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8 Can't-Miss Architecture Cities

Your ultimate guide to iconic and cutting-edge art and design capitals throughout the world.

U.S. News & World Report

8 Can't-Miss Architecture Cities

Image of Roman Forum in Rome, Italy during sunrise.
Credit

(Getty Images)

Admire legendary landmarks, cityscapes and silhouettes in these leading art-centric destinations.

Perhaps you've already seen the striking church spires of Barcelona's Sagrada Família, gazed up at the skyscrapers gleaming across Manhattan's skyline and admired the art deco-filled streets of Miami Beach. But even if you've visited these renowned art cities, there are plenty of other epic architectural destinations to savor. These eight locales – with their monumental steel high-rises, ornate geometrical domes and other inspiring features – belong on every architecture lover's bucket list.
Next:Dubai
Dubai Marina in the evening
Credit

(Getty Images)

Dubai

If you love modern architecture, Dubai is a must for its futuristic buildings and jaw-dropping vantage points, says Clara Sedlak, executive editor at travel site Jetsetter.com. For a fresh perspective, make your way to the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building at a staggering 2,716 feet. Another must-see attraction is the Burj Al Arab, which houses the world's highest atrium and displays a curved silhouette that reflects the sails of ships gliding through the city and extends into the Persian Gulf. Aside from innovative landmarks, the city is also decked out with over-the-top entertainment centers, from the Dubai Mall to the man-created Palm Jumeirah.
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Admire legendary landmarks, cityscapes and silhouettes in these leading art-centric destinations.

Perhaps you've already seen the striking church spires of Barcelona's Sagrada Família, gazed up at the skyscrapers gleaming across Manhattan's skyline and admired the art deco-filled streets of Miami Beach. But even if you've visited these renowned art cities, there are plenty of other epic architectural destinations to savor. These eight locales – with their monumental steel high-rises, ornate geometrical domes and other inspiring features – belong on every architecture lover's bucket list.

Dubai

If you love modern architecture, Dubai is a must for its futuristic buildings and jaw-dropping vantage points, says Clara Sedlak, executive editor at travel site Jetsetter.com. For a fresh perspective, make your way to the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building at a staggering 2,716 feet. Another must-see attraction is the Burj Al Arab, which houses the world's highest atrium and displays a curved silhouette that reflects the sails of ships gliding through the city and extends into the Persian Gulf. Aside from innovative landmarks, the city is also decked out with over-the-top entertainment centers, from the Dubai Mall to the man-created Palm Jumeirah.

Shanghai

When it comes to contemporary architecture, Shanghai stands apart from the pack with its sleek, sky-high urban buildings, Sedlak explains. You can't miss the Jin Mao Tower set in the heart of Pudong, the city's financial district, or the imposing Shanghai World Financial Center – two of the tallest buildings on the planet. Another architectural gem is the Museum of Glass, situated in Shanghai's Baoshan District, which features glass exhibits showcasing modern and ancient creations, not to mention a glittering facade. Carve out some time to explore Nanjing Road, a pedestrian-only 6-mile-long thoroughfare flanked by beautiful historic buildings.

Chicago

Home to the first modern skyscraper, the Windy City is a must-see destination for architecture fans, says Rebecca Warren, managing editor at Lonely Planet. She suggests boarding a boat tour to admire the city's iconic and recognizable buildings constructed after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 (think: the Wrigley Building). If you would rather take in Chi-Town's dazzling cityscape on foot, look up at the Tribune Tower and the Willis Tower at street level. And for an elevated stay, retreat to one of the city's design-forward properties, such as The Langham, Chicago or the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel, which displays art deco elements.

Rome

The Eternal City, with its blend of ancient ruins and contemporary buildings, overflows with treasures for history and architecture buffs, from UNESCO World Heritage sites such as the Pantheon, the Colosseum and the Sistine Chapel to modern feats like the Bridge of Music, a steel bridge built for bikers and pedestrians overlooking the Tiber River that hosts outdoor events and concerts. Admire baroque art and works from Raphael and Bernini at the Galleria Borghese; stroll past graceful church domes like those at San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane; then venture to bucket-list attractions such as the Trevi Fountain, the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. If you're a modern art aficionado, don't miss perusing the extensive collections at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Rome.

Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston offers a lesson in several periods of American architecture, from Gothic Revival to Georgian to Victorian, making it a dream destination for design and history lovers, Sedlak says. In this charming Southern locale, you can touch history as you tour centuries-old homes, such as the Nathaniel Russell House, stroll through the Spanish moss-canopied Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, and admire antebellum architecture along cobbled streets. A walk through the well-preserved Wentworth Mansion leads you to impressive Victorian-inspired touches, from the rooftop cupola to original marble accents. Other homes offer a glimpse into the city's past, including the Patrick O'Donnell House, which features the intricate domes and symmetrical shapes of the Italianate style.

Detroit

Detroit's futuristic design projects reflect a revitalized city, Warren says. Today, you can see the city's eclectic styles, from postmodern to art deco to Beaux Arts buildings – and "cool structures that have fallen into disrepair," she explains. "There's a lot of beautiful 1920s architecture," Sedlak adds, pointing out that Detroit is an up-and-coming arts destination with an art-driven community, impressive new hotels and growing popularity. Check out the Stanford White's Savoyard Bank Building, the Guardian Building and the Detroit Institute of Arts to get your art and architecture fix on your next trip.

London

"For an architectural buff, London is unbeatable," Warren says. Here, you can look up at classic landmarks such as Big Ben, the Globe Theatre and Royal Albert Hall mixed with newer buildings like Renzo Piano's Shard and the easily recognizable Gherkin. The British Library, the Tate Modern and the Natural History Museum, which features collections focused on architecture, are also musts for design enthusiasts. To peek at Victorian architecture, take a trip to St. Pancras International railway station. And if you're drawn to Georgian influences, make your way to Bedford Square or the Benjamin Franklin House, which features original paneling, windows and beams from around 1730.

Los Angeles

In the City of Angels, you can find a wide range of masterpieces showcasing the artistic genius of inspired dreamers – from Frank Lloyd Wright to Frank Gehry. Instead of soaring skyscrapers, Los Angeles is known for its well-preserved art deco theaters like the TCL Chinese Theatre, midcentury modern hotels and legendary structures, Sedlak explains. Pershing Square offers an ideal jumping-off point for checking out La La Land's 1920s- and 1930s-inspired buildings, including the Title Company and Trust Company Building. Other must-see landmarks for a mix of old Hollywood glamour and artistic flair include the Hollywood House, the Broad Museum, the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Getty Center and Griffith Observatory.
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