Old photographs of places you've traveled to and ones you've yet to visit give a peek into our world's past. But looking at historic shots next to current photos is a different ball game: it shines a new light on our history and shows these sites as something with a story and a life, evolving over time. While some places have deteriorated and others have only grown in beauty, one thing's for sure: you won't be able to look away from these then-and-now pictures from around the globe.
The Lincoln Memorial - 1917 & 2016
When strolling about Washington D.C., it can be hard to remember that the city was pretty much built from the ground up for a singular purpose. However, this photo taken in 1917 really puts all of that into perspective. You can really tell that the land in the area used to be a swamp, and that's still more than 100 years after the city was established. The Lincoln Memorial looks quite bare, sitting in the middle of a swamp all by itself.
It almost looks like an old ruin you might see in a Hollywood film involving a lost city. Fast forward another 100 years, and the area around the memorial is completely changed and built up.
Milan, Italy - 1950s & 2021
Milan, Italy, is a really ancient city that has been around for centuries. However, this photo shows what the city looked like not all that long ago in the 1950s compared to what it looked like in 2021. The most obvious change is that the road is now gone and the cars have changed quite a bit, but the left photo also has a really beautiful quality to it.
We're not sure if it's just because of the type of film that was used to take the photo, but it has an almost mystical aspect to it with the giant cathedral in the background.
The Berlin Wall - 1970s & Now
These two photos show the Brandeburg Gate before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The wall had separated East and West Germany for decades, and the day it started coming down, hundreds of people took to the street in order to dismantle the wall. While these two photos don't show the event itself, they do convey the sense of separation that divided the country for decades. You have this national monument on the other side of a fence, but you can't even peek your head over to look at it.
Today, the site looks like it's doing quite well as a gathering place. The only wall still present looks like it belongs to a cafe or restaurant, thankfully.
Pablo Escobar's Plane - 1985 & 2020
Yes, the two photos shown here are actually of one of the famous drug kingpin Pablo Escobar's smuggling planes. The surroundings don't look too different, but the plane itself has definitely seen better days. The saltwater has nearly taken the complete top off the plane, and it's slowly rotting away there in the ocean. The plane's tail is also completely gone. It's kind of crazy what nature can do in only about 40 years' time.
Today, divers can visit the site and explore the original plane. Although, we're pretty sure that the authorities have removed anything the plane might have been transporting all those years ago.
Woodstock - 1969 & 2020
We've all seen really old videos or photos of Woodstock at the Yasgur Dairy Farm, but these comparison photos put the number of people there into perspective. In photos from the time, such as this one taken in 1969, it's hard to comprehend the sheer amount of people they stuffed into a small field. But, the photo from 2020 shows what the field looks like today and when it's left bare.
You really couldn't be claustrophobic if you had planned on attending the festival back then. We're not sure exactly how big the area is, but it looks pretty small compared to the number of people it hosted.
The Metropolitan Museum Of Art - Then & Now
The Met in New York is one of the most iconic art galleries in the world, and this comparison photo does a really good job of blending the museum's past and present. It shows visitors from the past and those of the present-day side-by-side at the museum. It's almost as if it's the same moment in time or as if the people on the left are ghosts.
However you view the photo, it is kind of cool to see that some things never change and people used to enjoy taking a stroll in the museum as much as they enjoy doing the same today.
Harper's Ferry in West Virginia - 1947 & 2021
The invention of the railroad and the Industrial Revolution changed the world forever. And that is what this then-and-now photo of a train in Harper's Ferry, West Virginia reminds us of. The historic snapshot on the left shows one of the early trains that traveled the United States of America, transporting important goods and, as seen by the cloud of black smoke, letting out plenty of pollution (the dark side of our Industrial Revolution.
On the right, we see how so much, yet at the same time, so little has changed. We still have a train going along that same route - but the background looks a lot less greenery, and the train looks much more modern.
San Francisco's Lombard Street - 1922 & 2018
San Fransisco is known for its steep and winding streets, and this photo from 1922 shows one of the streets — Lombard Street — when it was still under construction. It actually looks like it was fairly difficult to build, but what's amazing is seeing how the street has grown over the years. What was once just bare is now filled with trees, houses, and plants. The city has grown a lot in only 100 years.
It's also kind of funny seeing the two men at the bottom of the street, probably talking about how pointless it is to build a winding road at such a steep angle. If only they could see it today.
Hiroshima, Japan - 1945 & 2020
Another photo of a place that was devastated during World War II, these two pictures shows Hiroshima, Japan. The first photo was taken in 1945 after an atomic bomb was dropped, and it shows the sheer devastation the city must've endured. There's literally nothing left, but a couple of burned-out buildings, and even the roads look like they've been ripped out of the ground. While these two photos aren't shot-for-shot, they still do a good job of showing the extent of the devastation.
However, the photo on the bottom shows just how far the city has come since then. It has been rebuilt, and it looks like any other beautiful city you mind find around the world.
New York City's Ale House - 1937 & 2021
This is a before and after photo of McSorley's Ale House in New York City. The top picture was taken in 1937, and the photo on the bottom was taken in 2021. It's good to see the bar hasn't changed much since it was established way back at the beginning of the 20th century. Some of the old photos on the wall are probably the same ones that were hanging up in the original photo.
It also looks like they still have some of the original tables, as well as whatever that pipe is. While it's cool to see the ways in which a place changes, bars are usually better when left exactly how they were.
Petropolis, Brazil Restaurant - 1960s & 2013
Unlike the last photo, this place apparently didn't last for a hundred years. This is an abandoned restaurant in Petropolis, Brazil. The top photo was taken in the 1960s, probably shortly after it was built. And to be so old, it still looks like something out of the future. Diners would have had great views of the surrounding area, and the entire thing looks really state of the art in the original photo.
Unfortunately, it seems to have fallen into disrepair, and not even the giant glass window panes remain on the building. It was certainly a product of its time.
San Diego's Metal Supply Co. Building - 1940s & 2019
Unfortunately, many old buildings are often torn down in favor of more modern complexes. However, San Diego managed to save this historic building in the best way possible. And looking at the before and after picture is pretty astonishing. The building used to be located in what was probably a pretty industrial neighborhood. But, that changed over time till the area became a baseball park. The building now serves as the border of left field.
Fans can even watch the game from the building's roof and balconies, which is pretty cool. It's also in a perfect position to catch any foul balls that fly that way.
Cologne's Church St. Martin - 1946 & 2021
Photos from the past aren't always just interesting peaks into what a place looked like; they can also tell the story of important moments in history. The photo on the left of Cologne's Church St. Martin in Germany was taken in 1946, around a year after the end of World War II. Obviously, much of Europe was rebuilding at this point, and this photo shows just how extensive the bombing was at the time.
The church was almost entirely decimated, but luckily people managed to restore it to its former glory. The second photo was taken in 2021 and showed the area after restorations.
The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air - 1990 & 2021
This basketball court is probably pretty iconic for anyone who grew up with the show Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. It appears in the shows opening credits, which someone has taken a photo of in order to hold it up to the actual area in real life. This show was extremely popular, and it pretty much launched Will Smith's career, so it's cool to know that this place actually exists somewhere out there.
It's also really cool to see that it hasn't changed much. The fence is still there, and the goal is the same color as it was in the show. However, they've obviously redone the court over the years, or else there'd be some serious cracking.
An Excavation In Greece - Before & After
It doesn't take long for Mother Nature to start reclaiming what is her's. These photos show an ancient amphitheatre before and after it was excavated. In the top photo, the entire site is covered, and it would be hard for just about anyone without training to tell the area was anything more than a valley. However, as you can see, the area was actually hiding a pretty big secret.
Instead of hills, the sides of the valley are actually seating areas, which is pretty crazy to think about. Researchers seemed to also unearth a couple of columns that were lying down on their sides before.
Grand Central Station - 1912 & 2021
This is probably the least changed place on this entire list. Grand Central Station in New York City is a pretty iconic place, and why change when you've already built something so timeless and inspiring. The lighting is the same, and so are the walls and arches. The only things they seemed to have added are the railings on either side of the walkway, but we're sure they've also made changes to things like bathrooms.
The first photo was taken in 1912, only a year before the station was finally opened to the public. The architecture is said to be so precise that the station even has a whispering wall.
Hong Kong - 1964 & 2016
The two photos here show Hong Kong's the Kowloon Peninsula. The top photo was taken in 1964, and the bottom photo was taken in 2016. That's around 50 years of change, but it's still hard to believe these two places are the same. The amount of urbanization that took place here is just astonishing. The entire peninsula was changed from only having a handful of small buildings to having its own skyline filled with large buildings.
The air quality also looks like it has suffered a bit in the second photo, but that could just be because of the time of day the second photo was taken.
Uelzen, Germany - April, 1945 & 2021
Another photo of World War II-era Germany, this one shows the exact spot a battle took place in 1945. The site is actually the town square of a place called Uelzen, and it shows the exact same statue where a soldier found cover in 1945. Even though the photo is black and white, it's still kind of eerie to see all of the carnage going on in the photo.
It's almost like holding up a portal into the past. Luckily, it looks like the town has been rebuilt since then, but it's strange to consider this place was once filled with scenes like the one in the photo.
The Czech Republic - 1910 & 2020
The idyllic street shown in these two photos is in Prague, the Czech Republic. Many places in Europe draw visitors for the simple fact that they contain so much old architecture and places of historical significance. This street is the same, and it doesn't appear to have changed much since the first photo was taken in 1910. The old buildings still generally sport the same facades, and the small statue in the foreground is even still present.
Unfortunately, that lamp post and clock in the middle are gone today, but there are much more people visiting the city today than there were in 1910.
Theatre in Romania - 1916 & 2016
Today, we have what seems like countless streaming services offering a variety of shoes and genres to choose from. Before that, we had cable. And before that, we had the theater. But this theater pictured below, photographed in Romania in 1916, is not the kind of theater we were expecting. When we think about the olden days, we think of fancy, indoor theaters with fancily-dressed people enjoying the show from their balconies.
But this theater feels like the opposite. It's an outdoor theater with no balconies, just simple seating and a ton of beautifully detailed architecture. Even now that it's abandoned, there's still something beautiful about it.
Krakow, Poland - 1939 & 2010s
Another look at a European city that's seemingly frozen in time; these two photos show Krakow, Poland. As you can see, the town had a trolley system all the way back in 1939, and it still runs in a similar fashion today. Of course, the trolley or bus is a bit more modern, but trolleys are becoming less and less common throughout the world, so it's nice to know some are still left.
The buildings also look a bit different. They're the same structurally, but they look as though they've been a bit more dressed up today, but that could just be a fresh coat of paint.
Yosemite National Park - 1903 & 2018
Sometimes, it's best if we leave a place exactly how we find it, and this is one such case. One of the first national parks in the world is pictured here, with former president Theodore Roosevelt posing in the foreground. The top photo of Yosemite was taken in 1903, around 13 years after the park was established. And as you can see, not much has changed since then. Well, cameras have gotten a lot better.
The U.S. now contains around 220 national reserves, with many of them being larger than entire nations. And it all started in part with the two things pictured in this photo.
Bath Turned Brewery - 1993 & 2019
If you were to walk into this building today, then you probably wouldn't even know that it used to be an old public bath. Located in Wuppertal, Germany, the top photo was taken in 1993, and the photo on the bottom was taken in 2019. The new owners really did a good job as the inside looks different, but they still kept a lot of the original lines the building sported back in the day.
Turning the stairs into what looks like a giant liquor cabinet was a nice touch as well, and the bar area also looks kind of nice. We'd definitely visit this place to have a drink or two.
Buenos Aires, Argentina - 1925 & 2021
These photos don't just show one point in time, but they show how this building has changed over four different times throughout history. They also show what's possible when you emphasize a building's features instead of trying to hide them. The building pictured here had a stunning dome on the top left, which was eventually covered up before the entire thing was finally restored in recent years.
We can't believe anyone would ever want to cover up the architecture of this building, but we're glad they finally restored everything and now the building looks better than ever.
Mount Rushmore - 1922 & 2018
This is a slightly controversial one. The mountains that were used to carve the faces of Mount Rushmore belonged to a Native American tribe that considered the area sacred. And it's easy to see why in this photo from 1922 before the mountain was carved. However, the photo also shows just how large a job it was to carve and shape the entire mountain into the faces of past presidents.
The latter photo was taken in 2018, and it shows just how much the mountain changed from when it was still bare. It's interesting to see the debris in the second photo as well.
New York City's Empire State Building - 1930s & 2021
There aren't many buildings in New York City as iconic as the Empire State Building. It was one of the tallest of its kind in the world when it was first built. However, it's hard to appreciate that fact when walking through New York City today. This photo from the 1930s shows what the skyline looked like when the building was first constructed, and it absolutely towers over everything else in the city.
It's kind of crazy to see such a comically large building dwarf its surroundings as the Empire State Building does, but as you can see, the rest of the city eventually caught up.
Machu Picchu - 1915 & 2020
One of the most photographed places on the planet, Peru's Machu Picchu, was discovered by the West until the 19th century. The site was abandoned long before that, and the top photo from 1915 shows just how overgrown the city or palace had gotten by that time. Barely any of the terraces or houses can be made out, and it probably took a lot of work to turn it into the tourist draw it is today.
The first excavations started in 1912 and continued into the 1940s. The photo on the bottom was taken in 2020, and it really shows how large the city might have been in its heyday.
The Manhattan Bridge - 1908 & 2021
This one is pretty weird to look at. When we think of the Manhatten Bridge, we don't really think about how it was built or what New York City looked like before it was there. The top photo, taken in 1908, shows the bridge under construction. Not only does it tower over pretty much everything else in the vicinity, but it's difficult to tell exactly how workers would've even made it up there to work.
The neighborhood in the foreground also looks a lot more sparse than it does today. It's really cool to see a time when history was literally being made.
Baker Street Train Station - 1863 & Now
The U.K. has apparently always been fond of its trains because the Baker St. Train Station is the oldest underground station in the world. It was originally built in 1863, and as you can see from the painting on top, the station largely looks the same today as it did way back then. The station even kept similar light fixtures to the ones it had when it was built.
However, and this may just be because it's a painting, the natural lighting in the top picture looks a bit more welcoming than the lighting in the photo on the bottom.
Granada's Court Of The Lions - 1840 & 2021
Granada, Spain's Court of the Lions, represents some of the most distinct architecture in Islam. The top photo here shows what the court looked like in 1840 and what the court looked like in 2021. As you can see, not much has changed, and the place still looks pretty stunning. However, the top half of the signature fountain is missing in the newer photo, though it could have just been away for restoration.
What's most interesting about the top photo might just be the man pictured leaning against the fountain. It kind of makes you wonder who he was and what he was doing there.
House In Detroit - 1993 & 2021
It's no secret that Motor City has seen better days. Like many other cities in America's Rust Belt, the loss of factories and jobs have taken its toll on the city's population and services. However, the city has seen somewhat of a revival in recent years, and these two photos show the effects of that revival. The photo on the top shows a dilapidated house in 1993, while the photo on the bottom shows the house after a restoration in 2021.
Not only that, but it looks like the entire neighborhood has come back to life. And, of course, the house looks stunning after its restoration. It now looks as it was intended when it was first built.
Nashville Home - 1896 & Now
Old family photos are great for taking a peek back in time and seeing not only what a person looked like but also what a place looked like. These two photos show the same home, pictured in 1896, and then what it looks like today. The weird thing about this photo is that the entire family came out to be photographed. We're not sure what the occasion was, but it must've been something important.
The current owner of the home put the two photos on Google Earth so that people can view them. The only difference we can spot in the house is that it currently lacks shutters.
The Royal Crescent - 1829 & 2020
This famous house in Bath, England, is called the Royal Crescent, and as you can see, not much has changed over the years. The top picture was painted in 1829, and it shows the complex largely as it still looks today. The complex was built from 1767 to 1774, and it's not just one building. Instead, it's actually 30 terraced houses arranged to look like a single large complex.
Today, the buildings contain a museum along with some homes that are still rented out. There are also a number of plaques detailing famous tenants who once called the place home.
The Royal Mile - 1847 & 2021
Another old photo from the U.K., this one is of Edinburgh's Royal Mile. True to much of the rest of Europe, not much has changed in these two photos. The houses and buildings still all look the same, and even the streets have a similar look in both photos. However, it is pretty cool to see the horse-drawn carriages traveling over the same roads people now walk on.
It's also pretty cool to think that even in 1847, people were going about their daily lives in a similar manner to how we are today. The only difference is the clothing that we now wear.
Star Wars Film Location - Movie & Reality
Okay, so these two photos might not exactly show a place frozen in time, but they do show a before and after glimpse of a famous scene in Star Wars. The location is actually in Death Valley, California, and you can see how a little Hollywood magic can turn an otherwise normal-looking desert into a far-away planet. The top scene looks almost completely different from the real-life place. The only thing that is kind of the same is the topography of the place.
Jabba's Palace is obviously not in the real-life location, and neither are the droids. However, the spot is a favorite among die-hard fans of the movies, and you can still visit it today.
Stonehenge - 1877 & 2019
Stonehenge is incredibly old as far as human-built structures go, but you've probably never thought about how the site looked before it gained so much popularity. This top photo was taken in 1877, and you can clearly see that this 5,000-year-old structure was showing its age by then. Some of the obelisks are leaning or completely fallen down, compared to today, where they are in their proper places, similar to where they stood when first erected.
Despite this, the structure in the older photo does look pretty well intact, considering it's so old, which makes you wonder how ancient peoples were able to construct such long-lasting monuments.
Thomasville, Georgia - 1895 & 2020
As the proverb goes, "The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now." These two photos show an old oak tree in Thomasville, Georgia. The top photo was taken in 1895, and the bottom photo was taken in 2020. The oak was still pretty big in 1895, but it's absolutely massive today, and its branches snake parallel to the ground in many places.
Fondly referred to as The Big Oak, this thing's branches span around 165 feet, and the trunk has a circumference of 26 feet. It's estimated to be around 340 years old.
Omaha, Nebraska Home - 1890 & 2020
It's always nice to see an old house get a new lease on life. This house was recently restored, and someone probably wanted to show off what it looked like when it was originally built. The house hasn't changed much, and it's hard to tell what colors it was originally painted since the photo is in black and white, but there are a couple of changes we noticed.
Mainly, the tower has a different-shaped dome in the second photo. But, it looks like the owners kept much of the original gingerbread work around the porches and gable.
York, England - 1865 & 2015
If you've ever been to York, England, then odds are you've walked through this ancient gate that once guarded the city. While the gate itself looks largely the same as it did when the top photo was taken in 1865, the buildings around it look pretty different. Either that or just their exteriors have been redone. It's also kind of weird to see the carriages and the people going by in the original photo.
It seems that nearly every visitor to the city has always taken a stroll through the gate. Though, they probably had fewer dining and shopping options back then, according to this photo.
Arles, France - 1888 & 2021
Sometimes an artist can capture the spirit of a place better than any photograph ever could. Van Gogh’s “Cafe Terrace at Night” was painted in 1888, and it shows what this area in Arles, France felt like back then. Fortunately, you still get a similar sense of the place when looking at the photo on the right. The colors are all still there, and so are the cafegoers.
The only difference is that you can no longer see the stars from the city streets, which is actually kind of sad if Van Gogh really painted as he saw them.