Get an Eiffel of this – Paris’ famous tower … yours for just £307m
A marvellous vision, money and man-power. That’s what it took for architects with a dream to create many of the world’s most wonderous landmarks. From Paris’ Eiffel Tower to India’s Taj Mahal, these structures dominate not just the skyline but a country’s very identity, going from functional to fully-fledged tourist attractions in their own right.
But was it money well spent? And more to the point, who on earth came up with the idea in the first place?
1. The Eiffel Tower, Paris
Cost in 1889: 8 million francs (around £260,000) / Estimated cost to build today: Around £307m (Source)
Just imagine the wonderment, surprise and awe Parisians felt in 1889 when Alexandre Gustave Eiffel unveiled his famous tower, at its time the tallest structure in the world at 985ft high.
Crafted from over 18,000 pieces of wrought iron by a 300-strong workforce, the Eiffel Tower was created originally by Eiffel as an enchanting entrance archway for France’s Exposition Universelle – a world fair marking the centennial celebration of the French Revolution.
At a cost of eight million francs, or around £260,000, it was money well spent. The Eiffel Tower is the most-visited paid-for monument in the world, and is one of the most recognisable symbols across the globe, not just of Paris but France itself. That’s plenty of fans for your francs.
2. Taj Mahal, India
Cost in 1653: 32m rupees approx (around £4.8m) / Estimated cost to build today: Around £678m (Source)
The Taj Mahal is not only the Eighth Wonder of the World but is literally a real architectural treasure. Built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as an ornate tomb for his beloved third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, the Taj Mahal, which was completed in 1653, is made entirely of pure marble and soft stone.
Over 28 different types of precious jewels and semi-precious stones adorn the building, which were sourced from all over Asia and the far corners of the Indian empire. Hoards of treasure and building materials were transported by over 1,000 elephants to the site and its workforce of over 20,000 men, including many who were masters of their craft – from sculptors, calligraphers, and stonecutters to those whose only expertise was carving marble flowers.
No expense was spared – the Taj Mahal cost 32m rupees to build at the time (around £4.8m), small change for a wealthy emperor wanting a glittering monument to ever-lasting love.
3. St Peter’s Basilica, Rome
Cost in 1626: 46,800,052 ducats (approx $48m/£31m) / Estimated cost to build today: Around $800m (Source)
Located within Vatican city, St Peter’s Basilica is probably the largest Christian church in the world, covering 5.7 acres. Regarded as one of the holiest Catholic sites, according to tradition it is the burial site of Saint Peter, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus.
Although there has been a church on the site since the Fourth Century, St Peter’s Basilica as it stands today took an astonishing 176 years to create, beginning in 1450 and finishing in 1626. Known the world over for its dominant dome as well as its religious significance, a large part of this vast place of worship was designed by Michelangelo, including the magnificent dome within which is written the inscription:
“You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church. … I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven…”.
With an estimated construction bill of £32m/$48m, or over 46m ducats (the gold coin used as currency at the time), the cost pales into insignificance when you consider how important this church is to many worshippers across the world.
4. The Millennium Dome, London
Cost in 2000: £789m / Estimated cost to build today: £1.04bn (Source)
You may know it now as the O2 Arena, but if you think back 12 years you’ll remember that this costly structure was created solely to bring the millennium to life through thought-provoking sponsored exhibits and visual art as we entered the year 2000.
The exhibition was open for the whole of the year, but it wasn’t the unusual tent-like architecture which made headlines – despite massive expenditure it failed to attract the anticipated number of visitors and had numerous financial problems.
Despite this, it was actually the most popular tourist attraction in the millennium year, and still continues to attract large crowds following its multi-million pound redevelopment, unveiled in 2007, which secured its position as one of the best indoor entertainment venues in London, playing host to concerts and events from world-famous acts along with bars, restaurants, a cinema and exhibition space.
5. Houses of Parliament, London
Cost in 1860: £2m / Estimated cost to build today: £189m (Source)
It’s long been the place for sharp-suited arguing and party political debates, but politicians have actually been meeting here since 1295. The Houses of Parliament – also known as the Palace of Westminster – date back to the Middle Ages.
In Medieval times it was known as Thorney Island, and it was here that Edward the Confessor, one of the last Anglo-Saxon Kings of England, built a royal palace around the same time he built Westminster Abbey. As such Thorney Island and the surrounding area soon became known as Westminster.
The building as it stands today was rebuilt by architect Charles Barry, selected as a result of competition to design it following a devastating fire in 1834. There were 97 different entries, but it was Barry’s Tudor Gothic style which won the commission. In total it took almost 30 years to build, and went massively over-budget.
Barry himself estimated it would cost just £724,986. But it’s now one of London, and England’s, most famous historic landmarks – particularly the distinctive clock tower, otherwise known as Big Ben. Even politicians can’t argue with that.
All cost information for these famous landmarks taken from online sources