Europe, Guide, History • 5 min read • Published on July 24th, 2018
Europe is home to some truly stunning landmarks which have played a crucial role in the history of the continent for thousands of years. In fact, the mystical aura surrounding many of these iconic attractions is often the reason why lovers of ancient history and architecture make their way to the historical sites for which each destination is best known.
From the enchanting walls of the Roman Forum and atmospheric Colosseum to the infamous Stonehenge and Neolithic remnants of Skara Brae — you can feel an ominous presence amidst the most famous landmarks in Europe and then truly grateful, for the opportunity to explore these monuments and pathways that were laid out by our ancestors many thousands of years ago.
Stonehenge is perhaps one of the most famous landmarks in Europe, due to the air of mystery that surrounds it. Yes, the ancient stones that were placed in a circle approximately 4,500 years ago are still a source of wonder to this day and attract thousands of tourists every year.
Interestingly, the stones are thought to have been brought to their resting point area from miles away, using ancient methods which allowed workers to transport and construct the stones, and the circle in which they sit.
However, the monument at Stonehenge is not the only must-visit location in this incredible world heritage site as the visitor center also houses several hundreds of ancient artifacts including the reconstruction of a man who lived in this region more than five thousand years ago.
Found in Orkney, Skara Brae is a historical site which offers an incredible insight with some fascinating remains dating back to Neolithic times. You can also explore the most humble beginnings of human civilization and some Neolithic houses which have been remarkably preserved
However, there are many misconceptions about Neolithic man, including those that presume the people who were alive between 3200 BC and 2,200BC were quite primitive and used primitive tools. On the contrary, the remains of this village in Skara Brae showcases evidence that these ancient minds were indeed a lot more sophisticated than they are often given credit.
In this regard, many homes are still partially standing, and with eight of these linked by passages to protect occupants from the elements, there is enough evidence to suggest Neolithic minds were a lot more advanced than was originally thought.
The Acropolis is perhaps one of the most famous landmarks and visited historical sites in Europe. Overlooking Athens, the remains of an ancient city stand on a rocky outcrop and pose an enchanting sight to the visitor upon first sight.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site with a history dating back to the 5th century B.C., the Acropolis has no less than twenty-one archaeological remains, including temples that were constructed by famous architects during that same time.
After successfully defeating the Persians, the ancient Greeks constructed the Acropolis during a period of world leadership that saw them flourish and become exceptional artists and builders.
Today, the imposing Acropolis stands proudly above the city of Athens, as it has for many thousands of years. Built as a tribute and monument to the arts, the mind, and politics, the Acropolis may be an ancient city, but this architectural masterpiece is still a sight to behold.
Early evidence suggests that the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus was constructed in 532 B.C. and could seat as many as 14,000 people. Playing host to drama, music, and singing, the theater has an orchestra, auditorium, and a staging building, showing that the Greeks were sophisticated people.
Excavations of the theater began in the late 19th century, and much of it is still in its original form. The auditorium was constructed in such a way that every member of the audience could see and hear productions, no matter where they sat.
Sophisticated, ancient, and one of the world’s most popular archaeological sites, the Ancient Theater of Epidaurus is still the stage for many important shows, thousands of years after it was originally built.
Dating back to 3,600 B.C., and considered to be Malta’s most important archaeological site, Ggantija is home to 2 large temples that were erected before Stonehenge and Egypt’s ancient pyramids. Made entirely of limestone, those who used the temples are thought to have offered animal scarifies to the Gods.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ggantija was according to folklore built by a giantess who lived on honey and broad beans. The giantess gave birth to a child after laying with a local man; she then put the child on her back, and built the temples, before worshiping in them.
Mnajdra is home to another temple complex found in Malta. Although the complex is not one of the most famous Landmarks in Europe, it is simply incredible. Built in approximately 4,000 BC, the megalithic complex is one of the most ancient religious sites on the planet.
Found in an isolated location and built during two separate phases, the lowest temple is thought to have been used as a calendrical site. Light passes through the lowest temples’ main doorway, a few times each year, lighting up the major axis.
Experts think that the temples were used to house ceremonies and animal sacrifices, although this cannot be confirmed, the remains of ancient animal bones have been discovered leading to this conclusion.
The Roman Forum is one of the most visited historical sites in Europe. A sprawl of ancient ruins, the Forum is what remains of an ancient city. Thought to be the very heart of ancient Rome, the Forum houses many different structures including the Regia, a royal residence that dates back to 8th century B.C.
Falling into disrepair, and used as a cattle field during the middle ages, the Forum was excavated during the 18th and 19th centuries, bringing the ancient structures to life once more.
How does one compile a list of historical landmarks without mention of the Colosseum, which is also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, was built from sand and concrete in AD 72. With the ability to hold almost 80,000 spectators, the Colosseum was used for gladiatorial contests and public shows.
During the middle ages, this well preserved ancient monument was no longer used for entertainment, however, in later years it was used as a Christian shrine, a quarry, and a fortress.
Built on flat land in a low valley, the area is thought to have been densely inhabited, making the Colosseum the ideal venue for locals to watch shows, and brush up on their gladiatorial skills.
Located in the southwest of Cyprus, the edge of the Kourion is scattered with ancient tombs that have never been excavated. Dating back to approximately 5,500 to 4,000 BC, the ancient site was part of an important city is home to the Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates, the Theatre of Kourion, the house of Achilles, and many other fascinating structures.
Considered to be one of the most famous Landmarks in Europe, Kourion houses ancient baths, a private residence, and a stadium that could seat approximately 6,000 people, suggesting that the area was indeed a popular location to watch shows, bathe, and train gladiators thousands of years ago.
The Tomb of Kings dated back to 4,000 B.C and was used as a burial site for officials and aristocrats. Although no kings were buried in the area, the name relates to how magnificent the site is.
Excavated throughout history, the tombs house offerings to the Gods, and date stamps which can be found on the handles of jars or jugs that were once part of the offerings. Carved out of a rock, and similar to the homes that ancient peoples lived in, the Tomb of Kings is still being excavated to this day.
Naturally, this part of the world is overflowing with culture, and there are many impressive historical sites in Europe which evoke images of a time long ago. Atmospheric and standing tall to this day, these monuments also demonstrate that ancient civilizations were capable of creating magnificent structures with an everlasting presence and relevance.
Of course, there are many more striking landmarks in Europe and a wealth of historical importance at every turn, for these are truly some of the most remarkable reminders of the constantly changing world which was laid out by our ancestors many thousands of years ago.