The 30 Most Famous Landmarks in the World

Explore the globe in search of these intriguing historic sights.

By Gwen Pratesi, ContributorMarch 11, 2019
By Gwen Pratesi, ContributorMarch 11, 2019, at 11:42 a.m.
U.S. News & World Report

The 30 Most Famous Landmarks in the World

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Famous landmarks
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These top landmarks inspire awe.

Landmarks give us a sense of place. These monuments and natural wonders connect us to a destination and inspire travel. In Paris, it's the Eiffel Tower and in New York City it's the Statue of Liberty. All monumental to each place and its history, these 30 landmarks should be on your bucket list when traveling the world.
Famous landmarks
Credit

(Getty Images)

Angkor: Siem Reap, Cambodia

The expansive Angkor temple complex is one of Southeast Asia's most significant archaeological sites. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is where the Khmer Empire famously reigned from the ninth to 15th centuries. To best understand Angkor's history and its unique Khmer architecture, book a tour guide. And whether you get a guide or choose to explore on your own, be sure to climb to the top of Angkor Wat for truly spectacular views.
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These top landmarks inspire awe.

Landmarks give us a sense of place. These monuments and natural wonders connect us to a destination and inspire travel. In Paris, it's the Eiffel Tower and in New York City it's the Statue of Liberty. All monumental to each place and its history, these 30 landmarks should be on your bucket list when traveling the world.

Angkor: Siem Reap, Cambodia

The expansive Angkor temple complex is one of Southeast Asia's most significant archaeological sites. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is where the Khmer Empire famously reigned from the ninth to 15th centuries. To best understand Angkor's history and its unique Khmer architecture, book a tour guide. And whether you get a guide or choose to explore on your own, be sure to climb to the top of Angkor Wat for truly spectacular views.

Sydney Opera House: Sydney

The Sydney Opera House is one of Australia's top tourist attractions and one of the world's most recognizable buildings. It's also known as one of the busiest performing arts venues in the world. To get to know the famous Opera House, take The Sydney Opera House Tour, a guided, hourlong journey that costs $40 (about $29 USD). Several additional guided options are also available, including a comprehensive backstage tour of the venue. Afterward, stay for drinks or dinner harborside at one of the venue's outdoor restaurants.

The Eiffel Tower: Paris

The Eiffel Tower is one of the most visited monuments in the world, so you'll want to plan a visit during the shoulder seasons (spring or fall) to avoid crowds. Splurge on a ticket to the top of this iconic structure for unparalleled views of the city. Afterward, dine at 58 Tour Eiffel or famed Le Jules Verne. After sunset, you'll see why Paris is known as the City of Lights: the Eiffel Tower puts on its own dazzling light show every hour on the hour after dark.

Taj Mahal: Agra, India

The Taj Mahal is a tribute to Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan's favorite wife. This opulent structure, completed in 1648, has been recognized as the best example of Indo-Islamic architecture by UNESCO. Located in the city of Agra, the Taj Mahal is accessible via an hour plane ride or a three-hour train ride from the capital city of New Delhi. Considering the large crowds this world-renowned site draws, it's best to plan a visit in the morning. Plus, an early morning visit means you can catch the sunrise, which will no doubt cast an enchanting glow upon the white marble structure.

Burj Khalifa: Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Burj Khalifa is the tallest building and tallest free-standing structure in the world, measuring more than 2,716 feet high. This impressive architectural feat has more than 160 stories to its name, affording unforgettable views of Dubai below. Visitors will want to reserve tickets ahead of time for privileged access to the world's highest observation deck, At The Top, Burj Khalifa SKY. Then, head to the world's highest lounge, The Lounge, Burj Khalifa, for afternoon tea or Champagne at sunset.

Machu Picchu: Machu Picchu Archaeological Park, Peru

The ancient Incan city of Machu Picchu sits perched on a mountaintop in the Andes Mountains at 8,047 feet above sea level. Before you visit this incredible site, it's best to spend the evening in nearby Aguas Calientes to adjust to the region's altitude. Then, take an early morning bus or hike to the citadel. It's important to know that there is an entrance fee to visit, so you'll need to book tickets well in advance of your trip. There are also additional fees to climb to Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu peaks, where you'll find more spectacular views.

The Great Wall of China: China

Built more than 2,300 years ago, The Great Wall of China is the longest wall in the world, measuring 13,170 miles in length. The most visited area near Beijing is the Mutianyu section, the longest and one of the more restored parts of the wall. If you're looking for more of an adventure, travel to Jiankou, the most treacherous section. The unrestored Jiankou offers a challenging hike with steep inclines throughout. May and June are the best months to visit for ideal weather and stunning scenery.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial: Keystone, South Dakota

This iconic American landmark overlooks the picturesque Black Hills of South Dakota. For the best photo opportunity, arrive at sunrise when the golden light illuminates the faces of the four U.S. presidents. And if you're planning on traveling here during the warmer months, don't miss the nightly lighting ceremony, which occurs from May to September. This outdoor event features a video about the history and the making of the monument; it also pays tribute to veterans as the sculpture is illuminated.

Mont Saint-Michel: Normandy, France

This medieval Benedictine monastery is one of the most spectacular sights in Europe. Dating back to the eighth century, Mont Saint-Michel sits atop an island in the Bay of Saint-Michel at the convergence of Brittany and Normandy. Visitors can reach the abbey on foot, by bus or maringote (horse-drawn carriage). For a treat, stay on the island and enjoy a world-renowned omelet at La Mère Poulard or Normandy specialties, such as crepes and galettes.

St. Basil's Cathedral: Moscow

St. Basil's Cathedral is prominently located in the center of Moscow's Red Square. The cathedral was built between 1555 and 1561 under Ivan IV, or "Ivan the Terrible", and is a symbol of the Russian Orthodox Church. Take a tour inside the cathedral, then visit the top attractions at the Kremlin and Lenin's Mausoleum, also on Red Square. Summers are short and incredibly busy, so you may want to consider planning your tour of Moscow for the fall or, if you can handle the cold, the winter when snow blankets the city.

The Acropolis: Athens, Greece

Climb to the top of this rocky hill in Athens to visit one of the most impressive remains of the ancient Greek civilization, The Acropolis. Then, wander the ruins to see the world-famous Parthenon temple. Afterward, visit the Acropolis Museum, which is filled with priceless antiquities and statues unearthed from what is known as the Sacred Rock. Plan your visit in the shoulder seasons of spring or fall for cooler weather and fewer tourists.

Easter Island: Chile

This isolated island, situated 2,300 miles off the western coast of South America, is one of the most mysterious places on earth. Numerous theories have surfaced about the Polynesian settlers, the Rapa Nui and the demise of their civilization. What survived are 900 moai statues (large, humanlike monoliths) spread across the island, with one measuring more than 70 feet tall. Ahu Tongariki on the southeast coast features 15 moai statues side by side. Since there are few flights here and accommodation options are limited, you'll want to plan your visit far in advance.

Golden Gate Bridge: San Francisco

The Golden Gate Bridge spans 1.7 miles across the Golden Gate strait connecting San Francisco and Marin County. The bridge's welcome center features exhibits and information on the history and construction of the bridge. For a unique perspective, take the Golden Gate Bay Cruise from Fisherman's Wharf. This cruise sails under the impressive Golden Gate Bridge and along Alcatraz Island. Get your camera ready for the frolicking sea lions and dolphins – you may even spot a whale.

Neuschwanstein Castle: Schwangau, Germany

Built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria, this fairytale-like castle and its striking setting makes for a magical experience. In fact, there have long been rumors that it served as inspiration for a few Disney princess castles. Due to the castle's popularity, it's best to reserve your tickets far in advance, as the site is one of the most visited attractions in the world, especially during the summer. After touring the castle, take a walk (if you dare) across the sky-high Marienbrücke, a narrow bridge suspended over the plunging Pollät gorge.

Leaning Tower of Pisa: Pisa, Italy

The construction of this famous medieval structure began in 1173 and took more than 200 years. It's one of four buildings in the ceremonial complex of Piazza dei Miracoli or Square of Miracles. You can climb to the top of the bell tower, then visit historic Pisa Cathedral and the Baptistery. Afterward, join hundreds of tourists posing at all angles to capture a photo holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

The Great Pyramid of Giza: Cairo, Egypt

Located along the Nile River outside of Cairo, the Great Pyramid of Giza and the surrounding pyramids are more than 4,000 years old. Commissioned by King Khufu around 2500 B.C., these ancient remains serve as reminders of Egypt's prosperous and powerful past. They are also one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world – and the only one left standing today. If it's your first trip to Cairo, consider taking a guided tour to get a better understanding of the astounding construction. And while here, don't forget to take a photo with the Sphinx, one of the world's oldest statues.

Victoria Falls: Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Victoria Falls is the largest waterfall in the world, measuring at more than a mile wide with water that tumbles over several edges at up to 500 million liters per minute. Located on the Zambezi River between Zimbabwe and Zambia, the falls plunge more than 328 feet into the gorge below. You can book a day tour from Victoria Falls townin Zimbabwe or from Maramba in Zambia, or if you visit on your own, the entrance fee to the falls is $30. There are several viewing spots that offer excellent vantage points for Victoria Falls, but travelers say the best one is the Knife Edge Bridge.

The Western Wall: Jerusalem, Israel

Located in the Old City of Jerusalem, this sacred pilgrimage site of the Jewish people is also known as the "Wailing Wall." The wall dates back to second century B.C. and is the only remnant of the Second Temple of Jerusalem. Take the Western Wall Heritage Foundation's Behind the Scenes tour to see new subterranean discoveries like a Roman road, royal rooms and ritual baths. Visit in April, May, October or November for cooler temperatures and fewer crowds.

Giant's Causeway: Portrush, Northern Ireland

Giant's Causeway sits on the Antrim plateau on the northern coast of Northern Ireland. The 40,000-some geometric stone pillars that make up this site are a result of volcanic activity 50 to 60 million years ago. The causeway is free to visit, so take your time to explore. Venture out early in the morning on the red trail for panoramic views to capture pictures of the Causeway from the mountaintop. Then, head down the steps to explore this fascinating natural phenomenon up close.

Buckingham Palace: London

Buckingham Palace in London is one of Queen Elizabeth II's residences as well as one of the last working royal palaces in the world. While here, don't miss the changing of the guard ceremony, which is scheduled most days at 11 a.m. It's one of the best times to capture photos. If you want a peek inside, know that the palace opens its doors for 10 weeks in the summer and on select days in spring and winter. Book the Royal Day Out tour to see the State Rooms, Royal Mews and Queen's Gallery. This and other tour options are available on the Royal Trust Collection website.

La Sagrada Familia: Barcelona, Spain

Construction began on this imposing structure in 1882. After 144 years, the complex is set to be completed in 2026. Designed by Antoni Gaudí, La Sagrada Familia is one of approximately 20 impressive works in Barcelona by this famed architect. La Sagrada Familia is considered to be his most monumental. The Basilica has extended hours most days, but you'll want to book tickets ahead of time and plan accordingly since lines to enter can be very long, especially during the summer. The colorful, Gothic-like interior is spectacular, so have your camera ready.

Christ the Redeemer: Rio de Janeiro

Christ the Redeemer is the symbol of both Rio de Janeiro and Brazil. The famous figure is nearly 98 feet tall and was inaugurated in 1931. It overlooks the bustling city from the craggy mountaintop of Corcovado, providing truly spectacular views of Rio. You can reach the statue by taxi or take the train ride up the mountain. Plan to visit in the early morning or late afternoon for fewer tourists, cooler temperatures and selfies without the sun's glare.

Blue Mosque: Istanbul

This striking mosque, whose interior is lined with more than 20,000 handmade ceramic tiles, is appropriately named for its blue hues. Constructed in the 17th century, the Blue Mosque sits across from Hagia Sophia in the old city. This was intentional, as the Ottoman sultan at the time wanted to build a structure that would rival the Hagia Sophia in grandeur. Today, the mosque is one of the most visited attractions in Europe. There is no entrance fee but visitors must remove shoes and women must cover their heads and shoulders before entering. Also keep in mind, the mosque closes five times daily for 90 minutes for the call to prayer.

The Colosseum: Rome

Rome's Colosseum opened in A.D. 80 with Emperor Vespasian's son Titus proclaiming 100 days of games as its inaugural festivities. The greatest colosseum in Rome's empire, the amphitheater fit more than 50,000 spectators. Travelers looking for an in-depth experience should reserve a spot for the Colosseum VR Tour with LivItaly Tours. This six-person tour skips the lines and features exclusive access to the arena floor. The tour also extends to the nearby Roman Forum and Palatine Hill.

The Grand Palace: Bangkok

The Grand Palace, dating back to 1782 and King Rama I, is a complex of traditional Thai buildings that hold historical and sacred sites. The palace is also famous for housing the Chapel of the Emerald Buddha, where the famous green jade statue of Buddha resides. This is one of Thailand's most important and sacred artifacts. The fee to visit the complex is approximately $15 for foreigners. It's also important to note the dress code is conservative as it's a temple of worship.

Statue of Liberty: New York

Located in New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the U.S. The statue was given to the U.S. in 1886 by the people of France to symbolize friendship between the two countries and the site became a National Monument in 1924. Ferries to the statue depart from Battery Park in Lower Manhattan and stop at both Ellis and Liberty islands. Buy tickets in advance, especially to visit the pedestal and crown, and download the attraction's free mobile app before your visit for the best experience.

Petra: Petra, Jordan

Located approximately 150 miles south of Jerusalem, this ancient "Lost City" is one of the most spectacular archeological sites in the world and considered one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. Petra was the wealthy capital of the Nabataean people between 400 B.C. and A.D. 106. For the most informative experience, hire a professional guide. And don't forget to wear comfortable shoes. It will take nearly two hours to walk between The Treasury and The Monastery.

Ha Long Bay: Ha Long, Vietnam

Ha Long Bay is located in the Quang Ninh province in northern Vietnam, about 100 miles east of Hanoi. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ha Long Bay stretches approximately 168 square miles. There are more than 1,600 islands and islets rising from the bay that are surrounded by stunning turquoise and emerald green waters. Most are untouched and uninhabited. Book a full-day cruise from Hanoi with Halong Hanoi Transfer, which includes lunch and kayaking. And for optimal weather conditions, plan to visit in spring or fall when it's cooler.

Stonehenge: Wiltshire, England

The Stone Circle at Stonehenge is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Europe. This Neolithic monument dates back 4,500 years and was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986. Stonehenge is approximately 88 miles southwest of London, so it's possible to make it a daytrip from the city. Plan to arrange for a stone circle access visit to get close to the monument for photos, which you can request through the English Heritage website for Stonehenge.

Blue Domes of Oia: Santorini, Greece

This landmark is the famous blue-domed church captured in numerous photos of Santorini. The magical cliffside town of Oia is situated on the northern coast of the island and is one of the most photographed destinations in Greece. Follow the winding alleyways through the island's trademark white and pastel-colored buildings and homes. For the best photo opportunity and view of the church, set your GPS to 36.461245, 25.375832.
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Gwen Pratesi, Contributor

Gwen Pratesi is a James Beard Finalist in Journalism, award-winning food and travel writer, ...  Read more

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