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Tall Tales And Fun Facts About The World’s Most Famous Sights

Amaze your friends! Impress your teachers! Be one of those people who knows cool random things!

Nikki Ridgway · about 1 month ago

  • travel

We recognize them from school textbooks, bedroom posters, and bumper stickers the world over, but how well do we really know the most famous, and visited, sights on the planet? We’ve been studying up to bring you extraordinary facts about seven must-see sights from Sydney to NYC.

1. The Statue of Liberty, USA

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Standing 305 feet tall off the tip of lower Manhattan, and visited by about 4 million people each year, Lady Liberty is the most recognizable woman in New York City. But did you know that her face was inspired by the sculptor’s mother? Yep, French artist Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi is said to have modeled the 17-foot-tall head on his dear mama. Officially, of course, the Statue of Liberty (also known as Liberty Enlightening the World) is a depiction of Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom.

2. Machu Picchu, Peru

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Deep in the emerald jungle of Peru’s Sacred Valley, the Inca city of Machu Picchu is like a fairytale and Hollywood blockbuster movie set brought to life. Built between 1450 and 1470, the citadel was abandoned during the Spanish Conquests of the mid-1500s and left mostly untouched for over 300 years! Today, a lucky few travelers are allowed in each day, arriving at the Sun Gate to watch the sun rise behind the ruins, and to marvel at the meticulous stonework, all constructed without the help of machinery — or even animals.

3. The Tower of London, England

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The spooky Tower of London is known for its prison cells, gory 1000-year history, and ghost stories galore. But in fact it was first built as a palace, not a prison, by William the Conqueror in the 1070s, and for hundreds of years, kings and queens lived in palatial style in the Tower, guarded by the famous Yeoman Warders. The guards, also known as the Beefeaters, were given their nickname by King Henry VIII, who let his protectors eat as much beef as they wanted from his table. The Beefeaters still work at the Tower today, and you can see them in all their red-coated finery during the daily Ceremony of the Keys, when they lock the door to outsiders (like us).

4. The Eiffel Tower, France

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Today, the Eiffel Tower in Paris is a symbol of romance and beauty. But back when it was first built in 1889, it was a symbol of the 100-year anniversary of the French Revolution — a fact that, let’s face it, doesn’t exactly conjure the same warm fuzzies. Engineer Gustave Eiffel designed the 1000-foot-tall lattice iron structure for the 1889 World’s Fair, beating out more than 100 other entrants. Parisians were initially appalled by the tower’s size (it was the tallest building in the world until the construction of the Chrysler Building in 1930) and industrial style (imagine thinking it’s not fancy enough!). But despite its unglamorous beginnings, the Eiffel Tower has proved to be one of the most beloved sights in the world, attracting around 7 million people each year.

5. The Pyramids of Giza, Egypt

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If you love a good mystery, the case of the Pyramids of Giza is a true head scratcher. Built as elaborate tombs around 2,500 BC, the three pyramids on the outskirts of modern-day Cairo were the tallest manmade structure on Earth until the construction of the Eiffel Tower 4,000 years later. The Great Pyramid, built for King Khufu, is made of over 2.3 million meticulously carved blocks of limestone and granite, each weighing over two tons. So how did they erect such a structure without lifts, cranes, or modern machinery? 

Historians now believe that the pyramids were built by a seasonal workforce of over 90,000 workers, using an intricate system of ramps aided by a conveyor belt of sand and water. And even after thousands of years, we’ve barely scratched the surface of the Pyramid’s many mysteries — in 2014, Egyptologists actually discovered a secret chamber at the heart of the Great Pyramid! 

6. The Sydney Opera House, Australia

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Along with Uluru, the Sydney Opera House is one of the most recognizable sights in Australia. The vast, curved roof required more than 1 million tiles and 14 years to complete — a decade longer than the original plan.

The opera house, which puts on over 1,500 shows each year, uses seawater from the harbor to cool the building to exactly 22.5 degrees Celsius (or 72.5 degrees Fahrenheit) — the perfect temperature to keep the musicians’ instruments protected and in tune. The orchestra pit, just below the stage, is protected by a net — which was added after a chicken escaped from the stage during a 1980 performance and landed on the head of a very surprised cellist!

7. The Taj Mahal, India

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Considered one of the most beautiful buildings in the world, the Taj Mahal was built for the beloved wife of a ruler named Shah Jahan. While legend has it that the king killed all 20,000 of the construction workers so that they could never build a more perfect structure, this story is (fortunately) a myth. One amazing but true fact about its construction: 1,000 worker elephants helped build the structure!

The spectacular temple, located in the northern Indian city of Agra, appears to change color throughout the day, an optical illusion created by the vast white marble dome as it absorbs and reflects the colors of the sky. The Taj Mahal’s lavish design includes marble from Rajasthan, jade from China, and turquoise from Tibet — and almost 30 types of precious stones were originally used in the inlay. Sadly, most of the gems have been plundered (stolen!) over the years and replaced with replicas.