Barring a few that date to the 3rd century, most of Pattadakal's World Heritage–listed temples were built during the 7th and 8th centuries. The main Virupaksha temple is a massive structure, its columns covered with intricate carvings depicting episodes from the Ramayana and Mahabharata. A giant stone sculpture of Nandi (Shiva's bull) sits to the temple’s east. The Mallikarjuna temple, next to the Virupaksha temple, is almost identical in design.

About 500m south of the main enclosure is the Jain Papanatha temple, its entrance flanked by elephant sculptures. Historians believe that Pattadakal served as an important trial ground for the development of South Indian temple architecture. Two main types of temple tower were tried out here. Curvilinear towers top the Kadasiddeshwra, Jambulinga and Galaganatha temples, while square roofs and receding tiers are used in the Mallikarjuna, Sangameshwara and Virupaksha temples.