5 European Cities to Visit if You Love Architecture

European countries are well known to be inspiring travel destinations for architects and architecture lovers.

They have some of the best recorded architectural history, a great variety of styles, and a dynamic history that has seen countless rises and falls as well as world-changing wars – all these influencing the architectural character of each place.

Here are 5 countries you should visit if you love architecture:

Amsterdam

Amsterdam Architecture

Amsterdam is one of Europe’s treasure troves for lovers of architecture. Not only it houses more historic buildings and sights than any other city in the world, but also it holds international importance in terms of modern design.

Amsterdam has one of the largest historic city centers in Europe, consisting of 90 islands linked by 400 bridges. Most of its historic buildings and streets have remained unchanged since the 19th century, due to the fact that there was no major bombing in the city during World War II.

Best building examples: Rijksmuseum, Royal Palace, Oude Kerk.

Barcelona

Barcelona Architecture

Barcelona is no surprise on this list. This city has a well-balanced mix of historic architecture, concentrated in the Barri Gòtic (the center of the old city); and modern architecture, developed during and after the city’s expansion. Barcelona can also be proud to be the host of many Gaudi buildings, including La Sagrada Familia.

Many of the buildings in the Barri Gòtic date from medieval times, some from as far back as the Roman settlement of Barcelona.

Best building examples: La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona Pavilion, Casa Battló, Torre Agbar.

Athens

Athens Architecture

While this country might be chaotic, an architectural buff cannot do without a trip to Greece and its capital, Athens. Most of the relevant Greek architecture comes from the few surviving buildings of the Classical, Hellenistic, and Roman periods.

Temples are the most common and best-known form of Greek public architecture and they are the best examples that are still standing today. Since many Greek buildings in the colonization period (8th – 6th century BC), were made of wood or mud-brick or clay, nothing remains of them except for a few ground plans and footings.

Curiously, even though we might consider Greek buildings and temples as classical and artistic pieces, the Greeks didn’t consider them as art for art’s sake, nor did they consider architects as a type of artist.

Best building examples: The Acropolis, Panathinaiko Stadium, Temple of Olympian Zeus, Ancient Agora.

Berlin

Berlin Architecture

In my best opinion, Berlin is an architectural heaven for anyone interested in a good architectural mix combined with an interesting yet complex history.

While you might not get the same “world city” vibe other cities like London and Paris do, you might experience how Berlin embodies many cultural and historic architectural movements, portraying its huge intellectual and cultural legacy to the world – something others cities fall behind.

This city was almost created to enhance ideals, rather than to serve its population as other cities did.

The city has no definite center and pockets of attractions are dotted all over. With over 170 museums, Berlin is one of the world’s prime locations for high-caliber historical collections of art, culture, and technology.

It is interesting to see how this city has drastically changed in the last 100 years, a period where it experienced Imperial architecture, Nazi and WWII related architecture and buildings, communist architecture, and modern architecture.

Best building examples: Reichstag, Brandenburg Gate, Jewish Museum, Berlin Wall.

London

London Architecture

London is not characterized by any particular architectural style.  It has accumulated and conglomerated its buildings and styles over a long period of time. Only a few structures predate the Great Fire of 1666, with the exception of important sites like the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Banqueting House, among others.

London is famous for its magnificent palaces whose history is intimately intertwined with the history of Great Britain. The city also counts with over 240 museums and a great selection of important historic buildings and sights. There is a good balance between buildings and open spaces.

Best building examples: Saint Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Palace, Tower of London, Westminster Abbey.

Obviously, Europe counts with more than five cities that are worthy of admiring their architecture, but these are just a few that will inspire your artistic eye. To make justice to other European cities that deserve the same recognition, I will follow up with 5 more European cities to Visit if You Love Architecture.  Stay tuned!

Do you think five cities are not enough? Here are five additional European cities where you can enjoy excellent architecture.

What European city has inspired you with its architecture?

5 European Cities to Visit if you Love Architecture


Images 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 by Flickr’s Creative Commons.

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47 thoughts on “5 European Cities to Visit if You Love Architecture”

  1. Among my favorites is London, for sure. I can’t enough of those white victorian houses with colorful doors as can be seen in Notting Hill.
    But, in a totally different way… I also love the small towns of Cinque Terre. So colorful and cute. Stone streets. Uphill, downhill…

    And, to be true, swiss architecture is much more inspiring than could initially be thought. Just walk through Lutry or Cully, next to the lake known as “Geneva Lake” (Lac Leman). And the italian part is also spectacular!

    1. Cinque Terre is also great. I haven’t been there personally, but I’ve seen and studied the architecture of the area. It’s great you brought up the Swiss architecture, it is very unique and in some way underrated. Another place I have to go! 🙂

  2. Sadly of these 5 cities, I’ve only been to London (which I loved), but they’re all on my list. I love how you’ve captured the sky in each of these photos.

  3. I love that you have the word “high caliber” associated with Berlin. It is getting less so over time as they fix up things, but I was there in 2004 and buildings in the East still had bullet holes from the war that the Soviets never fixed. I’m sure if you lived in the building it was unpleasant, but it was cool as a visitor to see such history.

    1. hahaha yes! Although I think it might be less noticeable now than before, you can still see the bullet holes in many buildings around the city. One that struck me the most was the Neues Museum. You can see thousands of bullet holes in all the columns and even inside the museum. I think that’s a really interesting detail on the history of this city.

  4. I’d add granada to the list for the Alhambra and Cordoba for the Mezquita. Sevilla for, well, all of it.

    Bamberg in Germany, Prague, the list is endless.

    Good piece!

    1. Definitely! I haven’t been to Granada, yet, but Cordoba has amazing architecture with the Mezquita. Sevilla is also great. Prague… I totally agree. In fact, it is in the second part of this list. 🙂

  5. Norbert, you are singing my song….I love architecture too. It’s amazing to think that those buildings sprang from the mind of a mere mortal. I’m always in awe and head over heels in love with how incredibly complex and divine they are. I echo the sentiment for Prague and Cinque Terre….all gorgeous. I hope to be able to witness the Cotswolds in person because judging from the photos, it’s beautiful too.

    1. haha! We are singing along! 😉 I agree with Prague and Cinque Terre too. In fact, I have Prague listed in the second part of this post… and apparently this city is a favorite among many travelers!

    1. Prague is really beautiful, Ayng. It truly has that bohemian meets medieval aura that it so famous for. Beautiful architecture, beautiful city.

  6. Great list, but of course there is a huge omission. To think that London slipped in ahead of Paris – OMG!!!! By the way the photo of Amsterdam is especially amazing – congratulations!

    1. haha! Paris is included in the second part of this post. How can I leave it out?! I would be the worst architect if I did… 😉 Europe has so many architecturally inspiring cities that by even naming 10 cities I’m leaving a good amount of other architecturally outstanding cities.

  7. I do love cities that have beautiful and/or interesting architecture. Of those on this list, I’ve only been to London and agree that it belongs here. Wonderful styles evoking much history.

    Glad to see in your comment to John R. that Paris is included on your next part.

  8. I have seen Amsterdam’s architecture and I was intrigued, the strange shapes of some of the buildings were very eye catching . Athens is one place which I will eventually visit as its historically significant and I love reading about Greek culture etc. I have been to London many times and even though it has many buildings I don’t find them historically interesting compared to other places.

    1. Hi Nisha. Yes, Amsterdam has an intriguing architecture, as so does Greece – although Greece taps more into the ancient historical side. I understand if London’s architecture wasn’t as interesting as other European cities, still, I think it contains great examples of the architecture that makes Europe so interesting and unique.

  9. In terms of architecture, my favourite among these is London. Curious to read the 2nd article on European cities now! Glad to hear Paris will be there, and perhaps Rome? 🙂

    1. Hi Christina! Yes, Rome is there too! 🙂 I think so far people have mentioned all the cities in the next post, except for one. *makes evil laugh* 😉

  10. Happy to see Amsterdam there as I am currently there. If you are there. try to make it to the Amsterdam Dungeons…It’s awesome 🙂

    Happy Easter

  11. Great article. Many peoples ask which are the the best cities to travel in Europe. We spend our days thinking about the best places to go, the sky’s the limit. You’ll want to start your European exploration by visiting some of these incredible cities first.

  12. Yay! Super excited to visit Amsterdam at the end of the month — then I just need to go to Athens and I’ll have visited all your top 5! Go me…

    1. Ahh, yes, go for the top 5!! Europe has so many architecturally gifted cities that you’ll definitely have more to choose after you’re done with the top 5. 🙂

  13. sanjeewa-padmal travel blogger

    OOps Amsterdam Dungeons! Must be an interesting place to visit. Hi Norbert good line up, but most of them are yet to come.

  14. I would have Munich over Berlin. Berlin is very modern in my opinion while Munich has a great mixture of centuries of history. Bavarian architecture is my personal favorite in the whole world.
    Istanbul and Prague are both great for architecture.

    1. Interesting point. I haven’t experienced much of Munich so I guess I better give it another chance.

      And I totally agree with istanbul and Prage for architecture. Both cities are stunning!

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