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10 Most Beautiful Cities In the World That Architecture Buffs Will Love

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Around the world, you’ll find beautiful cities and towns everywhere. Some you visit because of their warm beaches; some for their hidden charm; and some for their natural attractions. But others, we travel to just so we can observe their beautiful architecture. Cities with exquisite design are often the ones you see on the covers of magazines, or famously photographed. Not only are these places some of the most beautiful cities in the world, but they’re also some of the most important throughout history.

For history buffs and those fascinated by dazzling skylines, architecture is an essential part of the jet-setting experience. Learning about the city’s iconic buildings and the pioneers who built them is one of the best parts about vacationing to these mesmerizing places. So if you have an affection for impressive architecture—from cathedrals to parks, palaces, and beyond—consider this your bucket list of places to visit.


Montreal, Quebec

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Photo by Joshua Sortino on Unsplash.

Montreal almost feels like a miniature Paris. It’s full of architecture, food, and attractions that are familiar to that of the European town. And after all, it is a French-Canadian city! As you wander around the cobblestone of Old Montreal or the paved plazas of Mile End, you’ll be fascinated by the effortless way architects have preserved historical beauties while upgrading modern structures. Many styles are visible, from gothic revival to industrial to art deco. Prepare for your jaw to drop when you see the Notre-Dame Basilica and sleek lines of the Sun Life Building. Even in its smaller structures, the rows of homes nested into the streets vary in age but not in splendor.


Chicago, Illinois

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As a flagship American city known for its feats in engineering, design, and architecture, it makes sense that the Windy City earns a spot on this list. It became the birthplace of the skyscraper after a team of architects invented the very first steel-frame building. (And then went on to create the Chicago School architectural style!) Many leaders within the industry have also added their own mark to the skyline. Think Jeanne Gang to Frank Lloyd Wright to Louis Sullivan to William Le Baron Jenney. Other stunning spots include the Willis (Sears) Tower, Navy Pier, The Art Institute of Chicago, and, of course, Millennial Park for a must-have photo op with The Bean.


Dubai, United Arab Emirates

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Photo by ZQ Lee on Unsplash.

Renowned for its luxury experiences and nightlife, the United Arab Emirates’ largest city possesses star power that has only ramped up over the past decade. Notable architects like Rem Koolhaas and the late Zaha Hadid have worked feverishly to define Dubai’s skyline, which includes the tallest building on the planet: the dizzying, 2,717-foot-tall Burj Khalifa. Also of note are the truly twisted Cayan Tower and a man-made archipelago known as The World Islands built off Dubai’s coast, which is set to be completed by 2026.


Copenhagen, Denmark

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Photo by Nick Karvounis on Unsplash.

Denmark boasts architecture that continues to amaze in modern times. Its capital, Copenhagen, is going through a surge in architectural interest, with international architects like Henning Larsen and the famed Bjarke Ingels Group taking an interest in this maritime city. As with the rest of Scandinavia, Copenhagen is at the forefront of sustainability, erecting buildings that are not only gorgeous to look at but also beneficial to the planet. Visitors will be dazzled by the new juxtaposed with the old, resulting in a truly unique vibe. Don’t miss the Copenhagen Opera House, the royal Christiansborg Palace, the BĂžrsen stock exchange, and the bow-tie-shaped 8 House, a mixed-use development in the suburb of Ørestad.


Barcelona, Spain

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The capital of Spain’s Catalonia region isn’t just a seaside escape overflowing with tapas and wine. It’s also covered in jaw-dropping gothic and modern touches. Most famous are 19th-century architect Antoni Gaudi’s works, many of which remain untouched and just as beautiful today. From the domes of his unfinished masterpiece, La Sagrada Familia, to the public parks system (and UNESCO World Heritage Site) known as Park GĂŒell, physical reminders of Gaudi are present everywhere in Barcelona. If you want to get schooled on his background and inspiration, plan a visit to Casa MilĂ , his personal residence in the early 1900s.


St. Petersburg, Russia

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Photo by Dimitry B on Unsplash.

The architectural history of St. Petersburg is one of the most abundant and fascinating to learn more about. The city’s hallmark Baroque and Neoclassical styles are colorful, eclectic, and bold. Opulence is at the forefront of the city’s most influential structures. Notable architects like Carlo Rossi and Domenico Trezzini constructed some of the most prominent buildings in the city, like the bow-shaped General Staff Building and Tauride Palace, and the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul and Winter Palace, respectively. Trezzini even founded the Petrine Baroque architectural style that Peter the Great admired so well.


Jaipur, India

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Famously known as the “Pink City,” Jaipur, India is blooming with blush-toned works of architecture and dusty rose buildings. But why? In order to welcome Queen Victoria’s son Albert Edward (Prince of Wales) to India, Maharaja Sawai Ram Singh I had the whole city painted pink, as pink symbolizes warm hospitality. Prince Albert is said to have then nicknamed Jaipur the “Pink City,” and it’s stuck ever since. But though Jaipur’s coral-colored structures are flamboyant and breathtaking, they’re also rich in history. For starters, Jaipur was India’s first planned city. Because of that, it’s is notable for its well-thought city planning—intersections and main streets that are easy to navigate. Structures like the Hawa Mahal, Amber Palace, and Sheesh Mahal (Hall of Mirrors) are a must-see.


Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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Photo by Mauro Lima on Unsplash.

Rio de Janeiro was named UNESCO’s first World Capital of Architecture in 2020. This is thanks in part to the Brazilian capital’s ability to blend hundreds of years of history with advancements in modern architecture styles. While most travelers know to visit Old Cathedral, Largo do BoticĂĄrio, and Parque Lage, Rio also offers impressive new constructions. Notable sites include the eco-forward Santiago Calatrava Museum of Tomorrow and the elegant concrete creation of Cidade das Artes. The city continues to top many must-see travel lists, and for good reason. Because wherever you go, you’ll definitely find an Instagram-worthy view.


New Orleans, Louisiana

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Photo by Aya Salman on Unsplash.

While delicious street food, live music, and Mardi Gras have made New Orleans a prime destination to party, its rich history also provides scenery and structures unlike any other in the country. The French Quarter is famous for its classical style and balconies, while countless other neighborhoods—from TremĂ© to the Marigny—pile on the Creole charm. Take advantage of the various walking tours available (complete with a roadie, should you like) to learn all about the buildings of this Southern gem. Perhaps you’ll find a historic mansion on St. Charles Avenue that calls your name?


Shanghai, China

If you’re all for contemporary architecture, there is truly no comparison to Shanghai’s sleek, soaring buildings and smart, collected designs. Though the streets can be manic and chaotic, the skyline is clean and strong. (And not to mention record-breaking, with two of the tallest buildings on earth—Jin Mao Tower and Shanghai World Financial Center.) Lose yourself along Nanjing Road, a six-mile foot-traffic-only stretch with an up-close-and-personal view of historical Chinese buildings. Or instead, for an afternoon away from the smog, architecture fans will enjoy the Baoshan district’s Museum of Glass from the inside out.

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