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Immersion in other cultures is undoubtedly one of life’s greatest pleasures, and for those who enjoy soaking up history and culture, Europe should always be high on the list. The buildings and landscapes throughout Europe tell their own stories, and fans of architecture will be spoilt for choice – as art conservator Jeremy Casson knows from experience.

Many countries are home to iconic buildings that draw thousands of tourists each year. However, before embarking on any travels in Europe, it is useful to know the hallmarks of each architectural style.

Classic Architecture Styles

Two of the most renowned architectural periods are the overlapping Greek and Roman classic eras, with the Greek classic style running from approximately 900 BC to 1st century AD and the Roman classic style from approximately 590 BC to 4th century AD. The notable characteristics of these styles include columns, temples and oblong-shaped enclosures. These buildings can be identified by their innate sense of symmetry and stone beams and posts. To discern the difference between these two classics, the Romans preferred more intricate flourishes on their structures while the Greeks favoured a simpler column.

Drawing inspiration from the Romans, the Byzantine era included touches from both East and West. Taking the traditional Roman stone columns and arches as a base, Byzantine buildings expanded further with towering dome ceilings, intricate mosaics and gold detailing.

There are notable similarities between the Romanesque and Gothic styles, with colossal, fortified walls and narrow windows. Gothic buildings also feature sharply pointed arches and ribbed vault ceilings.

Iconic Buildings Not to Be Missed

Many European countries boast some remarkable architectural highlights. Any visit to Spain must include a trip to La Sagrada Familia. Situated in the heart of Barcelona, this celebrated basilica was designed by the renowned Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi and is truly unique, featuring geometric shapes and three grand façades.

The embedded PDF takes a closer look at architects of the modern era who had a significant impact on the industry.

For an iconic example of Gothic architecture, taking in the Old Town Hall in Prague is ideal. Built in 1338, the town hall features a famous astronomical clock known as Orloj within a Gothic tower. For an excellent illustration of a more Romanesque structure, St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna was constructed in 1137 and has been restored many times over the decades.

As well as the classics, there are more modern architectural marvels that are well worth a visit. Constructed in the 1990s, the Dancing House in Prague is stunning and particularly original, featuring a tall concrete tower alongside a twisting glass one, while Iceland is home to the Harpa Concert Hall. With its geometric shape and steel framework, the building appears as if it is almost entirely constructed of glass.