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The Ultimate Guide to Touring the World’s Best Architecture


Shah Mosque (Esfahan, Iran)

The Masjed-e-Shah, or Shah Mosque, is considered one of the Islamic world’s most spectacular buildings. Located in Esfahan, Iran, the mosque is decorated with seven-color mosaic tiles and calligraphic inscriptions.

colorful palace in portugal with city in background
Photo: Tatiana Popova/Shutterstock

Palácio Nacional da Pena (Sintra, Portugal)

Architects Wilhelm Ludwig von Eschwege and Nicolau Pires built the ornate castle in Sintra, Portugal, in 1836. The hilltop palace features painted terraces, gargoyles, and trompe-l'oeil interiors.

Astronomical Observatory Jantar Mantar In india
Photo: Kenneth Dedeu/Shutterstock

Jantar Mantar Observatory (Jaipur, India)

Built between 1724 and 1730 by Maharajah Jai Singh II, the Jantar Mantar Observatory is a complex of five astronomical parks in northern India. One observatory in Jaipur, shown here, includes 19 astronomical instruments.

temples in thailand with clouds in the sky
Photo: tortoon/Getty Images

Ayutthaya Temple Complex (Ayutthaya, Thailand)

The city in Thailand was a trading hub from the 14th to 18th centuries, but was destroyed by the Burmese in the 18th century and abandoned. Monasteries, reliquary towers, and murals still remain at the site.

white building in qatar
Photo: Courtesy of Qatar Foundation

Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies (Doha, Qatar)

Set in Doha’s Education City is Mangera Yvars Architects’ Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies. The building combines spaces for learning and prayer, and the design incorporates five columns, symbolizing the five pillars of Islam.

Museum of contemporary art in brazil overlooking water
Photo: Ostill/Shutterstock

Niterói Contemporary Art Museum (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)

Late architect Oscar Niemeyer designed the Niterói Contemporary Art Museum in 1996, at the age of 89. The UFO-like museum is perched over Guanabara Bay in Brazil and features a 322-foot long winding red ramp.

Beijing Olympic Stadium which looks liked a Bird's Nest
Photo: LU JINRONG/Shutterstock

Beijing National Stadium (Beijing, China)

Better known as the Bird’s Nest, the Beijing National Stadium was designed by Herzog & de Meuron, China Architectural Design & Research Group, and Ai Weiwei for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games. Chinese ceramics served as the inspiration for the eye-catching venue.

Habitat 67 housing complex in canada
Photo: Zack Frank/Shutterstock

Habitat 67 (Montreal, Canada)

Built for the World Exposition of 1967, Moshe Safdie’s cubic housing complex in Montreal served as the Canadian pavilion for the event. The homes, which overlook the river, are still in use.

building within a mountain in italy with blue skies
Photo: Cate_89/Shutterstock

MMM Corones (South Tyrol, Italy)

One of six Messner Mountain Museums (MMM) around the world, the MMM Corones was designed by the late Zaha Hadid. The spectacular structure in South Tyrol, Italy, is built into the landscape with a cantilevered platform overlooking the Italian Alps.

Aerial view of Kunsthaus Graz surrounded by buildings
Photo: Gordan Gedec/Getty Images

Kunsthaus Graz (Graz, Austria)

The Kunsthaus Graz, or Graz Art Museum, was designed by Peter Cook and Colin Fournier and completed in 2003. The bubblelike building sits within the traditional town and is referred to as the “friendly alien” by the locals.

the all-white Metropol Parasol in spain
Photo: Margaret Stepein/Lonely Planet

Metropol Parasol (Seville, Spain)

Architect Jürgen Mayer designed Seville, Spain’s controversial Metropol Parasol. The wooden structure—the largest in the world—shades the city’s Plaza de la Encarnación.

unique basket shaped Longaberger Company building
Photo: CJM Grafx/Shutterstock

Big Basket (Newark, Ohio)

Completed in 1997, the Big Basket was designed by NBBJ as the Newark, Ohio, offices of the Longaberger Company, which was known for its woven wood baskets.

yellow Cube houses in holland
Photo: JJFarq/Shutterstock

Cube Houses (Rotterdam, Holland)

Piet Blom devised 38 yellow Cube Houses, or Kubus Woningan, to sit atop the Blaak train station in Rotterdam. The kaleidoscopic designs feature dramatic interior spaces with views of the city.

Hang Nga guesthouse in vietnam
Photo: Zhukov Oleg/Shutterstock

Hang Nga Guesthouse (Đà Lạt, Vietnam)

The Hang Nga guesthouse, also known as Crazy House, was built in 1990 in Đà Lạt, Vietnam. The audacious home features themed guest rooms and organic decorations that give the space an otherworldly feel.

twisting white skyscraper in sweden with blue skies
Photo: whitelook/Shutterstock

Turning Torso (Malmö, Sweden)

Santiago Calatrava’s Turning Torso puts a literal twist on the traditional skyscraper. The 650-foot residential building in Malmö, Sweden, is the tallest building in Scandinavia and was part of the revitalization of the city’s waterfront.

clay house in colombia with mountains in background
Photo: Ostill/Shutterstock

Casa Terracota (Villa de Leyva, Colombia)

While it may look ancient, Casa Terracotta in Villa de Leyva, Colombia, was actually completed in 2012. Environmental activist Octavio Mendoza Morales used clay and recycled items for the home, which he built by hand.

The Crooked House on a main street in poland.
Photo: Konstantin Tronin/Shutterstock

The Crooked House (Sopot, Poland)

For a mall in in the seaside town of Sopot, Poland, architects Szotyńscy & Zaleski took inspiration from the illustrations of Jan Marcin Szancer to create a whimsical and distorted building called Krzywy Domek, or the Crooked House.

Egg-shaped center for the performing arts near water
Photo: Debra Millet/Shutterstock

The Egg (Albany, New York)

Architecture firm Harrison & Abramovitz designed the performing arts venue in Albany as part of the Empire State Plaza. Named for its ovoid shape, the Egg contains two theaters and was the subject of a song by They Might Be Giants.