Surprising Facts About European Landmarks We Just Learned

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Vote up the facts about these famous landmarks you find most interesting.

Given just how old Europe is and how many historical events have taken place there, it's unsurprisingly full of fascinating monuments and landmarks, many of which have earned a place on the bucket list of travelers. Steeped in tradition and often widely known in popular culture, these are the must-see and must-visit locations for tourists of all kinds. 

However, while most people probably know at least a bit about these famous places - when they were built, who built them, and why - there are also many facts people might not know. Be sure to vote up those that surprised you most. 

  • The Arch Of Titus Commemorated The Jewish-Roman Wars, But Jews Were Forbidden To Pass Beneath It
    Photo: Henry Parsons Riviere / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 4.0
    36 VOTES

    The Arch Of Titus Commemorated The Jewish-Roman Wars, But Jews Were Forbidden To Pass Beneath It

    Many monuments found in Rome stem from its past as the capital of the Europe-spanning Roman Empire. Unsurprisingly, many of its most famous landmarks were built by emperors wishing to commemorate their military victories and immortalize their names. Among the most famous is the Arch of Titus, which commemorates the triumph of Rome over the Jews in Judaea. It has since become the model for many similar triumphal arches in both the city and elsewhere in Europe. 

    For obvious reasons, Jewish authorities in Rome saw the arch as an affront. In fact, they passed an edict forbidding any Jewish person to walk beneath it, on pain of losing their status as a Jew. People took the ban very seriously; in fact, it was only officially lifted in 1997.

    36 votes
  • It Would Take 100 Days To See Every Piece Of Art In The Louvre
    Photo: Samuel F.B. Morse / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    Paris is often seen as a cultural center of Europe. In part, this stems from the Louvre, the art museum containing one of the most exhaustive collections in the world. It's home to some of the most famous pieces of art from the western world, including Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and Alexandros of Antioch's sculpture, Venus de Milo

    The Louvre also hosts artwork from all over the world. This begs the question: just how long would it take to view everything on the property? As it turns out, 100 days is the estimate, assuming a visitor looked at every object for 30 seconds, all day, every day. 

    50 votes
  • At the time of its construction (January 1887 through March 1889), the Eiffel Tower was the tallest building in the world. It remains one of the most recognizable aspects of the Paris skyline, and tourists flock to it as one of the must-visit places in the city. However, there’s more to this famous landmark than meets the eye. 

    Its design engineer, Gustave Eiffel, had a small apartment built on its third level. Although he received many offers to rent out this elite space, he refused them all. Instead, it remained his own little refuge, and he was even known to invite prestigious guests to visit, including Thomas Edison.

    48 votes
  • Among the many architectural monuments that dot the European landscape, cathedrals often occupy pride of place as both sacred spaces and tourist draws. Few, however, are as visually stunning as La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain, whose name means “the sacred (or holy) family.” Begun in the 19th century, it remains unfinished, although it has been granted the status of a basilica. 

    Its most notable architectural trait are its twisting towers that spiral into the sky. At the moment only eight towers are constructed, but Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí intended it to have 18 when finished. Each cluster will represent important Christian figures: 12 for the apostles, four for the evangelists, one for the Virgin Mary, and one for Jesus Christ. 

    40 votes
  • Along with the Colosseum, the Pantheon is one of the most visible relics of ancient Rome. With its enormous dome, it's a testament not only to the ambitions of the emperor responsible for its construction, Hadrian, but also to the durability of ancient Roman concrete. In fact, what makes the Pantheon such a marvel is its durability, having survived barbarian invasions, the ravages of nature, and the advent of modernity - all without the benefit of steel reinforcement. 

    Its longevity stems from the composition of its concrete: a mix of limestone and volcanic ash. The precise blend the Romans used gives the building a durability even many modern architects would envy.

    45 votes
  • Although the city of Rome is perhaps most famous for its monuments from ancient days, another notable architectural feature is the Trevi Fountain. It too has ancient Roman origins, but the elaborate sculpture that adorns the site hails from the 18th century. 

    Designed by architect Nicola Salvi, it wasn’t finished until after his 1751 passing. Pope Clemens XII approved the design and, just as importantly, decided it should be funded via a lottery. In fact, it was perhaps the affordability of Salvi’s design that helped persuade the pope to choose him.

    37 votes