Last Updated on April 8, 2021 by Soumya
We have all heard of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, haven’t we? But how many of us have visited the leaning houses of Amsterdam, appreciated the significant tilt of the Tiger Hill Pagoda in China, or explored the leaning temples of India? There is even a country that sets a record with the highest number of leaning towers in the world. Do you want to guess what country that is? Well, I am sure you will find out as you read through our post on the world’s most iconic leaning monuments – some well-known, others unsung! How many have you visited?
Leaning Towers of The World – The Famous and The Unexplored!
I was in Bagan, Myanmar earlier this year when I noticed a quirky, little temple that looked different from the others. Yes, you guessed it right! It was tilted to one side, yet held on firmly to the ground. My mind was suddenly flooded by pictures of all the leaning towers I had been to – some popular and some quite unknown to the world. And I wondered – how many were actually there in the world?
This post is an attempt to bring to you an exhaustive list of leaning towers of the world. In order to do so, we reached out to seasoned travelers from across the globe and asked them about the most interesting/offbeat leaning monument that they had been to. And, then we compiled this hefty list of tilted beauties across the globe.
A trip to Italy is not complete without a day trip to Pisa – to Piazza dei Miracoli. The Square of Miracles has gained international fame thanks to its leaning tower and its peculiar inclination. It is home to other marvelous monuments- the Cathedral, the Baptistery, and the cemetery, all of them pure white standing out over the lush green ground representing the circle of life.
Leaning Tower of Pisa, which is more than 50 meters high, has the bell tower to the cathedral standing off to its side. It is known worldwide for its unintended tilt to one side, due to the weak nature of the ground below it, inadequate to support the tower’s structure from the very beginning. Built between the 12th and 13th centuries, the tower started leaning before it was even finished!
Did you know that the Duomo also leans a little like the leaning tower of Pisa? The Baptistery, the largest one of Italy is dedicated to St. John the Baptist and there is a statue of him on the top of the dome. You can visit this UNESCO Heritage site as a day trip from Florence.
By Priya Vin from OutsideSuburbia
2. Leaning Tower of Suurhusen – Germany
The Leaning Tower of Suurhusen, a Gothic Church in northwestern Germany, beats the Leaning Tower of Pisa by claiming the record of being the most leaning tower that is unintentionally tilted. Well, I always thought nobody could beat the record out of Pisa!
The church was built in medieval times on marshy lands in the village. The foundation was built on oak tree trunks which rotted after a while. This contributed to a whopping tilt angle of 5.19 degrees. The church was closed to the public for almost 10 years during which time it was stabilized.
Suurhusen is a small German village with almost 1500 people and the church sees no more than a thousand visitors in a year. Apart from the church, the village has a small museum that depicts the life of a farmer’s family. This makes the Leaning Tower of Suurhusen a pristine, unexplored destination if you are looking for something different in your German itinerary.
3. Leaning Bell Tower of Burano – Italy
When in Venice, it’s worth planning a day trip to some of the smaller islands that are scattered across the Venetian Lagoon. Murano, Burano, and Torcello are the most popular ones. However, our personal favorite among the three is Burano.
Burano is the tiny island that has taken over Instagram with its brightly-colored houses. Wandering around its narrow alleys feels like stepping into a dreamy fairy-tale. Apart from its gorgeous colorful houses though, there was yet another remarkable sight that caught our attention. The leaning bell tower of San Martino church.
To be honest, we had never heard of this church before going to Burano. So, we were taken aback by the bell tower’s incredible tilt. San Martino is a 16th century Roman Catholic church. The leaning bell tower is 53m high and has a tilt of 1.83m due to land subsidence.
If you are wondering how to get to San Martino church, worry not. Once in Burano, it’s impossible to miss it as the tilting bell tower soars way above the rest of the island’s buildings. Keep your camera handy for some amazing gravity-defying shots!
By Maria and Katerina from It’s All Trip To Me
4. Leaning Temple of Huma – India
The Leaning Temple of Huma is one of only two existing leaning temples in the world which makes it all the more special. It is located in a small village called Huma in the eastern state of Odisha in India. It was constructed in the 17th century AD by a king of the Chauhan dynasty and was dedicated to Lord Shiva of the Hindu trinity.
The cause of the tilt of the temple is not very clear. It is not even sure if the tilt was intentional or not. And the most interesting part is that while the body of the temple leans, the pinnacle or the apex is still perpendicular to the ground. Also, the tilt has not worsened over the last half-a-century. This gives the temple a mystical feel and strengthens the devotees’ belief in God.
The temple of Huma is located on the banks of River Mahanadi and a special type of fish called the Kudo fish are found only in this area. Apparently, the fish are quite friendly and would eat anything out of your hands. Nobody fishes in this area in order to maintain a friendly fish-human ecosystem.
The best time to visit the leaning temple is in February – March when the temperatures are low. Additionally, a large fair is held at the temple on the occasion of Shivaratri (a Hindu festival dedicated to Shiva) every year.
An air of mystery surrounding the tilt makes this one of the most curious leaning towers of the world!
5. Caerphilly Castle of Wales – The UK
When you think of leaning monuments, I bet you wouldn’t think of Caerphilly Castle in Wales. But you should. Caerphilly Castle is a medieval fortification dating from the 1200’s, which is also the second largest castle in Britain. Formerly owned by the Marquesses of Bute, it also has a leaning tower dubbed the “Welsh Tower of Pisa”.
The southeast tower has a slant which started because of damage caused during the 17th-century battles between Oliver Cromwell’s Roundheads and Charles 1’s cavaliers. Subsidence has made it worse and it now leans to the angle of more than 10 degrees, more than the most famous leaning tower of all, Pisa.
But Caerphilly Castle is more than just its leaning tower. As the second largest castle in Britain, there is a lot more to this castle. The Great Hall can be viewed (when there isn’t a wedding being held there), and the view across the valley from the top of the towers is wonderful on a good day. And if you are very lucky, you might get a chance to get up-close-and-personal with some Welsh dragons who made Caerphilly Castle their home from 2016.
By Cath from Passports and Adventures
6. Tiger Hill Pagoda – China
China has its very own leaning tower. It is the Tiger Hill Pagoda or the Yunyan Pagoda located in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province of Eastern China. The pagoda is located atop a hill by the very same name.
Built during the 10th century AD, the pagoda is seven-storied, octagonal in shape, and leans 3.59 degrees to the northwest. It has come to be symbolic of the city of Suzhou and is often referred to as the “Leaning Tower of China“.
The pagoda is built of stone but is an imitation of the wooden pagodas of ancient times. Therefore, it has decorative brackets and lintels carved all over it.
Over the last 1000 years, the pagoda has leaned because its foundation is half rock and half soil. This has led to cracking of two supporting columns resulting in a gradual tilt.
7. Leaning Houses of Amsterdam – The Netherlands
If you visit Amsterdam, you will probably notice that many of the old Amsterdam houses are leaning forward. What is interesting is that Amsterdam houses were built leaning forward intentionally. This way of building is called in Dutch “Bouwen op de vlucht” and there are many theories of why this trend was introduced.
Until the 19th century, construction regulations in Amsterdam specifically stated that all houses needed to lean forward and even to what degree. This way of building houses allowed the top floor being slightly bigger, while at the same not taking too much space on the street. Some point out that this also prevented water damage caused by rain, but probably the most important reason is that it was also more convenient for hoisting goods.
Most of the houses in Amsterdam were not only used for living, but they were also used by the merchant to store goods that entered into the city, usually by boat. The leaning façade made it easier to hoist products using the hook on the beam sticking out at the top of the building.
By Edyta from Say Yes To Madeira
8. Big Ben of London – The UK
It’s a lot of people’s favorite British monument – but did you know it is actually leaning?! Elizabeth Tower is more commonly known as ‘Big Ben’ (it is actually the bell that is called Big Ben) and it sits on the side of the River Thames in the Westminster area of London. Many people like to see it and photograph it, but few know about its tilt – which is getting worse every year!
The top of the tower is one and a half feet (around 0.45 meters) off of the perpendicular, which can be recognized without binoculars now. This was due to different people working on the tower at various times since its completion in 1858.
While it is getting worse every year, experts think it would still take 4,000 years until it reached the same angle as the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and much longer for it to fall down. So we haven’t got to change the English nursery rhyme ‘London Bridge is falling down’ just yet!
By Claire Martin from Claire’s Footsteps
9. Leaning House of Parco dei Mostri – Italy
Not many people know about the Leaning House at Parco dei Mostri in Italy. I would not have either had I not lost my passport in Venice and been given a fresh leash to spend to another wonderful week in Italy. I would have loved to spend a couple of days in Venice and followed this wonderful itinerary for the city of love.
Instead, we decided to visit the “Park of Monsters”, a weird but fascinating garden just outside the quaint Italian village of Bomarzo. The garden has a number of huge and grotesque statues, most notably of monsters and giants. This house was one of the more normal things that were present in the garden. Yet, it was not very normal! Was it?
The leaning house was deliberately constructed with a tilt in order to disorient the viewer. This was done by building it on a piece of rock. When you walk inside the house you feel completely off-the-balance.
This house was built by a prince who lost his wife and best friend one after the other. He was filled with remorse and wanted a park of wonders for himself. Now that doesn’t sound to be a very happy story but it did create this wonderful park of eccentricities and out-of-the-world marvels.
10. Bell Tower of San Giorgio dei Greci – Italy
Venice is one of the most popular cities in the entire world. La Serenissima is famous for many reasons. Its romantic canals, slender gondolas, and unsurpassed beauty are among the most obvious ones. Yet Venice is also home to a lesser-known of the world’s leaning monuments, the bell tower of San Giorgio dei Greci church.
San Giorgio dei Greci is a Greek Orthodox church in the Castello neighborhood in Venice. It was built in the 16th century when there was a large Greek community in the city made up of Greek immigrants who had fled from Turkey.
The bell tower was designed by Italian architect Bernardo Ongarin. It was completed in 1603 but it had already begun to lean since the early stages of its construction. Nowadays it looks as though it’s ready to take a dive into Rio dei Greci, the canal flowing below it. For the best vantage point to the beautiful bell tower and its remarkable tilt, stand on Ponte de la Pieta, one of the bridges along the enchanting Riva degli Schiavoni.
By Maria and Katerina from It’s All Trip To Me
11. Leaning Towers of Bologna – Italy
In a city with 20 towers dating from the Middle Ages, there was definitely a chance that there was going to be a leaning tower (or two). The two tallest towers of the city, the Asinelli Tower and the Garisenda Tower are symbolic of the city’s historic center within the old city walls.
Depending on which way you approach the towers, the leaning aspect of the towers is more or less apparent. Although both towers lean, the tower with the highest lean is the smaller tower (the Garisenda Tower).
Both towers are named after prominent families who supposedly built their towers tall to show how much more powerful they were. They started off approximately similar in height give (60 meters for the Garisenda and 70 meters for the Asinelli). However, the Asinelli Tower had a later addition to make it taller. Then the Garisendi tower had to be lowered because of the shifting foundation and the leaning became a danger.
Both towers have amazing history associated with them. For example, the Asinelli Tower was used for military purposes in the 14th century and 600 years later, during World War II as a watchtower. The Asinelli tower has been hit by lightning and survived fires.
The Garisendi Tower is even mentioned in Dante’s Divine Comedy! Today, you can climb to the top of the Asinelli Tower. There are 498 steps for which the reward is an amazing view of the city of Bologna which also makes for a great family destination.
By Shobha George from Just Go Places
12. Leaning Temple of Varanasi – India
The Leaning Temple of Varanasi is the other existing leaning temple in the world apart from the Leaning Temple of Huma. It is the Ratneshwar Mahadev Temple on the holy ghats of River Ganga.
The leaning temple is the most photographed location in Varanasi. Rightfully so, because a significant part of its sanctum sanctorum is under water during most part of the year.
According to Zee News India, the temple could not bear its own weight and started leaning because of it. The temple still stands on the banks of the river and it is hard to say if the lean is getting worse. Sadly, the temple is abandoned and no worship is offered here anymore.
13. Leaning Towers of Madrid – Spain
The Gate of Europe Towers or the Leaning Towers of Madrid are one of the most popular tourist spots in the capital city of Spain.
The towers were built in 1996 as the world’s first leaning high-rise buildings. They are twin office buildings with an incline of 15 degrees each. Both of them have 26 storeys each and are as high as 114m.
An incline was not part of the initial design. However, the towers needed to be set back from the street in order to allow a subway interchange. This gave the creators an opportunity to come up with an innovative design.
The towers have been used as filming locations and have played key roles in popular Spanish movies such as The Day of The Beast.
14. Leaning Temple of Bagan – Myanmar
And the last but not the least is where it all started. The Leaning Temple of Bagan. This is probably the least known of all leaning towers of the world. Yet, this is where I got an idea to pen down this exhaustive list.
The Leaning Temple hardly figures in any tourist’s itinerary of Bagan. Nobody really knows about it. The reasons for the tilt are not known either. This temple is often referred to as Bagan’s best-kept secret.
It is located among a cluster of other temples but this is the only one that leans away from others. Bagan was shattered by an earthquake in 2016 which could be a probable cause of the lean. But there was no physical damage to the temple structure which is also why the earthquake theory appears a little dubious.
This was our amazing and exhaustive list on the Leaning Towers of The World. And you guessed it right. Italy is the country with the highest number of tilted beauties.
Did you even know Towers #7, #9, and #14 existed?? I did not! Well, that was before I started working on this.
So, now that you have a list – where are you going to next? Or have you done all of them already? Maybe you have something on your mind that we did not include? Drop me a line below and we can get the conversation going.