The Best Destinations For Classic Architectural Design Styles

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History has left us a wealth of significant architectural treasures. It’s not always easy digging out the best historical buildings and deciding which are worthy of a visit on the next trip abroad. Many of the locations listed in travel handbooks sometimes don’t deliver on which are the best sites to visit. The following sites listed here are high on the “wow factor” and each deserves some time to explore and marvel at the genius of history’s builders and their legacy.

Ancient Egyptian Architecture

During the period of the Old Kingdom Dynasties IV-VIII, which dates from 2950 B.C. to 2150 B.C., Egyptian pharaohs reached their zenith in building and architecture. They created a treasure trove of buildings, temples, and art.

The Great Pyramid of Khufu

  • Location: Giza, Egypt
  • Built: about 2560 B.C.
  • Function: Tomb of Pharaoh Khufu
  • Size: 480 ft. high

The Pyramid of Khufu is the largest in a cluster of three built on the Giza plateau near Cairo, Egypt. It is sometimes referred to as Cheop’s great Pyramid and is thought to have consumed more dressed stone blocks than any structure ever built. It has an estimated 2,300,000 limestone blocks, averaging 2.5 tons each. It is generally believed that the blocks were moved on log rollers and sledges and then moved into place with ramps.

Temple at Luxor

  • Location: Luxor, Egypt
  • Built: about 1400 to 1300 B.C.
  • Architect: Amenophis III
  • Function: Temple of Amon
  • Size: twin colonnades 174 ft. long with papyrus bell-capital columns 42 ft. high

Luxor Temple is found on the east bank of the Nile River in the city of Luxor (also known as the ancient city of Thebes). The Luxor complex includes six great temples; four on the west bank were known as Goornah, Deir-el-Bahri, the Ramesseum, and Medinet Habu. The two temples on the east bank include Karnak and Luzor. The temple includes a Colossus of Ramesses II, a massive red granite obelisk, and dozens of sphinxes lining the entry colonnade.

Hatshepsut’s Temple

  • Location: Deir-el-Bahri, Egypt
  • Built: around 1550 B.C.
  • Architect: Senenmut
  • Function: Funerary complex of Queen Hatshepsut
  • Size: three layered terraces reaching 97 ft. high

Located on the west bank of the Nile at Deir-el-Bahri and near the Valley of the Kings, the funerary temple is located at the base of the cliffs next to the mortuary temple of Mentuhotep II. The temple was dedicated to Amon-Ra and was designed by Hatshepsut’s chancellor and royal architect Senemut.

Ancient Roman Architecture

Conditions within the Roman Republic led architects and builders to develop the use of vaults and arches to create imposing structures in public buildings and temples dedicated to their gods.

Arch of Constantine

  • Location: Rome, Italy
  • Built: about 315 AD
  • Architect: unknown
  • Function: Triumphal arch, monument
  • Size: 69 ft. high, 85 ft. wide

The Arch of Constantine celebrates the victory over the numerically superior army of Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge in 312 AD. The monument supports one large arch and two smaller arches. It is located next to the Coliseum in Rome.

House of the Faun

  • Location: Pompeii, Italy
  • Built: about 100 B.C.
  • Architect: unknown
  • Function: Courtyard house
  • Size: 3,000 sq. meters

Casa del Fauno, in Italian, was one of the largest private residences in Pompeii. It is one of the most luxurious examples of aristocratic houses from the Roman republic. It was named for the bronze statue of a dancing faun now located in the center of the impluvium, a basin for catching rainwater.


  • Location: Rome, Italy
  • Built: 118 to 126 AD
  • Architect: unknown
  • Function: Temple to all the gods
  • Size: 142 ft. high, 142 ft. wide

It was commissioned by Marcus Agrippa and later rebuilt by Emperor Hadrian in 126 AD. The Pantheon’s dome is the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world. The height to the oculus and the diameter of the interior circle are the identical: 142 ft. Ancient Roman writer, Cassius Dio, speculated that the name comes from the many statues of the gods or the dome’s resemblance to the heavens.

Renaissance Architecture

Renaissance architects based their designs and theories on classical Roman examples. The Renaissance revival of Classical Rome was as important in architecture as it was in literature. Architectural elements such as columns, pilasters, pediments, entablatures, arches, and domes form the vocabulary of Renaissance buildings. Renaissance architecture is recognized by harmonious form, and mathematical proportion.

Ducal Palace at Urbino

  • Location: Urbino, Italy
  • Built: 1448 AD
  • Architect: Luciano Laurana
  • Function: Palace

The Ducal Palace was begun for Duke Federico III and features a famous Laurana courtyard and the great entrance staircase. The palace is considered by many as the ideal princely dwelling. The palace includes the Chapel of Absolution, Temple of the Muses, and the famed Galleria Nazionale delle March with one of the most important collections of Renaissance art in the world.

Saint Paul’s Cathedral

  • Location: London, England
  • Built: 1674 to 1710 AD
  • Architect: Sir Christopher Wren
  • Function: Church
  • Size: 366 ft. high

The cathedral is one of the most famous architectural sites in London. Its dome, among the highest in the world, is framed by the spires of Wren’s City churches and has dominated the London skyline for 300 years.

Last Updated: July 8, 2012
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About Bill Washburn William "Bill" Washburn has a BA in advertising from the Art Center College of Design and has taught at the University of Southern California and Northrup University. Writing from a well-connected studio in the rural foothills of the west coast, he is a frequent speaker at local art associations and has published numerous articles discussing periods of art history and the fundamentals of drawing and painting. William is a master gardener who grows his own culinary herbs, organic heirloom vegetables and a variety of fruits. He writes frequently about his gardening experiences on his website Pioneer Dad. He is an accomplished advertising writer, fine art painter, and art director with more than 20 years' experience. 

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