “Hemispheric.” The “Museo de las Ciencias Principe Felipe” is a science museum. “Oceanografic” is an open-air aquarium with over 500 marine species. Finally, the “Agora” holds different activities and events, including concerts. The futuristic style and modern city will transport you to the future and admire a creative way of keeping people interested in arts and science.
8. Check out a 1,700-year-old place that is still going strong.
China has some of the most well-preserved buildings dating back hundreds and even thousands of years old – that architects around the globe still admire. One of the best well-known buildings is the Beisi Pagoda at Bao’en Temple in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province. This octagonal pagoda and tower are nine stories tall and 249 feet tall. If you think that’s huge, it used to be 11 stories. However, it was damaged, so they had to reduce the space down to 9. The construction includes wood, stone, and brick. Knowing how old the structure is, it’s no wonder they had to complete reconstruction over time. The Ming Dynasty, which was from 1368 to 1644, completed the design we see today. Although there is no specific date, it is for sure that the pagoda is way older than that.
Experts believe that the area where the pagoda is today dates back 1,700 years! A Buddhist pagoda was once built there during the reign of Sun Quan in the 3rd century. Then another one around the Liang Dynasty (502 to 557). The pagoda structure that we see today was constructed between 1131 and 1162 and led by Buddhist monk Dayuan. It was even burned down but restored during the centuries until the present day. In 2006 they restored the building to its glory days. Knowing all the history and everything that this pagoda had witnessed, we wish its wall could speak.
7. Here’s what an orthodox church did for World War II.
As we have discussed before, Russia has some of the most intricate and iconic architectural buildings in the world, and when it comes to orthodox churches, they are on the top of the most impressive ones you will ever find. Furthermore, the one church that comes to our mind is St. Peter and St. Paul Cathedral in Peterhof. You can see why it’s such a loved cathedral when you see pictures from above like this one, which belongs in a postcard! Around 1892, the project of making this building come true came after Emperor Alexander II approved the design made by Nikolay Sultanov to create a place where a more extensive crowd could gather together for mass.
Back then, they did not allow commoners inside churches belonging to the palace. This was the perfect place to keep its inhabitants happy and provide a space for gathering. After many years in the making, in 1905, they finally opened it. The church was shut down in 1935 in the middle of World War II when the structure got damaged while it was being used as artillery headquarter by German military forces. After the war, it stayed closed until it was restored and fixed. In 1990, they celebrated its first service after decades of being closed. The surroundings and the massive structure standing in the middle make this cathedral loved by many people around Russia and the world.
6. A cathedral showing its true colors to the world.
The grandeur of this next building puts it in the big leagues. This is the St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, Austria. It’s the tallest church in Austria, but it’s also one of the tallest churches in the world. At 450 feet high, you can see this building from many corners of Vienna. Not just because of its size and its colors that stand out from the rest. This 12th century church has a beautiful roof with geometrical patterns, a double eagle, colored tiles, Gothic form, and the city’s coat of arms that make the structure completely unique. However, underneath St. Stephens, the remains of two other churches stood in the same place. Now, they are lost forever but never forgotten.
As a tribute to the other churches that were there before St. Stephen’s, once a year, they ring the Plummerin bell for three minutes in the afternoon. You can see the ancient Plummerin bell if you are in shape enough to climb 343 steps to the top of the tower. At that height, you will also have a breathtaking view of the city of Vienna and many areas of Austria. However, the main focus has always been its beautiful colors on the limestone roof. Nevertheless, because it’s hundreds of years old, some colors are hidden by soot and air pollution. Thankfully, they have a restoration team who are working that is working to resurface the beauty of it, which has already cleaned part of the towers.
5. Did you know this architecture is almost a celebrity?
We all need a vacation from time to time, especially in a place that irradiates peace. The Marina Bay Sands resort in Singapore is your second home away from home if you have a lot of money to spend, mainly because of the casino property since it’s considered the world’s most expensive one at $6.8 billion US dollars. This fancy resort has 2,651 rooms, a gigantic convention-exhibition center, a mall, museum, movie theater, lots of fancy restaurants, two floating crystal pavilions, art exhibits, and the largest atrium casino in the world with over 500 tables and 1,600 slot machines.
And that’s not all! It also has a Skypark with a capacity of almost 4,000 people and an infinity pool that is on top of the world’s largest cantilevered platform. The mastermind behind this massive resort is architect Moshe Safdie. Card decks inspired him to make the beautiful surroundings and prominent buildings. If this place looks familiar, it’s because it’s on reality shows like The Amazing Race. This place is in films like Crazy Rich Asians and Independence Day: Resurgence. Do you like video games? You probably recognize it from Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 as a destroyed version of the resort. We can say for sure that this building will leave an impression if you ever get to visit it.
4. A massive tribute to a fallen emperor makes for amazing architecture.
Let’s continue admiring Russia’s beautiful churches. Here, we have the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood in St. Petersburg. This one is an orthodox church and a secular museum, making it one of the most visited and beloved attractions in St. Petersburg. Construction for it started in 1883, and the building opened in 1907. The Romanov Imperial Family funded everything. They honored Emperor Alexander II with this building. At the time, his son Alexander III was in power, so it was a tribute to his father, who died two years prior. Nevertheless, there is more than just a name to honor him inside the church.
A bomb killed Alexander II in the same road and place where the church construction was. They wanted to create a permanent shrine in his name. Therefore, they decided to narrow the canal so that the street where he was assassinated ended up inside the church. Inside, they constructed a ciborium on the opposite side of the altar at the exact place where it took place. Semi-precious stones decorate the building, which contrasts with the rest of the area. While the site has primarily baroque and neoclassical buildings, the church has medieval Russian architecture, which makes it stand up from everything else and resembles a 17th-century Yaroslavi church. If the exterior is iconic, a team of the most celebrated artists designed the interior. They collaborated with architect Alfred Alexandrovich Parland. He decorated the walls with intricate mosaics, being the most than any other church in the world.
3. Look at a breathtaking aerial view of the most significant capital in the world.
The capital of one of the wealthiest countries globally, Washington DC is home to some of the most well-known monuments in North America filled with the nation’s history. Nevertheless, while there are many in the capital city, one stands up from all of them: the Washington Monument. It stands at 554 feet tall. Plus, it is the tallest obelisk and stone structure in the world made out of bluestone gneiss, marble, and granite. This obelisk within the National Mall came in 1966 as a commemoration of George Washington, the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War and the First President of the United States.
It was also the tallest structure globally. However, the Eiffel Tower in Paris overtook that record in 1889. The design came from the obelisk found in Egypt and made by Robert Mills. If you look closely at the monument, the marble has two different colors. That is because its construction began in 1848, but they halted it from 1854 to 1877. Why? Because they ran out of money. So for 23 years, the monument was only halfway done, and when they finally resumed construction, the marble they used came from a different source which is why it has two different marble shades. You can climb to the top (or use the elevator). There you will have a spectacular view of the capital and all its monuments.
2. The tallest museum in the world has an amazing view from above.
The Mole Antonelliana in Turin, Italy, is one of the most famous landmarks in the city. So much so that you can see a representation of it on the obverse of the Italian 2 euro cent coin. Named after its creator, architect Alessandro Antonelli, the construction of it began around 1863 and opened for the public in 1889, a year after the passing of Antonelli. They designed and constructed it to be a synagogue. Why? Mainly because of how big the Jewish community was in Turin, which at the time it was the capital of the new Italian state. However, when they transferred the money to Florence in 1864, the community got smaller. Nevertheless, the vision of its architect got more extensive, making the building 151 feet taller than the initial plan.
Since the Jewish community was running low in funds, they left the project, and the government took over, finishing Antonelli’s vision. When they finally finished it, the building was 550 feet tall, making it the tallest building in Europe at the time. It also received the title of the tallest unreinforced brick building in the world. Today, the building houses the National Museum of Cinema, making it the tallest museum globally. It had become such a big part of the history of Italy. So much that in 2006 it was the inspiration for the official emblem of the Winter Olympics of that year.
1. The biggest tribute to love through architecture.
When we talk about fantastic home architecture, hands down, the one that we can think is the most impressive (and expensive) is the Taj Mahal in Agra, India. Considered one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007 and part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, this mausoleum is one of the most well-known structures on the planet. Being the symbol of India’s rich history, it is one of the most visited places with around 8 million visitors every year. The story behind this building is one of heartache and a tribute to love in the most expensive way possible.
Shah Jahan commissioned the building to tribute his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. She passed away while giving birth to their 14th child. His grief was so much that he wanted to make the most lavishing mausoleum he could afford. Experts believe that it cost around 32 million rupees to complete, which with inflation, it be approximately 70 billion rupees in 2020. Likewise, that is about 1 billion US dollars. Construction started in 1632. They completed the main building in 1643. However, it took ten more years to finish its surroundings and the rest of the complex. Shah Jahan passed away in 1666. His body lay with his wife, where they reside to this day.