Top 10 Cities to Visit for Architecture + Design Lovers

Skyscrapers. Art deco buildings. Neo-classical designs. Two thousand-year-old structures. We've got 10 cities bursting at the seams with design eye candy.

I’m not really a sit-on-the-beach-and-relax type of person when it comes to vacations. I like to immerse myself in the action of undiscovered cities or get completely lost in a museum. And over the last few years, I’ve found myself specifically planning trips around my love of architecture and design. If you’re an architecture or design lover like me who’s starting to think about a summer getaway, it might be time to add some of these gems to your list.

Charleston, S.C.

Photo by: Getty Images

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If you’re a lover of traditional, historical homes, Charleston, S.C. should be top on your list of cities to visit.

Its downtown area is bursting at the seams with classic Georgian, Federal, Adamesque, Greek Revival, Italianate and Victorian homes of all shapes and sizes. "Rainbow Row" is a not-to-be-missed area of town showcasing some showstopper examples of 18th century-Georgian townhomes that feature arched doorways, gambrel roofs and a rainbow pastel color palette.

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The Preservation Society of Charleston organizes fall tours of a number of private historical Charleston homes. It’s not to be missed.

Photo by: Getty Images

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New York, N.Y.

If you don’t have a fear heights, than you probably love skyscrapers. New York City is home to one of the largest and most varied collections of skyscrapers in the world. The Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building, The Woolworth Building and the newly constructed One World Trade Center are a few must-visit spots.

But in addition to the skyscrapers, NYC features unique and varied neighborhoods that each have their own feeling, style and vibe. You can check out the leafy streets in Park Slope, Brooklyn and gawk at the beautiful brownstones, or get lost in the West Village with its fun shops and gorgeous historical row homes and apartment buildings.

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Photo by: Getty Images

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This is a fab walking architecture tour of the city that will take you past many of the city’s most historical buildings and streets.

Paris, France

France takes their architecture seriously. In fact, they were the first country to establish an Academy of Architecture in 1671, so they have a long history of honoring architecture and design.

Baroque, Rococo, Neo-Classical and Gothic styles of architecture abound all across the city of Paris, though modern structures also have their place, such as the Centre George Pompidou. Much like New York City, you can also find a great deal of variety and style in design from neighborhood to neighborhood (the various districts are called arrondissements). The Louvre, Versailles, Notre Dame, L’Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower are all structures you simply cannot miss.

View of Rome

View of Rome

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Here’s a great roundup of all the spots to checkout while you’re in Paris.

Rome, Italy

Rome is the home to several of the most famous architectural structures in existence, and The Colosseum sits at the top of the list. We can also thank Roman architecture for such keystones as the arch, the dome and the vaulted ceiling. Not to mention bridges! Rome was at the center of architectural innovation for much of history.

Photo by: Getty Images

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The Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Sistine Chapel, Spanish Steps and Piazza Navona should all be on your radar if you're visiting.

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Check out this architecture city guide for Rome before planning your trip.

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Los Angeles, Calif.

While this might seem like a strange entry on the list, Los Angeles is actually a worthy stop for architecture lovers. Aside from some really beautiful and unique buildings, like the Griffith Observatory (pictured), there are a number of important midcentury modern-homes that are definitely worth checking out. The Stahl House, Schindler House, Neutra VDL Residences & Studio and the Eames House are all worth adding to your list.

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Architecture Tours LA offers a number of interesting tours throughout the city.

Park Guell in Barcelona, Spain.

Park Guell in Barcelona, Spain.

Photo by: Luciano Mortula, Getty Images

Luciano Mortula, Getty Images

Miami, Fla.

Miami’s famed "Art Deco District" has one of the biggest collections of 1920’s and 1930’s art deco structures in the world. The area includes approximately 800 buildings, many of which feature bright, pastel colors, glass blocks, porthole windows and the sleek lines that art deco structures are known for.

Many of these buildings are old hotels, some of which you can still book up and stay at if you want the full art deco immersion.

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Cloud Gate sculpture in Millenium Park

Cloud Gate sculpture in Millenium Park

Photo by: Getty Images

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Take a virtual tour of Miami's Art Deco district.

Barcelona, Spain

Architect Antoni Gaudi is responsible for the Gaudi architecture movement, the center of which is in Barcelona. This style of architecture draws upon nature to include many organic-inspired elements, as well as bold pops of color in the form of colored tiles arranged in mosaic patterns. Gaudi also included elements such as stained glass, ceramics and wrought iron to create truly whimsical structures.

Three of his most famous works throughout the city include: Park Guell, Sagrada Familia and Casa Batllo.

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Sign up for a Gaudi tour throughout the city to see all of his most famous masterpieces.

Chicago, Ill.

Chicago features a collection of truly unique buildings in a variety of styles from some of the world’s most famous architects. After the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, almost all of the city’s downtown buildings were destroyed.

The “Chicago Schools” of architecture include a variety of architects who were responsible for innovating some of the first modern skyscrapers. Louis Sullivan, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Fazlur Khan were all in this group.

Skyscrapers of San Francisco Skyline Painted Ladies,Victorian Ar

Skyscrapers of San Francisco Skyline Painted Ladies,Victorian Ar

Photo by: Ron and Patty Thomas, Getty Images

Ron and Patty Thomas, Getty Images

Chicago is also very well known for its commitment to public outdoor art, with works from such luminaries as Chagall, Picasso and Miro.

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The Chicago Architecture Foundation has created a database that includes all the architecturally important buildings in the city.

Dubai, UAE

The tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa, can be found in Dubai. And over the past couple of decades the city has become an architectural playground for the world’s “starchitects,” known as the spot where “anything goes."

Some not-to-miss buildings in Dubai include the Burj al Arab, Emirates Towers, Jumeirah Emirates Towers and Palm Island.

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Download this map and go on your own architecture tour in Dubai.

San Francisco, Calif.

The challenges of the hilly terrain in San Francisco has resulted in some truly interesting and innovative architecture (check out Lombard Street for some proof!). Victorian rowhouses abound throughout the city, mixed in with modern high rises and bustling neighborhoods. Much like New York City, San Francisco has a number of different neighborhoods to explore.

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Discover some of San Francisco’s most famous downtown buildings in this 2.5-hour walking tour.

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