Globetrotters unite! Here are the world’s most exciting and distinct tourist attractions you need to visit at least once.A magnificent palace with sumptuous interiors and splendid gardens, Versailles represents the glory of Louis XIV’s reign. Starting in 1668 with his father’s modest hunting lodge, the king commissioned the largest palace in Europe, with 700 rooms, 67 staircases, and 1,800 acres of landscaped parkland.
St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome
Catholicism’s most sacred shrine, the sumptuous marble-clad St. Peter’s Basilica draws pilgrims and tourists from all over the world. It holds hundreds of precious works of art, some salvaged from the original 4th-century basilica built by Emperor Constantine, others commissioned from Renaissance and Baroque artists. The dominant tone is set by Bernini, who created the baldacchino twisting up below Michelangelo’s huge dome. He also created the cathedral in the apse, with four saints supporting a throne that contains fragments once thought to be relics of the chair from which St. Peter delivered his first sermon.
Arc de Triomphe, Paris
After his greatest victory at the Battle of Austerlitz in 1805, Napoleon promised his men, “You shall go home beneath the triumphal arches.” The first stone of what was to become the world’s most famous and largest triumphal arch was laid the following year. However, disruptions to architect Jean Chalgrin’s plans, and the demise of Napoleonic power, delayed the completion of this monumental building until 1836. Standing 164 ft. high, the arch is now the customary starting point for victory celebrations and parades.
Edinburgh Castle, Scotland
Standing on the basalt core of an extinct volcano, Edinburgh Castle is a remarkable assemblage of buildings from the 12th to the 20th centuries, reflecting its changing role as fortress, royal palace, military garrison, and state prison. There is evidence of Bronze Age occupation of the site, which takes its name from Dun Eidin, a Celtic fortress captured by King Oswald of Northumbria in the 7th century. The castle was a favourite royal residence until the Union of the Crowns in 1603, after which the king resided in England. After the Union of Parliaments in 1707, the Scottish regalia (Crown Jewels) were walled up in the palace for more than 100 years. The castle is now the zealous possessor of the so-called Stone of Destiny, a relic of ancient Scottish kings that was seized by the English and not returned until 1996.
Campo dei Miracoli, Pisa
Pisa’s world-famous Leaning Tower is just one of the splendid buildings rising from the lawns of the “Field of Miracles.” It is joined by the Duomo, a triumph of marble decoration; Italy’s largest baptistery, with an acoustically perfect interior and the Campo Santo cemetery, containing Roman sarcophagi and sculptures. The buildings combine Moorish elements, such as inlaid marble in geometric patterns (arabesques), with delicate Romanesque colonnading and spiked Gothic niches and pinnacles.
Potala Palace, Lhasa
Perched on Lhasa’s highest point, the Potala Palace is arguably the greatest monumental structure in Tibet. Thirteen stories high, with more than 1,000 rooms, it was once the residence of Tibet’s chief monk and leader, the Dalai Lama, and therefore the centre for both spiritual and temporal power. The first palace on the site was built by Songtsen Gampo in 641, and this was incorporated into the larger building that stands today. There are two main sections – the White Palace, built by the 5th Dalai Lama in 1645, and the Red Palace, which was completed in 1693.