There’s a reason people marvel at ruins of ancient civilizations and peruse museums filled with artifacts decades to centuries ago. There’s a wonder to the remnants of this world’s evolution that intrigues almost everyone, and oftentimes travelers in particular. For those who have a particular interest in looking into the past every country has its own unique past, but just to start with these are ten countries for history buffs to visit.
This list wouldn’t be complete without Germany, due to its immense influence on the world in the twentieth century. As the epicenter of two world wars, Germany has plenty to show in terms of history. Thousands of travelers each year make the solemn trip through the former sites of concentration camps such as Buchenwald and Auschwitz that now stand as memorials to those that died there. Aside from the world wars, other eras of history are still abundantly present from the Berlin Wall originally erected in the Cold War era to a plethora of castles that’ll take you back as far as the Middle Ages.
© B. Arnyz
The Romans are often hailed as the most prominent ancient civilization and with Italy having been the base of their empire, the country still has plenty to show for it. Rome alone offers some of the world’s most famous historical landmarks such as the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. And while Vatican City technically is a country of its own, there’s really no way of getting to this religious icon without going through Rome. Beyond the capital city, Florence and Venice are just two examples of other cities offering plenty of Italy’s cultural history through famous museums such as the Galleria dell’Accademia.
© Pedro Szekely
The Great Wall of China is most certainly the country’s most recognized historic site. Construction on it began as early as China’s Warring States Period from about 475 BC to 221 BC, and now it lives on as one of the most visited landmarks in the world. Beyond this pillar of history, China is also home to a variety of other sites such as the Forbidden City. This palace complex thrived through the Ming and Qing dynasties, which were the final dynasties in China. For those more interested in the spiritual history of the Tibetan monks of Confucianism, you can look to The Potala Palace in Lhasa or the Three Confucius Historical Sites in Qufu.
© Thomas Depenbusch
4. South Africa
This is quite possibly a surprising member of this list, but there are certainly plenty of countries south of the equator with rich histories to explore, and South Africa is a perfect example. To foreigners, this country’s history tends to be most marked by the Apartheid system in place during the mid to late 1900’s. The Apartheid Museum located in Johannesburg carries on the stories of those affected by that era of racial segregation. And while Nelson Mandela, the famous leader against Apartheid, is highly memorialized there, his home in Soweto also attracts many travelers fascinated by him and that period of history.
© Paul Saad
Russia is home to quite a diverse and intriguing history. Slavic tribes and Vikings mark its earlier years while the Russian Revolution and Cold War make up its more recent years. The iconic Red Square in Moscow holds plenty of history on its own. The Kremlin lies just to the west of this area that consists of St. Basil’s Cathedral, the State Historical Museum, and the mausoleum of Vladimir Lenin. St. Petersburg acts as another hub of Russian history with the Hermitage Museum and the Winter Palace, which was home to tsars of Russia until Nicholas II was overthrown in 1917.
© James Byrum
England certainly made its mark on other countries throughout its history, but this part of the United Kingdom is home to plenty of history in its own right. It touches on ancient times from the prehistoric Stonehenge in Wiltshire to its Roman bathhouses in Bath. London is loaded with historic sites from Buckingham Palace to Windsor Castle, and even beyond that there is an abundance of culture packed into museums such as the British Museum and the National Gallery. It’s also home to a modern reconstruction of the Globe Theatre, where Shakespeare once had his plays performed.
© Craig Fildes
In modern times, Israel’s history has largely been associated with its conflict involving Palestine that revolves around land sacred to both sides. This land is of intrigue to many history buffs as this conflict has gone on for decades with no end in sight. This country also holds heavy historical significance to many for its religious context. Christian and Jewish people frequent the cities of Nazareth, Bethlehem, and Jerusalem, looking to connect with these places that are such critical pieces of their holy scriptures.
© Aaron Brown
The French Revolution and the rule of Napoleon Bonaparte are the most known parts of France’s history, and they are highlighted throughout the country. One of the country’s most famous landmarks, the Arc de Triomphe, stands in Paris as a monument to those who and died in the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. Underground beneath the structure also lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I. Even the Eifel Tower was built in 1889 to mark the 100-year anniversary of the French Revolution. On the more cultural side of history, Paris is also home to the Louvre, which is one of the most visited museums in the world. And beyond Paris, France has plenty of other historical sites such as the Palace of Versailles.
© Luc Mercelis
Japan is another country that has quite a varied history from ancient times to modern day. Both Japan and Kyoto are home to Imperial Palaces rich with history that travelers frequent each year. In addition to those, beautiful Buddhist temples can be found all across the country. And for more modern history, one of Japan’s most popular attractions is the Hiroshima Peace Memorial and Park to memorialize all those who died in the bombing during World War II. While less frequented, a similar memorial exists in Nagasaki.
© Pedro Szekely
Another curve ball in this list to take some of the focus off of big European and Asian powers, Panama is a perfect place for history buffs because it is an example of a country that has found itself under the thumb of multiple nations. Spain held power in the region for a long time, and this is still rather clear by seeing Panamá Viejo in Panama City. Then for a while, Panama was basically a state under Colombia. Even as Colombia was pushed out of the picture, Panama wound up caught up in a dispute between France and the United States as both nations tried to build what is now the Panama Canal. Ironically, the canal that put this country under a lot of duress is now its most popular attraction.
© Chris Goldberg