“Architecture should speak of its time and place, but yearn for timelessness.” – Frank Gehry
I am sure you have often heard about the architectural marvel that is Europe. There always are new ways to fall in love with European cities. They are known to be a wonderland for photographers. Each time I visit a new city, the first thing I like to do is walk around to explore the culture, streets, buildings and cafes. It’s not like I am an architecture buff but yes, I love all things beautiful and Europe has a lot to offer.
Whether you are an architecture buff or a travel junkie, these cities will leave you fascinated with their history, culture and architecture.
Essentially known for its bicycle culture and luxurious canal houses, picturesque and dreamy Amsterdam has a very chilled and relaxed vibe to it. Interestingly, it has also been called as the ‘Venice of the North’. The city is filled with stunning architecture, charming gabled facades, and Dutch style houses.
Easy to explore on foot with acceptable distances, this is one of the cities in Europe where you will see cutting edge modern designs and historical buildings as well. The treasures in this city, will leave design lovers busy for weeks. I mean it when I say, Amsterdam is bound to leave you with an insatiable curiosity for more.
Must see building:
Anne Frank House
The house and the museum sits on the pretty canalside beside the church mentioned by Anne Frank in her diary. The tour of the house will take you through the floors, passing by the warehouse, the offices, the rooms and the secret annex were eight Jews were hiding during the Nazi occupation. The walls of the empty halls are now decorated with photographs of the family. Inside the dark annex there is a somber atmosphere which makes the whole experience very emotional. The very thought of eight people, cooking, eating, sleeping, praying and just about trying to live as quietly as possible is a bit overwhelming. If you have read Anne Frank’s diary, you will realize just how real it is and the memories from the diary will come flooding back. The museum part of the house shares the story of the arrests and everything that came thereafter.
You will see long lines more often than not, for tickets and entry, so do buy the tickets online, there is a separate entry for online purchasers and is rather quick.
It is easily the finest city in Eastern Europe right from the architectural spectacle that it is to the amazing ruin bar scenes – a great place to grab a drink. Drinking in the old and abandoned buildings is both fun and artsy. One of the most striking thing about the city is that you can witness roman ruins, gothic churches, hundred years old houses and modern buildings all next to each other. The dominant architecture style in Budapest is Baroque seen in the numerous churches along with Gothic, Renaissance and Romanesque.
Take a walk down chain bridge at sunset and climb up the castle road across the river to see the city setting in the warm glow of the sun. Some not to miss places for me include – Fisherman’s bastion (explore on foot to see the colorful houses in the neighborhood), St. Stephen’s Basilica, The State opera house.
Must see building:
I remember when I first got a glimpse of the interiors of the Parliament my jaw hit the floor seeing the extravagant architecture. Right from the red carpeted entrance, as you walk inside, the glorious views in gold and red progress dramatically leaving you stunned. I was overawed to see The Holy Crown of Hungary on display. Surprisingly enough photography was permitted in most areas of The Parliament.
We took the guided tours which is available in multiple languages including English and walked through the main entrance stairs and hall, one of the lobbies, the old House of Lords and to the Hungarian Crown Jewels. The Parliament building is a magnificent example of Neo-Gothic architecture, is just over 100 years old. It is the third largest Parliament building in the world and interestingly is the same height as St. Stephen’s Basilica.
The city has an undeniable charm with its cafes, chic effortless style of the Parisians and captivating architecture to say the least. Paris is a dream for architecture enthusiasts with its Gothic constructions, renaissance style buildings, creative modern structures that adds a beautiful dimension to the exquisiteness of the city.
The distinctive Haussmann buildings with black iron railings and hanging baskets with flowers personify the soul of Paris. The earlier palaces and mansions of Paris have survived over the years by transforming into apartments and shops, and on most Parisian streets there are a range of buildings from various centuries. While a lot of European architecture is referred to as Baroque style, what it really means can be seen at ‘The great palace of Versailles’ in Paris.
Must see building:
Cathedral of art and history, Notre dame is the most popular Gothic structure from the middle ages notable for its sheer size, antiquity, and architectural interest. Notre dame suffered damage over the centuries and underwent major restoration around the 19th century. The iconic façade which is recognizable across the world, imposing and ornate towers to the magnificent interiors with long halls, vaulted ceilings, soft light filtered through stained glass and the most outstanding feature being the cathedral’s three stained-glass rose windows. It’s nothing short of a vision when all of this comes together.
The intricate gothic-style design of the cathedral with its aesthetic grandeur, you are bound to miss the fine details in one visit. More than a short one-time trip is needed to explore the grandiosity of its interiors.
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is a city of myriad architectural styles Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and a lot more. Known as the city of hundred spires and Gothic architecture, simply by walking around the streets you will see glorious buildings, churches, magnificent palaces something amazing awaits at every turn. Old town is fascinating with shops, cafes and yes hordes of tourists. Do wander away from the crowd into the mysterious, quiet and narrow streets. Walking down the Charles bridge is simply enchanting, but try to do this early morning and late evenings to avoid crowds.
I am sure this city is truly an indulgence for tourists, historians, students studying architecture alike and for anyone who loves to observe and explore.
Must see building:
One of the largest medieval castles of Europe, where today the President sits and rules. Surrounded by huge courtyards, take a walk around to see this majestic building. The castle represents Czech history and the stories, the construction, the area will leave you fascinated.
I do recommend that to gain a true understanding of the history and significance of the castle, you must take a guided tour.
If you are a lover of architecture, the Austrian capital cannot be missed. Vienna is a visual treat that offers intricate Gothic architecture and Baroque grandeur. The best thing you could do in this city is to walk around as Vienna is soaked in incredible architecture. You are bound to see some jaw dropping buildings springing on every street you walk. There is much to see in this city from St. Stephen’s Cathedral to the Opera House and National Library which is the biggest library in Austria.
Must see building:
Known as the former Imperial summer house, the rich history of this glorious castle will leave you enthralled. There is a very well-planned tour of the castle, which will give an understanding of the empire and the glittering court life of the period. The interiors of this castle are done in white and gold with intricate crystal work and oil paintings, if only photography was permitted. This is where Mozart’s first performance took place at age six.
The lush green gardens were definitely the highlight for me at the castle. Do trek up the gardens for a stunning view of the castle and the city.