The Worlds Most Beautiful Buildings

1 . MUSEO GUGGENHEIM SPAIN

Straight away well say that this isnt a top 10 list there are just far too many styles of buildings, each worthy of a top 50. Instead, this is a list showing the variety of architectural beauty across the globe and pointing you in the direction of some unforgettable photographic opportunities. To start, were calling out Frank Gehrys Museo Guggenheim in the northern Spanish city of Bilbao. With its ribbonlike sheets of titanium and its collection of interconnecting blocks, the museum gives a nod to Bilbaos industrialism. Oh yeahnearly forgot. Theres art inside, too.

2 . POTALA PALACE TIBET

Perched high above the holy city of Lhasa is the former seat of the Tibetan government and the winter residence of the Dalai Lama. More notable now for its imposing presence than its residents, this huge construction is 13 stories high, contains thousands of rooms, and is styled like a traditional Buddhist gompa (temple), if significantly more elaborate. More than 7,000 workers were said to have been involved in its construction during the 7th century AD. Potala Palace is now a state museum of China, and has been given a place on the Unesco World Heritage list.

3 . BIBLIOTHECA ALEXANDRINA EGYPT

Between the ancient pyramids and the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Egypt now has the best of old and new. Like a giant discus landed at an angle or an enormous light switch, Alexandrias oceanfront library is arguably the first great design of the new millennium. Completed in 2002, its inspired by the original Alexandrina library, founded in the 3rd century BC and acclaimed as the greatest of all classical institutions. The vast rotunda space can hold eight million books.

4 . SAGRADA FAMLIA SPAIN

Surely the most extraordinary church on the planet, from the mind of one of historys most eccentric designers: Antoni Gaud. With its tapering towers like the straightened arms of an octopus, construction of Sagrada Famlia began in 1882, though Gauds vision was so complex that the church is still unfinished. It will ultimately feature three fa?ades and 18 towers, the tallest of them representing Jesus Christ. Plans are to have the Barcelona icon completed in 2026, the 100th anniversary of Gauds death.

5 . TAJ MAHAL INDIA

Is this the worlds most famous building? And its most romantic (ignoring the sprawling, industrial city around it, and the hordes of rickshaw-wallahs and touts)? Described by Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore as a teardrop on the face of eternity, the Taj Mahal in Agra was built by Emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial for his second wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth to their 14th child in 1631. Its an extravagant, whitemarble monument to love, which may explain all the young, starry-eyed couples wandering around it.

6 . IMAM MOSQUE IRAN

Headlining beside one of the worlds largest squares, Esfahans Imam Mosque is a tiled wonder. Completely covered, inside and out, with pale blue and yellow ceramic tiles (which are an Esfahan trademark), its a stunning 17th-century mosque. The main dome is 177ft high and intricately patterned in a stylized floral mosaic, while the magnificent portal is a supreme example of architectural styles from the Safavid period (15021772). The mosque sits askew to the square, at about 45 degrees, so that it faces Mecca.

7 . WINTER PALACE RUSSIA

Best known as the outer casing for the remarkable State Hermitage Museum, this pistachio-colored gem on the banks of the Neva River in St Petersburg was designed by Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli as the winter residence of the Russian tsars. Filling an entire block, it bears all the whimsy and ornamentation of the baroque period, and statues line its roof edges like divers about to plunge into the Neva.

8 . CRAC DES CHEVALIERS SYRIA

Described by TE Lawrence as the finest castle in the world, this hilltop Crusader fortress might be 800 years old but, like a good botox treatment, stands tight and taut against the ravages of time. Its the classic blueprint of a medieval castle, its thick outer walls separated from the inner structure by a moat dug out of the rock. Inside, its a minitown, complete with a chapel, baths, a great hall and a Gothic loggia.

9 . MUSEU OSCAR NIEMEYER BRAZIL

Designed by Oscar Niemeyer, the Museu Oscar Niemeyer in Curitiba will test your view of aesthetics. Like all great buildings the art museums appearance has an element of love it or hate it, with its main gallery shaped like a reflective glass eye, balancing atop a yellow support, and approached on curving ramps above a pool of water. Once inside the building commonly called the Eye Museum, youll see that every aspect of the museums design seems to marry beauty with whimsy.

10 . AYA SOFYA TURKEY

Aya Sofya is the great architectural landmark at the heart of Istanbul, with its four minarets poised like moon-bound rockets. Constructed in the 6th century AD as an Orthodox church, it later became a mosque and, since 1935, a museum. The enormous structure was built in just five years, and its musk walls are topped by an imposing dome, 101ft wide and 184ft high. The domes base is ringed by windows, so that from within the structure, the dome seems almost to hover ethereally above the building.

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