People have been making lists of world wonders since ancient times, when the first Seven Wonders of the World were named. With the incredible structures people have been building throughout the centuries, it's no wonder we're so fascinated — every few years, something new, innovative, and beautiful is created.
No single list could cover every stunning structure, but here are five that should definitely be wonders of the world.
La Sagrada Familia, Spain
La Sagrada Familia is a huge structure designed by architect Antoni Gaudí. Gaudí is known for his unique architectural style, which was inspired by Gothic architecture but did not neatly fit into any particular stylistic movement. Structures designed by Gaudí can be seen all over Barcelona and tend to be large, colorful, and eye-catching — they frequently lack right angles, instead making use of curves and multiple smaller planes that together form unexpected geometric shapes.
La Sagrada Familia is no exception. This building features four bell towers that rise high into the sky, with a complex, intricate facade underneath. The structure is awe inspiring, both from the inside and the outside. In fact, Sagrada Familia is so large and complex that it has been under construction for over 135 years, with the first cornerstone having been laid in 1882.
Gaudí took over the project in 1883, and in 1914 he stopped all other design projects to work exclusively on it. He continued his work on it until he died unexpectedly in 1926, at which point the project was taken over by his partner. In all, Gaudí dedicated 43 years of his life to Sagrada Familia, which is slated for completion in 2026.
Cubic Houses, The Netherlands
Located on Blaak Street in Rotterdam, the cubic houses are a row of gray and yellow cubes that rest at an odd angle atop a pedestrian bridge. Designed in the 1970s by architect Piet Blom, these houses were an attempt by the city of Rotterdam to solve a unique problem: certain small sections of this area were zoned as residential, but town planners had no way to build and connect residential homes across this heavily trafficked road.
As a solution, Blom created the cube houses, each of which is held up above the ground by a pillar. These houses each have three levels, but due to the sharply angled walls there is not a significant amount of living space inside. While they may not offer a lot of room, the houses are certainly a unique and innovative way to solve a problem. But according to Blom, the houses are not only supposed to solve a problem — they are meant to be art. The cubes, Blom says, represent yellow trees, with the rows of cubic houses coming together to form an abstract forest. In Dutch, you may hear them referred to as the Blaakse Bos (Blaak Forest).
Whether or not you'd like to live in one, these houses are an architectural wonder that needs to be seen to be believed. For folks interested in learning more, there is a museum called the Kijk-Kubus, which allows you to explore inside one of these unique homes.
Montreal Biosphère, Canada
The Biosphère — a large, clear dome rising above the Montreal skyline — almost looks like it should be part of a science fiction story. But this unique landmark is real, and open for visitors. The Montreal Biosphère is the only museum in North America that is exclusively dedicated to the environment, and in addition to be being visually striking, it educates the public on many environmental issues relating to air, biodiversity, and sustainable development.
But the dome wasn't initially intended to house a museum. Designed by American architect Buckminster Fuller, the Biosphère was actually the United States' contribution to the 1967 World Fair Exposition, which was held in Montreal. The striking structure is 20 stories high and was originally constructed out of steel and acrylic, giving it a kaleidoscopic appearance.
The Biosphère was not actually supposed to remain a fixture of Montreal's landscape. The plan was to dismantle it after the Expo, but budgetary restrictions secured the dome's safety.
Lotus Temple, India
The Lotus Temple is a house of worship located in New Delhi, India. Built in the 1980s, this temple is designed to look like a white lotus flower in bloom. The lotus represents purity and divinity, symbolism that is apparent when you look at this beautiful structure.
While it looks like one singular building, the Lotus Temple is actually comprised of 27 separate petals, each made of white marble and rising approximately 130 feet in the air. The petals are arranged in three concentric circles and are surrounded by beautiful pools and sandstone paths. Inside the temple, a glass roof allows a flood of natural light into the prayer hall.
The Lotus Temple is one of the most popular attractions in India, and has won numerous awards for its design. In 2000, the temple was named one of 100 canonical works of the 20th century by the Architectural Society of China.
Himeji Castle, Japan
Himeji Castle, also known as Himeji-jo, or White Heron Castle, is an enormous structure in western Japan that is composed of 83 buildings. It is a prime example of the way castles were designed and built in 17th century Japan. While many other structures from this period were destroyed due to earthquakes, war, or simply the passage of time, Himeji Castle stands tall and is one of Japan's 12 original castles. Perhaps the most striking visual aspect of this castle is its beautiful white exterior and distinctive sloped roofs.
The grounds, which feature cherry blossoms, are sprawling, covering 17 acres. If you visit the castle, you will find yourself walking along peaceful, walled pathways. While beautiful to look at, the castle and its grounds also serve as demonstrations of the defensive architecture used during this era, with the winding pathways intended to be aesthetically pleasing while also slowing down enemy forces.
Himeji Castle is a world heritage site, and a must-see for anyone interested in Japanese architecture and history.