Beginner’s Guide to Identifying European Architecture Styles

identifying architecture styles

Vacationing in a new city can be enjoyable on many levels, including appreciating the unique buildings and architectural styles. Even those who aren’t ordinarily fans of architecture can’t help but appreciate the different building styles across countries. If you find yourself admiring cityscapes, wanting to know more about the architectural beauty behind them, we’ve got you covered with our beginner’s guide to identifying architectural styles.

classical architecture style


From 850 BC to 476 AD
As the first architectural style, a bit of classical design can be seen in almost every style since. The classical architecture style followed “orders,” which valued the use of symmetry, proportion and strong lines. The Acropolis in Greece and Coliseum in Italy are great examples of this period.

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul


From 330 to 1453 AD
Characterized by ornate and intricate designs, the Byzantine era was all about lavish finishes and showing off wealth and power through architecture. Sacre Couer in Paris is the perfect depiction of Byzantine architecture. 

Leaning Tower of Pisa Romanesque architecture


From 900 to 1200 AD
Medieval architecture was less about beauty and detailed finishes and more about function with its brawny and sturdy structures. You’ll spot the Romanesque style when visiting the leaning tower of Pisa or Durham Cathedral in England.

gothic architecture


From the 12th through 16th centuries
The gothic style is distinguished by its many adornments. Westminster Abbey in London and Notre Dame in Paris exemplify this style where you’ll see lots of high arches, tall spires, and flying buttresses.

Renaissance (Europe)

From the 14th through the 17th century 
Renaissance architecture returned to its old roots of symmetry and even proportions but added in technology of the time, creating beautiful domes and temples such as the Louvre in Paris and St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.

Trevi Fountain

Baroque and Rococo

From 1600 to 1750
Baroque and Rococo style is the Broadway-flair cousin of Renaissance architecture. It possesses the same clean lines but adds in a significant amount of ornamentation and theatrical details. The Frauenkirche in Germany and Trevi Fountain in Rome are prime Baroque examples.

neoclassicism in architecture

Neoclassicism (Europe)

Roughly mid-18th century 
After the ornately detailed buildings of the Baroque period had their time to shine, neoclassicism swept in to bring formal order to the chaos. The White House’s stately columns and symmetrical design is an iconic sampling of this style. 

Antoni Gaudi's Sagrada Familia cathedral

Art Nouveau

From 1890 to 1910
Art nouveau tended to take inspiration from nature, often seen in this style’s plant-like designs. You’ll find railings shaped like ivy and balconies made to look like they’re a part of the Earth. To explore the best of this style, visit Antoni Gaudi’s unfinished Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona.

New York art deco architecture

Art Deco

From 1915 to 1930
Sharp geometric designs and glitzy sophistication characterize the art deco period. This style of architecture is prevalent in a lot of U.S. cities from the glamorous Chrysler and Empire State buildings in New York City to the hip and trendy buildings of Miami Beach. 

modern architecture


From the early 20th century to the 1980s
Modernism ran supreme throughout the ’80s with its simple and plain designs built around function and not form. You’ll find this style on display in Boston City Hall with its open plan design and throughout Brasilia, the capital city of Brazil.

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