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The British Museum is one of London's top tourist attractions, as well as a major scholarly resource. Its collection was bequeathed to the nation in 1753, and the museum's distinctive Greek Revival structure was constructed during the 19th Century. The collection expanded massively during the heyday of the British Empire, leading to the museum's reputation for acquiring from sources all over the globe, leaving it with over 8 million objects. The displays cover about 5.5 hectares (14 acres) making it impossible to see everything in one visit. The famous Rosetta Stone, Assyrian Reliefs, Parthenon Marbles and the vast Egyptian collection are a few of the British Museum's most well-known exhibits.
The grand and stately Buckingham Palace has been the official London residence of the British monarch since 1837. Although the origins of the palace go back to the 18th Century when the Duke of Buckingham built his townhouse at the site, the palace as it stands today is principally the work of architects John Nash and Edward Blore. The palace holds 775 rooms, lavishly decorated with Sevres Porcelain and fine art by the likes of Rembrandt, Vermeer and Van Dyck. From the cream and gold palette of the Belle Epoque to the intricacies of the Chinese Regency, each room is a showcase of extravagant yet tasteful interior design. The Grand Staircase is perhaps one of the world's finest examples of bronze casting, illuminated by an etched glass dome and the focal point of the palace, while the forecourt is the setting for one of London's most popular tourist events - the Changing of the Guard. The Royal Mews and the Queen's Gallery are other popular features of this royal residence that are also open to visitors. All of this is surrounded by manicured lawns and lush gardens alive with myriad blooms in summer, painting a picture of grandeur befitting Britain's royal family.
Underneath the glaze of the Parisian sky, the Eiffel Tower captures the dazzling spirit of its French capital. A magnificent wrought iron lattice tower that was originally built as an entrance to the 1889 World's Fair, the tower was designed by Gustave Eiffel after his inspiration was fueled by the pyramidal form of Egypt's historic landmarks. This comparison was met with ardent disapproval from several eminent Frenchmen before the tower came to be the celebrated global icon that it is known as today. At a stunning height of 324 meters (1,063 feet), the Eiffel Tower dominates the skyline as the city's tallest, and the country's second-tallest freestanding structure. Its majestic form sports three shades – darkest at the lowest level and colored in a light contrast as the tower ambles up to the top – an illusory mechanism adopted so as to complement its surroundings. The Eiffel Tower is one of the most winning sights in all of France, and even after more than a century, people continue to extol this monumental symbol of architectural beauty.
Indisputably one of the most opulent buildings, the Palace of Versailles is the epitome of French royalty. Louis XIV commissioned architects Louis Le Vau and Jules Hardouin to build the Château de Versailles in 1664, on the site of his father's small hunting lodge. It became one of the largest palaces in Europe, accommodating up to 20,000 courtiers at a time. The interiors are extravagant and the highlights include the Royal Apartments and the world renowned Hall of Mirrors. The Grand Trianon (1687) and the Petit Trianon (1762) are also in the park. In the year 1919, the Hall of Mirrors played a significant role in world politics for being the place where the Treaty of Versailles was signed. An outstanding exemplar of the French Baroque architecture to this day, this UNESCO World Heritage Site palace enthralls visitors with its opulence and legends.
A shining beacon of freedom, Lady Liberty dominates the eponymous Liberty Island in New York, her copper-wrought form towering over the city's harbor in all its glory. French activist Édouard René de Laboulaye expressed solidarity with the United States on behalf of his nation, if and when the US decided to build a monument that would be emblematic of their independence. The Statue of Liberty thus was the creative culmination of French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi and Gustave Eiffel and came to be an honorable offering from the nation of France to the United States. Designed to represent Libertas, a Roman goddess, Lady Liberty gazes proudly into the distance, her right torch-bearing arm outstretched toward the skies, while her left-hand holds a tablet inscribed with the date of United States' Declaration of independence. Over the years, the statue has not only instilled a sense of pride among hordes of Americans but has also been an uplifting sight for tens of thousands of immigrants who charted foreign seas in a bid to start life anew.
With a permanent collection numbering over two million individual works of art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or simply the Met, is not only a New York City landmark, it is the United States' largest art museum and the fifth-most visited museum of any kind in the world. Designed by Richard Morris Hunt, the museum encompasses more than 1.5 million square feet (139,355 square meters) of exhibition space. European paintings on display include those by world-renown masters like Monet, Degas, Van Gogh, Cézanne, Titian, and Vermeer. The vast collection has been split between several galleries, arranged by geographic origin and other thematic schemes. The Egyptian art gallery is especially enticing, as are the Met's repositories of Asian, African and Medieval art. Others include Islamic, Roman, and Greek art, the Arms and Armory section, the Costume Institute, and European Decorative arts. When weather permits, contemporary sculptures are displayed at the open-air roof garden. Apart from being a treasure trove for art lovers, The Metropolitan Museum of Art offers a fun-filled and educational experience for all ages.
The monumental cornerstone of the United States presidency, the White House is the formal abode and headquarters of the President of the United States. Located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, this gleaming neoclassical structure was originally referred to as the Presidential Mansion, before Theodore Roosevelt lovingly bestowed upon it the moniker of 'White House' - a name that would go on to signify not only the physical structure, but the entire collective unit that comprised of the President and his advisers. While John Adams was the first incumbent of this official home, several leaders that followed added their own elements to its interiors, the most noteworthy being the comprehensive redecoration carried out by former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, wife of erstwhile President John F. Kennedy. Today, the central building of the White House comprises of the Executive Residence, while the rest of this colossal structure consists of a total of 132 rooms, a tennis court, a putting green, 35 bathrooms, a cinema and a bowling alley named after Harry S. Truman.
Established in 1910, the National Museum of Natural History aims to inform people about the natural history of earth through its exhibits. Nestled somewhere within this museum is the famous Hope Diamond, which has gained notoriety for supposedly carrying a curse. Apart from that, some of the museum's popular galleries include The Discovery Room, Hall of Geology, Gems, and Minerals, Dinosaurs/Hall of Paleobiology, Insect Zoo, Teleology: Hall of Bones, Ocean Hall, Hall of Human Origins and many more.
The magnanimous proportions of the Colosseum have long been a source of wonder. Originally envisioned in 70 CE, the construction of this grand structure was completed in 80 CE. At that time, it is believed that this vast amphitheater could seat upwards of 50,000 spectators at once. The Colosseum also features on the Italian version of the five-cent Euro. Deemed as one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Colosseum was designed to be a horse racing circuit and arena for animal fighting and gladiatorial battles, although it has also hosted significant religious ceremonies in its early days. It is a symmetrical wonder set in the historic landscape of Rome's heart. The enormous ruin is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is considered by many to be an iconic symbol of Italy.
Hidden beneath "The City of Light" is a dark underworld, the final resting place of more than six million Parisians. The Catacombs of Paris are underground ossuaries formed of a network of tunnels, caves, and quarries filled with mortal remains, where the former citizens of Paris now form a part of its foundation. As Paris went on its way to becoming an important hub, thousands flocked to the city. This spurred justified concerns about the limited cemetery space, leading to the creation of the catacombs in 1810 at the site of the old Montrouge stone quarries. Although in use as an ossuary as early as the 1780s, it was not until this time that the catacombs were organized. The bones were arranged as per the cemeteries they were taken from, creating a subterranean skeletal world, where the last of the lot were brought down in 1860. During World War II, this network of galleries was used as a hideaway for the Résistance movement; its vastness and the discretion of its entrances were great assets indeed. These ossuaries, illustrated by texts, create a chilling atmosphere and describe some of the defining events in the history of Paris, giving visitors substance for meditation. It is also occasionally used as a macabre venue for concerts, parties and other events.
Monterey Bay Aquarium is one of the best-designed aquariums in the country. A rather stand-out feature of this aquarium is the two-story tank, home to a kelp forest in which one can find sunfish, sharks, and the occasional diver tasked with squeegeeing the algae off the tank walls. Sand dabs are displayed in shelf-like tanks ideally suited to the flat fish, and a school of sardines swim in an endless circle in their cylindrical tank home. If you want to interact with some aquatic dwellers, you're invited to pet the bat rays. The jellyfish display is one of Monterey Bay Aquarium's star attractions.
The centerpiece of the blissful Balboa Park, the San Diego Zoo is a prolific destination for adults and children alike. Spread over 98.84 acres (40 hectares) of diverse landscapes, the zoo is home to an excess of 3,500 fauna that belongs to 650 species or subspecies. Established in the year 1916, it is one of the few non-profit wildlife conservation zones to nurture the highly-endangered Giant Panda. Laden with man-made habitats that emulate various topographies from around the globe, the park's most-visited exhibits includes the Monkey Trails, the Polar Bear Plunge, Elephant Odyssey, Tiger River, Koalafornia and the Panda Trek. Virtually every nook and corner of the zoo is made conveniently accessible by the beloved Skyfari, a gondola system that spans across nearly 75 percent of the property.