Architects design buildings, and when inspiration strikes, the world is blessed by true works of art that can last millennia.
Many people visit places around the world simply because they’re amazing cities for architecture.
It doesn’t take an architecture enthusiast to enjoy or appreciate many of these cities, though, as the brilliance and art of their design are plain to any visitor who tours them.
From colorful curved glass walls and massive shining towers to the ruins of ancient societies, there are plenty of beautiful cities full of astonishing architecture.
Top 11 Architecture Cities in the World
1. Chicago, Illinois, USA
Frank Lloyd Wright and Frank Gehry are among the famous architects that brought Chicago’s bold architectural statements to life. However, many renowned architects contributed to the city’s striking architectural landscape over the last century.
During the 20th century, the Chicago School of Architecture was one of the biggest influences on modern architecture thanks to its pioneering steel-frame constructions. These made the skyscrapers that line the skylines of major cities a possibility.
Chicago tends to be a trendsetter in modern designs, always producing cutting-edge architecture for the ultra-modern cityscape. The 103-story Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) dominates the skyline, and the Cloud Gate reflects the towering buildings around it like a mirror.
2. Seattle, Washington, USA
The American Arts and Crafts Movement of the early 20th century greatly influenced the architecture of Seattle. The movement’s main tenants rested upon hardwoods, artisanal handcrafting, and the goal to preserve urban agricultural spaces.
The progressive city focuses on green buildings, sustainable structures, and simple, balanced construction. Seattle’s Queen Anne district and the Bloss House are wonderful examples you can find within the green city, which show off these main architectural tenants and sustainable architecture.
Dominating the city center is the world-famous Space Needle, built for the 1962 World’s Fair and exhibiting modern era and space-age futuristic designs. The 605-foot tower offers a 360-degree view of the surrounding city.
3. Miami, Florida
The designers of Miami’s Historic District originally created the geometrical and pastel buildings in the city to lure wealthy Northerners. A well-known luxury tourist destination, Miami is home to the world’s largest collection of art-deco architecture.
Ocean Drive and Collins Avenue hold the Moore Building that houses the futuristic Elastika (designed by architect Zaha Hadid), Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, and The Faena Forum.
The stunning architecture and modernist buildings reflect the city’s culture and luxurious sensibilities. The style invokes fluidity and movement and is well known for floral and animal patterns as well as symmetry.
4. Petersburg, Russia
The late Baroque, Rococo style became a favorite among the female rulers in St. Petersburg, and the city’s architecture reflects both European Baroque and Neoclassical styles.
The Rococo style was essentially a revolution against classic baroque architecture’s strict, symmetrical design. Rococo focuses much more on curves, pale colors, and secular themes instead of the sharp-edged, flamboyant, religious patterns of traditional Baroque styles.
The opulent Winter Palace, Saint Isaac’s Cathedral, Yelagin Palace, the Imperial Academy of Arts, and Mikhailovsky Palace are all exceptional examples of this mixture of styles. Meanwhile, the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood celebrates Medieval Russian architecture, and the Red Banner Textile Factory showcases traditional Soviet architecture.
5. Paris, France
Paris, the birthplace of Gothic architecture, features extensive Gothic city centers and architectural marvels perfect for anyone who appreciates art. This style isn’t all the city has to offer, though, as Paris has added to its collection of styles throughout its lifetime, including exceptional examples of Renaissance architecture.
Buildings such as the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre, l’Arc de Triomphe, and the Eiffel Tower may be the most famous architectural wonders. Still, the city is also home to classic and modern opera buildings, fountains, churches, and other wonders in both interior and exterior spaces.
The City of Light is an enchanting place, and from the city center, you can spot many of its treasured historic buildings. New trends in urban planning and contemporary architects continue to preserve and add to the ever-evolving skyline of Paris.
6. London, England, UK
London is a city that has no single architectural style, as its buildings feature designs from every architectural revelation since the Enlightenment. Whether you’re looking for earlier Medieval stonework or ultra-modern, green transport projects, London always has something unique to see.
The London Bridge, Buckingham Palace, and Westminster Abbey are famous examples of architectural wonders in London. You can also check out St. Paul’s Cathedral, located on the highest point in the city.
The British firm Grimshaw Architects is based in London and has pioneered the development of net-zero building projects, high-tech architecture, and many transport projects in both the UK and abroad. They have offices in Los Angeles, New York, London, Paris, Dubai, Melbourne, and Sydney.
7. Athens, Greece
Much of Greek architecture represents the people who built it. Monuments to the gods, commemorations of victorious battles, and egotistical representations of important leaders are all mainstays of the unique building styles of the Ionic, Doric, and Corinthian architectural styles.
Greek architecture is most recognizable in its use of columns and temples. Many of the temples, government buildings, and statues crafted by the Greeks still stand in the city of Athens.
The birthplace of democracy is one of the best cities for architecture, especially from the ancient classical movement.
The Temple of Athena, the Temple of Zeus, and the Parthenon are all world-famous examples of structures that have stood for nearly 2,500 years. The columns of each depict battles, deities, and leaders of the ancient culture.
8. Rome, Italy
The Romans took elements of both Greek and Etruscan styles of architecture and improved upon them. The city of Rome is full of ancient Roman ruins, with the Colosseum being the most famous example.
You can find world-class architecture throughout the city, from the streets themselves to the fountains, temples, and gorgeous buildings left behind by one of the most influential empires in history.
Ancient Romans were one of the first societies to use concrete as the primary construction material in projects, resulting in rapid architectural innovation. Its introduction allowed them to complete complex structures and more durable construction than marble.
Many Roman buildings are multi-purpose structures, like the amphitheaters and town squares. These, combined with the city’s various aqueducts and sewer systems, show Rome’s mastery of city planning.
The Colosseum could seat nearly 50,000 people and hosted mock battles, gladiatorial combat, executions, and theatre performances. While earthquakes and people have damaged the structure over time, it still stands, and you can visit it today.
Vatican City is also in Rome, featuring Roman, Baroque, and Gothic architecture. Most notably, the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica are architectural masterpieces that alone are worth the visit.
Today, Roman architecture is one of the best examples you can find of 17th-century Baroque architecture. The sheer opulence, grandness, and functionality of Rome’s distinct architectural style make Rome a fantastic city for architecture enthusiasts.
9. Tel Aviv, Israel
The White City of Tel Aviv is home to around 4,000 International-style buildings constructed to house Jewish immigrants fleeing Europe in the 1930s and 1940s. The White City is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site and an outstanding example of new town planning and architecture in the early 20th century.
German Bauhaus-trained architects merged modern style’s affordable nature with functional building techniques to quickly build and house these refugees.
Form over function is the motto for both these buildings and the city itself since any architect can quickly build and replicate them. The buildings weren’t decorative, mostly featuring pale colors to keep cool in the sun and utilized curved lines to withstand windy conditions.
Most of these buildings are still in good shape today, and you can tour them when you visit the city. The beauty of these monochromatic homes is their sheer simplicity and function.
10. Istanbul, Turkey
Istanbul was the main economic hub and connector of the East and West during the days of the Silk Road. Thanks to this, Far Eastern, Western European, and Ottoman influences have shaped the city into a melting pot of cultures and architectural influences.
This Turkish city is home to numerous palaces, mosques, churches, synagogues, and towers. Each of them has its own story to tell, and the city is a fantastic place to see different architectural styles standing side by side.
The Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia, and the Topkapi Palace are some of the most famous landmarks in the city. They feature the best examples of Byzantine domes, colored mosaics, Ottoman minarets, and Islamic calligraphy.
11. Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Dubai sprang up incredibly quickly thanks to massive influxes of money and a flair for design, attracting major architectural firms and renowned architects Bjarke Ingels and Zaza Hadid. While Chicago invented the skyscraper, Dubai has mastered its construction and dispersed them throughout the city’s dense urban environment.
Dubai is also home to the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, a tower standing 830 meters. But the fantastic feats don’t end there. Cutting-edge architecture waits for your exploration throughout the city. Furthermore, Dubai is home to a 7-star hotel, the world’s only manufactured archipelago, and many other logic-defying designs.
Any architecture lover will have a blast looking over designs like rotating buildings and underwater hotels. The city is an ultra-modern monument to human ingenuity and creativity and well worth a trip.
Of course, not all of the beautiful architecture that the world has to offer could make this list, so we’ve compiled a few honorable mentions.
- Marrakesh, Morocco – A city full of Moorish architecture
- Barcelona, Spain – Notably the Sagrada Família, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA – Includes LOVE Park in Center City
- Brasília, Brazil – Capital city with lots of Futurism designs
- Aarhus, Denmark – Full of gorgeous Danish architecture, like the ARoS Art Museum
- Jacksonville, North Carolina, USA – Has the most LEED accredited buildings
- Columbus, Indiana, USA – Includes the North Christian Church
- Copenhagen, Denmark – In the 1990s, architect Zaha Hadid designed the Ordrupgaard Museum, a stunning trapezoid building with black-lava concrete on the structure’s exterior surfaces.