Supported by flying buttresses and sporting three 13th-century rose windows, Notre Dame Cathedral is an unmatched example of French Gothic architecture. Stroll to the sanctuary by the altar to seek out the 14th-century statue of Mary, the cathedral’s patron saint.
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With its Byzantine and Ottoman architecture, Istanbul is a shoo-in for top 10 historic building destinations in the world. The star is Hagia Sophia, built in the sixth century as a mosaic-covered basilica, transformed into a mosque in 1453 and now open to all visitors as a museum.
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The Pantheon has stunned onlookers for 2,000 years, and the Roman former temple still has the world’s largest concrete dome. It’s hard not to gasp when you catch your first glimpse of the soaring coffered dome, especially if sunshine or rain is streaming in through the roof’s central opening.
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One of the new seven wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal was built in the 1640s by Shah Jahan as a poignant symbol of his grief following the death of his wife. An exquisite example of Mughal architecture, the mausoleum’s white dome and minarets are best admired from the surrounding landscaped gardens.
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Completed in 1100, the turreted White Tower still dominates the walled complex that makes up the Tower of London. Visit the Tower’s semi-circular Norman chapel, step on to Tower Green where Anne Boleyn was executed, and admire the glittering Crown Jewels.
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Ivan the Terrible’s St Basil’s Cathedral stands in colorful contrast to the grey cobbles of Red Square and redbrick walled Kremlin. A warren of dark passages and steps links the nine simply decorated churches that make up St Basil’s, each topped by an individually patterned, candy-striped dome.
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Delicately detailed Persian blue tiles cover the Dome of the Rock, and its gilded dome is the focal point of Temple Mount. Built at the end of the seventh century, Islam’s oldest building centres around the Rock of Moriah, sacred to Jews as the Holy of Holies and to Muslims as the place marking Mohammed’s ascent to heaven.
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The wedding-cake dome of the Capitol is as much a symbol of Washington DC as the White House. Flanked by the Senate and House of Representatives chambers, the central rotunda is richly decorated with paintings and sculptures, including the Apotheosis of Washington fresco in the cusp of the dome.
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Built as a theological college in the 14th century, Bou Inania Medersa is one of the few religious sites in Morocco open to non-Islamic visitors. Covered in intricately carved details and calligraphy decoration, it features an arched courtyard and elaborately tiled minaret.
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The National Palace was built on the site of Montezuma’s palace and was the former home of Cortez, but it’s the murals by Diego Rivera that attract visitors today. The 1930s murals telling the warts-and-all history of Mexico and its people decorate the second-floor stairwell of the enormous building, which takes up one side of Mexico City’s main square.
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