Europe is renowned for its historical museums, art galleries, monuments, and palaces. Some of the most famous destinations in the world draw tourists to the glittering capitals of European countries: the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Big Ben in London, the Colosseum in Rome. We wanted to take a closer look at some of the most interesting landmarks that reflect the unique culture and history of each country. Some of these monuments are already famous while others are intriguing new discoveries. Check out our top landmarks in Europe from the Parthenon to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, ancient to modern, castles to casinos.
Brandenburg Gate, Germany
Originally a traditional entrance to the city of Berlin, the “Brandenburger Tor” was built between 1788 and 1791. Based on the Acropolis of Athens, the twelve Doric columns have a simple, restrained beauty crowned by a “quadriga,” a bronze chariot pulled by four horses. The monument was damaged during WWII and then isolated and worn down during the partition of Berlin during the Cold War. Presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan both called for peace and freedom in front of the Gate and, in 1990, it was the site of the first steps towards the reunification of Germany and the symbolic passage between East and West. Fully restored, the Brandenburg Gate is now a symbol of peace and unity.
Suomenlinna Fortress, Finland
Suomenlinna Fortress covers six rocky islands with bastions bristling with cannons. The first fort, “Sveaborg,” was inaugurated in 1748 when Sweden ruled the country and expanded until 1808 during a period of war and conquest. After Finland regained its independence, the fortress was renamed Suomenlinna, or "Castle of Finland.” The citizens of Helsinki adopted the intimidating islands as a picnic spot complete with museums, restaurants, and brewery. Today, there are over 900 residents who live on the islands, maintaining the historic landmark and creating a unique artistic and historical community, transforming a legacy of battle into avante-garde culture and art.
Gullfoss Waterfall, Iceland
The “Golden Falls” are one of the most popular sights in Iceland and for good reason. The glacial waters of the Hvita River surge through the steep gorges before falling across three “steps” and then plunging over a hundred feet into the deep crevice. Mist rises from the frothing waters and sparkles in the frigid air where the pouring water seems to disappear, an illusion created by the angle of the fissure. The irreplaceable natural wonder was almost turned into a hydroelectric dam, but, according to legend, local hero Sigríður Tómasdóttir threatened to throw herself over the cliffs and saved the waterfall from destruction. While the story is doubtful, a stone memorial Sigriður is found above the falls. Gullfoss was untouched, and the sheer beauty of the frozen country remains intact.