Best Historical Places to Visit In Europe vs North America vs Central America ... and 4 more
Edited by Kathy McGraw, Maria Quinney
Historical sites are a huge tourist draw in many regions of the world, and they exist everywhere. Whether you are walking amid the ruins of medieval castles in Europe, surveying the impressive engineering feats of the Egyptians, Mayans, or the Nazca, or watching Civil War buffs re-enact Pickett's Charge, you are looking at a slice of humanity's past. Step back in time and let's look at some awesome historical sites that you need to check out on your next vacation.
Method 1: In Europe
For really old stuff, Europe is the place to go. Known as the "Old World," European history spans the birth and demise of empires, the death of knowledge, as well as its rebirth. But it is the story of bloody conquest and human cruelty, too.
- 1The Place de la Bastille. This square in Paris commemorates the site of the famous French prison fortress. The fortress was built between the years 1370 and 1383 for protection during the Hundred Years' War. It became a prison during the 17th Century under King Louis XIII, at first for nobles guilty of sedition and other high crimes against the State, and later for ordinary prisoners. It was destroyed following the aftermath of Storming of the Bastille, the act that launched the French Revolution in 1789.Advertisement
- 2The Holy Island of Lindisfarne. The island of Lindisfarne in Northumberland, England, is the site of the first ever Viking attack in 793 CE, and the site of the Lindisfarne Gospels, which were copied by Bishop Eadfrith in around 698 CE. Although the originals are safely stored in London, you can see facsimiles on the island as well as learn more about the Viking attack that sacked the monastery and began the era of Viking raids by those fierce warriors of the North.Advertisement
Method 2: In North America
The United States and Canada are Johnny-Come-Latelys in terms of history, with no historical sites or monuments that are older than 250 years. Spanning from the Colonial Period to the present day, these neighboring countries have a similar culture, with distinct differences, and that is evident in the history of the two nations.
- 1Gettysburg National Military Park. The Gettysburg National Military Park commemorates the famous Battle Of Gettysburg, which took place on July 1st through July 3rd in 1863. It was a crucial battle in the American Civil War which saw General Robert E. Lee and his Confederate Army soundly defeated. Thousands of men were killed that day on both sides, and while it was a great victory for the North, and ultimately sounded the death knell for the South, it was a bittersweet one. There are guided hikes through the grounds where you can learn more about what happened in that battle, and if you come on a weekend, there are re-enactments of parts of it. For a guaranteed re-enactment, each year on the anniversary of the battle there is a large event on the battlefields. You will need to purchase tickets for the events and there are grandstands placed for seating.Advertisement
- 2Lower Fort Garry. Located in the province of Manitoba, on the banks of the Red River, the Hudson's Bay Company established Lower Fort Garry in 1830 as a hub for fur traders and First Nations fur traders. The fort and all of its buildings have been kept up and friendly staff who are dressed in period clothing will tell you about the purpose of each building. There is also a First Nations camp there where you can walk into a real teepee and also see how the natives skinned their catch and prepared the fur for selling.
More Historical Places in The United States
Want more great historical spots in the U.S.? We've got more for you here:
- Best Historical Places in New England Part One
- Best Historical Places in New England Part Two
- Best Historical Sites in the Mid-Atlantic States Part One
- Best Historical Sites in the Mid-Atlantic States Part Two
- Best Historical Sites to Visit in Washington DC
- Best Historical Sites in the Mid-Atlantic States Part Three
- Best Historical Sites in the South -Atlantic Part One
- Best Historical Sites in the South Atlantic Part two
- Best Historical Sites in Old Dixie Part One
- Best Historical Sites in Old Dixie Part Two
- Best Historic Sites in the West South Central States
- Best Historic Sites in the West South Central States
Method 3: In Central America
Home to ancient civilizations dating back thousands of years, the historical sites of Central America showcase remnants of a time before European settlers came to the Americas. Most notably, the Mayans figure largely in this area, and their ceremonial chambers and ruins litter the caves, valleys, and mountains there.
- 1Herman's Cave. Herman's Cave is a gigantic cave system in Belize, which is a stop on the Hummingbird Highway. There, you can see ancient Mayan ceremonial chambers with everything from skeletons fused into the rocks and other artifacts of this advanced civilization. You will descend into the labyrinthine halls and chambers with the assistance of a guide who will present information about this important find. Don't miss taking a dip in the Blue Hole, a stunning sapphire blue 25-foot deep cenote.
Method 4: In South America
With artifacts and structures just as wondrous as the pyramids, the countries of South America are a must-see for any intrepid traveler who wants to say that they have seen them all. Here are two examples:
- 1The Nazca Lines. These mysterious geoglyphs drawn into the desert floor in Peru have baffled scientists and historians since pilots discovered them in the 20th century when they flew planes over the region. They make up drawings of a variety of animals and plants, some 300 different types, and they cover an area of about 170 square miles. Scientists have dated them to approximately 200 BCE and 500 CE, and believe them to have been created by the Nazca people, a prehistoric society with advanced engineering knowledge. The Nazca lines are best appreciated from the air, although some can be seen from nearby hills. Regular flights take tourists over the area.
- 2Quito's Old Town. This historic little town is located in Ecuador is perfectly preserved and is a picture of what life was like during the colonial period and dating back to as early as the 1500's. See an old church constructed at around 1535 and La Compana de Jesus, a baroque masterpiece that dates back to 1765.
Method 5: In Africa and India
Some of the world's oldest structures are located in Africa, and both Africa and India are the home of more than one of the eight world wonders. From the ancient Egyptians to the great Emperors of India, you won't want to miss seeing these historical sites.
- 1The Ancient Pyramids of Giza. You can't have an article about historical sites without mentioning these ancient wonders of the world. Dating back around 2630 to 2611 BCE, these structures serve as a testament to the engineering skills of the Ancient Egyptians, who built these massive stone edifices as tombs for their kings. Contrary to popular belief, the pyramids were not constructed with slave labor. Instead, paid workers with a specific skill set were hired to build them.
- 2The Taj Mahal. Located in Agra, India on the banks of the Yamuna River sits this white marble piece of architectural art. Built in 1632 by Shah Jahan, a Mughal emperor, its purpose was to serve as the tomb of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. I guess she really was his favorite! The mausoleum itself and its surrounding gardens take up almost 17 hectares and is one of the eight wonders of the world.
Method 6: In Oceana
From silent statues to magnificent buildings, Oceana is home to Australia and the islands of French Polynesia. While Australia, like the United States and Canada, doesn't have a particularly old history, it is nonetheless impressive. The islands are a different story: their cultures are old, and some ceremonial structures have been preserved for us to view today.
- 1Ahu Tongariki. These huge statues are located on Easter Island and are the largest and most impressive ahu on the island. Their platform stretches for 220 meters, and the ahu are eerie representations of the island's past. They had to be reconstructed after becoming damaged by volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and tidal waves, and now stand in stoic silence along the island's coastline as white-capped waves roll in from the ocean behind them.
- 2The Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The Sydney Opera House was built in 1973 and is one of the most iconic structures in the world. Its unique style is known the world over and is an example of 20th-century architecture. The Sydney Harbour Bridge, standing behind the Opera House, was constructed in 1932 and is a classic example of an arch bridge; its arch is 139 meters tall.
Method 7: In the Caribbean
The Caribbean region is noted for its tropical islands and colonial history, but it also includes a portion of Mexico with its ancient Mayan and Toltec civilizations. Examples of colonial architecture and the bloody history of the pirates that roamed the sea are scattered throughout the islands, and along the Caribbean coast of Mexico, you can find impressive examples of Mayan and Toltec ingenuity in the ruins they left behind.
- 1The Underwater City of Port Royal. Located in Jamaica, the pirate city of Port Royal was partially submerged as the result of a devastating earthquake in 1692. It is a well-preserved site and remains an excellent example of the colonial period in the Caribbean. The famed Captain Henry Morgan, the British privateer who became the Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica, is buried in a cemetery in Port Royal, which now rests under the sea.
- 2Chichen Itza. Chichen Itza is the ruins of a Mayan and Toltec city located in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. The most well-known ruin is the Temple of Kukulkan, a gigantic step-pyramid. The city dates back from circa 455 CE to sometime in the 1200's. Its precise architecture is symbolic of Mayan numerology, and every year on the equinox, the shadow formed by the sun striking the steps of the pyramid resembles a gigantic serpent undulating down the steps.