One person’s beautiful is another person’s ugly – but what makes a beautiful piece of architecture? From an ancient temple to a cutting-edge modern masterpiece, here are the Holiday Lettings top ten picks for the world’s most stunning buildings.
Palace of Versailles, Ile-de-France, France
Photo credit: Andy Hay (license) via Flickr.com
Formerly home to Louis XIV, XV and XVI, this imposing palace complex in the monied suburb of Versailles is simply breathtaking. From the meticulously ordered gardens to the overwhelming opulence of the palace interiors, Versailles is well worth the day trip out from Paris. Don’t miss Marie-Antoinette’s personal estate, a whimsical antidote to the majesty of the main buildings.
Taj Mahal, Agra, India
One of India’s most photographed silhouettes is that of the handsome Taj Mahal, a mausoleum featuring a central domed structure flanked by minarets and bordered with graceful gardens. Built from white marble and dotted with semi-precious stones, the building was completed in 1653 under the supervision of a team of master architects.
Chrysler Building, New York, USA
Photo credit: Jim Bowen (license) via Flickr.com
William Van Alen’s 1930 art deco skyscraper was formerly the headquarters of the Chrysler car corporation and is now an integral part of the Manhattan skyline. Particularly popular is the stunning overlapping arch effect at its apex, diminishing into a final graceful spike. The dazzling crown of the building lit up at night is a familiar sight to film fans all over the world.
Royal Pavilion, Brighton, UK
Photo credit: Peter Tarleton (license) via Geograph.org.uk
This extravagant seaside pleasure pad was built for the amusement of the rather lucky Prince Regent (later to be King George IV). As you stroll through Pavilion Gardens you might catch your breath when the oriental-style onion domes appear. Be sure to feast your eyes on the colourful banqueting room before pausing for your own banquet in the first floor tea room.
Prambanan Temple, Java, Indonesia
Photo credit: Frank Douwes (license) via Flickr.com
This hauntingly beautiful Hindu temple site dates from the 9th century. The gray stone complex comprises a tall and pointed central building bordered by several smaller ones in the same highly decorated style. It fell into ruin over the centuries, but has slowly been restored as a place of worship and a checkpoint on every architect’s bucket list. It’s a sensational sight seen through the morning mists.
Burj Al Arab, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Photo credit: Joi Ito (license) via Flickr.com
British architect Tom Wright is responsible for this soaring construction, now home to one of the most luxurious hotels on the planet. It calls to mind a ship’s sail, its sweeping curves fanning out from the building’s tall spine all the way down to the artificial island on which it’s built. Go in and gaze up into the atrium to feel the full dizzying effect of the space – but you might want to stay elsewhere, unless you’ve got particularly deep pockets.
Neasden Temple, Greater London, UK
Photo credit: Astrid Eckstein (license) via Flickr.com
Neasden Temple, one of London’s most stunning buildings, is located on the northwestern outskirts of the city. This striking Hindu temple was designed by C. B. Sompura and constructed entirely of marble, granite and limestone, with no metal supports. A masterpiece of embellished marble domes and pinnacles, accessed by a remarkable white staircase, it’s free for people of all faiths to visit.
Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence, Italy
Photo credit: MarcusObal (license) via Wikimedia Commons
Florence cathedral stands in Piazza del Duomo and is one of the city’s most famous sights. It was designed by Arnolfo di Cambio in the 13th century and finished off in the 15th with its iconic dome courtesy of Filippo Brunelleschi. The magnificent dome is a marvel to look at, set off by the marble panelling and circular windows around the rest of the structure.
The Royal Crescent, Bath, UK
Photo credit: H. Michael Miley (license) via Flickr.com
Bath’s Royal Crescent is a spectacular arc of 30 Georgian townhouses designed by John Wood the Younger. View it face on when the sunlight hits the stone and turns it the famous honeyed hue, then turn your back for a view of the rolling green hills to the south. You can drop in to the luxury spa hotel at the crescent’s centre for afternoon tea in the pretty gardens.
Casa Batllo, Barcelona, Spain
Photo credit: Frank Kovalchek (license) via Flickr.com
This eye-catching Barcelona townhouse was remodelled by Gaudi in 1904. Partly art nouveau in style, its skeletal frontage (all irregular lines and bulging shapes) is peppered with colourful mosaics of pottery and glass, topped with scaly tiles and wiggly chimney stacks on its signature undulating roof, and finished with a marvelous inner light well of contrasting blue tiles.