For those who arrange their vacation itineraries around the appreciation of architecture, here are three cities that score highly on the world’s list as having some of the most interesting and beautiful buildings.
Renaissance architecture abounds in this vibrant Italian City. It is difficult not to become overwhelmed by the scale and richness of what is on offer. With all the palazzos, churches, galleries, cathedrals and amphitheaters to see, an extended visit is recommended. Highlights include the majestic Duomo cathedral with its breathtaking dome; great views of it can be enjoyed from the adjacent Giotto's Tower. Other iconic sights to enjoy include the arched Ponte Vecchio Bridge spanning the Arno River. Lined with jewelry shops and dating back to medieval times it is the only bridge to survive WW2 bombs.
Don't visit Florence expecting to see modernist architecture, the buildings in this place live and breathe the past. By just wandering in the narrow streets or sitting taking coffee in one of the expansive piazzas, it is easy to feel a connection with the history of the place through its buildings.
A great fire raged through Chicago in 1871 and destroyed most of the old buildings. This has resulted in a cityscape of relatively youthful buildings that boast originality in design. Famous architects such as Mies Van der Rohe and Louis Sullivan (the “father of modernism”) have connections with this dynamic city; those who appreciate the history of modern building technology will enjoy seeing the number of early structures employing their favored steel frame construction and use of plate glass.
Other noteworthy buildings include the soaring Willis Tower (formerly The Sears Tower), John Hancock Center and Lloyd Wright's Rookery Building. The name of Frank Lloyd Wright is closely linked to Chicago and to gain an insight into his domestic design approach a visit to his iconic Prairie School buildings is a must. The perfect area with the highest concentration of houses in one district is Oak Park, ten miles to the West of Chicago. Consider hiring a car to make the trip; there will be a Dollar rent a car near you that can provide the ideal model. By car, it's easy to take a tour around the beautiful Lloyd Wright designed buildings.
Travel east to Shanghai to savor a sweep of architectural styles encompassing art deco to contemporary. The fast pace of growth in China has led to landmark buildings emerging regularly in the Pudong district. See Oriental Pearl Tower, Jin Mao Tower and Shanghai World Financial Center for a measure of the design ambition in this city. By contrast, the Bund district has stately 1920s architecture with French and British design influences. Alternatively, view exquisite traditional Chinese buildings in Yuyuan Garden (Old City). Temples and tea houses, skyscrapers and grand European style mansions; all can be found in the exciting architectural melting pot that is Shanghai.
Inspirational architecture is all around us, but it has to be said that some cities are more successful at creating it than others. Those partial to the exquisite design and elevated aesthetics of fine architecture will not fail to be impressed by the buildings on show in these three very different cities.