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Travel bucket list ideas:

Last updated: 20 July, 2023

The great civilisations of the past have left a legacy of constructions that, in our current age of architectural profligacy, still stand out and inspire.

Built without the wonders of 20th-century technology, many are also monumental feats of engineering; others offer such grace and beauty, that they’ll literally take your breath away.

Table of Contents

Abu Simbel, Aswan, Egypt (1250 BC)

Aswan, Southern Upper Egypt Region, Egypt

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Bucket List Experience

The two temples of Ramesses II at Abu Simbel are among the most impressive of all the world’s surviving ancient monuments. It remains a testament to the power of the Egyptian empire at its height under Ramesses II, aka ‘Ramesses the Great’.

Cut into the rock above the Nile flood plain more than 3,000 years ago, fronted by four colossal statues of the pharaoh. His consort Nefertari and their children can be seen in smaller figures by his feet. Queen Nefertari was the first of Ramesses’ ‘Great Royal Wives’.

Best for ages: 8+ | £12

Alcazar of Seville, Spain (AD 1000+)

Seville, Andalusia, Spain

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Bucket List Experience

Built in the 10th century for Seville’s Moorish governor, the Alcazar was converted into a palace by Pedro I, Christian King of Castile in the 1360s, making it the oldest royal palace still in use in Europe.

Pedro brought in Moorish craftsmen creating a superlative patchwork of patios, tile work, tracery and arabesques, culminating in the stunning Salon de Embajadores. The gardens are simply enchanting.

Best for ages: 13+ | £11

Alhambra, Granada, Spain (AD 1333)

Granada, Andalusia, Spain

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Bucket List Experience

Stretched along the crest of a ridge in Granada, the Alhambra is at once a stunning sight and the finest example of European Islamic architecture.

Built in the 14th century for the last Moorish Emirs in Spain, the elaborate fort also contains the 16th-century palace of Charles V.

Best for ages: 13+ | £12

Amber Fort, Jaipur, India (AD 1592)

Jaipur, Rajasthan, India

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Bucket List Experience

This colossal, 16th-century maharaja fortress-palace crests a stark ridge above Amer village near Jaipur.

Enclosed by kilometres of walls snaking across the surrounding hills, at its heart the huge complex comprises audience halls, pavilions, royal ‘apartments’ and courtyards that collectively blend Hindu and Mughal motifs and architecture.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free

Amphitheatre of Arles, Provence, France (AD 100)

Arles, Provence, France

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Bucket List Experience

Set on a low hill in Arles, Provence, this is the biggest and one of the best-preserved Roman amphitheatres in France, where 20,000 would come to watch gladiators fight to the death.

It was inspired by Rome’s Colosseum, which had been built a decade earlier – and was later converted into a fortress in the Middle Ages (an era from which three towers still survive). Originally the amphitheatre had a third level of arcades.

Best for ages: 18+ | £8

Angkor Wat, Cambodia (AD 900-1300)

Siem Reap, Northwestern Region, Cambodia

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Bucket List Experience

The former capital of the Khmer people, Angkor is a pilgrimage site for Buddhists and the archetypal ‘lost city’ for the rest of us.

Built between the 9th-13th centuries deep in the Cambodian jungle, the site represents Khmer architecture at its finest and includes Angkor Wat, the largest religious building ever constructed.

Best for ages: 10+ | £28

Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, UK (AD 1704)

Woodstock, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom (UK)

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Bucket List Experience

This gargantuan, 18th-century palace near Oxford holds spectacular collections of art, furniture and porcelain, housed in ornate, grand state rooms.

A Baroque beauty, it was built as a gift to John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, from Queen Anne in thanks for his victory at the Battle of Blenheim on 13th August 1704.

Best for ages: 13+ | £32

exterior of Borgund Stave Church, one of the world's must-see churches
Experience

Borgund Stave Church, Norway (AD 1180)

Borgund, Western Norway, Norway

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Bucket List Experience

Norway is home to dozens of so-called ‘Stave’ churches­ – notable for their ‘post and lintel’ construction. The supporting posts are called stav in modern Norwegian, hence the name.

Once common across northwestern Europe, most of these unusual-looking wooden structures fell victim to wars and fire over the centuries. This one at Borgund, built around AD 1200, is arguably the finest remaining example.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free

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Aerial drone view of the magnificent Borobudur temple
Experience

Borobudur, Java, Indonesia (AD 850)

Borobudur, Java, Indonesia

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Bucket List Experience

This magnificent and mesmerising 9th-century Mahayana Buddhist temple, built during the reign of the Sailendra Dynasty, is a prime example of Javanese Buddhist architecture.

The structure is adorned with over 2,500 relief panels and 500 Buddha statues, arranged around a large central dome.

Best for ages: 13+ | £10

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Exterior of Bouzov Castle surrounded by forested hills
Experience

Bouzov Castle, Czech Republic (AD 1910)

Bouzov, Moravia, Czechia

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Bucket List Experience

Historical records mention a fortress at Bouzov as early as the 14th-century, but the current Neo-gothic construct was predominantly built in the early 20th century, on the order of the Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights.

Despite being looted during the World Wars, and confiscated by the Nazis, it remains a beguiling castle, complete with an 8-storey watchtower, drawbridge, battlements and a knight’s hall.

Best for ages: 6+ | £8

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Bran Castle, Romania (AD 1388)
Experience

Bran Castle, Romania (AD 1388)

Bran, Transylvania, Romania

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Bucket List Experience

Romania’s most famous castle was constructed in 1388 as a fortress to protect the Transylvanian rulers from the Ottoman Empire. It later served as a royal residence.

It’s famed, however, as the legendary home of Count Dracula – purely because it looks the part. Vlad III (aka ‘Vlad the Impaler‘, the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s vampire), never actually set foot in the place, and there’s no evidence that Bram Stoker even knew of it.

Best for ages: 6+ | £8

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Buckingham Palace, London, UK (AD 1700)

London, United Kingdom (UK)

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Bucket List Experience

The world’s most famous royal palace, and home of the British monarchy since Queen Victoria, is a fairly bland affair in west London.

Go in summer months to see the State Rooms and gardens, and stay to see the Changing of the Guard with enjoyable, entertaining fanfare.

Best for ages: 8+ | Free

Buda Castle, Budapest, Hungary (AD 1265)

Budapest, Central Hungary, Hungary

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Bucket List Experience

Perched on a limestone plateau overlooking Budapest and the Danube, this magnificent 19th-century castle has been the seat of Hungarian royalty since the 13th century.

There are intriguing remnants of the original medieval castle but in the main, this is a fairy-tale Royal Palace built in neo-Renaissance and neo-Baroque style.

Best for ages: 6+ | £3

Canterbury Cathedral, UK (AD 597)

Canterbury , Kent , United Kingdom (UK)

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Bucket List Experience

The home of the Church of England, Canterbury Cathedral is one of the most beautiful churches in England.

Even non-church lovers can’t fail to be impressed by the sheer scale and ambition of the building, from the 11th-century crypt to the beautiful stained glass in the 12th-century choir.

Best for ages: 18+ | £14

Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, Spain (AD 1075)

Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain

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Bucket List Experience

A Romanesque and Baroque jewel, Santiago’s mighty cathedral offers a fitting climax to the end of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage.

At the head of the 97m nave is the wildly ornate baldachin and altar over the crypt holding the saintly relics. Suspended from the crossing is the 80kg Botafumeiro, the incense ‘smoke-spreader’– the world’s largest censer.

Best for ages: 18+ | £9

Catherine Palace, St Petersburg, Russia (AD 1717)

St. Petersburg, Northwestern Region, Russia

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Bucket List Experience

Built originally for Peter the Great’s wife, Empress Catherine I in 1723, this extraordinary Baroque summer palace in St Petersburg is a showcase for the grandeur of Imperial Russia, and a fascinating insight into the gilded lives of the Tsars.

Highlights include the Amber Room, decorated in amber panels, backed by gold leaf, mirrors and gemstones.

Best for ages: 13+ | £10

Chateau de Chambord, Loire Valley, France (AD 1547)

Chambord, Centre-Val de Loire, France

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Bucket List Experience

The largest chateau in the Loire Valley, this 16th-century Renaissance colossus contains an astonishing 440 rooms, 84 staircases, more than 800 sculpted columns and a forest of fantastical chimneys.

Its centrepiece is a spectacular double helix staircase, designed, it’s thought, by Leonardo da Vinci. It also houses 4,500 items of furniture, tapestries, antiques and objets d’art.

Best for ages: 18+ | £10

Church of Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, Israel (AD )
Experience

Church of Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, Israel (AD )

Jerusalem, Israel

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Bucket List Experience

Thought to be built on the site of Golgotha, where Jesus was crucified, and on Jesus’ tomb, wherefrom he rose from the dead, this complex sits on Christianity’s two holiest sites. Fire and conquest have reduced it to rubble on several occasions, only for it to arise again – the current manifestation dates from 1810.

Many pilgrims come to follow the route of the Via Dolorosa, Jesus’ final journey with the cross, with the final section inside the church itself.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free

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Church of St. George, Lalibela, Ethiopia – world's must-see churches
Experience

Church of St. George, Lalibela, Ethiopia (AD 1300)

Lalibela, Amhara, Ethiopia

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Bucket List Experience

This amazing monolithic church, dug downwards out of the volcanic tuff, is the stand-out of eleven such medieval churches at the fascinating Lalibela religious site in Ethiopia.

They were built on the order of King Gebre Mesqel Lalibela (who gave the site its name) in the late 12th century following a celestial vision.

Best for ages: 18+ | £2

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exterior of the Church of Transfiguration from a distance
Experience

Church of the Transfiguration, Kizhi Island, Russia (AD 1714)

Kizhi Island, Northwestern Region, Russia

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Bucket List Experience

This extraordinary creation, made entirely of wood, is not only famed for the aesthetic appeal of its 22 twisty domes, but also because not a single nail was used in its construction – it used interlocking logs instead.

What’s perhaps even more remarkable is that it’s survived over 200 years since its construction in 1714 without burning down, like almost every other wooden building in history.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free

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Citadel of Aleppo, Aleppo, Syria (3,000 BC)

Aleppo, Aleppo Governorate, Syria

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Bucket List Experience

This sprawling citadel is one of the largest and oldest castles in the world – records of its existence in some form date back to 3,000 BC. Over the centuries, it’s been home to multiple civilisations, including the Greeks, Byzantines, Ottomans and Romans, and has survived multiple invasions and wars.

Highlights today include the imposing stone entrance bridge, the Ayyubid Palace and the ancient hammam.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free

City Palace, Jaipur, India (AD 1727)

Jaipur, Rajasthan, India

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Bucket List Experience

This former Maharaja palace lies at the heart of Jaipur‘s Old City, a stirring complex of palaces, halls, courtyards and pavilions embodying the power and stature of one of Rajasthan’s leading royal families.

The glitz and glamour are tempered by various displays, from a quirky collection of carriages and palanquins to an astonishing armoury.

Best for ages: 13+ | £2

Colosseum, Rome, Italy (AD 80)

Rome, Lazio, Italy

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Bucket List Experience

Rome’s heritage centrepiece, the Colosseum, was the largest ever amphitheatre built during the Roman Empire – and it still manages to pull a hefty crowd.

Built to host gladiatorial contests and handle an unruly crowd of 50,000 spectators, it is considered one of the greatest works of Roman architecture and engineering.

Best for ages: 8+ | £14

Conwy Castle, Wales, UK (AD 1280)
Experience

Conwy Castle, Wales, UK (AD 1280)

Snowdonia National Park, Wales, United Kingdom (UK)

Originally built by the English King Edward I during his 13th-century conquest of Wales – one of the so-called ‘Ring-of-Iron’ castles – Conwy remained a refuge of kings and usurpers until it was finally ruined in 1665 by the English government to prevent further revolt.

Still impressive and fascinating, the evocative complex includes all the castle ingredients – keeps, moats, towers and battlements you can walk around.

Best for ages: 4+ | £11

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Exterior of De Haar Castle showing pink stone walls and grey turreted towers
Experience

De Haar Castle, Netherlands (AD 1912)

City of Utrecht, Utrecht, Netherlands

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Bucket List Experience

The largest castle in the Netherlands can trace its origins back to 1391, though the current magnificent building was largely built at the end of the 19th century with the financial power of Baroness Helene de Rothschild.

In 1887, she hired famous Dutch architect Pierre Cuypers, who spent the next 20 years designing, building and decorating this 200-bedroom fairy-tale, filled with intricate woodcarvings, sculptures, tapestries, paintings and even porcelain.

Best for ages: 6+ | £15

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Doge's Palace, Venice, Italy (AD 1424)

Venice, Veneto, Italy

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Bucket List Experience

This airy, ethereal Doge palace in Venice is a testament to the best of Byzantine, Gothic and Renaissance architecture and painting.

Highlights include the arcaded courtyard, the frescoes by Veronese, Tiepolo and Tintoretto in the grand chambers and the collection of armour and weapons in the old Armoury. Tintoretto’s Paradiso is the largest oil painting in the world.

Best for ages: 18+ | £25

Dolhmabace Palace, Istanbul, Turkey (AD 1856)

Istanbul, Marmara Region, Turkey

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Bucket List Experience

This luxurious, modern ‘European’ palace on the banks of the Bosphorus in Istanbul was built on the order of the Ottoman Empire‘s 31st Sultan, Abdulmecid I.

An extraordinary and unique architectural curiosity, the Dolmabahce blends Ottoman architecture with Baroque, Rococo and Neoclassical details – it’s so lavish that it bankrupted the Empire.

Best for ages: 18+ | £9

Drottningholm Palace, Sweden (AD 1580)
Experience

Drottningholm Palace, Sweden (AD 1580)

Stockholm, Sweden

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Bucket List Experience

Sweden’s stand-out palace was originally commissioned by King John III for his queen Catherine, and completed in 1580.

Many of Sweden’s monarchs have lived there since, including the current royal family who have a private wing. The rest of the palace and gardens are open to the public.

Best for ages: 13+ | £12

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Duomo, Florence, Italy (AD 1436)

Florence, Tuscany, Italy

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Bucket List Experience

Completed in 1436, this multi-coloured, marble megalith in Florence was one of the marvels of the Renaissance world.

Brunelleschi’s double-shelled dome was an astounding feat of engineering for its time – it was thought nobody could build a dome this vast. Also of note is Giotto’s magnificent bell tower.

Best for ages: 18+ | £16

Duomo, Milan, Italy (AD 1386+)

Milan, Lombardy, Italy

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Bucket List Experience

Commissioned in 1386-7, this pinkish marble, gothic extravaganza took over 550 years to complete. The final flourishes were added in 1965.

Having been built over such an extended period, enduring numerous architects, it’s a hodgepodge of styles but nonetheless impressive. Climb the 158 steps (or catch the lift) to the rooftop terraces to admire the 3,400 marble statues – and the city view.

Best for ages: 18+ | £5

frontal view of the castle surrounded by forested hills
Experience

Eltz Castle, Wierschem, Germany (AD 1157)

Wierschem, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany

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Bucket List Experience

One of the few Rhine castles never to be destroyed, ‘Burg Eltz’ has remarkably been owned by the same family since records began in 1157 – 33 generations.

Crammed onto a 70-metre-high rock spur, with eight drmatic towers and views over the the Elzbach Valley and River Eltz, it’s one of Germany and the world’s most beguiling castles.

Best for ages: 6+ | £12

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Forbidden City, Beijing, China (AD 1420)

Beijing, China

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Bucket List Experience

Built in the early 15th century, this vast palace complex of regal halls, ceremonial courtyards, gardens and living quarters in Beijing served as the home of Chinese emperors and their households for 500 years.

It’s officially called the Palace Museum as many of the rooms have been given over to museum exhibits of imperial treasures, from priceless ceramics to Qing dynasty furniture.

Best for ages: 13+ | £6

Frederiksborg Castle, Copenhagen, Denmark (AD 1620)

Hillerod, Capital Region of Denmark, Denmark

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Bucket List Experience

Frederiksborg is one of Europe’s most magnificent Renaissance castle-palaces, built in the 17th century by King Christian IV.

Rich in art and unusual decorative touches, the building now houses the Museum of National History, which traces the nation’s history through portraits, paintings, furniture and decorative arts, with a section aimed at children.

Best for ages: 13+ | £10

exterior of the stunning Amritsar Golden Temple
Experience

Golden Temple, Amritsar, India (AD 1589)

Amritsar, Punjab, India

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Bucket List Experience

The so-called Golden Temple, a mixture of Indo-Islamic Mughal and Hindu Rajput architecture, is famed for its striking inner sanctum covered in gold leaf.

It’s a gurdwara, a place of gathering and worship for Sikhs, and one of their holiest sites. It is, however, open to worship for all. The four temple entrances symbolise the Sikh belief in equality, and welcome to people from all faiths.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free

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Grand Palace, Bangkok, Thailand (AD 1782)

Bangkok, Central Thailand, Thailand

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Bucket List Experience

The glittering Grand Palace complex in Bangkok was the home of Thai kings for 150 years and is still considered their spiritual and ceremonial base.

Decorated in shimmering mosaics and vivid murals, the buildings dazzle the eye, especially Wat Phra Kaew, which houses the famous Emerald Buddha, dating back to the 14th century.

Best for ages: Any | £11

Great Pyramid of Giza, Cairo, Egypt (2,500 BC)

Cairo, Lower Egypt, Egypt

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Bucket List Experience

One of the original Seven Wonders of the World, the Pyramids have loomed over the Egyptian desert for 4,500 years.

The Great Pyramid of Giza is the oldest and largest of the pyramids; standing 147m in height, it was the world’s tallest man-made structure for nearly four millennia.

Best for ages: 8+ | Free

Great Wall of China, Beijing, China (220 BC)

Beijing, China

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Bucket List Experience

Often cited as the greatest ever man-made construction, the Great Wall snakes along China’s 5,000-mile-long northern boundary.

Up to 8m tall and 9m wide, this ancient defensive wall traverses the stupendous mountain scenery of northern China, with numerous sections that can be hiked.

Best for ages: 8+ | Free

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey (360 AD)

Istanbul, Marmara Region, Turkey

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Bucket List Experience

This gargantuan 4th-century Istanbul basilica, now a mosque, was the last major creation of classical antiquity.

With its great dome and glittering gold mosaics, the Hagia Sophia is one of the world’s great architectural marvels, capturing the essence of a lost empire in stone.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free

Hampton Court, London, UK (AD 1699)

London, United Kingdom (UK)

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Bucket List Experience

This Tudor royal pleasure palace in London is where the infamous Henry VIII lived, loved and held lavish banquets with his succession of wives.

Highlights include the Great Hall and royal apartments, the elaborate dome in the Chapel Royal, the gallery – reputedly haunted by Henry’s fated fifth wife, Catherine Howard – and the UK’s oldest surviving hedge maze, commissioned around 1700.

Best for ages: 4+ | £25

Exterior of castles showing white building with pointed rooftops
Experience

Himeji Castle, Himeji, Japan (AD 1546)

Himeji, Kansai, Japan

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Bucket List Experience

This magnificent hilltop stunner, known as ‘White Heron Castle’, originally dates back to 1333 – remarkably it has survived virtually intact through 700 years or turbulent Japanese feudal history.

The finest surviving example of prototypical Japanese castle architecture, and Japan’s largest castle, it was recently restored, returning to its gleaming brilliant white best.

Best for ages: 13+ | £6

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Exterior of the Hohensalzburg Fortress sitting on top of a hill
Experience

Hohensalzburg Fortress, Salzburg, Austria (AD 1077)

Salzburg, Salzburg State, Austria

The largest medieval fortress in Europe, and one of the largest in the world, this vast complex dominates a hill overlooking Salzburg’s rooftops. Built by Archbishop Gebhard to protect himself and his fellow clergy, it was never once conquered in its history.

Inside, exhibition highlights include original furnishings, an armoury, and a golden chamber.

Best for ages: 13+ | £10

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Front entrance to the Jetavanaramaya temple, showing a large red brick dome
Experience

Jetavanaramaya, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka (AD 300)

Anuradhapura, North Central Province, Sri Lanka

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Bucket List Experience

Once the tallest stupa in the ancient world, this extraordinary 122m-high dome-shaped Buddhist shrine was, for its time, a feat of structural and engineering ingenuity. Over 93 million baked bricks rest on foundations 8.5m deep, filled with rocks trampled flat by elephants.

Today, it’s a popular pilgrimage site – a part of Buddha’s sash is believed to be enshrined here.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free

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Aerial view of a large temple cut down into the rock
Experience

Kailasa Temple, Maharashtra, India (AD 770)

Ellora, Maharashtra, India

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Bucket List Experience

The largest of the 34 cave temples in the extraordinary Ellora Caves complex, this Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva was carved out of a rock face in the 8th century by the Rashtrakuta king Krishna I.

Astonishingly, it’s a megalith, carved up to 33m downwards from the top down.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free

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Karnak Temple, Luxor, Egypt (1552-1306 BC)

Luxor, Southern Upper Egypt Region, Egypt

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Bucket List Experience

The largest temple complex in the world, Karnak was the most important place of worship for ancient Egyptians, with 80,000 people working here during the reign of Ramses II.

The Temple of Amun is the most impressive of all, spread across 250,000sq m, with a magnificent hall of 134 columns.

Best for ages: 10+ | £10

Kensington Palace, London, UK (AD 1605)

London, United Kingdom (UK)

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Bucket List Experience

This handsome red-brick London palace, dating back to the 1700s, has been home Queen Victoria (born here), the late Princess Diana, and the Prince and Princess of Wales.

Highlights include a collection of Queen Victoria’s jewellery and an interactive display where you can step into Victorian garb, and a rotating programme of temporary exhibitions.

Best for ages: 13+ | £17

Kinkaku-ji Temple, Kyoto, Japan (AD 1397)

Kyoto, Kansai, Japan

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Bucket List Experience

Originally built as a shogun’s retirement villa, then transformed into a Zen temple in 1408, this stunning, gilded temple casts a golden reflection onto an islet-studded pond – Kyoto’s iconic image.

This three-storey beauty, covered in gold leaf, is one of Kyoto’s designated 17 historic monuments, dazzling visitors all year round.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free

La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain (AD 1888)

Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain

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Bucket List Experience

Barcelona’s icon, this extraordinary organic masterpiece by Gaudi inches ever higher over the skyline. Only the Birth Façade and crypt were completed before Gaudi’s death, and the church is still being added to, funded by ticket admissions.

It’s already, even critics admit, the most spectacular church of the 21st century.

Best for ages: 8+ | £23 | Any

Lake Palace, Udaipur, India (AD 1746)

Udaipur, Rajasthan, India

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Bucket List Experience

Built in 1746, this stunning marble palace (and famous Octopussy cult hideout) was the winter palace of Maharana Jagat Singh II of the royal dynasty of Mewar. Inside it houses a peacock-filled central garden, with fountains, pillared terraces and shady courtyards.

Taken over and restored by a luxury hotel chain, it’s worth the price tag to stay and experience an authentic taste of royal Indian life. The Royal Butlers are descendants of the original palace retainers, and serve guests with Maharanan grandeur and tradition.

Best for ages: 18+ | £700

Giant golden stone Mehrangarh Fort on a hill
Experience

Mehrangarh Fort, Jodphur, India (AD 1459)

Jodphur, Rajasthan, India

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Bucket List Experience

This imposing citadel complex, built on a hilltop overlooking the city of Jodhpur, was first built in 1459 by Rajput, then later enhanced by the ruling maharajas.

Inside are intricately decorated palaces, expansive courtyards, and now museums housing relics and memorabilia, such as royal cradles, musical instruments, costumes, paintings, armour and furniture.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free

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Mezquita of Cordoba, Spain (785 AD)

Cordoba, Andalusia, Spain

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Bucket List Experience

This must-see, thousand-year-old ‘mosque-cathedral’ dates from the glory days of Moorish architecture.

Begun in the year 785, when Abd ar Rahman I made Cordoba the capital of al-Andalus, the Mezquita is a mind-boggling feat of seemingly endless columns, horseshoe arches and beautiful double arches that melt into distant shadows.

Best for ages: 13+ | £8

Agio Stefano monastery, Monasteries of Meteora, Greece – world's must-see historic buildings
Experience

Monasteries of Meteora, Greece (AD 1345)

Kalabaka, Thessaly, Greece

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Bucket List Experience

In the 13th and 14th centuries, 24 extraordinary monasteries were built by monks on the summits of giant rock pillars in the Meteora region of Greece, to protect themselves from invaders.

The monasteries were only accessible only by ladder, basket or rope. Six still function today – the rest are ruined.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free

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Aerial view of Mont Saint-Michel
Experience

Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France (AD 966)

Avranches, Normandy, France

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Bucket List Experience

This tiny, 17-acre tidal island off Normandy’s coast houses over 60 historic monuments, arranged around an imposing abbey. The abbey’s history dates back to a Benedictine monastery set up there in AD 966, which was expanded and fortified over the centuries.

Thankfully, the island’s unique tidal access largely protected it from destruction, notably during the many wars with the English.

Best for ages: 13+ | £10

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Exterior of the palace
Experience

Mysore Palace, Karnataka, India (AD 1912)

Mysore, Karnataka, India

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Bucket List Experience

This famous Indian palace derives its name from the word mysuru meaning citadel – the first palace here was a 14th-century wooden fort belonging to the ruling Wadiya Dynasty.

Multiple forts and palaces of the followed – all made of wood, all ultimately burnt to ashes – until the current colourful royal residence, built out of stone, was completed in 1912.

Best for ages: 13+ | £1

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Neuschwanstein Castle, Schwangau, Germany (AD 1886)

Schwangau, Bavaria, Germany

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Bucket List Experience

Built by ‘mad’ King Ludwig, this remarkable and fantastical Disney-esque castle is the prototype fairytale castle, with Gothic turrets, drawbridges and ridiculously extravagant interiors – but useless for defence.

It’s location on a crag looking over the shimmering Alpsee only adds to its drama.

Best for ages: 6+ | £13

Notre-Dame de Fourviere Basilica, Lyon, France (AD 1874)

Lyon, Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes, France

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Bucket List Experience

With Romanesque- and Byzantine-style architecture (earning it the nickname ‘upside-down elephant’), Lyon‘s iconic basilica was built by Pierre Bossan (1872-1874) to thank God for France’s triumph over the socialists during the infamous ‘Communes’.

Atop the Fourviere hillside, its esplanade draws crowds to its sweeping panorama over Lyon.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free

Exterior of Osaka Castle at night, all lit up
Experience

Osaka Castle, Japan (AD 1597)

Osaka, Kansai, Japan

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Bucket List Experience

This extraordinary 15-acre, city centre complex includes moats, gates, towers, and the jewel in the crown – the breathtakingly lovely central castle, built on a tall stone foundation to protect its residents from attack.

Today’s manifestation, built 1997, is a concrete reproduction of the original; preceding structures were routinely destroyed by fire and warfare.

Best for ages: 13+ | £4

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Palace of Versailles, Paris, France (AD 1624-1682)

Versailles, Ile-de-France, France

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Bucket List Experience

The Palace of Versailles, just outside of Paris, is a brilliantly over-the-top ode to the power of monarch Louis XIV, with its lavish baroque rooms and the sparkling mirrors of the Galerie des Glaces.

The gloriously glitzy palace of the ‘Sun King’ is a vision of the time when royals were considered divine.

Best for ages: 13+ | £18

Palace of Westminster, London, UK (AD 1860)

London, United Kingdom (UK)

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Bucket List Experience

This spectacular complex of buildings on the Thames in London still stand-out for both their jaw-dropping neo-Gothic design and as a bastion of democracy – democratic debates in the Houses of Commons started here in the late 13th century.

Today, it houses the UK’s parliament and the world-famous clock ‘Big Ben’.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free

Parthenon, Athens (438 BC)

Athens, Central Greece, Greece

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Bucket List Experience

This dazzling 2,500-year-old temple in Athens is a must-see symbol of ancient Greece. Stunning in its simplicity and symmetry, the temple is a marble jigsaw made of 70,000 pieces.

After a 30-year restoration, it looks more spectacular than ever – a symbol not just of a nation, but also of an entire ancient civilisation.

Best for ages: 7+ | £9

Pena Palace, Sintra, Portugal (AD 1854)

Sintra, Lisboa, Portugal

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Bucket List Experience

This colour-fantastic, 19th-century Romanticist castle, built on a rock in the Sintra Mountains, is now a national monument and museum, but was previously a summer residence for the Portuguese royal family.

Built in 1854 on the orders of King Ferdinand, when the original monastery on the site was burnt down, it’s uniquely rich with decoration and symbolism – much at the best of the king and his wife Queen Maria.

Best for ages: 13+ | £7

Peterhof Palace, St Petersburg, Russia (AD 1723)

St. Petersburg, Northwestern Region, Russia

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Bucket List Experience

Founded by Peter I in 1701, who was determined to create a network of palaces and gardens to rival Versailles, the Peterhof Estate in St Petersburg was a favourite summer residence of the Tsars for centuries.

It’s famed for its impressive Grand Palace and the Grand Cascade, a series of 64 fountains flowing into a pool containing the largest fountain called ‘Samson’.

Best for ages: 13+ | £6

Pharoah’s Treasury, Petra, Jordan (312 BC)

Ma'an, Jordan

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Bucket List Experience

The most famous sight in this vast 4th-century BC Nabataean city ruin is this 45m-high temple with an ornate, Greek-style facade; the purpose of the building remains unknown.

Its visual impact is even more stunning when revealed from the narrow access canyon Al Siq – as happened to Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt when he ‘discovered’ Petra in 1812.

Best for ages: 13+ | £52

Potala Palace, world's must-see palaces - on hillside
Experience

Potala Palace, Tibet, China (AD 1649)

Lhasa, Tibet, China

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Bucket List Experience

This wonderful dzong fortress on the side of Ri Marpo (‘Red Mountain’) overlooks the Lhasa Valley at an altitude of 3,700m.

It was built in 1645 by the 5th Dalai Lama to be the seat of government, and was used as such and as a winter resident for the Dalai Lama until the Chinese invasion. It’s now a museum.

Best for ages: 18+ | £12

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Prague Castle, Prague, Czech Republic (AD 870)

Prague, Czechia

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Bucket List Experience

Commanding Bohemia since Borivoj founded it in the 9th century, Prague Castle’s catalogue of architectural splendour forms the city’s literal high point, centred on St Vitus’ Cathedral.

Palaces, museums, chapels, a crypt, a prison tower, a fortress for the black arts and a stunning Gothic spire make up the extensive pile. The president’s office looks out over it all.

Best for ages: 13+ | £9

Qorikancha, Cusco, Peru (AD 1200)

Cusco, Cusco Region, Peru

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Bucket List Experience

Dedicated to the sun and the moon, and with twin rooms once covered in solid gold and silver, this temple in Cusco, Peru, was the spiritual heart of the Inca Empire.

The building acted as a giant ‘Sun, star and moon dial’, to track the movements of astronomical bodies and to coordinate these with day-to-day planning and crop-planting across the Empire.

Best for ages: 18+ | £2

Rosenborg Castle, Copenhagen, Denmark (AD 1606)

Copenhagen, Capital Region of Denmark, Denmark

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Bucket List Experience

A splendid Renaissance castle in the centre of Copenhagen, home to Denmark’s crown jewels, a collection of precious gems – including some of the world’s finest emeralds – and displays of weapons, scientific instruments, a set of toy soldiers and other royal treasures.

Upstairs, in the Knight’s Hall, three life-size silver lions guard coronation thrones made from narwhal tusks, while tapestries and fine furnishings fill the King’s private quarters.

Best for ages: 13+ | £15

Royal Palace of Madrid, Spain (AD 1735)

Madrid, Community of Madrid, Spain

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Bucket List Experience

This lavish 18th-century royal palace in Madrid is the official residence of Spain’s current monarchy, led by King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia.

It’s Neoclassical grandeur on an epic scale, with some 2,000 rooms – most opulent of all is the scarlet and gold Throne Room, with a ceiling painted by Tiepolo.

Best for ages: 18+ | £8

internal view showing extraordinary stained glass windows
Experience

Sainte-Chapelle, Paris, France (AD 1248)

Paris, Ile-de-France, France

This exquisite, Gothic royal chapel in the Palais de la Cite (the residence of the Kings of France until the 14th century) in Paris was built by Louis IX to house his collection of Passion relics, including Christ’s Crown of Thorns (now at Notre-Dame Cathedral).

It also has one of the most extensive 13th-century stained-glass collections anywhere in the world.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free

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Exterior view of the whole palace from the front
Experience

Schonbrunn Palace, Vienna, Austria (AD 1750)

Vienna, Austria

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Bucket List Experience

This magnificent 1,441-room Rococo palace was once the summer residence of the ruling Habsburg dynasty – one of the most prominent dynasties in European history – until 1918. It was built was a wedding gift for Empress Maria Theresa on an artesian well – Schonbrunn translates as ‘beautiful spring’.

Franz-Joseph – Austria’s longest serving emperor and uncle to Archduke Franz Ferdinand – was born here. His nephew’s assassination, of course, triggered World War i.

Best for ages: 13+ | £21

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The golden pagoda soars into the sky in the centre of the complex
Experience

Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon, Myanmar (AD 1362)

Yangon, Yangon Region, Myanmar (formerly Burma)

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Bucket List Experience

Myanmar’s holiest and largest Buddhist shrine, in the heart of Yangon, dazzles on its skyline.

In the centre of this 2,600 year-old pagoda is a shimmering 112m spire, covered in 60 tonnes of gold leaf. Surrounding it are dozens of smaller shrines where devotees come to pray and beg for yadaya (good luck).

Best for ages: 13+ | £5

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View of a granite rock monolith with a small temple on the summit
Experience

Sigiriya, Sri Lanka (AD 477)

Sigiriya, Central Province, Sri Lanka

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Bucket List Experience

This ancient rock fortress and former royal palace was built in AD 477 by King Kashyapa. It was abandoned after his death in AD 495 and used as a Buddhist monastery until the 14th century.

Halfway up is the King’s oversized lion gateway – hence its name ‘Lion Rock’.

Best for ages: 13+ | £23

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Smolny Cathedral, St Petersburg, Russia (AD 1764)

St. Petersburg , Northwestern Region, Russia

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Bucket List Experience

Commissioned by Peter the Great’s daughter, Elizabeth, to assuage her frequent pangs of Catholic guilt, Smolny in St Petersburg was designed by her favourite architect, the Italian Bartolomeo Rastrelli.

Arguably his most magnificent creation, Rastrelli designed a traditional, five-domed Russian cathedral, but embellished it with exquisite interiors, and a baroque facade in her favourite shade of turquoise.

Best for ages: 18+ | £3

St Catherine's Monastery, Sharm el-Sheik (AD 565)

Sharm el-Sheik, Sinai Peninsula, Egypt

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Bucket List Experience

At the base of Mount Sinai in Egypt, set amid a dramatic and harsh desert landscape, this remarkable Greek Orthodox monastery was built by order of Emperor Justinian I (AD 527-565) to protect the biblical ‘Burning Bush’, where Moses received his instructions to lead the Israelites out of Egypt in Canaan.

The monastery is one of the oldest working Christian monasteries in the world, and is a holy pilgrimage site.

Best for ages: 18+ | £2 | 3-5 hours

St Mark’s Basilica, Venice, Italy (AD 1063)

Venice, Veneto, Italy

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Bucket List Experience

The most beguiling cathedral in Europe is blessed with OTT opulence, Byzantine mysticism and Gothic charm.

Built in Venice in the 11th century to house the remains of St Mark, its Byzantine mosaics, Gothic carvings and sumptuous treasures have been built up during many centuries of Venetian trading and looting.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free

St Paul’s Cathedral, London, UK (AD 1677)

London, United Kingdom (UK)

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Bucket List Experience

Sir Christopher Wren’s English Baroque masterpiece was built in London in stages between 600 and 1677. The crowning dome of St Paul’s is one of the largest in the world and, until 1962, was the tallest structure in London.

Architect aside, it’s remarkable too for miraculously surviving the London Blitz of 1940-41 intact, when almost every other surrounding building was flattened.

Best for ages: 10+ | £17

St Peter’s Basilica, The Vatican, Italy (AD 1626)

Vatican City, Lazio, Italy

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Bucket List Experience

This sublime, world-famous basilica in The Vatican was built over St Peter’s tomb and crowned by Michelangelo’s heavenly dome. Few buildings are so instantly recognisable: majestically situated on Piazza San Pietro, with its Egyptian obelisk, its vastness embraced by Bernini’s colonnades.

Inside, the artistic highlights include masterpieces by Michelangelo and Bernini.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free

Close up Night view of St. Basil Cathedral, Moscow
Experience

St. Basil's Cathedral, Moscow, Russia (AD 1561)

Moscow, Central Federal District, Russia

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Bucket List Experience

Built in the 16th century by Ivan the Terrible, St. Basil’s Cathedral marks the geographic centre of Moscow and is the most recognisable building in Russia – a remarkable confection of ornate turrets and multi-coloured domes.

It’s designed to resemble the flames of a bonfire rising into the sky.

Best for ages: 8+ | Free

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Summer Palace, Beijing, China (AD 1750)

Beijing, China

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Bucket List Experience

The former retreat of China’s imperial rulers, the Summer Palace in Beijing is a masterpiece of classical Chinese garden design on a truly awesome scale. Artificial hills, lakes, opulent buildings and graceful arched bridges convene in carefully orchestrated harmony.

The gardens were first built in the 12th century but were developed to their artistic height during the Qing Dynasty (AD 1644 – 1912). Several of the palace buildings hold historical artefacts and exhibits, including possessions belonging to the formidable Empress Dowager.

Best for ages: 13+ | £3

Taj Mahal, Agra, India (AD 1653)

Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India

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Bucket List Experience

This world’s greatest monument to love in Agra, India remains a must-see architectural wonder.

Completed in 1653 by Emperor Shah Jehan to entomb his wife, the combination of milky-white marble, inlaid semi-precious stones, the great bulbous dome and four slender minarets lend the Taj Mahal an astonishing and delicate beauty.

Best for ages: 10+ | Free

Temple of Bacchus, Baalbek, Beirut, Lebanon (1 BC)

Baalbeck, Baalbek-Hermel Governorate, Lebanon

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Bucket List Experience

This remarkable temple complex of Baalbek is home to some of the best-preserved Roman ruins in the world. Top of the bill is the remarkably well-preserved Temple of Bacchus, an outstanding example of Imperial Roman architecture.

Bacchus, a.k.a. Dionysus, was the Greek then Roman god of agriculture, wine, fertility and pleasure.

Best for ages: 13+ | £8

Temple of Heaven, Beijing, China (AD 1420)

Beijing, China

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Bucket List Experience

The Temple of Heaven in Beijing is unlike any other temple in China. In fact, it’s not really a temple at all but a richly symbolic event space of sorts, where the emperor, accompanied by a grand entourage, would perform arcane rites twice a year to pray for heaven’s blessing.

Ceremonies took place upon the open-air Round Altar, next to the Imperial Vault of Heaven where the spirit tablets of the gods were kept. A 360m-long paved walkway connects to the splendid centrepiece, the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests.

Best for ages: 13+ | £2

Temple of Isis, Aswan, Egypt (690 BC)

Aswan, Upper Egypt, Egypt

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Bucket List Experience

One of the most beautiful Greco-Roman temples, with the most romantic setting of all, this 4th century BC was dedicated to the goddess and her husband, Osiris.

It became one of Egypt’s most sacred sites during Roman times, and attracted pilgrims from along the Nile and around the Mediterranean for thousands of years.

Best for ages: 18+ | £13

Temple of Kukulcan, Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico (AD 1000)

Piste, Yucatan, Mexico

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Bucket List Experience

The Mayan Riviera‘s iconic and mystical pre-Hispanic Mayan ruins, whose oldest structures date back to the 5th century, are littered with stunning, monumental buildings.

The largest of all is the 30m-high, perfectly proportioned Temple of Kukulcan (aka El Castillo), a step pyramid decorated with plumed serpents (Kukulcan was a feathered serpent god of the Yucatec Maya people).

Best for ages: 8+ | £20

Beautiful golden pagodas rise out of the forested countryside
Experience

Temples of Bagan, Myanmar (900-1300 AD)

Bagan, Mandalay Region, Myanmar (formerly Burma)

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Bucket List Experience

Bagan’s mist-shrouded landscape, peppered with seemingly random pagodas and temples, was once home to the capital of the Bagan Kingdom.

At its height, over 10,000 intricate temples, pagodas and monasteries graced its skyline; only around 2,200 that have withstood the periodic earthquakes remain. Experience it from a hot air balloon at sunrise. Magical.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free

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The Pantheon, Rome, Italy (AD 118)

Rome, Lazio, Italy

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Bucket List Experience

Originally a temple to the Gods, rebuilt by Hadrian in AD 118, today this superbly preserved Roman shrine in Rome houses the tomb of Raphael and the first two kings of Italy.

Its astonishing 43m dome is still the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free

The Treasury, Petra, Jordan (312 BC)

Ma'an, Jordan

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Bucket List Experience

Petra’s most famous structure, the so-called ‘Pharoah’s Treasury’ (Al Khazneh), is a 45m-high temple with an ornate, Greek-style facade.

Its visual impact is even more jaw-dropping by virtue of stumbling upon it after wandering down the narrow access canyon known as Al Siq.

Best for ages: 13+ | £52

Buddhist temple built into a ledge on a cliff, surrounded by forested valleys
Experience

Tiger's Nest, Bhutan (AD 1692)

Paro, Bhutan

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Bucket List Experience

There are so many reason to visit this tiny, Buddhist Himalayan Kingdom: rich and colourful culture; peaceful, friendly people; a harmonious, sustainable way of life, & yet more.

Its signature experience is the hike to the Tiger’s Nest – a precariously-located monastery, perched on a cliff face 900m above the forested Paro Valley.

Best for ages: 18+ | £3

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Tikal, Guatemala (AD 200)

Tikal National Park, Peten Basin, Guatemala

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Bucket List Experience

One of the largest and most majestic ancient Mayan cities, Tikal’s awe-inspiring ruins soar through the Guatemalan jungle canopy. More than 3,000 structures reveal the extent of a city that once housed 100,000 Maya.

Although now a city of the dead, the surrounding rainforest thrums with wildlife including howler monkeys and toucans.

Best for ages: 13+ | £16

Topkapi Palace, Istanbul, Turkey (AD 1460)

Istanbul, Marmara Region, Turkey

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Bucket List Experience

The legendary home of the Ottoman Sultans in Istanbul, this enormous complex is a perfectly preserved time capsule of life at the top in this most exotic of empires.

The museum holds Ottoman clothing, weapons, armor, miniatures, religious relics, and illuminated manuscripts; the harem and the sultans’ private quarters rank among the finest works of Turkish architecture and art.

Best for ages: 18+ | £17

Tower of London, London, UK (AD 1078)

London, United Kingdom (UK)

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Bucket List Experience

The world’s most notorious medieval fortress, on the banks of the River Thames in London, is rich in gruesome history dating back to the 11th century – including the beheading of Anne Boleyn.

Inside, you’ll find the armour of the great Tudor King, Henry VIII, and the Crown Jewels, including the Queen’s crown ­– all guarded by the enigmatic and colourful Beefeaters.

Best for ages: 4+ | £25

Wat Phra Kaew, Grand Palace, Bangkok, Thailand (AD 1782)

Bangkok, Central Thailand, Thailand

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Bucket List Experience

This eye-popping temple, decorated in shimmering mosaics and vivid murals, is the centrepiece of the Grand Palace in Bangkok and the most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand. Important state and royal ceremonies are also held within its revered walls.

Inside lives the famous Emerald Buddha statue – it stands 66cm tall and was carved from a single jade stone in the 14th century.

Best for ages: Any | £11

Westminster Abbey, London, UK (AD 650)

London, United Kingdom (UK)

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Bucket List Experience

This important Gothic abbey in central London may not be the prettiest, but there’s more history here than you can shake a stick at.

It’s especially famed for the long list of kings, queens and VIPs interred beneath its stones, from Geoffrey Chaucer to Isaac Newton. British monarchs have long been crowned here too, and the building remains one of the most historic and important Gothic structures in the world.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free

Windsor Castle, Windsor, UK (AD 1070)

Windsor , Berkshire, United Kingdom (UK)

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Bucket List Experience

A royal home and fortress for over 900 years, Windsor is the largest occupied castle in the world, and remains a working palace, with over 150 staff.

The ornate state apartments, lined with works of art by painters such as Van Dyck, Holbein and Rubens, were built for Charles II and his Queen, Catherine of Braganza, as an attempt to rival the achievements of his cousin, Louis XVI, at Versailles.

Best for ages: 10+ | £24

Winter Palace, St Petersburg, Russia (AD 1762)

St. Petersburg , Northwestern Region, Russia

Formerly the official residence of the Russian Emperor from 1732 to 1917, this magnificent Elizabethan Baroque Tsar palace in St Petersburg was designed by famed Italian architect Rastrelli.

It now houses the State Hermitage Museum, notably its Egyptian and European Art collections. Look out for the eye-wateringly opulent central staircase, ornate halls and a ‘treasure gallery’, filled with jewellery and gold.

Best for ages: 13+ | £5

York Minster, York, UK (AD 1472)

York, Yorkshire, United Kingdom (UK)

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Bucket List Experience

Famous for its hand-carved, vaulted interiors and vividly beautiful medieval stained glass, the current building – which took over 250 years to build and was finally finished in 1472 – is considered northern Europe’s finest Gothic cathedral.

Don’t miss the 600-year-old Great East Window, believed to be the biggest of its kind in the world, with 311 individual, unique glass panels.

Best for ages: 18+ | £12