Mankind has designed and built some amazing structures throughout history—from the temples at Angkor to the Taj Mahal. While these ancient feats of architecture are beyond impressive for a variety of obvious reasons, their more modern counterparts are equally as inspiring. Cities, both big and small, around the world contain countless works of architecture worth traveling for. The seven in this gallery are among the most iconic modern creations. These buildings are the kind you travel just to see, and if not, at least ensure you don’t miss catching them in person if you happen to be nearby.
Paste Travel’s Bucket List columnist Lauren Kilberg is a Chicago-based freelance writer. Her travels have found her camping near the Pakistani border of India and conquering volcanoes in the Philippines.
1 of 7
The China Central Television (CCTV) headquarters in Beijing was designed by architects Rem Koolhaas and Ole Scheeren and serves as a shining example of deconstructivism. Completed in 2008, the groundbreaking building features six sections, two horizontal and four vertical, that join to make a distorted loop. The building is 44 stories tall and includes more than 5 million square feet in total.
Photo by november-13, CC BY-NC 2.0
2 of 7
One look at the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing and it's evident why it's been lovingly dubbed the Giant Egg. The building sits just west of Tiananmen Square near the Forbidden City. Located in the figurative shadow of two of Beijing's most recognizable complexes, architect Paul Andreu designed the center to be instantly iconic. The glass and titanium dome sits surrounded by a placid man-made lake. In the water's reflection, the structure appears complete. The theater is home to three performance halls that hold some 5,452 guests.
Photo by Shawn Clover, CC BY-NC 2.0
3 of 7
Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid created many renowned works before her passing in 2016. One of the most praised is the Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku, Azerbaijan. The innovative design is famous for its lack of angles and its emphasis on fluidity and curves instead. The 619,000-square-foot building opened in 2012 and houses an auditorium, museum, exhibition spaces and conference center.
Photo by Asian Development Bank, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
4 of 7
The Lotus Temple was designed by Iranian architect Fariborz Sahba, who was inspired by the flower the temple is named after. It's located in New Delhi, India and serves as a Bahá'í House of Worship, as well as the mother temple for India. It was completed in 1986 and features 27 marble-clad petals that appear to bloom from the ground they sit on.
Photo by Ramnath Bhat, CC BY 2.0
5 of 7
Architecturally, Singapore's Marina Bay Sands Hotel is one of the most spectacular resort buildings in the world. Named after the bay it sits on, this integrated resort and casino is home to a 2,561-room hotel, convention and exhibition center, casino, mall, several restaurants and more. While impressive in size, the design of the hotel itself is what's truly unique. Atop the three 55-story towers of the hotel sits a massive cantilevered platform that resembles a boat perched high in the sky. The 1,120-foot platform is home to SkyPark and its 490-foot infinity swimming pool. It opened in phases between 2010 and 2011 and was designed by architect Moshe Safdie.
Photo by Leonid Yaitskiy, CC BY-SA 2.0
6 of 7
Seeing the Sydney Opera House has been a bucket list staple since it opened in 1973. Designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon, it's undeniably one of the most recognizable buildings in the world. Architecturally far different than the baroque opera houses of Europe, Sydney's features expressionist modern design. Located on Bennelong Point in Sydney Harbour, many compare the exterior design features to shells.The multi-venue Sydney Opera House was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007 and remains one of Australia's most-visited attractions.
Photo by CHRIStophe Robert HERVOUËT, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
7 of 7
This whole gallery could be filled with Frank Gehry-designed buildings. Famous for his postmodern design, his work can be found in cities across the globe from Seattle to Spain. One of his most iconic creations can be seen in the latter. The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao is as much a work of contemporary art as the masterpieces it houses. It opened in 1997 and is widely considered one of the most most important works of modern architecture. Considered by many, except Gehry himself, as exemplifying deconstructivism style, the museum features stone, glass and titanium sections that appear to twists and fold among themselves.
Photo by Sam valadi, CC BY 2.0