World's Most Popular Landmarks
There’s a site along the far west side of Manhattan that lures millions to its meandering walkways and scenic lookouts: the High Line, a converted rail bed that’s now an elevated park. Though less than three years old, the High Line has already become one of the world’s most popular landmarks.
That’s the verdict according to T+L’s first-ever landmarks survey (see the full methodology), in which we asked readers to rank contenders in six categories—and flag the ones they’ve actually traveled to see. We used the latter results to determine the world’s most popular landmarks, a revealing list of longtime favorites and buzzed-about newcomers like the High Line.
Related: America's Most Beautiful Landmarks
A total of five New York landmarks made it into the most popular list, including the city’s newest public space: the National September 11 Memorial. Remarkably, more than half of those who voted for the memorial in our survey have visited the reflecting pools, which opened only in Fall 2011. “Hundreds of thousands of visitors from all 50 states and more than 120 countries have come to the National September 11 Memorial,” affirms its president, Joe Daniels. “The responses from these visitors continue to be overwhelmingly positive.”
Landmarks that have played a significant role in history and that are instantly recognizable symbols naturally pique our travel interest. At No. 5, London’s Big Ben, a clock tower and 13-ton bell, has attracted onlookers since it started counting the minutes in 1859. Rome’s Colosseum is the city's most popular landmark and has given travelers a new reason to visit; below-ground tunnels, where gladiators once prepared for combat, opened to the public in 2010 for the first time in modern history. Perhaps this development helped the Colosseum, No. 6, beat out the best-known structure of the classical world, Greece’s Acropolis, which came in at No. 16.
So which landmark is so popular that it’s been visited by the highest number of T+L readers? None other than Lady Liberty. For the best views of the Statue of Liberty illuminating the Hudson River at twilight, head back to the High Line, which has a straight-on view from the woodsy area next to the 10th Avenue Square.
Find out which other landmarks made it into the most popular and start plotting your next trip.
No. 1 Statue of Liberty, New York
More than a century after France gifted this 151-foot copper sculpture to the United States, three million–plus visitors head to Liberty Island each year to admire it.
No. 2 Empire State Building, New York City
Manhattan’s classic skyscraper soaring 1,435 feet above 34th Street is widely considered the quintessential Art Deco landmark and currently holds the record as the city’s tallest building.
No. 3 Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco
Spanning 4,200 feet across Golden Gate Strait, the structure’s dramatic setting, orange color, and sheer size have made it one of the world’s most recognized bridges since 1937.
No. 4 Eiffel Tower, Paris
Gustave Eiffel’s 984-foot monument of open-latticed wrought iron wowed the 1889 World Expo, instantly becoming a Paris icon—despite initial resistance from Parisians themselves.
No. 5 Big Ben, London
Though the name refers exclusively to its 13-ton bell, the world’s most famous clock tower has helped keep Londoners punctual since 1859.
No. 6 Colosseum, Rome
When construction finished on this 513-foot freestanding amphitheater in A.D. 82, 50,000 Romans could pack in to ogle gladiator death battles and mock naval combat.
No. 7 Millennium Park, Chicago
The standout features of Chicago’s 24.7-acre Millennium Park include Anish Kapoor’s jellybean-like Cloud Gate sculpture, Frank Gehry’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion, and various outdoor art exhibitions.
No. 8 St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome
It took a star-studded team of Renaissance masters—including Raphael, Michelangelo, and Bernini—more than a century to complete the Vatican’s magnificent, art-filled cathedral.
No. 9 Swiss Re Building, London
Nicknamed The Gherkin, the 2004 glass-paneled, rocket-shaped office tower in London’s financial center was designed by Norman Foster using 10,000 tons of structural steel.
No. 10 The High Line, New York City
Flower beds, day loungers, even a bar occupy this once-abandoned elevated rail bed—reconceived by Diller, Scofidio, Renfro, and James Corner Field Operations—that now threads through buildings from the Meatpacking District to West 30th Street.
No. 11 Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles
Home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic since 2003, Frank Gehry’s impeccably executed performance space is said to have some of the world’s best acoustics.
No. 12 Sagrada Familia, Barcelona
Antonio Gaudí spent 43 years designing Barcelona’s signature Gothic cathedral, whose elaborately carved stone peaks pierce the sky at 394 feet.
No. 13 Modern Wing, Art Institute of Chicago
Renzo Piano’s limestone, glass, and steel 2009 addition to Chicago’s Beaux-Arts landmark was built to house the museum’s modern European artworks.
No. 14 8 Spruce Street, New York City
Frank Gehry designed the Western world’s tallest residential tower (it soars 870 feet), and gave it an undulating frame to catch and reflect the sun as it changes throughout the day.
No. 15 Zakim Bridge, Boston
Swiss architect Christian Menn used 126 steel cables to secure this suspension bridge’s 183-foot-wide roadway, America’s largest when it opened in 2002.
No. 16 Acropolis, Athens
The most celebrated structure of the classical world, Athens’s flat-topped citadel contains the white marble Parthenon, built in the fifth century B.C., as well as several other buildings.
No. 17 De Young Museum, San Francisco
Swiss architects Herzog and de Meuron sculpted 950,000 pounds of natural copper into a form that complements the landscape of Golden Gate Park. The fine arts museum opened in 2005.
No. 18 National September 11 Memorial, New York City
Opened in September 2011, the two illuminated reflecting pools—occupying the footprint of the Twin Towers—and 400 white oaks create a calming, respectful space to commemorate 9/11.
No. 19 Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle
In 2007, the Seattle Art Museum opened this free outdoor gallery on a former brownfield bordering Puget Sound.
No. 20 Grand Canyon Skywalk, AZ
Twelve-and-a-half inches of reinforced glass is all that separates the brave souls who walk this four-year-old horseshoe plank from a 4,000-foot plunge into the Colorado River below.
No. 21 Wembley Stadium, London
After a massive $1.3 billion reconstruction, England’s national arena with its distinctive arch reopened in 2007 as the second largest sports structure in Europe.
No. 22 Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston
When it opened in 2006 overlooking Boston Harbor, this 65,000-square-foot gallery of transparent glass, translucent glass, and cool opaque steel was the city’s first new museum in 100 years.
No. 22 Sydney Opera House
The monument that defines this Australian city has a roof of white concrete “sails” and was completed in 1973 from designs by then-unknown architect Jørn Utzon.
No. 24 Agbar Tower, Barcelona
Barcelona’s tallest landmark often draws comparisons to London’s Swiss Re building, which opened a year earlier, in 2004. But designer Jean Nouvel insists his inspiration was Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia.
No. 25 Great Wall of China
It took millions of laborers 2,000 years to build the world’s longest man-made structure, stretching 5,500 miles along northern China’s border with Mongolia.
No. 26 Pyramids of Giza, Egypt
That the ancient Egyptians of 2,500 B.C. so flawlessly calculated and constructed these 484-foot limestone temples continues to astound today’s top engineers.
No. 27 Ponte della Costituzione, Venice
Decidedly modern, Santiago Calatrava’s glass-and-marble footbridge over the Grand Canal ruffled the feathers of Venice’s hard-core traditionalists when it opened in 2008.
No. 28 Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, Berlin
Architect Peter Eisenman’s design for this Holocaust memorial, opened in 2005, consists of 4.7 acres of solemn concrete slabs set jarringly atop uneven ground.
No. 29 Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The world’s largest Art Deco sculpture was placed at the 2,310-foot summit of Mount Corcovado in 1931 to make it visible from any point in Rio de Janeiro.
No. 30 Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis
Jean Nouvel redesigned Minnesota’s premier playhouse in 2001, turning the 275,000-square-foot, tri-space performance hall into one of the country’s top cultural spots.
No. 31 Machu Picchu, Peru
The remains of this 600-year-old Incan citadel sitting 7,710 feet above sea level in the Urubamba River valley were rediscovered 100 years ago by archaeologist Hiram Bingham.
No. 32 Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, TX
Tadao Ando’s minimalist structure, opened in 2002, features five pavilions of 40-foot glass walls framed in simple steel and surrounding a 1.5-acre reflective pond.
No. 33 National Stadium, Beijing
The world’s largest steel structure—designed by Swiss architects Herzog and de Meuron and known affectionately as the Bird’s Nest—premiered at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
No. 34 Shanghai World Financial Center
When it was finished in 2008, Shanghai’s 1,614-foot-tall World Financial Center—with its distinctive aperture at the top—became the skyline’s most recognizable feature.
No. 35 Taj Mahal, India
Twenty thousand workers from Asia and Europe spent 22 years building this beautifully composed white marble mausoleum that has become a symbol of enduring love.
No. 36 Winspear Opera House, Dallas
The 60-foot glass façade at this two-year-old, Norman Foster–designed venue allows its 2,200 patrons to peer onto downtown Dallas.
No. 37 Allianz Arena, Munich
Herzog and de Meuron’s steel and concrete arena was the crown jewel of the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Today it packs in 69,000 fans for Bayern München and 1860 Munich soccer matches.
No. 38 Neues Museum, Berlin
London-based architect David Chipperfield was careful to honor the original 1859 Neoclassical structure of this museum in central Berlin, famous for housing the bust of Nefertiti.
No. 39 Bloch Building, Nelson Atkins Museum, Kansas City
Architect Steven Holl’s five Modernist, frosted-glass boxes seem to shoot up from the museum’s manicured sculpture garden, drenching natural light over their underground gallery spaces.
No. 40 CCTV Building, Beijing
Thanks to Rem Koolhaas’s innovative $1.2 billion broadcast headquarters, China now airs 200 state-run channels, as opposed to just 16 before its 2009 opening.