Western Europe Wonders

Versailles castle

The Palace of Versailles was the principal royal residence of France from 1682, under Louis XIV, until the start of the French Revolution in 1789, under Louis XVI.

Formerly a  humble hunting lodge, the Palace of Versailles  is the extravagant creation of Louis XIV. Embellished to epitomize ultimate royal decadence, the inequality of which tindered the French Revolution, Versailles Palace is a feast for the eyes.  Its 700 rooms are replete with frescoed ceilings and carvings, while the Versailles Gardens brim with geometrically designed walkways and fountains.

The gardens and the Grand Canal of The Palace Versailles. Mind blowing luxury and extravagance.

We visited Versailles in 2016.

Eiffel tower & the Louvre Museum

The Eiffel Tower is a famous landmark in Paris. It was built between 1887 and 1889 for the World Fair. The Tower was the Exposition’s main attraction. The Eiffel Tower cost 7,799,401 French gold francs to build in 1889, an amount equal to $1,495,139 at that time. Today, it’s cost would equal $36,784,020.

The Louvre is one of the biggest and most famous museums in the world. Among the collection you find the most famous portrait ever created: The Mona Lisa. But the Louvre is much more that just the Mona Lisa. The museum was opened in 1793, and is one of the oldest museums in the world. It draws millions of people each year. 

The Louvre, 35,000+ objects from prehistoric to the 21st century are exhibited over an area of 60,600 square meters

We visited Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum and Versailles castle in 2016 as part of our northern France trip.

Mont Saint-Michel

Apart from monuments in and around Paris, Mont Saint Michel, built between the 11th and 16th centuries, is the most visited tourist attraction in France.  The Gothic Benedictine abbey rises hundreds of feet above a rocky islet amidst vast sandbanks exposed to powerful tides

But Mont Saint Michel is not just a church on a rock; it is a whole medieval city, one of the few places in France to have preserved intact its medieval walls and defenses. The city, though small, has to this day inhabitants, although not many full time, and a mayor, and in addition to its religious monuments, has old houses, narrow streets, hotels, restaurants and shops, all catering for the over a million tourists who come to visit this magnificent site each year.

We walked out just after sunset to capture this evening photo of the Abby. Restaurants and shops are open late to allow visitors to wander around the paths below the abbey.

We visited Mont Saint-Michel in 2016.

Neuschwanstein castle

Neuschwanstein Castle, despite its name and appearance, was built in the 19th century and served no defensive purpose, as was the reason many castles were built. It was built for one person: King Ludwig II of Bavaria. Construction began in 1869 and was only supposed to take 3 years, but King Ludwig’s insistence for perfection led to the castle not being completed until after his death in 1886. He actually only slept in the castle for 11 nights, despite the entire thing being built just for him. He was known as the “Fairytale King” because the castle was built to look like a fairytale castle, and actually served as the inspiration for the Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disneyland. It is the most photographed building in Germany and one of the most photographed in the world. It’s visited annually by more than 1.3 million people.

The romantic Neuschwanstein castle

We visited Neuschwanstein castle in 1984.

Venice and its canals, St. Mark’s Basilica & Piazza San Marco

The romantic, sinking city of Venice is located in the Veneto region of Italy, one of the northernmost states. This ancient and important  city was originally built on 100 small islands in the Adriatic Sea. Instead of roads, Venice relies on a series of waterways and canals.

One of the most famous areas of the city is the world-renowned Grand Canal thoroughfare, which was a major centre of the Renaissance. Another must visit area is the central square in Venice, called the Piazza San Marco. Located here  are Byzantine mosaics, the Campanile bell and, and the stunning St. Mark’s Basilica.

A quiet moment on the Canal.

We visited Venice and its canals, St. Mark’s Basilica & San Marco Square in 1984.

Roman Coliseum

Colosseum was commissioned around A.D. 70-72 by Emperor Vespasian of the Flavian dynasty as a gift to the Roman people. After four centuries of active use, the magnificent arena fell into neglect, and up until the 18th century it was used as a source of building materials. Though two-thirds of the original Colosseum has been destroyed over time, the amphitheater remains a popular tourist destination, as well as an iconic symbol of Rome and its long, tumultuous history.

Roman Colosseum

We visited the Roman Coliseum in 1984.

Florence’s Duomo

Florence’s Duomo is the city’s most iconic landmark. Capped by a red-tiled cupola, it’s a staggering construction whose breathtaking pink, white and green marble facade and graceful bell tower dominate the Renaissance cityscape. Work began in 1296, but construction took almost 150 years and it wasn’t consecrated until 1436.

View of Florence’s skyline from Piazza Michelangelo on the south side of river Arno.

We visited Florence in 2017 as part of the Italy, Tunisia & Malta trip.

Leaning Tower of Pisa

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is the campanile, or freestanding bell tower, of the cathedral of the Italian city of Pisa, known worldwide for its unintended tilt. The tower is situated behind the Pisa Cathedral and is the third oldest structure in the city’s Cathedral Square, after the cathedral and the Pisa Baptistry.

Duomo di Pisa (Pisa Cathedral) is a splendid cathedral, containing artwork by Giambologna, Della Robbia, and other major artists.

We visited Pisa in 2017.

Pompeii & Mount Vesuvius

Mount Vesuvius, on the west coast of Italy, is the only active volcano on mainland Europe. It is best known because of the eruption in A.D. 79 that destroyed the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, but Vesuvius has erupted more than 50 times. Mount Vesuvius is considered to be one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world because of its proximity to the city of Naples and the surrounding towns on the nearby slopes.

Mount Vesuvius destroyed the city of Pompeii, a city south of Rome, in A.D. 79 in about 25 hours, according to history. Because the city was buried so quickly by volcanic ash, the site is a well-preserved snapshot of life in a Roman city.

Visiting Pompeii requires a lot of walking on uneven stone paths.

We visited Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius in 2017.

Cinque Terre

The Cinque Terre (five towns) is a string of five fishing villages perched high on the Italian Riviera which until recently were linked only by mule tracks and accessible only by rail or water. The Cinque Terre is noted for its beauty. Over centuries, people have carefully built terraces to cultivate grapes and olives on the rugged, steep landscape right up to the cliffs that overlook the Mediterranean Sea.

An ancient system of footpaths is still the best way to visit the five villages: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore.

Riomaggiore, one of the five villages.

We visited Cinque Terre in 2017.

Alhambra

The Alhambra, located in Granada, Spain, was a palace, citadel, fortress, and the home of the Nasrid sultans, high government officials, servants of the court and elite soldiers from the 13th to the 14th century. The Alhambra is a vast complex, composed of many structures and gardens on its lush grounds, which alone are worth exploring.

Fountain in the Generalife’s Lower Gardens. Fountains and flowing water are a common feature at the Palacio de Generalife

We visited Alhambra in 2013 as part of our Wales, Spain, Portugal and Morocco trip.

Mezquita of Cordoba

The Mezquita Cathedral is one of the most famous symbols of the confluence of Islamic and Christian influences. It is also the primary reason for Cordoba’s popularity among tourists, and perhaps the most important monument in Western Islamic history. While it is officially a cathedral today, most people still refer to it as the Mezquita of Cordoba. The cathedral is not only beautiful but remarkably serene with its spacious interior.

Cordoba is a beautiful town in the Andalusia region of Southern Spain. It is two hours south of Madrid and an hour north of Seville by train. Steeped in history that spans occupation by several different cultural groups (Jews, Muslims, Christians and Romans), Cordoba was the capital of Islamic Spain from the 8th century to the 13th century.

The building is most notable for its arcaded hypostyle hall, with 856 columns of jasper, onyx, marble, and granite.

We visited Mezquita of Cordoba in 2013.

Sagrada Familia

The Sagrada Familia is a large Roman Catholic church in Barcelona, Spain.  Although not yet finished, the church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Building of the Sagrada Família began in 1882. Gaudí started working on it in 1883. He took over the project, and changed it with his ideas on architecture and engineering.

Gaudí worked on it until he died. At the time of his death in 1926, less than a quarter of the building was finished.  It was stopped by the Spanish Civil War, only to start again in the 1950s. The building was more than halfway done after 2010. There is an expected finish date of 2026, 100 years after Gaudí’s death.

We climbed to a viewing platform half-way up Sagrada Familia

We visited Sagrada Familia in 1984.

 Vatican,  Saint Peter’s Basilica & the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel

Vatican City is an independent country, the temporal seat of the Pope, head of the worldwide Catholic Church, entirely surrounded by the city of Rome, in Italy. The Vatican is also the world’s smallest state, and it is filled with more history and artwork than most cities in the world.

St. Peter’s Basilica, is a large church in the Vatican City. It is often called “the greatest church in Christendom“. In Catholic tradition, St. Peter’s Basilica is believed to be the burial place of Saint Peter, who was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus.

The Sistine Chapel is a large chapel in the Vatican City. It is renowned for its Renaissance art, especially the ceiling painted by Michelangelo, and attracts more than 5 million visitors each year.

The columns in Saint Peter’s Square, Vatican City

We visited the Vatican City in 1984.

See next: Northern Europe Wonders

 

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