What’s your favourite style of architecture? Whether it’s gothic, art deco or modern, the eclecticism and diversity of Europe mean that there's a city to satisfy every architectural taste. While we all might be familiar with the iconic landmarks of Paris, Antoni Gaudi’s creations in Barcelona and the rugged remains of Rome, there are so many cities flying just underneath the radar when it comes to architectural notoriety. Take a chance and come off the beaten track with us as we share our top recommendations of European cities which are a must-see for architecture lovers. Just don’t forget to bring that camera!
A port city on Italy’s north-west coast and the capital of the Liguria region, Genoa isn’t one to draw attention to itself. But look a little closer, and you’ll find a vast array of wonders.
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The architecture in Genoa effortlessly combines Renaissance, modern and Baroque styles. Elaborate palaces celebrate the past, while the harbour, lovingly restored by the well-known Genoese architect Renzo Piano, heralds the future. In the 16th Century, Genoa was a cultural powerhouse and many of its distinguishing landmarks were built. A number of the city’s palaces – or, palazzi – were designed by the notable Galeazzo Alessi, and the University of Genoa was designed by visionary Bartolomeo Bianco.
During your time in Genoa, keep an eye out for the Palazzo della Nuova Borsa designed by Dario Carbone, and the Teatro Carlo Felice, the city’s most celebrated opera house.
Lisbon, Portugal, is becoming increasingly popular as a tourist destination thanks in part to its intriguing mix of architecture.
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Within Lisbon's city limits, you’ll find contemporary, classical and gothic designs. Although a large fire in 1755 destroyed much of Lisbon’s pre-18th-century architecture, a few beautiful examples remain: don't miss the Convento do Carmo, or the Igreja de Sao Vicente de Fora, which was built in the 17th century by Felipe Terzi.
The Belem Tower, originally built between 1514 and 1520 by Francisco de Arruda as a defence for the estuary, is a must-see. While in the Belem neighbourhood, stop by the 500-year old Jerónimos Monastery, which has been deemed a UNESCO World heritage site.
Welcome to Cartagena: a port city in the Murcia region of Spain.
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Cartagena's position on the coast means it has captured the interests of a number of cultures over the centuries, many of which have left their architectural mark on the city. The most notable is perhaps the Roman influence, and Cartagena contains some of the most impressive Roman architecture in the country. The Carthago Nova is the name of the iconic old Roman theatre, which has recently undergone a major renovation project. It’s a must-see on your visit to Cartagena.
There are also many examples of modernist architecture to see and enjoy in the city. Don’t miss the Town Hall, which dates back to the 20th century and marks the entrance to the city centre.
It’s perhaps no surprise that the Spanish city of Cadiz is home to some fascinating examples of architecture, as it’s widely believed to be one of the oldest cities in Europe.
Cadiz seems to delight in surprising the modern tourist. At one turn the buildings are grand and imposing; at the next, they're subtle and understated. Cadiz fuses a diverse mix of Baroque, Renaissance, Gothic and Moorish styles to impressive effect.
During your time in the city, make sure to check out Casa del Almirante (meaning the Admiral’s House) with its elaborate marble façade, and the Church of San Felipe Neri, which is built in an Andalusian Baroque style and topped by a huge cupola. Also, add the Cathedral Nueva to your itinerary – you'll notice that it's reasonably quiet in comparison to a lot of other Spanish monuments, and is unique in that it’s topped by golden tiles, and houses the tomb of famous composer Manuel de Falla.
Art Nouveau lovers will fall head over heels for the capital of Latvia, Riga.
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Almost a third of all the buildings in Riga are built in an Art Nouveau style – meaning it has the highest concentration of this style in the world. In 1930, when the Art Nouveau movement was reaching the peak of its popularity, Riga was also experiencing a financial boom. One of the most famous architects at the time was Mikhail Eisenstein, whose work can be seen in the buildings of Albert Street – distinctive for their coloured tiles and unusual windows. Another notable architect was Konstantins Peksens, who designed an impressive 250 of the traditional art nouveau structures here, including what is now the Riga Art Nouveau Museum.
The Estonian town of Tallinn has a medieval appearance with its old church spires and formidable battlements. But look a little closer, and you'll see that there are many sides to its personality.
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Medieval structures have been well preserved in the Old Town (which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site), and include highlights such as the 15th century Town Hall and the Dome Church.
To see some examples of stricter, pre-war 1930’s architecture, head to the centre of town where you will also find a smattering of soviet buildings. The pre-war style is recognisable for its preference for rectangular shapes and greyish brown colour, with a heavy emphasis on function – Check out the Tallinn Art Hall Gallery completed in 1934 by Edgar John Kuusik.
If you’re in the mood for something a little more modern, take a look at the Kumu Art Museum designed by architect Pekka Vapaavuori, or head to the Rotermann area, where the old industrial quarter has been replaced by a modern building complex.
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