City Guides for the Design-Savvy Traveler

written by:
August 27, 2013
Take a photographic trek through cities like Melbourne, Australia; Istanbul, Turkey; Mumbai, India; Oslo, Norway; and more, in our anthology of must-stop destinations for the design-savvy traveler.
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  Melbourne, AustraliaNo opera house. No Bondi Beach. No sunning celebs. This is Melbourne, home of Australia’s most thriving design scene. Photo by: João Canziani  Photo by: João CanzianiCourtesy of: Joao Canziani
    Melbourne, Australia

    No opera house. No Bondi Beach. No sunning celebs. This is Melbourne, home of Australia’s most thriving design scene. Photo by: João Canziani

    Photo by: João Canziani

    Courtesy of: Joao Canziani

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  Istanbul, TurkeyIt’s been called Byzantium, Constantinople, Stamboul, and Tsarigrad, but as designer Efe Buluc shows us, there’s only one Istanbul. Photo by: Cristóbal Palma  Photo by: Martin Siepman
    Istanbul, Turkey

    It’s been called Byzantium, Constantinople, Stamboul, and Tsarigrad, but as designer Efe Buluc shows us, there’s only one Istanbul. Photo by: Cristóbal Palma

    Photo by: Martin Siepman

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  Mumbai, IndiaA churning metropolis defined by its Indian, English, and Portuguese past, Mumbai, India, now has the poise, populace, and design potential to be one of the 21st century’s most interesting cities. Photo by: Dustin Aksland  Photo by: Dustin Aksland
    Mumbai, India

    A churning metropolis defined by its Indian, English, and Portuguese past, Mumbai, India, now has the poise, populace, and design potential to be one of the 21st century’s most interesting cities. Photo by: Dustin Aksland

    Photo by: Dustin Aksland

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  Oslo, NorwayA sleepy capital perched by the sea, Oslo is in the midst of an architectural surge. The old port and the new opera house are just two examples of why Norway’s capital is pointing the way fjordward. Photo by: Jens Passoth
    Oslo, Norway

    A sleepy capital perched by the sea, Oslo is in the midst of an architectural surge. The old port and the new opera house are just two examples of why Norway’s capital is pointing the way fjordward. Photo by: Jens Passoth

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  Montreal, QuebecDispassionate about his city's de rigueur "City of Design" designation, architect Gilles Saucier shows us there's more to Montreal than Expo 67. Photo by: Matthew Monteith  Photo by: Matthew Monteith
    Montreal, Quebec

    Dispassionate about his city's de rigueur "City of Design" designation, architect Gilles Saucier shows us there's more to Montreal than Expo 67. Photo by: Matthew Monteith

    Photo by: Matthew Monteith

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  Athens, GreeceAthens is home to one of history’s most important buildings, the Parthenon, but how does the city fare architecturally today? 
A spate of modern development, particularly a new museum that looks onto the Acropolis, suggests that things are looking up. Photo by: Alex Subrizi  Photo by: Alex SubriziCourtesy of: 2009
    Athens, Greece

    Athens is home to one of history’s most important buildings, the Parthenon, but how does the city fare architecturally today? 
A spate of modern development, particularly a new museum that looks onto the Acropolis, suggests that things are looking up. Photo by: Alex Subrizi

    Photo by: Alex Subrizi

    Courtesy of: 2009

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  San Diego, CaliforniaNestled on the Pacific coastline, between Los Angeles’s sprawl and the Mexican border, San Diego is a surprisingly design-forward town with a handful of modern masterpieces to prove it. Photo by: Bryce Duffy  Photo by: Bryce Duffy
    San Diego, California

    Nestled on the Pacific coastline, between Los Angeles’s sprawl and the Mexican border, San Diego is a surprisingly design-forward town with a handful of modern masterpieces to prove it. Photo by: Bryce Duffy

    Photo by: Bryce Duffy

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  Tallinn, EstoniaSince the fall of the USSR, Tallinn has managed to look unblinkingly to the future while still retaining vital elements of its past. A hotbed of northern art and design encircling a UNESCO World Heritage site, this Baltic City is fast becoming an architect’s paradise. Photo by: Jens Passoth
    Tallinn, Estonia

    Since the fall of the USSR, Tallinn has managed to look unblinkingly to the future while still retaining vital elements of its past. A hotbed of northern art and design encircling a UNESCO World Heritage site, this Baltic City is fast becoming an architect’s paradise. Photo by: Jens Passoth

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  Philadelphia, PennsylvaniaOne of the oldest cities in the United States and home to the country’s first International Style skyscraper, Philadelphia is, unfortunately, now associated more with cheesesteaks and colonial kitsch than with successful American urbanism.
    Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

    One of the oldest cities in the United States and home to the country’s first International Style skyscraper, Philadelphia is, unfortunately, now associated more with cheesesteaks and colonial kitsch than with successful American urbanism.

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  Bordeaux, FranceClassical yet current, Bordeaux is a city that celebrates the details that comprise the whole. Architect Oliver Brochet guides our tour around the accessible tram system, the historic women, and of course, the wine. Photo by: Peter Augustin  Photo by: Peter Augustin
    Bordeaux, France

    Classical yet current, Bordeaux is a city that celebrates the details that comprise the whole. Architect Oliver Brochet guides our tour around the accessible tram system, the historic women, and of course, the wine. Photo by: Peter Augustin

    Photo by: Peter Augustin

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  Honolulu, HawaiiToday, if you tallied the world’s design capitals, you’d be forgiven for overlooking Honolulu. But when it came to modern architecture in the 1950s and ’60s, all eyes were on Hawaii’s capital city. In the shadow of Waikiki’s high-rises, a twilight soccer game unfolds at the Ala Wai Neighborhood Park. The now-polluted Ala Wai Canal was created in the 1920s to drain the swampland that would become Waikiki. Photo by: Dave Lauridsen  Photo by: Dave Lauridsen
    Honolulu, Hawaii

    Today, if you tallied the world’s design capitals, you’d be forgiven for overlooking Honolulu. But when it came to modern architecture in the 1950s and ’60s, all eyes were on Hawaii’s capital city. In the shadow of Waikiki’s high-rises, a twilight soccer game unfolds at the Ala Wai Neighborhood Park. The now-polluted Ala Wai Canal was created in the 1920s to drain the swampland that would become Waikiki. Photo by: Dave Lauridsen

    Photo by: Dave Lauridsen

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  Washington, DCWashington, DC, is not all political wonks and Masonic conspiracies: It's also a highly walkable city, its diagonal avenues wide open to modern design. Photo by: Matthew Monteith  Photo by: Matthew Monteith
    Washington, DC

    Washington, DC, is not all political wonks and Masonic conspiracies: It's also a highly walkable city, its diagonal avenues wide open to modern design. Photo by: Matthew Monteith

    Photo by: Matthew Monteith

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  Brussels, BelgiumBelgium assumed independence in 1830 after being taken over, and over and over, by its neighbors to the north and south—the Netherlands and France. Over-looked (Jacques Brel, french fries, and Johnny Hallyday are theirs, Belgians will tell you tersely) and underappreciated (it’s the flyover between Paris and Amsterdam), Brussels has a kind of runt-of-the-litter charm. The gilded 17th-century Grand Place is surrounded by brutal office and apartment blocks that look all the more grim under almost constantly gray skies.  Photo by: Roy Zipstein
    Brussels, Belgium

    Belgium assumed independence in 1830 after being taken over, and over and over, by its neighbors to the north and south—the Netherlands and France. Over-looked (Jacques Brel, french fries, and Johnny Hallyday are theirs, Belgians will tell you tersely) and underappreciated (it’s the flyover between Paris and Amsterdam), Brussels has a kind of runt-of-the-litter charm. The gilded 17th-century Grand Place is surrounded by brutal office and apartment blocks that look all the more grim under almost constantly gray skies.

    Photo by: Roy Zipstein

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  Lima, PeruThough often shrouded in fog, Lima is one of the world’s driest cities, and in the face of chronic drought, people have been building huge structures here for thousands of years. Pre-Incan ruins abound, and 16th-century Spanish colonial architecture mingles with everything built before or since. Today the architecture and design scenes are especially vibrant.  Photo by: João Canziani
    Lima, Peru

    Though often shrouded in fog, Lima is one of the world’s driest cities, and in the face of chronic drought, people have been building huge structures here for thousands of years. Pre-Incan ruins abound, and 16th-century Spanish colonial architecture mingles with everything built before or since. Today the architecture and design scenes are especially vibrant.

    Photo by: João Canziani

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  Mexico City, MexicoMexico City embodies both the problems and promise of globalization. It’s a sprawling, smog-choked colossus whose altitude alone (nearly 7,400 feet) can leave a newcomer dazed on arrival. Charming cobblestone streets are smothered by mobs shopping at black-market junk stalls. Traffic is reliably nightmarish. Local politics often resemble a telenovela farce. The ground is sinking at a rate of up to a foot per year. Garish wealth and grim poverty coexist uneasily, sometimes violently. But Mexico City is also a world-class urban center with an incontrovertibly cosmopolitan character, scented in recent years by a whiff of hipness. Photo by: Livia Corona  Photo by: Livia Corona
    Mexico City, Mexico

    Mexico City embodies both the problems and promise of globalization. It’s a sprawling, smog-choked colossus whose altitude alone (nearly 7,400 feet) can leave a newcomer dazed on arrival. Charming cobblestone streets are smothered by mobs shopping at black-market junk stalls. Traffic is reliably nightmarish. Local politics often resemble a telenovela farce. The ground is sinking at a rate of up to a foot per year. Garish wealth and grim poverty coexist uneasily, sometimes violently. But Mexico City is also a world-class urban center with an incontrovertibly cosmopolitan character, scented in recent years by a whiff of hipness. Photo by: Livia Corona

    Photo by: Livia Corona

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  Santiago, ChileUnlike sizzling Rio de Janeiro or seductive Buenos Aires, Santiago comes off as South America’s more straitlaced capital city. Chile, the world’s longest country, stretching almost 2,700 miles from north to south, is packed with plenty of eye-catching landscapes, from the soaring Andes to the arid Atacama Desert. And it’s no wonder that visitors are easily lured away from sleepy Santiago. Many who descend on Chile’s sprawling capital see it simply as a convenient gateway to the country’s real highlights: the Lake District, San Pedro de Atacama, and Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia. Photo by: Cristóbal Palma  Photo by: Cristóbal Palma
    Santiago, Chile

    Unlike sizzling Rio de Janeiro or seductive Buenos Aires, Santiago comes off as South America’s more straitlaced capital city. Chile, the world’s longest country, stretching almost 2,700 miles from north to south, is packed with plenty of eye-catching landscapes, from the soaring Andes to the arid Atacama Desert. And it’s no wonder that visitors are easily lured away from sleepy Santiago. Many who descend on Chile’s sprawling capital see it simply as a convenient gateway to the country’s real highlights: the Lake District, San Pedro de Atacama, and Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia. Photo by: Cristóbal Palma

    Photo by: Cristóbal Palma

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  Phoenix, ArizonaSkip Sedona and forget the Grand Canyon? Architect Will Bruder leads us on a journey through slow food and rapid development in Phoenix, Arizona. Photo by: João Canziani  Photo by: João Canziani
    Phoenix, Arizona

    Skip Sedona and forget the Grand Canyon? Architect Will Bruder leads us on a journey through slow food and rapid development in Phoenix, Arizona. Photo by: João Canziani

    Photo by: João Canziani

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  Helsinki, FinlandFor the past 20 years Finland’s most famous star has been native son and world-class ski jumper Matti Nykänen, known not just for his numerous medals and world records, but also for his frequent appearances in the tabloids. Nykänen has graced the pages of the rags for his five marriages to four different women, multiple arrests, jail time, and stints as waiter, singer, and stripper. But times have changed, and these days Nykänen’s not garnering the most attention in the flourishing Nordic capital of Helsinki; a new breed of young designers and a burgeoning creative scene are creating a more compelling stir. Photo by: Hertha Hurnaus  Photo by: Hertha Hurnaus
    Helsinki, Finland

    For the past 20 years Finland’s most famous star has been native son and world-class ski jumper Matti Nykänen, known not just for his numerous medals and world records, but also for his frequent appearances in the tabloids. Nykänen has graced the pages of the rags for his five marriages to four different women, multiple arrests, jail time, and stints as waiter, singer, and stripper. But times have changed, and these days Nykänen’s not garnering the most attention in the flourishing Nordic capital of Helsinki; a new breed of young designers and a burgeoning creative scene are creating a more compelling stir. Photo by: Hertha Hurnaus

    Photo by: Hertha Hurnaus

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  Miami, FloridaMiami is a matrix of man-made islands, causeways, and paved-over Everglades that has gotten by on a desirable climate, a thriving pan-Caribbean culture, and some of our nation’s finest hucksterism. Born as a high-class playground—the original polo fields are now golf courses—Miami first boomed at the beginning of the 20th century. Wondering how to attract vacationers and residents to a place without a history, Miami’s developers lit upon a grand idea: Build the place like it had one. Mediterranean revival abounds, Spanish colonial holds court, and swimming pools are cut to look more like Pompeii than Palm Beach. Even the oranges were imports, cultivated to convince railroad baron Henry Flagler to extend the rails all the way to Florida’s tip. Photo by: Roy Zipstein  Photo by: Roy Zipstein
    Miami, Florida

    Miami is a matrix of man-made islands, causeways, and paved-over Everglades that has gotten by on a desirable climate, a thriving pan-Caribbean culture, and some of our nation’s finest hucksterism. Born as a high-class playground—the original polo fields are now golf courses—Miami first boomed at the beginning of the 20th century. Wondering how to attract vacationers and residents to a place without a history, Miami’s developers lit upon a grand idea: Build the place like it had one. Mediterranean revival abounds, Spanish colonial holds court, and swimming pools are cut to look more like Pompeii than Palm Beach. Even the oranges were imports, cultivated to convince railroad baron Henry Flagler to extend the rails all the way to Florida’s tip. Photo by: Roy Zipstein

    Photo by: Roy Zipstein

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  Malmö, SwedenOnce a blue-collar industrial port, Malmö, Sweden, now aims to be a premier design destination. It’s on its way. Photo by: Magnus Marding  Photo by: Magnus Marding
    Malmö, Sweden

    Once a blue-collar industrial port, Malmö, Sweden, now aims to be a premier design destination. It’s on its way. Photo by: Magnus Marding

    Photo by: Magnus Marding

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  Paris, FranceDamned if it does and slammed when it won’t, Paris has a hard time with the notion of change. One of the world’s most visited cities—the Valhalla of the tourist circuit—has had a lot of good reasons to stay the way it is. Its classic layout, forged in the brutal urban reconstruction led by Baron Haussmann, has been successful enough to last virtually unmodified for a century and a half—and to inform the aesthetics of at least a dozen other cities around the world. Photo by: Jessica Antola
    Paris, France

    Damned if it does and slammed when it won’t, Paris has a hard time with the notion of change. One of the world’s most visited cities—the Valhalla of the tourist circuit—has had a lot of good reasons to stay the way it is. Its classic layout, forged in the brutal urban reconstruction led by Baron Haussmann, has been successful enough to last virtually unmodified for a century and a half—and to inform the aesthetics of at least a dozen other cities around the world. Photo by: Jessica Antola

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  Shanghai, ChinaPearl of the Orient, Paris of the East. For a frantic, freewheeling century and a half, Shanghai was the wildest, wealthiest, flashiest city in Asia—the rival of any world capital. Shanghai’s bustling port shipped Chinese silk and porcelain from workshops along the Yangtze River to every corner of the globe. Western visitors were captivated by the crowded, chaotic, yet thoroughly cosmopolitan city. Foreign powers carved out concession zones featuring their own cafés, clubs, police forces, and legions of prostitutes. You can still stroll the charming tree-lined quarters with distinctive French, British, even American estates. Photo by: Andrew Rowat  Photo by: Andrew Rowat
    Shanghai, China

    Pearl of the Orient, Paris of the East. For a frantic, freewheeling century and a half, Shanghai was the wildest, wealthiest, flashiest city in Asia—the rival of any world capital. Shanghai’s bustling port shipped Chinese silk and porcelain from workshops along the Yangtze River to every corner of the globe. Western visitors were captivated by the crowded, chaotic, yet thoroughly cosmopolitan city. Foreign powers carved out concession zones featuring their own cafés, clubs, police forces, and legions of prostitutes. You can still stroll the charming tree-lined quarters with distinctive French, British, even American estates. Photo by: Andrew Rowat

    Photo by: Andrew Rowat

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