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- Kyoto, Japan: Immerse yourself in the cultural and historical hub of Japan with thousands of temples and shrines, stunning scenery, and distinctive architecture. Must-visit locations include the Kinkakuji Temple and the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove.
- Efes, Turkey: Explore the remarkable ruins of Ephesus, one of the best-preserved historic sites in the world. Marvel at the amphitheater with room for 25,000 spectators and visit the Ephesus Archaeological Museum for a deeper understanding of its rich history.
- Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic: Discover the oldest city in colonial America, home to the continent’s firsts such as the first street, cathedral, fortress, castle, and university. Immerse yourself in vibrant life and well-preserved landmarks that date back over five centuries.
If you’re a fan of history, simply visiting museums isn’t always enough. Historical wanderlusters typically get the most satisfaction from seeing ruins from ancient and medieval times. Likewise, visiting locations that were once hubs of life and activity in the past is an absolute must.
Whether you’re interested in the wonders of the ancient world, structures that still stand from the Middle Ages, Renaissance art and architecture, relics of modern history, or historical sites that even the most learned historians still can’t explain, we have you covered. Here are some incredible destinations worldwide that should be atop your travel bucket list if you’re a history lover.
UPDATE: 2023/10/25 14:17 EST BY MARIA BOU INK
More Must-See Places In The World
This list has been updated with two new locations, as well as expanded talking points for existing destinations. From India to Egypt, Europe, and beyond, there are so many historic places to experience at least once in your lifetime.
Autumn Color at Kiyomizudera Temple in Kyoto, Japan
Kyoto is considered to be the cultural and historical hub of Japan because of its thousands of Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. The Kinkakuji Temple, sometimes called the Golden Pavilion, as well as the Ginkakuji Temple, often called the Silver Pavilion, are two well-known locations. The area is one of the best places to visit for history buffs because of its stunning scenery and distinctive architecture. Uniquely beautiful gardens may also be found by visitors at the Okochi-Sanso Villa and the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove.
- Where to stay: Four Season Hotel Kyoto, Aman Kyoto, Park Hyatt Kyoto…
Great Theater of Ephesus
On Turkey’s western coast, close to Izmir, lies a historical site called Efes or Ephesus. One of the best-preserved historic sites in the world, Ephesus was once an ancient Greek metropolis.
Constructed around the 10th century BC, the location boasts several remarkable remains, among them an amphitheater with enough for 25,000 spectators. Once a bustling metropolis, Ephesus was finally deserted when silt blocked the harbor, making it impassable to ships.
As one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the preserved ruins are under protection. Today, visitors may explore the amphitheater, theater, stadium, and other remains at Efes with guided tours available. This, along with the Ephesus Archaeological Museum, which houses items from Efes’ lengthy history, makes it one of the greatest historical sites on Earth.
- Where to stay: Kempinski Summerland Hotel & Resort, Hotel Ephesus, Saint Georges Hotel & Resort…
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Historic City Center Plaza with Colonial Buildings and Church in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
As the very earliest city of colonial America, dating back to 1496, Santo Domingo is the home of many of the continent’s firsts: the first street, the first cathedral, the first fortress, the first castle, and the first university in the Americas. This exciting city is the perfect blend of vibrant life and historical tradition; in Santo Domingo, travelers can quite literally stumble into ancient monuments and stunningly well-preserved landmarks – some of them still functioning today much as they did over five centuries ago.
- Where to stay: Embassy Suites by Hilton Santo Domingo, InterContinental Real Santo Domingo, JW Marriott Hotel Santo Domingo…
Special Region Of Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Prambana Temple in Yogyakarta Indonesia
Located in southern Java, Indonesia, the special region of Yogyakarta is home to a treasure trove of magnificent landmarks and monumental ruins that date back to the 6th century. Jogjakarta city, the region’s capital, is regarded as a cultural center in Indonesia. Travelers can visit the elegant Taman Sari water castle, the stunning Ratu Boko archeological site, and its majestic gate and be wowed by the vastness of the Prambanan Compound, a compound of Hindu temples that dates back to the 9th century. To complete the journey, a day trip to the neighboring Borobodur Buddhist temple compound for a full experience of Indonesia’s grand history.
- Where to stay: The Phoenix Hotel Yogyakarta – MGallery Collection, The Grand Palace Hotel, Hotel Tentrem Yogyakarta…
Pelourinho in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil
Founded in 1549, Salvador was the first capital of Brazil and is one of the oldest cities on the continent, as well as one of the earliest planned cities in the world. Renowned worldwide for its cuisine, culture, music, and architecture, Salvador is a cultural and historical hub in Brazil and the epicenter of Afro-Brazilian culture. Salvador’s historic city center is the largest still-standing colonial structure in Latin America, with landmarks that date from the 1600s all the way to the early 1900s, having borne witness to much of Brazil’s agitated history.
Its many centenary streets, landmarks, churches, museums, and houses have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985. Birthplace of many genres of Brazilian music and stage to the biggest Carnaval in the world, Salvador’s historical alleys also often count with artistic, musical, and theatrical performances – a must-go city in Brazil to any travelers who love art and history.
- Where to stay: Fera Palace Hotel, Hotel Fasano Salvador, Zank by Toque Hotel…
Parthenon, Athens at sunset
Home to the famous Acropolis, Athens is one of the prominent cities when it comes to relics of Ancient Greece. On top of the Acropolis, you’ll see a gateway called Propylaea, which marks its entrance, and the small temple of Athena Nike. The area is also home to the iconic Parthenon, dedicated to the goddess Athena, and the ruins of Erechtheum.
Elsewhere in Athens, you’ll find evidence of the tremendous Athenian empire, which was once based here, in ruins still visible, and the museums displaying various ancient artifacts. With all Athens splendor, the best vacations for history buffs are guaranteed.
- Where to stay: King George, Grand Hyatt Athens, Hotel Grande Bretagne…
Bayon Temple Angkor Thom, Cambodia
Once the center of the Khmer Empire, Angkor was once responsible for ruling over the majority of Southeast Asia. The city, filled with temples and other spectacular buildings, was abandoned when the Khmer moved their capital. Angkor was discovered again in the 19th century and has since served as a tourist destination for those interested in seeing the preserved historical relics the city has to offer.
Among the points of interest, visitors can check out the iconic temple of Angkor Wat and the city of Angkor Thom. Also, be sure to check out the maze known as Preah Kan.
- Where to stay: Angkor Village Hotel, Le Méridien Angkor, Tara Angkor Hotel…
The Terracotta Army in Xi’an, China
One of the most famous historic sites in the world, the Terracotta Army in Shaanxi, China, should be on the itinerary of every history lover. The life-size figures of the army warriors stand in battle formations and resemble the imperial guard from long ago—also known as 200 BCE. Be sure to check out the museum and learn all about the history of the warriors.
The sculptures portray the armies of the first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang. They were buried with the emperor in order to protect him as he made his way through the afterlife.
- Where to stay: Grand Hyatt Xi’An, Gran Melia Xi’an, The Westin Xi’an…
Machu Picchu, Peru
Historical sanctuary of Machu Picchu in the Andes Mountains, Peru
The most famous remnant of the Inca civilization is Machu Picchu, located in the Andes. Standing among the mountains, Machu Picchu only served as an Incan city for 100 years and was abandoned to save it from the Spanish conquistadors who arrived in the 16th century. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Machu Picchu, might be a challenge for some to reach. The hike on the Inca trail takes about four days and months of preparation for most travelers. However, it is one of the best places to travel for history buffs, and it’s worth seeing the Lost City of the Incas in the flesh!
- Where to stay: Sanctuary Lodge, Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, Sumaq Machu Picchu Hotel…
Giza Plateau, Egypt
The Pyramids and the Sphynx of Giza
The Giza Plateau is a mecca for anybody interested in ancient history since it’s home to a collection of iconic monuments from Ancient Egypt. Situated on the banks of the River Nile, the Giza Plateau boasts such impressive structures as the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Great Sphinx, and numerous other temples and buildings from the Old Kingdom.
You’ll really feel like you’ve stepped back in time as you tour these famous sites and learn about the historical period which they represent. The monuments are believed to have been built during the fourth dynasty of the Old Kingdom, over 4,000 years ago. Egypt is known for being one of the top historical countries to visit.
- Where to stay: Barcelo Cairo Pyramids, Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at The First Residence, Cairo Pyramids – Steigenberger Hotel…
Stonehenge during sunset winter solstice
The British Isles feature a long and fascinating history and boast endless buildings and artifacts to see. One site that has captivated the interest of tourists from all over the world, history lovers or not, is Stonehenge. The Neolithic monuments still standing at the site are shrouded in mystery since the details of their origins have never been confirmed. Some believe that Stonehenge possesses some kind of healing power. Others believe that the stones were placed there by gods or aliens. Either way, the site should be on your bucket list in England!
- Where to stay: Holiday Inn Salisbury – Stonehenge, Prince Hill House, The Chapter House…
Taj Mahal in Agra, India on sunset
The city of Agra in India is yet another destination that is brimming with celebrated ancient structures. Of course, notably, the Taj Mahal is not only one of the eight wonders of the world, but it is also a must-see for history lovers. In addition to the Taj Mahal, visitors will find even more historical sites, buildings, and structures, along with a wealth of artifacts from the Mughal Dynasty. Agra also has more than a few relics of India’s one-time capital— Fatehpur Sikri.
- Where to stay: Radisson Hotel Agra, ITC Mughal, The Oberoi Amarvilas…
Ruins of railway station Anhalter Bahnhof, Berlin
The capital of Germany, Berlin, was founded by Albert the Bear in 1163. The site of many significant historical events over nearly 1000 years, the city is most famous for its prominent role in modern history during both the Second World War and the Cold War.
There are several sites that history buffs should visit while in Berlin, including the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, the location of Hitler’s bunker, the old remnants of the Berlin Wall, and Checkpoint Charlie. Walking through the stunning city, you’ll notice that many pre-war buildings have roofs that are still burned and damaged from falling bombs.
- Where to stay: Berlin Marriott Hotel, The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Hyatt Berlin…
Al Khazneh (The Treasury) at old city Petra
The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Petra in Jordan was once a center of economics and trade. Its routes connected the significant powers of China, India, and other territories in Arabia with Egypt, Greece, and Syria. Today, it’s a major tourist site of special interest to history lovers and is visited by thousands of travelers every year. You can reach Petra via the sandstone canyon called the Siq. When you get there, you’ll find there are endless highlights to see. Check out the Monastery, Theatre, and Treasury, among other points of interest.
- Where to stay: Mövenpick Petra, Petra Moon Hotel, Petra Guest House…
Chichen Itza, Mexico
The iconic ruins of Chichen Itza
Chichen Itza was one of the biggest cities in the civilization of the Mayans. Nestled in the jungle, Chichen Itza hosts a variety of ceremonial structures that were of extreme importance during the days of the Mayans. This was once a bustling city full of temples, palaces, observatories, and pyramids. While visiting Chichen Itza, be sure to visit the Temple of the Warriors and the Great Hall Court. If you are in town around March, you’ll see sculptures of Feathered Serpents running down El Castillo in a ceremony that’s known as the Descent of Kukulkan. Furthermore, Mexico is known for being one of the best countries to visit for history.
- Where to stay: Hacienda Chichen Resort, Mayaland Hotel & Bungalows, Ik Kil Cenote…
Easter Island, Polynesia
Moai statues on Easter Island, Chile
History buffs should definitely plan a trip to the mysterious Easter Island. There is no shortage of fascinating facts on this remote volcanic island of Rapa Nui (Easter Island’s native name). One local attraction, in particular, that is both mysterious and amazing is The Moai statues. These larger-than-life carved heads/figures come in various shapes and sizes and are scattered throughout the entire island. Yet, no one knows why they exist, how they were made, what purpose they serve, or who put these ancient statues here.
- Where to stay: Nayara Hangaroa, Explora Rapa Nui, Kona Koa Lodge…
Budapest parliament in Budapest, Hungary, at sunrise
For history enthusiasts who love Roman architecture and Medieval sites, Budapest in Hungary shouldn’t be missed on your ancient world tour. Budapest is home to at least a dozen must-see historical sites and museums. Though much of this city’s remnants of the ancient past now lay in ruin, they still captivate countless visitors. For a proper step back into the Medieval or Roman world, visitors can check out Roman-inspired Aquincumm, Matthias Church, Buda Castle, Fisherman’s Bastion, and Széchenyi Thermal Bath—all of which are very much intact.
- Where to stay: Corinthia Budapest, Prestige Hotel Budapest, Cortile Hotel – Adults Only…
The ancient Roman ruins of the Roman Forum, Rome, Italy
Once the seat of the expansive Roman Empire, Rome is home to several famous structures that any history fan would love to witness firsthand. The Colosseum, which was an active part of Roman life, is among the most famous historical sites not just in Italy but in the world. Aside from that, be sure to check out the Forum, the Pantheon, and the Arch of Constantine.
When you’re done visiting the remnants of the ancient world, stop to admire the many Renaissance structures located throughout the Eternal City.
- Where to stay: Palazzo Manfredi, The St. Regis Rome, Rome Cavalieri…