This century is replete with significant architectural gems, especially in Europe, where the tradition of elaborate residences and religious structures has drawn tourists from all over the world. Below is my list of the greatest of these treasures, listed in chronological order. A photo album will follow this posting.
1. Kremlin, Moscow, Russia (1501-1540) – This incredible complex of mega-structures dominates Red Square, the center of Moscow. Highlights include the Annunciation Cathedral, the Cathedral of the Archangel, and the Armory Palace.
2. St Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City (1506-1526) – The central church of the Roman Catholic religion is a fitting tribute to the wealth and power of this major religion. The dome of the church, the largest in the world, was designed by Michelangelo.
St Peter's Basilica
3. Wawel Castle, Krakow, Poland (1506-1548) – This complex, prominently situated on a hill above Krakow’s charming Old Town, built by Casimir III, contains the Wawel Cathedral, which dates to the 14th century.
4. Hampton Court, Surrey, England (1514) – This palatial residence was originally built for Cardinal Wolsey, by King Henry VIII, and, following the cardinal’s death, became a royal residence for a time.
5. King’s College Chapel, Cambridge, England (1515) – This glorious chapel, on the grounds of the famous university, features an awe-inspiring fan-vaulted ceiling, and its altarpiece contains the famous Rubens painting, Adoration of the Magi.
Kings College Chapel
6. Torre de Belem, Lisbon, Portugal – This famous tower guards the entrance to Lisbon’s harbor and was an important element in the city’s fortifications. Nearby is the famous sculpture, Padrao dos Descobrimentos, dedicated to this small country’s great explorers.
7. Chateau du Chambord, Chambord, France (1519-1547) – This unusual and distinctive mansion, one of the main stops for visitors to the Loire Valley, began as a hunting lodge and evolved into this striking assemblage of pinnacles and towers.
8. Chenonceau Chateau, Chenonceau, France (1521) – Catherine de Medici produced the final version of this imposing mansion, which straddles the River Cher, in the Loire Valley.
9. The Louvre, Paris, France (1535) – One of the finest Art museums in the world is housed in a former palace, along the east bank of the Seine. The museum contains such masterpieces as the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, and Winged Victory.
10. El Morro (El Castillo San Felipe del Morro), San Juan, Puerto Rico, USA (1539) – Here is one of the most imposing fortresses in the entire Caribbean, a model for Spanish forts throughout the region. It dominates the entrance to San Juan’s busy harbor.
11. St Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow, Russia (1554-1560) – This distinctive landmark which anchors a corner of Red Square has one of the most beautiful and intricate exteriors of any religious structure. It was commissioned by Ivan the Terrible.
12. Sukiennice (Cloth Hall), Krakow, Poland (1555) – This dramatic structure, which sits in the middle of Europe’s largest public square, has been transformed into an indoor shopping area, with displays of local arts and crafts.
13. Wat Xieng Thong, Luang Prabang, Laos (1560) – Probably the holiest shrine in Laos, this compound contains a number of Buddha images and is popular with tourists as well as worshippers.
14. Humayun’s Tomb, New Delhi, India (1562) – This complex is a gorgeous example of Mughal architecture and is suggestive of the pinnacle of this architecture, personified in the Taj Mahal.
15. El Escorial, San Lorenzo de Escorial, Spain (1563) – This elaborate monastery/royal residence is one of the most popular excursions for visitors to Madrid. It contains the tombs of many of Spain’s monarchs and its interior is elegantly appointed.
16. Palace of the Grand Dukes, Luxembourg City, Luxembourg (1572) — This building began its life as the city’s city hall. Now, it is the royal residence of the head of the duchy.
Palace of the Grand Duke
17. Metropolitan Cathedral, Mexico City, Mexico (1573) – This immense religious edifice dominates the capital city’s central square, the Zocalo. It is one of the largest churches in Latin America.
18. Golden Temple, Amritsar, India (1574) – This distinctive, heavily gilded structure is one of the Sikh’s holiest places and is located in northern India.
19. Rialto Bridge, Venice, Italy (1588-1591) – A prominent landmark in the heart of Venice, and one of only a few structures which span the Grand Canal, the covered bridge is lined with stalls, selling various types of goods.
20. Amber Fort, Amber, India (1592) – This distinctive fortification is located just outside of Jaipur, a major tourist destination in the province of Rajastan. It attractively blends Hindu and Muslim (Mughal) architecture.