23 Iconic World’s Fair Monuments Still Standing Today

23 Iconic World’s Fair Monuments Still Standing Today

From the Eiffel Tower to the Magic Fountain of Montjuic, here are some of the most iconic World’s Fair monuments.

With a year’s delay due to the pandemic, the Expo Dubai 2020 just kicked off October 1st. Read all about the top things to do at this year’s expo here.

But today, we want to pay tribute to the many Expo’s and World’s Fairs held over the years by compiling some of the monuments and structures that were the protagonists of their respective editions and that continue to amaze everyone who visits them. Many of the structures created for these fairs are dismantled once the event is over, but others, such as the Eiffel Tower or the Poble Espanyol, are still standing and have become symbols and emblematic places of their respective cities.

Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne World’s Fair 1880

The Royal Exhibition Building is one of the oldest exhibition pavilions in the world and continues to host fairs and events. The spectacular building, designed by Joseph Reed, combines various architectural styles and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2004. It is, without a doubt, an essential visit in Melbourne.

Castle of the Three Dragons, 1888 Barcelona Universal Exposition

The Parc de la Ciutadella hosted the Universal Exposition of 1888 and among the buildings that were created for the event and that still exist today, the Castle of the Three Dragons is worth highlighting. The beautiful modernist building designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner was the designated café-restaurant for the exhibition. Currently, it is one of the headquarters of the Museum of Natural Sciences.

Arc de Triomf, 1888 Barcelona Universal Exposition

This spectacular 100-foot- high monument was designed by Josep Vilaseca as the gateway to the 1888 fair. The work, inspired by Neo-Mudejar, is loaded with symbolism, with references to the nations that participated in the exposition and to the Spanish provinces.

Columbus Monument, 1888 Barcelona Universal Exposition

Erected in homage to explorer Christopher Columbus, one of the most famous statues of Barcelona was inaugurated during the Universal Exposition of 1888. In fact, it was created as part of the improvement works carried out in Barcelona for the international event. Today, one of the main attractions of the sculpture complex is the viewpoint located 197 feet high.

Eiffel Tower, Universal Exposition of 1889

The Champ de Mars in Paris hosted the Universal Exposition of 1889, whose crown jewel was undoubtedly the Eiffel Tower. It took 2 years, 2 months and 5 days to build the spectacular tower, which stands more than 985 feet high. Almost 2,000,000 people from different countries came to visit the tower, which at the time was the highest in the world, to enjoy the panoramic views from the top.

Art Institute of Chicago, 1893 Chicago World’s Fair

Located on Michigan Avenue, the Art Institute of Chicago is now one of the most visited museums in the U.S. The building that houses the art gallery’s comprehensive collection, which includes works like Grant Wood’s American Gothic and Edward Hopper’s Noctambulists, was built for the Chicago World’s Fair.

Musée d’Orsay, 1900 Paris Exposition

The fact that the Musée d’Orsay is located in a former railway station is well known. What many people don’t know is that this palatial-looking station was inaugurated during the 1900 Paris Exposition. The building, converted into a museum in the 1980s, is now a must-see for lovers of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism.

Grand Palais and Petit Palais, 1900 Paris Exposition

Both monuments were created for the 1900 Paris Exposition and, more than 120 years after their construction, still continue to be a hit. The Grand Palais is an architectural masterpiece that perfectly combines stone, steel and glass. Its glass dome is one of its main distinguishing features. In addition to its architectural beauty, the Petit Palais is famous for housing the Museum of Fine Arts.

Civic Aquarium of Milan, Milan International 1906

The building that houses the aquarium is the only pavilion that still stands from the world’s fair held in Milan in 1906. It is one of the oldest aquariums in Europe and is located in Sempione Park. The façade of the Art Nouveau building, designed by architect Sebastiano Locati, is a true marvel.

Palau Nacional, 1929 Barcelona International Exposition

The Palau Nacional, in classicist style, was the main building of the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition. Its enormous main dome is reminiscent of St. Peter’s in the Vatican and is one of the most recognizable landmarks of Montjuic. Today, it is the headquarters of the National Art Museum of Catalonia.

Poble Espanyol, 1929 Barcelona International Exposition

Poble Espanyol was another site created for the 1929 Expo held in Barcelona. Those in charge of the project visited 1,600 towns throughout Spain to gather all the necessary materials before starting construction. The Spanish pavilion had so much success during the Expo that the City Council decided to keep it, even though it was planned to be demolished after the event. This is why we can still visit this wonderful open-air architectural museum and enjoy the 117 full-scale buildings it houses.

Magical Fountain of Montjuic, 1929 Barcelona International Exposition

The Magic Fountain is another Barcelona emblem whose origin dates back to a World’s Fair. Designed by Carles Buïgas, more than 3,000 workers were needed to bring his project to life; filling the main street of the event with light, color, and water. Since its creation, millions of people have been able to enjoy the incredible spectacle of this fountain.


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Plaza de España in Seville, Ibero-American Exposition of 1929

The square that gave life to the planet Naboo in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, was built on the site of the Ibero-American Exposition that took place in Seville in 1929. Of the 117 buildings constructed for the Expo, 25 are still standing today. This spectacular square designed by Aníbal González is where the opening ceremony was held and is one of the best remains of the event.

Plaza de América in Seville, Ibero-American Exposition of 1929

The Plaza de América is part of the urban-artistic project created for the Seville exposition. The same architect in charge of the Plaza de España also designed three of the most emblematic pavilions of this Expo: the Gothic-style Royal Pavilion (currently used as offices), the Mudejar Pavilion (current home of the Museum of Popular Arts and Customs), and the Renaissance-style Fine Arts Pavilion (current home of the Provincial Archaeological Museum).


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Atomium, Brussels World’s Fair (Expo 58)

Designed by André Waterkeyn and André and Jean Polak, the spectacular structure consisting of nine steel spheres was only supposed to last 6 months. However, its success was so great that not only is it still standing, but it has become one of the most recognizable symbols of Belgium.

Space Needle, Seattle, Century 21 Exposition

Nearly 10 million people attended this World’s Fair, whose theme was “Man in the Space Age”. Inspired by the Stuttgart telecommunications tower, the Space Needle was a huge success, receiving approximately 2.65 million visitors over the duration of the event. Prominent figures such as Elvis Presley, Neil Armstrong and Walt Disney paid a visit as well. Today, the Space Needle is part of Seattle’s skyline and is one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions.

Unisphere, 1964 New York World’s Fair

This exposition, which was not recognized by the International Bureau of Expositions, left us with one of the undisputed symbols of New York City, the Unisphere. Located in the borough of Queens, the huge steel globe (140 feet high with a 120-foot diameter) became the centerpiece of the event. It has been featured in numerous television hit series as well as countless films.

The Montreal Biosphere, 1967 World’s Fair (Expo 67)

This Expo left several landmarks in terms of architecture. One of them is the former U.S. pavilion, designed by Buckminster Fuller. Today, the huge metal bubble, which survived the fire in 1976, houses a museum focused on the environment and is one of the city’s most popular attractions.

Habitat 67, 1967 World’s Fair (Expo 67)

The 354 concrete block housing complex designed by Moshe Safdie was one of the star pavilions of Expo 67 in Montreal. Although the Israeli-Canadian architect did not achieve his goal of creating affordable housing that would revolutionize urban living, his design did have a profound impact on the world of architecture.

Sun Tower, 1970 World Expo (Expo ‘70)

The spectacular tower designed by Tarō Okamoto has three faces and stands more than 210 feet tall. Once the undisputed symbol of the Expo, it is now one of the stars of the Osaka Expo 70 Commemorative Park. Since 2018, it is possible to revisit the inside of the tower, but you have to book in advance.

Lisbon Oceanarium, Expo 98

The oceanarium was inaugurated during Expo 98, honoring the main theme of the Expo: “The Oceans: A Heritage for the Future”. The event promoters decided to build an aquarium that would keep this message alive after the Expo was over and, at the same time, contribute to the development of the cultural offer in Portugal. A new installation was added to the building designed by Peter Chermayeff in 2011.

Bridge Pavilion, Expo 2008

The site of the Zaragoza Expo, whose theme was “Water and Sustainable Development”, was located next to the Ebro River. Among the various structures created for the Expo, and still standing today, is the Bridge Pavilion. Designed by Zaha Hadid, the innovative horizontal building is now the headquarters of Mobility City.

China Art Museum, Expo 2010 Shanghai China

Nicknamed “The Crown of the East” for its resemblance to ancient imperial crowns, China’s pavilion during Expo 2010 is one of the few buildings that remained standing after the event. The red building, in the shape of a truncated pyramid, now houses the China Art Museum (one of the largest in Asia.)

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