Historic Europe Photos
Ask any traveler why they love Europe, and they'll almost always single out its extraordinary history. And who could disagree? The continent is packed with centuries-old cities boasting superb architecture, important art work and fascinating stories at every turn.
In this series of photos showcasing Europe's great cities at the turn of the 19th century and today, one can see how much the continent has changed — but also, satisfyingly, how much it's stayed the same.
Madrid, Spain - Puerta del Sol, 1890
Madrid's famous public square was named for a gate that stood in the area until 1510 and includes historic attractions like Casa de Correos (the House of the Post Office), built between 1766 and 1768.
Puerta del Sol, 2018
The square remains one of Madrid's most popular gathering spots, and was the first part of the city to be outfitted with electric lights and streetcars. It hosts an annual New Year's Eve celebration, during which locals and visitors eat 12 grapes to usher in the beginning of the new year.
Hamburg, Germany - Port of Hamburg, 1893
The third-busiest port in Europe has been a center of commerce since opening in 1189.
This photo was taken just a few years after the port debuted Speicherstadt, the world's largest warehouse complex, which was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 2015.
Port of Hamburg, 2019
Still a center of trade — it welcomes some 9,000 ships per year — the port has also become a major tourist site. It's home to three passenger terminals for cruise ships, as well as hotels and restaurants, and can be explored via boat tour.
The first weekend in May, visitors flock to the area for an annual celebration of the port's birthday, featuring tugboat "ballet" performances and firework shows.
Vienna, Austria - The Graben, 1893
From the 13th to 18th centuries, the Graben served as a marketplace and encompassed residential homes. Starting in the 1880s, when this photo was taken, houses were torn down and luxury shops erected.
As shown in this image, the street houses a magnificent statue: the Plague Column, completed after the Great Plague in 1679.
The Graben, 2018
In the 21st century, shopping remains the Graben's main attraction. It is home to traditional shops as well as more modern outposts like H&M.
Its Plague Column is still well worth a visit.
Rome, Italy - Appian Way, 1893
Dating back to 312–264 BC, this road connected the Roman Empire to distant settlements, serving as a crucial economic and political artery. Its nickname: "Queen of Roads."
Appian Way, 2018
Today, visitors can stroll important sections of the beautifully preserved road, taking in sights like the Catacombs of San Callisto, Catacombs of San Sebastiano, and various basilicas and tombs.
London, UK - The Strand, circa 1890-1900
The Strand is an important London street with a long history of serving the elite, including aristocrats who built mansions along it between the 12th and 17th centuries. Karl Marx once called it "a main thoroughfare which gives strangers an imposing idea of the wealth of London.”
Famous residents have included Charles Dickens, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Virginia Woolf.
The Strand, 2018
In modern times, The Strand welcomes guests to explore its historic sites — including a wonderful collection of old churches — alongside modern theaters, hotels and shops.
Paris, France - Rue de Rivoli, 1893
This street in Paris, just a few blocks away from the Seine, broke ground in 1804 and was completed in 1848. It encompasses such historic sites such as Tuileries Gardens and the Louvre museum.
Rue de Rivoli, 2018
Rue de Rivoli is today a major commercial center in Paris, home to charming boutiques and BHV, one of the city's most expansive department stores. And of course, you can still find plenty of history along its route.
Dublin, Ireland - Sackville Street, circa 1880s
This shot was taken soon after the unveiling of Sackville Street's most iconic feature: a towering statue of Irish political leader Daniel O'Connell, which debuted to much fanfare in 1882.
O'Connell Street (formerly Sackville Street), 2018
In 1924, Sackville Street was fittingly renamed O'Connell Street. The O'Connell statue remains its standout attraction.
Pisa, Italy - Leaning Tower of Pisa, circa 1890-1900
An inadequate foundation caused this tower to gradually tilt as it was being built. By the time it was completed in 1372, it was leaning so much that it became the structure's signature feature.
Leaning Tower of Pisa, 2018
Though there have been efforts in the 20th and 21st centuries to stabilize the tower and reduce its tilt, it remains memorably off-kilter. But of course, that's part of its enduring charm: some 1 million visitors flock to the attraction every year, taking selfies and enjoying views from its top.
Moscow, Russia - Kremlin, 1893
The imposing Kremlin is the best known of Russia's citadels, encompassing five towers and four cathedrals surrounded by the Kremlin Wall. It was constructed between 1482 and 1495.
Today, the Kremlin is known for serving as the official residence of the President of the Russian Federation: one Vladimir Putin. It also includes a museum, and welcomes millions of visitors each year.
This shot is from a New Year's Eve celebration in nearby Red Square.
Stockholm, Sweden - Royal Palace, 1893
This photo of one of Europe's largest palaces was taken over a century after its completion in 1760. In the 18th and 19th centuries, artists contributed to its spectacular interior by adding ceiling paintings, sculptures and other embellishments.
Royal Palace, 2018
Home to five museums, the palace is a popular attraction among today's travelers. (Guests are particularly keen on seeing the changing of the guard.)
The site has undergone several renovations over the years, and modernized by adding solar panels to its roof in 2018.
Berlin, Germany - Branderburg Gate, circa 1880s
Branderburg Gate was built on the orders of Prussian king Frederick William II and completed in 1791, and has been popular since. But it wasn't until a century after this photo was taken that it entered the history books as one of Berlin's most important monuments.
Branderburg Gate, 2018
During the Cold War, when the city was divided between East and West, Germans would climb Branderburg Gate's observation platform to peek behind the Iron Curtain. Later, it was here where Ronald Reagan declared "Mr. Gorbachov – tear down this wall!"
The monument has since become one of the city's most enduring symbols of unity.
Istanbul, Turkey - Hagia Sophia, 19th century
The Hagia Sophia dates back to 537 and boasts a fascinating history: it has served as both a Christian cathedral and Islamic mosque, and is considered one of the most important Byzantine-era structures on earth.
In English, its name translates to "Shrine of the Holy of God."
Hagia Sophia, 2018
Today one of the most visited museums in the world, the Hagia Sophia remains beloved for its striking architecture and remarkable history.
Cologne, Germany - The Rhine, 1893
The Rhine, the second-longest river in Central and Western Europe, runs for 760 miles, starting in the Swiss Alps and emptying into the North Sea.
The largest city along the river is Cologne, which features the riverfront Cologne Cathedral, dating back to 1248 (though, after a long construction delay, it didn't actually open until 1880).
The Rhine, 2018
The Cologne Cathedral today welcomes guests to its masses, devotions, choir performances and organ recitals. Guided tours are also available.
Additionally pictured here: the Hohenzollern Bridge, a more modern riverfront attraction that opened in 1911.
Capri, Italy - 1893
The island of Capri has been a resort since the days of the Roman Empire, when Augustus developed it as his personal playground, replete with villas, temples and extravagant gardens.
Capri's glorious waterways and historic attractions have turned it into a tourism hot spot; during the peak of summer, it can welcome 15,000 visitors each day.
Nice, France - Promenade des Anglais, 1893
Fringed with palm trees, Nice's spectacular promenade stretches along the seafront for over 4 miles. When it was developed in the 1820s, it was partially funded by the Holy Trinity Anglican Church.
Promenade des Anglais, 2018
Revelers can now explore the promenade via electric Segway, or by renting a bike. Attractions along the way include the circa-1912 Hotel Negresco, known for its distinctive pink dome.
Athens, Greece - The Parthenon, 1893
One of the most famous historic attractions in the world, the Parthenon was built as a monument to the goddess Athena and completed many centuries ago, in 432 BC. It sits perched atop the hill of Acropolis.
No surprise here: The Parthenon is a wildly popular attraction among modern-day travelers. Beat the crowds by purchasing a skip-the-line admission ticket.
Venice, Italy - St. Mark's Basilica, 1893
This cathedral church boasting striking Italo-Byzantine architecture has been one of Italy's most important religious sites since its consecration in 1117. The home of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice, it features enough mosaics to cover 1.5 American football fields.
St. Mark's Basilica, 2018
In addition to marveling at its mosaics, modern-day visitors enjoy exploring the basilica's first-rate museum. Items on display include Persian carpets and illuminated manuscripts.