World's Most Amazing Fountains
You don’t need to be a high roller to enjoy one of Vegas’s most sought-after shows: the dancing waters of the Fountains of Bellagio. Thousands are drawn here daily by the same free spectacle of music and light that made the gang from Ocean’s Eleven pause.
Creating something to make travelers reflect amid the neon flash of the Vegas strip was in fact the goal: “You have to continue to challenge people’s minds and emotions with the unexpected and with something that’s new,” says Mark Fuller, CEO of WET Design. The company debuted the Bellagio Fountains in 1998, and they’ve since become a benchmark for innovative fountains worldwide.
From function to fantasy, fountains have evolved from sources of drinking water to works of art that manipulate the most basic of life forces—water and gravity—to emotionally moving results. Fountains are often found in public spaces that travelers naturally seek out; they make beautiful photo-ops and, with a coin’s toss, may even improve your luck.
Not only do fountains put on a show, but they also encourage others to perform, such as street musicians or that guy proposing by Rome’s 18th-century Trevi Fountain. A pope commissioned the Trevi Fountain as a statement of power and artistic and engineering know-how—motivations for many of the most amazing fountains, from the Grand Cascade built for Peter the Great at his summer palace to newcomer Dubai Fountain, which broke records when it opened with 6,000 lights in 2008.
In Chicago, which counts Buckingham Fountain as one of its most famous landmarks, Millennium Park’s Crown Fountain brought the concept into the 21st century. Two 50-foot black glass towers on either side of a reflecting pool project images from a thousand Chicago citizens, creating the illusion of water pouring from their mouths—a modern take on the spouting gargoyles and other creatures of traditional fountains.
The possibilities of playing with water are nearly endless. Yet even when fountains employ high-tech features like the cascade of water that forms words and pictures in a South Korean department store, their allure remains fundamental.
“They motivate people to connect with their inner selves,” says Fuller. “It’s not like standing in front of a big video screen. It’s very rudimentary: we’re born from water; it’s the beauty of that natural element.”
Moonlight Rainbow Fountain, Seoul
The Banpo Bridge is lined with 380 nozzles, and with a total length of 3,740 feet, it’s the world’s largest bridge fountain, an official Guinness World Record holder. Illuminated with, yes, a rainbow of colors by night, and using water pumped from the Han River below, the fountain puts on several 20-minute shows daily.
La Joute Fountain, Montreal
Fire adds a thrilling, unusual element to this bronze fountain at the Place d’Arms. Its 32-minute dancing waters routine takes place every hour during summer evenings, and this battle between the water and the flame gives the sculpture its name—the Joust.
The Fountain of Wealth at Suntec City, Singapore
With a base of 18,117 square feet, this 85-ton bronze fountain is one of the world’s largest fountains. The water, which flows inward, is said to bring good luck to those who touch it and can even display customized laser messages. No surprise that it’s become a popular way for locals to propose.
Swarovski Fountain, Wattens, Austria
A gentle green giant with crystals for eyes and a fountain for a mouth faces out from a hillside in the market town of Wattens, Austria. Walk beneath the curtain of water into the giant to enter Crystal Worlds, a slightly surreal and sparkling series of art installations created by artist André Heller in 1995 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of Swarovski crystal. kristallwelten.swarovski.com
Stravinsky Fountain, Paris
These 16 whimsical, moving sculptures are meant to represent the compositions of Igor Stravinsky. Two artists contributed sculptures, some in black (by Jean Tinguely) and others flamboyantly colored (by Niki de Saint-Phalle). It’s Paris’s modern fountain, built in 1983 as part of a citywide project.
Trevi Fountain, Rome
Some tourists come here just to hedge their bets: legend has it that if you toss a coin into the water, you’ll someday return to Rome, a city of 300 fountains. But it’s worth lingering to take stock of this iconic Baroque fountain with an 85-foot-high travertine façade and detailed marble statues depicting the taming of the waters; Oceanus reigns triumphant from a seashell chariot. The nearby Bernini-designed Four Rivers Fountain is a close rival.
Crown Fountain, Chicago
Buckingham Fountain can claim seniority, but Millennium Park’s Crown Fountain brings the fountain concept into the 21st century. Two 50-foot black glass towers on either side of a reflecting pool project images from 1,000 Chicago citizens, giving the illusion of water pouring from their mouths—rather like the spouting gargoyles and other creatures of traditional fountains.
Pineapple Fountain, Charleston, SC
The pineapple is a sign of hospitality in the American South and makes for a downright charming fountain—set as it is here among a palmetto-lined meadow within Charleston’s award-winning Waterfront Park. The fountain is indeed hospitable: wading is allowed.
The Grand Cascade at Peterhof: St. Petersburg, Russia
Created for Peter the Great in the 1720s, the grounds of the “Russian Versailles” feature a series of 64 opulent fountains and more than 200 sculptures known, in fitting hyperbole, as the Grand Cascade. The centerpiece is a gilded Samson wrestling a lion that shoots a jet of water over 65 feet high from its open mouth. Amazingly, all the fountains operate without pumps.
Dubai Fountain, Burj Khalifa, UAE
With 6,600 lights, 25 projectors, and nearly 1,500 individual fountains, the Dubai Fountain on the 30-acre Burj Dubai Lake amounts to the largest synchronized music and light show in the world—for now, anyway. WET Designs completed it in 2008, and the location offers fantastic 360-degree viewing opportunities.
Charybdis, Sunderland, U.K.
Greek mythology supplies the name for this mesmerizing, if dainty, fountain on the grounds of Seaham Hall: Charybdis was a water nymph punished by Zeus and turned into a whirlpool that swallowed up ships. William Pye thought up the swirling vortex design, which uses high-pressure water pumped within an acrylic cylinder.
The Magic Circuit of Water, Lima, Peru
The 13 fountains in Parque de la Reserva made a big splash upon opening in 2007 and have become one of Lima’s most popular attractions. They range from the 250-feet-plus-tall Magic Fountain, to the romantic, traditional Fountain of Illusion, to the Labyrinth of Dreams. Be prepared to get wet if you decide to walk through the circuit.
Fountains of Bellagio, Las Vegas
Every half hour in the afternoon and every 15 minutes at night, the Fountains of Bellagio put on a free song-and-dance show illuminated by 5,000 white lights. Across this 8.5-acre lake, 208 fountains sway to the likes of Gene Kelly, Pavarotti, and Elvis, shooting water over 450 feet into the air—thanks to pioneering technology now imitated worldwide.
Tivoli Villa d’Este, Tivoli, Italy
The gardens of this 18th-century Renaissance villa overflow with hundreds of fountains. Set your sights on the Fountain of Neptune, with jets shooting more than 45 feet, and the Fountain of the Dragon, with elaborately carved sculptures. Then there are the elaborate mechanisms of the Owl Fountain and Water Organ Fountain.