What are the seven wonders of the world?

Oliver Smith
The Colossus of Rhodes and Christ the Redeemer, its modern match

Seven Wonders of the Ancient World

The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World were a collection of remarkable constructions listed by various Greek authors, including Antipater of Sidon and Philo of Byzantium. The classic list featured seven wonders located in the Eastern Mediterranean.

1. Great Pyramid of Giza

Built between 2584 BC and 2561 BC, the Great Pyramid of Giza is the only surviving ancient wonder. It is 230.4 metres wide at its base and 146.5 metres tall, and is the largest of three that sit beside the city of Giza, around 12 miles from Cairo. It was the tallest man-made structure for more than 3,800 years, until the completion of Lincoln Cathedral around the year 1300.

This was the tallest man-made structure for more than 3,800 years

The modern alternative? Modern pyramids include the glass entrance to the Louvre in Paris, the Walter Pyramid in Long Beach, California, and the 30-storey Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas. The world's tallest pyramid-shaped structure is the colossal Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang, North Korea - dubbed the "Hotel of Doom" - at 330 metres tall. It is followed closely by The Shard in London (309.6m).

2. Temple of Artemis at Ephesus

The Temple of Artemis was reckoned by Antipater of Sidon, the Greek poet, to be the finest of the ancient wonders. He wrote: "When I saw the house of Artemis that mounted to the clouds, those other marvels lost their brilliancy, and I said, 'Lo, apart from Olympus, the Sun never looked on aught so grand'." After being destroyed twice, by floods and arson, the third - and greatest - incarnation began in 323BC. It survived until 268AD, when it was damaged or destroyed during a Goth raid. The site of the temple was rediscovered in 1869, and fragments of it can be found in the British MuseumEphesus was given World Heritage Site status in 2014.

The finest of the ancient wonders, according to Antipater of Sidon (yes, him)

The modern alternative? Among the world's most striking modern temples are Chiang Rai's impossibly intricate Wat Rong Khun, opened in 1997; Harmandir Sahib, or the "Golden Temple", completed in Amritsar in 1604; Kinkaku-ji in Kyoto; the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona (its full name - Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família - is a bit of a mouthful); and the Lotus Temple in New Delhi, a place of worship of the Bahá'í faith built in 1986, which has won numerous architectural awards.

3. Hanging Gardens of Babylon

This is the only ancient wonder whose exact location has not been established. While some believe they were purely mythical, other sources suggest they were built by King Nebuchadnezzer II around 600BC. The site may have comprised an ascending series of tiered gardens which resembled a large green mountain rising from the centre of ancient Babylon, near present-day Hillah in Iraq. If the gardens did exist at all, they were destroyed soon after the first century AD.

Some believe the Hanging Gardens of Babylon were purely mythical

The modern alternative? Given its location, the Dubai Miracle Garden is an obvious choice. Opened on Valentine’s Day in 2013, it contains over 45 million flowers covering a 72,000m² site, with blooms fashioned into the shapes of hearts, stars, igloos and pyramids. Other options include Kew Gardens, the Keukenhof Gardens, the gardens at Versailles, and those at Villa d'Este in Tivoli, Rome.

4. Lighthouse of Alexandria

Built by the Ptolemaic Kingdom between 280BC and 247BC, the Lighthouse of Alexandria measured up to 137 metres in height, making it one of the tallest man-made structures in the world for centuries. It was damaged by three earthquakes between 956 and 1323, surviving as a ruin until 1480, when the last of its stones was used to build the Citadel of Qaitbay, which still stands on the site.

The Lighthouse of Alexandria measured up to 137 metres in height

The modern alternative? Among the most beautiful lighthouses around the world are those at Lindau in Germany, Key Biscayne in Florida, and Andenes in Norway. The tallest? Jeddah Light, a 133-metre building in the Saudi Arabian city, built in 1990.

Jeddah Light

5. Statue of Zeus at Olympia

This giant seated representation of the Greek god Zeus was built by the sculptor Phidias around 435BC in the Temple of Zeus at the sanctuary of Olympia. It consisted of a wooden framework covered with ivory plates and gold panels, while the throne was decorated with ebony, ivory, gold and precious stones. It was mentioned by the Roman historian Suetonius (apparently Caligula gave orders for it to be shipped to Rome so its head could be replaced with a sculpture of his own). The statue may have been destroyed when the Temple of Zeus was lost to fire in 425. Alternatively, it was taken to Constantinople (now Istanbul), where it burnt with the Palace of Lausus in 475. Phidias's workshop was rediscovered at Olympia in the 1950s.

The Statue of Zeus was built by the sculptor Phidias around 435BC

The modern alternative? The Golden Buddha in Bangkok, the world's heaviest solid gold statue at 5.5 tons, is one option. Or how about the world's tallest statue: the Spring Temple Buddha in Henan, China, at 128 metres tall?

The Spring Temple Buddha alongside the Statue of Liberty, the Motherland Calls, Christ the Redeemer and the Statue of David Credit: Anna Frodesiak

6. Mausoleum at Halicarnassus

Built between 353BC and 350BC, this tomb - for Mausolus, a Persian satrap (a provincial governor) - was 45 metres in height and covered in ornate reliefs by four different Greek sculptors. It stood at Halicarnassus, near modern-day Bodrum, Turkey, until it was destroyed by successive earthquakes between the 12th and 15th centuries. Since its construction, the word "mausoleum" has come to represent any above-ground tomb.

The world's first mausoleum

The modern alternative? The most famous mausoleum in the world is the Taj Mahal, built in 1643 on the Yamuna River near Agra to house the body of Mumtaz Mahal, the favourite wife of the Mughal emporer Shah Jahan. For something eerie, there's Lenin's Mausoleum in Red Square, Moscow - the leader's embalmed body is still on public display.

The Taj Mahal, built in 1643

7. Colossus of Rhodes

This statue to the Greek god of the sun, Helios, once stood at the entrance to the harbour at Rhodes, on the Greek island of the same name. It was built in 280BC to mark victory over the ruler of Cyprus, Antigonus I Monophthalmus, but survived for just 54 years, when it was destroyed by an earthquake. It was more than 30 metres tall and made of bronze and iron with a marble pedestal.

The Colossus of Rhodes survived for just 54 years

The modern alternative? Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro is an obvious choice. It is of similar height, not far from the sea, and suitably impressive.

• The best hotels in Rio de Janeiro

Christ the Redeemer Credit: AP
Seven Wonders of the Middle Ages

Writers in the 19th and early 20th centuries produced their own lists, variously titled Wonders of the Middle Ages, the Seven Wonders of the Middle Ages, the Seven Wonders of the Medieval Mind, and the Architectural Wonders of the Middle Ages. Most of the compilations featured the following seven attractions.

Celebrating the solstice at Stonehenge Credit: PAUL GROVER

1. Stonehenge, England

2. Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy

3. Colosseum, Rome, Italy

4. Great Wall of China

5. Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

6. Porcelain Tower of Nanjing

7. The Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa, Egypt

Seven Wonders of the Modern World

Compiled in 1994 by the American Society of Civil Engineers, this list - a little heavily weighted towards the Americas - paid tribute to feats of civil engineering during the 20th century.

The Panama Canal

1. Channel Tunnel, England/France

2. CN Tower, Toronto, Canada

3. Empire State Building, New York

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Manhattan

4. Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

5. Delta Works/Zuiderzee Works, Netherlands

6. Panama Canal

7. Itaipu Dam, Brazil/Paraguay border

Seven Wonders of the Industrial World

Outlined in a book by Deborah Cadbury, and the basis of a BBC documentary of the same name, they comprise the following.

The Hoover Dam

1. SS Great Eastern

2. Bell Rock Lighthouse, Scotland

3. Brooklyn Bridge, New York

• New York city guide

4. London sewerage system

5. First Transcontinental Railroad

6. Panama Canal

7. Hoover Dam, Arizona/Nevada border

New7Wonders of the World

This list, the result of an initiative by a Swiss corporation, which has since been the target of criticism from tourist boards over "hidden costs" and voting methods, was published in 2007.

1. Great Wall of China

2. Petra, Jordan

• The secret way into Petra

The rock-hewn city of Petra Credit: AFP

3. Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro

4. Machu Picchu, Peru

5. Chichen Itza, Mexico

6. Colosseum, Rome

7. Taj Mahal, India

The Great Pyramid of Giza was named an "honorary candidate".

New7Wonders of Nature

The same group named the "New7Wonders of Nature" in 2011:

1. Iguazu Falls, Argentina/Brazil border

2. Jeju Island, South Korea

3. Komodo Island, Indonesia

4. Puerto Princesa Underground River, Philippines

5. Table Mountain, South Africa

6. Halong Bay, Vietnam

7. Amazon Rainforest, Brazil


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