Few things lead to impulsive searches for plane trips faster than the New York Times’s annual 52 Places to Go feature, a roundup of up-and-coming and unexpected travel destinations that, taken together, offer even a seasoned globetrotter something to get excited about.
One of the best parts of the feature, the exquisite layout, offers full-bleed photos and videos that transport you to each amazing destination. We went through the list and added our own suggestions for architectural marvels and historic buildings worth adding to the itinerary (we’ll add part two tomorrow).
Consider our list of sights as an addition, or another background on which to project your travel fantasies.
Encapsulating the architecture of an entire country is quite a task, so perhaps the best place to start in Toronto, a bustling lakefront city with its own swagger and an expanding skyline.
Many have compared Toronto’s architecture to Chicago, due to a combination of skyscrapers, wide streets, and stylistic variety. The similarities don’t end there. Toronto also boasts its own Mies van der Rohe-designed complex of steel-and-glass beauties, the Toronto-Dominion Centre, often called “the largest Mies in the world.”
From the futuristic City Hall, a set of curved towers designed by Finnish architect Viljo Revell as part of a 1956 competition, to the CN Tower, a striking silhouette that symbolizes Canada, to classic structures such as Massey Hall and the Commerce Court skyscraper, the city offers a treasure trove of design worth exploring.
Atacama Desert, Chile
An incredibly remote region that stretches across the Latin American country’s parched northern Pacific coast, the Atacama offers incredible vistas for visitors, as well as ideal conditions for astrological installations and telescopes. Near the Paranal Observatory, a huge optical-infrared telescope, sits the well-appointed ESO Hotel, a unique structure built as a refuge for scientists designed by Auer + Weber. You might recognize it from its cameo in the 2008 James Bond film Quantum of Solace.
The Taj Mahal is, undisputedly, a wonder worth every minute you can spare. But those with additional time to take in the sights of Agra should head to the Fatehpur Sikri, an abandoned city that represents one of the greatest examples of Mughal architecture in the entire subcontinent. Built for the Emperor Akbar in the mid 16th century out of red sandstone, the complex of palaces, courts, and a mosque blend Indian and Persian styles, an array of royal architecture that lives up to its name, which means “victorious.”
A picturesque Swiss mountain retreat—it’s the actual home of the Ricola gardens and a stop of a quaint mountain railway—Zermatt nonetheless has some edgy, modern architecture worth a trip. A highlight is the Monte Rosa Hütte, a glass-covered shard of a building that offers great views of the nearby Matterhorn. It’s only fitting that a streamlined, modernist structure would come from the country that produced architect Peter Zumthor.
As the Times’s writeup points out, this country has likely provided the backdrop to many of the nature documentaries that have enthralled animal lovers over the years. Those lucky enough to see the country’s natural wonders in person could do a lot worse than stay at the Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge, an eco-conscious, low-impact series of spaces designed by Nicholas Plewman Architects and London-based Michaelis Boyd Associates. The curvy huts take cues from local building traditions as well as the armored hide of the armadillo.
A seaside city that offers a journey to the past—the old city and its stone walls, a UNESCO Heritage Site, was a key filming location for Game of Thrones—Dubrovnik offers stunning, centuries-old structures, including the Baroque Church of St. Blaise. One of the more unique places to explore is the nearby Trsteno, a late 15th-century arboretum, one of the oldest in Europe, started by a noble family. A plethora of native and foreign plants, grown from seeds fetched by sailors back from Mediterranean journeys, create a refreshing respite from the city.
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Nature is the main attraction at this national park, and much of Wyoming, but between the wildlife and towering mountains of this sparsely populated state, there stands a fair share of standout buildings. One of them, the Jackson Lake Lodge, offers a rustic, rust-colored take on the International Style, one of numerous examples of architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood‘s work that went beyond simple spins on log cabins.
This border city has a burgeoning culture scene, which includes new architecture and design. In addition to a heralded new architecture school in the Red Light district, homegrown talent such as former Curbed Young Gun Alfred Modina and Jorge Enrique Gracia are developing their own style of boxy, brightly colored Mexican modernism. Gracia’s Encuentro Guadalupe, a series of villas near vineyards an hour south of the city, represent a Baja spin on something you might expect from Tom Kundig.
The Motor City’s expanding cultural cachet appears to have no ceiling, and scores of new developments and park projects suggest that the city will continue to add new highlights to a vibrant urban landscape. But few things offer as much awe and grandeur as the city’s 30-story Fisher Building, a true Art Deco masterpiece clad in 40 different types of marble that fills an entire city block with Instagram-able architecture. Opened in 1928, the beautiful building underlines the fact that they truly don’t make them like they used to.
The birthplace of Brahms has been waiting years for the much-hyped, Herzog & de Meuron-designed Elbe Concert Hall, which has taken six more years and $600 million more in funding than originally expected. But, with the hall slated to finally open its doors to the public next week, the early images suggest it’s a showstopper, a glass curtain on the riverfront that gives way to a wavy series of wooden balconies modeled after vineyards.
This ancient city offers a wealth of street-level architectural treasures, including labyrinthine souqs and bustling streets (stop at the Maison de la Photographie Museum to see historic images while taking in a panorama of the city on the top floor). But make time to appreciate the Koutoubia Mosque, a 12th-century red stone tower of stacked rooms, so arranged so nobody could peer from the minaret into the king’s harems. Rebuilt once, due to a layout error that meant the structure wasn’t properly aligned with Mecca, the towering mosque has been a model for other such structures around the world.
Greenville, South Carolina
While South Carolina doesn’t scream Frank Lloyd Wright, the state has a pair of intriguing designs by the famous architect. The Broad Margin home near Greenville showcases the architect’s Usonian style; built among a wooded lot for a pair of librarians, the home was named after a Henry David Thoreau quote. While it’s further afield, Wright’s other South Carolina project might be worth a side trip. The Auldbrass Plantation in Beaufort County at the other end of the state, finds Wright reimagining a southern architectural icon.
Before striking out for this center for sightseeing and hiking, it’s worth spending time touring the architecture of Quito, one of Latin America’s greatest collection of colonial and Baroque buildings. Old Town’s many churches and convents are must-see sites, such as the La Compañía de Jesús, which is positively gilded in gold leaf on the inside.
Hometown architect Geoffrey Bazeley built a well-regarded modernist home just outside this Cornish coastal town, Tregannick, which is considered one of the best in the region. But for most crowd-pleasing modern architecture in Cornwall, design fans should head to the recently re-opened Jubilee Pool, a triangular Art Deco structure that protects bathers from sharp Atlantic winds while offering a swank place to take a dip.
Japan’s third-largest city offers architectural variety, from ancient Buddhist temples and the Osaka-Jo castle to Abeno Harukas, the country’s tallest skyscraper. But 47 years ago, when the city host Expo 70, it was the center of the architectural world, filled with new takes on futuristic architecture and design. A few remnants of this massive exposition still remain, including the Tower of the Sun, a large statue created by Japanese artist Okamoto Tarō that symbolizes the fair’s eccentric energy and optimism.
In a Scandinavian capital filled with sleek, contemporary design, it’s worth pausing to admire architecture’s romantic past. The Stadthaus, or City Hall, a 1923 landmark in National Romantic design, looks out over the waterfront projecting grandeur and stateliness, with the golden three-crown emblem, a national symbol, embedded in its spire, and heavy brick walls giving way to playful flourishes and ornamentation.
Trips to this remote northeastern state that bridges Indian, Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, as well as the region’s storied spiritual traditions, aren’t complete without a stop at one of the many mountainside monasteries. The Pemayangtse Gompa, which translates to “Perfect Sublime Lotus,” offers a look at the traditions of the Nyingmapa school of Buddhism, as well as a view of the ruins of the nearby Rabdentse palace.
Île de Porquerolles, France
This island idyll, mostly a national park, offers just a handful of buildings, including a small lighthouse from 1837. It’s best to take a side trip up the Cote d’Azur to appreciate the more eclectic architecture on the coast, such as Pierre Cardin’s Bubble House, a singular seaside retreat designed by Hungarian architect Antti Lovag or the landmark E.1027, Eileen Gray’s breathtaking examples of maritime modernist design that sits next to a Le Corbusier cabin.
This African island nation offers numerous regional tweaks on more traditional architectural styles. One of the more striking might be the Andafiavaratra Palace, the 19th-century home of Prime Minister Rainilaiarivony. His drive towards modernization is reflected in this hilltop building, now used as a museum, which has a vaguely English style.
The Chinese version of a tropical escape, this city on the tip on Hainan Island has seen a boom in hotel and tourism construction recently. One of the standout resorts near the city’s white sand beaches, the Intercontinental Sanya Resort by WOHA, a curvy oceanfront resort interlaced with greenery, including air garden bathrooms and water gardens placed between private cabanas.
Set atop one of the best vantage points on this rocky Mediterranean island, Saint Hilarion Castle is one of the most historic sites in Cyprus. Originally built as a monastery in the 10th century, the strategically located structure was later fortified to protect against pirates, raiders, and invading armies. It was called a “picture-book castle for elf kings” by writer Dame Rose Macaulay.
Great Barrier Reef, Australia
It’s understandably tough to pick standout, architecture underwater, and the nearby city of Cairns is best known as a gateway for tourism. But within this tropical region, St. Monica's War Memorial Cathedral, dedicated to a famous WWII battle, offers man-made grace and wonder. The heritage-listed building, completed in 1968, glows with an expanse of burgundy red stained glass.
If you’re looking for a religious experience in Minneapolis, many may point you to Paisley Park. But the striking, boxy Christ Lutheran Church, designed by Eliel Saarinen (with an addition by his son, Eero) and built in 1949, was among the most influential buildings of its age, ushering in an age of modernist churches. It’s since been highlighted in an AIA book, Structures of our Time: 31 Buildings that Changed Modern Life.
One of the island’s more famous structures, the Georgian Devon House, home of Jamaica’s first black millionaire, George Stiebel, shows the influence of English architecture on the Caribbean country. For a modern counterpoint, check out the Marley Racetrack outside Jamaica’s capital. It celebrates one of the island’s most famous sons, but it also stands as a monument to the brilliance of Chinese-Jamaican architect Wilson Chong, who designed the impressive, triple-cantilever grandstand.
This sleepy seaside city offers a great day trip from Lisbon. Another excellent sightseeing destination away from the big city, Evora, offers a wealth of medieval and classic architecture. The small, historic town’s Roman temple, a monument to the Goddess Diana, has crumbled over the centuries, but traces of its grandeur remain, including marigold, sunflower, and rose patterns engraved at the apex of its columns.
This former Soviet Republic proceeded to practically built a modern capital city from scratch when it moved to seat of government to Astana, a small town on the steppes, in 1997. But in an effort to bring it up to date, government planners seemed to overshoot their mark; the city now looks futuristic, filled with flashy, sometimes eccentric projects, including a velodrome shaped like a cycling helmet and a Norman Foster-designed pyramid. Perhaps one of the more striking of these somewhat ostentations buildings is the new Central Concert Hall, a rose petal-shaped structure designed by Italian firm Studio Nicoletti Associati.