Some of the most iconic landmarks in cities all around the world are towers that were constructed to ring bells 3 times a day. These structures are sometimes referred to as “campaniles,” a reference to the Italian word “campana” which means “bell.”
Apart from serving their practical purpose, these towers are also often tourist attractions that visitors can climb. The observation decks of these towers often provide amazing views of the city they are located in, definitely making it worthwhile to climb them.
These towers are mostly part of a church or other building, but many are actually stand-alone structures as well. In this article, you’ll discover a list of some of the most famous bell towers in the world.
1. Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is arguably one of the most famous towers in the world, mainly because serious engineering mistakes have caused it to tilt nearly 4 degrees. This free-standing campanile is part of the complex that makes up the Cathedral in the city of Pisa in the Tuscany region in central Italy. The area it’s situated on is called the “Piazza dei Miracoli” or “Miracle Square.”
Perhaps even more remarkable is the fact that it’s considered to be a miracle that the tower hasn’t collapsed yet. When things got really scary in the 1990s, a team of British engineers got busy and added counterweights to one side to reverse the tilt. This fascinating tower is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Italy and an attraction that you simply have to put on your bucket list.
Official website: Leaning Tower of Pisa
2. Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben), London, UK
The Elizabeth Tower is commonly referred to as “Big Ben,” a reference to the big bell that occupies the tower. It’s one of the most iconic towers and a symbol of London. It’s located on the northern end of the Palace of Westminster, also known as the Houses of Parliament, and at the end of Westminster Bridge in the City of Westminster, an inner London Borough.
The tower was originally known as the “Clock Tower” and was officially renamed the “Elizabeth Tower” in 2012 following the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II. Climbing the tower requires climbing a total of 334 steps and special tours are offered for tourists who want to get an amazing view of London from the top of this cultural icon.
Official website: Big Ben on Parliament Website
3. St Mark’s Campanile, Venice, Italy
St Mark’s Campanile, locally known as the “Campanile di San Marco,” is the bell tower of St Mark’s Basilica in the fascinating Italian city of Venice. The original tower on this location was completed in 1514 but unfortunately collapsed in 1902. The current version of this iconic bell tower was built between 1902 and 1912 and completely restored between 2007 and 2013 as well.
It’s one of the most iconic landmarks in Venice and also the tallest building in the city at a height of 98.6 meters (323 feet). The original purpose of this tower wasn’t to ring bells but to protect the city as it served as a watchtower to spot incoming ships. Luckily, this tower is equipped with an elevator. It was installed in 1962 and brings visitors to the top in about 30 seconds.
4. Spasskaya Tower, Moscow, Russia
The Spasskaya Tower is another iconic landmark and the main tower of the East Kremlin Wall in Moscow, Russia. It was one of the first towers to be built in the extensive fortifications of the Moscow Kremlin and was remarkably designed by a Swiss architect in the late 15th century. The tower is one of the buildings that overlook the iconic Red Square in the heart of the city.
The Kremlin features a large number of towers but this one was the first to be covered with the distinctive hipped roof. This roof was added to the tower between 1624 and 1625 and equally remarkably involved a Scottish architect named Christopher Galloway. It’s uncertain when exactly the huge clock was added to the tower, and the best estimates date it anywhere between 1491 and 1585.
5. La Giralda, Seville, Spain
La Giralda is another bell tower that is part of a cathedral, namely the immense Cathedral of Seville in southern Spain. What’s remarkable about this particular tower isn’t just its fascinating design, but also that it was originally built as the minaret of the Great Mosque of Seville. This original version of the tower was commissioned in the year 1171 and completed in 1198.
Following the reconquest of Seville by the Christians in 1248, both the Mosque and its minaret were repurposed. The orientation of the Mosque was changed and turned into the biggest Gothic Cathedral in the world. The original minaret was turned into a bell tower and was eventually topped with a Renaissance-style lantern in the 16th century. It reaches a height of 104.1 meters (342 feet) and retains its status as a symbol of the city, just like how it was during the Middle Ages.
Official website: La Giralda in Seville
6. Giotto’s Campanile, Florence, Italy
Giotto’s Campanile is the amazing bell tower of the Cathedral of Florence in the city in the Tuscany Region of Italy. This complex is located on the most famous square in the city, the Piazza del Duomo, and also includes the Florence Baptistery, world-famous for its remarkable doors known as the “Gates of Paradise” and one of the oldest buildings in Florence.
This particular bell tower was named after the man who designed it, Gothic/Renaissance architect Giotto di Bondone (1267-1337), commonly referred to as simply “Giotto.” The tower is divided into 5 stages, one of the finest examples of the distinctive Florentine Gothic architecture, and is richly decorated with sculptures and remarkable marble decorations.
Official website: Giotto’s Bell Tower