By Michelle Yastremsky
When embarking on a European adventure, most people have their sights set on seeing world-famous monuments, iconic cityscapes and landmarks that have inspired change and innovation in the world. But what about the architecture that makes people stop, stare and think, why?
The following architectural gems give their cities a unique character and a sense of individuality. They’re less run of the mill and more… special.
Warning: This list is not going to include the classics such as the Eiffel Tower or Big Ben.
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A house rebelling against classical architecture
This house was thought to be ugly and kitsch at first. It has since become one of the most visited buildings in Vienna. Friedensreich Hundertwasser, the artist and creator, also created the Hundertwasser Village nearby which is open to visitors. This unusual style is seen throughout.
Unusual fact: Anyone who lives in the Hundertwasser House also has the right to decorate the façade around the windows entirely to their own taste.
“The work of one man”
Postman Cheval’s Ideal Palace is imaginative and mythological. It is independent from any artistic trend and has ignored all architectural rules. Admired by Surrealists and inspired by an odd stone; a rural postman devoted 33 years of his life to building this dream palace in his garden. He inscribed his poetry into the stones he collected along his mail route and used as building materials.
Built for the 1958 Brussels World's Fair
This futuristic museum was weird in 1958 and it's still pretty funky. The stainless steel spheres are connected by tubes that together, form the shape of a unit cell of an iron crystal, magnified 165 billion times. The top sphere has a restaurant offering panoramic views of Brussels. The structure is a symbol of its own kind for Brussels, giving the people a sense of pride and a level of contrast to their city.
A Catalan Modernisme space popularly known as ‘La Pedrera’
As one of the most famous and ambitious works by the architect Antoni Gaudí, Casa Mila was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984, 15 years after it's completion. The undulating stone facade, winding wrought iron balconies and underground garage were all thought to be incredibly innovative in 1969 and still today the building attracts admirers to Barcelona from across the globe.
A tourist attraction, a social enterprise and a charity
This complex is made up of massive domes that each emulate a natural biome. There is a Rainforest environment and a Mediterranean environment. You can explore an outdoor botanical garden, visit the Rainforest Canopy Walkway, learn about pollination, biomass fuels and more! This is essentially a playground for uncovering the secrets about our world of plants and humans.
Briefly nicknamed Fred and Ginger after the dancers Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers
That nickname was quickly abandoned as architect Frank Gehry didn't want to force American Hollywood kitsch onto Prague. This non-traditional building was hugely supported by Vaclac Havel, the Czech president at the time. Others argued it took away from the Baroque, Gothic and Art Nouveau styles Prague is known for. The view of this fanciful building surrounded by old, Gothic architecture is one the locals now treasure.
Located in medienhafen, media harbor, an urban renewal area
These three separate buildings are another work of art by architect Frank Gehry. Completed in 1998, these buildings make the redeveloped port of Dusseldorf sleek, artistic and unique. The different materials chosen give each complex its own identity. The material of the building in the center reflects the buildings on either side, creating a link between the three.
A gigantic building affectionately called the "Friendly Alien"
Kunsthaus Graz was developed to host international exhibitions of modern and contemporary art. Architecture, new media, art, film and photography are united under one roof and the Kunsthaus is the perfect fusion of architecture and media technology, from the inside out. Its BIX media facade acts as an illuminated instrument of art in the middle of the city. Visit it at night and catch a glimpse of this glowing alien!
Curious and magnificent architectural wonder
These cubes were conceived and constructed in the 1970s as a solution to the problem of having to build houses on top of a pedestrian bridge. This set of innovative houses were based on the concept of "living as an urban roof". By design, each house represents a tree and all the houses together, a forest. Each cube is split into three levels and serve as residential spaces. One "show cube" offers tours to visitors.
At just over 1,200 feet, it is the tallest building in Berlin
The TV Tower at Alexanderplatz is Berlin's most prominent and unusual landmark. Its steel sphere at the top includes a restaurant and a viewing deck where you can walk around admiring the views and learning a bit about the city's past. The structure was inaugurated right before the 20th anniversary of the DDR. It was meant to demonstrate a sense of superiority of socialist societies.
The Stone House
Located in the mountains of northern Portugal, this residence was originally used as a vacation destination, a rural retreat, if you will. Today, the unique structure serves as a small museum dedicated to the history of Penedo. The house was built from four large boulders and construction lasted about two years.