If you've ever seen any movie set in Paris, one thing you know is that you can see the Eiffel Tower from literally every window in the city. (Pro tip for travelers: you cannot, in fact, see the Eiffel Tower from every window in Paris.) Similarly, you know that if you go to New York, firstly, you will go to Manhattan, because this is the only part of New York that exists, and secondly, your route into Manhattan will grant you an unimpeded view of the Empire State Building.
Of course, the movie-makers know that you can't actually always see the Eiffel Tower and that the Empire State Building is in a part of midtown which is unbelievably crowded and full of lunatics, such that local New Yorkers won't enter the area unless a) someone is paying them to go to an office there, or b) they have no choice. The buildings are merely signifiers, a way of saying to the audience, "Here lies Paris" and "This is the Big Apple!" They're a kind of shorthand, and anyone with baseline movie literacy will surely recognize them.
Indeed, many cities have such landmarks, and you don't have to have seen all the movies or gone to all of these cities to recognize them. You just need to be culturally well-informed, curious and delighted by beautiful and impressive things. Let's see if you can name these cities!
Edinburgh is built on defunct volcanic rock, meaning the castle sits on a "plug" of solidified magma. This is a testament to the hardiness of Scottish people everywhere!
The Holy Trinity Cathedral in Ethiopia is the tomb of Emperor Haile Selassie I. Ethiopia is the regional power here, and Addis Ababa is its capital city. The Solomonic Dynasty was one of the longest-lasting unbroken dynasties in human history, ending with the overthrow of Selassie in 1974.
This is the Azadi Tower in Tehran. Unfortunately, relations between Iran and some countries are very rough right now, which means it's not an easy place to visit. This is a shame, as clearly there are some lovely things to see there!
Philly was once the capital of the U.S., for ten years, while D.C. was being built. It's home to the Liberty Bell, which you can visit in Independence National Historical Park.
Jerusalem is home to the Wailing Wall, which is the only part of the Second Temple that remains standing. It's a holy site for all three Abrahamic faiths.
These are, of course, the Great Pyramids of Giza, but Giza isn't really its own city anymore. It's on the outskirts of Cairo, the capital, which is handy because it makes the Pyramids very easy to visit.
Sydney is one of the biggest cities in Australia. Most Australian cities are on the east and south coast, as the center of the continent is too hot and dry for humans to easily live there - though some do!
The Space Needle is the most recognizable shape on the Seattle skyline. While Seattle is a very big city and should be known by non-Americans anyway, it's honestly most famous in the English-speaking world because it is the home of Frasier Crane, the TV character. It's also the home of Microsoft and Boeing.
Tibet has been absorbed into China now, amid a lot of controversy. Lhasa is technically its capital (depending on who you ask), and the astonishing Potala Palace still dominates the skyline.
San Fran is home to the Golden Gate Bridge, though technically only to one end of it. It crosses the mouth of the San Francisco Bay and connects Oakland and San Fran together!
The Berlin Wall separated the democratic and capitalist West from the communist East of the city. It was up for about 27 years and has now been down for longer than it stood.
We didn't want to make Paris TOO easy, so our written question was about Notre Dame instead of the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre. It's one of the most-visited cities on Earth.
London is one of the biggest cities on the planet, and the Tower of London is one of its most famous landmarks. London is, of course, the capital of the United Kingdom.
The onion domes on Russian Orthodox churches are painted in vivid colors, some of which carry symbolism. Gold, for example, represents celestial joy. Green and silver domes honor saints.
The Burj Khalifa was supposed to be a symbol of Dubai coming up Malaysia-style. Ironically though, Dubai hit financial trouble during construction and had to sell naming rights.
Sagrada Familia is the name of this beautiful house of God, and it is the work of the popular architect Gaudi. It is probably the most recognizable sight in the city of Barcelona, which is a regional capital in Spain.
The Acropolis is the name of the complex that holds this temple, but the actual temple is called the Parthenon. It is built on the Golden Ratio, which is why it is so pleasing to the eye.
Malaysia was one of the first Asian economies to roar into the industrial age, and then pretty much straight through it into the information age. Malaysia put itself on the map with the Petronas Towers in capital city Kuala Lumpur, which are still among the tallest buildings in the world.
Marina Bay Sands Skypark is just one of seemingly a million skyscrapers to pop up in Singapore in the last 20 years. It's a mark of enormous wealth in this small city-state.
The Genbaku Dome at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park is a building that, despite being at ground zero for the atomic bombing during WWII, survived the blast. An eternal flame burns there in memory of all who died, and in hope of a world that is free of nuclear weapons.
The Taj Mahal is in Agra. It's the tomb of the adored wife of a powerful Mughal Emperor. Mumtaz Mahal, his beloved, is entombed there, along with the emperor himself.
The Duomo is the most recognizable of many landmarks in Florence. This city was home to the Medici and a great source of cultural and economic power for Italy.
This is Sugarloaf Mountain, and it's incredibly well-known globally. Probably the best-known feature in Rio, however, is the Christ the Redeemer statue on another nearby peak.
This is Mont St. Michel, and while it's not much of a city now, it used to be a proper city. It's off the coast of Normandy, France, and now only has a few dozen inhabitants.
Monaco is a city-state noted for legalized gambling and not asking a lot of questions about where you got your money. Every year they shut down the whole city to hold the Grand Prix, and almost everyone shows up!
Venice, Italy, is quite probably the most recognizable city in the world. It's built on the water and, sadly, it may be lost to the water in the next 100 years. However, in the meantime, it is one of the most visited and beloved sites on Earth. You can get around for next to nothing using a "vaporetti," or water bus.
Xian is the home to the tomb of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China, who has an army to command even in death. The incredible terracotta warriors are in the Lintong District, and while thousands of them have already been excavated, more and more are still being found!
This is Taipei 101, which is a famous skyscraper in Taiwan. Taipei is the capital city and very prosperous. Taiwan is either independent or part of China, depending on who you ask, and buildings such as this are seen by some as a way of asserting that the former is the case.
This is the Hagia Sophia, built by Justinian I of the Byzantine Empire. It has been repurposed by different faiths, who apparently found it too beautiful to tear down. These days it is a museum, gift shop included!
This is the Ka'bah in Mecca. It is very holy in Islam as the destination of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, where millions go to fulfill one of their sacred religious duties and repent for their sins.
Shanghai's World Financial Center is affectionately called the "Bottle Opener," due to its unique trapezoidal hole. The architect intended to create a symbol of serenity and grace. This building is among the world's tallest.
Mali is the home of Timbuktu. Thanks to the amazingly dry climate - in the Sahara Desert - it is possible for structures like the beautiful Djinguereber Mosque to survive. They are at more risk from terrible wind erosion, though of course work is done to protect and repair these national treasures.
This delightful mural is on the Orlando Towers, which are part of a disused coal plant. The towers are in Johannesburg, and they powered the city for 50 years before being switched off in favor of cleaner power.
Marrakesh is known for its many houses of worship, among them the widely recognized Koutoubia Mosque. Marrakesh is also known for its excellent Night Market.
Uhuru Gardens in Nairobi celebrates the country achieving independence from the British Empire. It is appropriately named with the Swahili word for "freedom."
You'll recognize the Colosseum from lots of movies, even if you've never been to Italy. It was commissioned around 70 A.D. by Emperor Vespasian.
Some of the cities on our list are at risk from sea level rise, but not Santiago; it is one of the highest capitals in the world, at 1,870 feet above sea level! La Moneda Palace is home to the president of Chile.
Cardiff is a much more cosmopolitan city than people outside the U.K. typically realize. A lot of BBC production is done there, meaning it has a vibrant artistic heart.
Sana'a is the capital city of Yemen and known for these lovely golden stone buildings with white decoration. Sana'a is one of the highest capital cities in the world, at 7,382 feet!