20 mesmerizing photos of architecture across the globe

From apartment buildings to ancient masterpieces, these structures offer glimpses into city life around the world.

Building design can inspire a sense of place, tell tales of the past, and offer glimpses into the lives of a city’s residents. And although the impact of grand structures such as Manhattan’s Art Deco skyscrapers or Antoni Gaudi’s eclectic buildings in Barcelona is undeniable, it’s often the smaller, ordinary buildings that tell the truths of day-to-day life. For the attentive eye, the symmetry of a store window can be just as illuminating as the spectacularly painted ceiling of a mosque—and both places have their own story to tell.

As travelers, when we stop to consider the simplicities or intricacies of architecture, we gain a completely new perspective of a place’s aesthetic and culture. And sometimes, timing can change the story—unexpected patterns, shadows, and colors can transform the plainest building into a work of art.

From apartment buildings to ancient masterpieces, here are 22 of our favorite snapshots of architecture around the world.

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Former National Geographic Travel staffer Erin Spencer is a marine ecologist based in Florida. Follow her adventures on Twitter @etspencer.