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Our Top 10 Destinations for Design-Minded Travelers

by on Sep 14, 2015

Travel opens and inspires your eyes like nothing else, helping you see the world anew. For those who live and breathe design, it’s important to step away from the familiar and gain some new perspective. You may love where you live (we do!), but that shouldn’t stop you from getting out and seeing how other people live. Today, we’ve teamed up with to share some of our top places to visit for great inspiration, and pair them with gorgeous lodging options.

Here’s our list of delightful destinations for the design-minded:

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Ok, back to our design destinations list:

1. Columbus, Indiana, USA

Saarinen's North Christian Church in Columbus, Indiana

Huh? Indiana? I know it’s not exactly what you’d expect at the top of this list, but actually Columbus, IN is chock full of amazing must-sees for any serious Mid-Century Modern design aficionado. The town of only 45,000 is packed with more than 60 civi buildings designed by modern architecture’s pantheon (Saarinen, Pei, Pelli, and others). 

Must See Design: The Miller House, Saarinen’s Irwin Union Bank and Trust, and I.M. Pei’s public library. 

2. Barcelona, Spain

Gaudis Barcelona
Photo: Christine Zenino 

Barcelona and Gaudi are synonymous. He is everywhere, and his unique perspective and design alone will make the trip worthwhile. But, the city also boasts some stunning modern architecture that is not to be missed. Structures like the Forum Building, with its triangles and courtyards will set your heart aflutter.

Must See Design: La Pedrera, Casa Vicens, La Sagrada Familia, Torre Agbar, Golden Fish Sculpture, Parq Güell.

Where to Stay: BCN Apartments 41

BCN Apartments 41

3. Morocco

Bahia Palace
Photo: Jorge Láscar

Moorish architecture pulses throughout the country. In addition to the iconic designs of Marrakech, colorful bursts of color and texture fill the lively markets; whitewashed beach towns and medieval architecture grace the country. 

Must See Design: Ceilings at the Bahia Palace, Chefchaouen, Essaouira

Where to Stay: Royal Mansour Marrakech

Royal Mansour Marrakech

4. Dubai

Dubai's skyline
Photo: LConstantino

Exuberant. Cosmopolitan. Contemporary. Dubai does it big. Home to the world’s tallest building, biggest fountain, only 7-star hotel, and largest man-made islands, Dubai is definitely on the map when it comes to innovative and inspiring design. 

Must See Design: Burj Khalifa (world’s tallest building), Burj Al Arab (7-star hotel), Dubai Fountains.

Where to Stay: The Address Dubai Marina

The Address Dubai Marina

5. Montreal, Quebec

Montreal's Habitat 67
Photo: Wladyslaw

Montreal is a stunning city with lush parks, the preserved character of an old, once-walled city district, and modern architecture to boot. And, they have poutine by the pound!    

Must See Design: Habitat 67, Vieux Montreal, Basilique Notre Dame

Where to Stay: The FabFour

MTLVacationRentals - The FabFour

6. Rotterdam, The Netherlands 

Cube Houses, Rotterdam
Photo: Katerina Kirkorian

The city of Rotterdam is an architectural wonder. From the Erasmus Bridge to Piet Blom’s cube houses, the city is teeming with modern architecture and design.

Must See Design: Cube Houess, De Hef Bridge, Paperclip, Sonneveld House 

Where to Stay: Urban Residences Rotterdam

White chairs sitting on a balcony with glass walls facing a city skyline.

7. Palm Springs, California

Miller House, Palm Springs
Photo: Ilpo’s Sojourn

Palm Springs is arguably the city with the best weather – sunny skies and warmth year round. And, if the forecast alone doesn’t draw you in, the city’s abundance of desert modern architecture will. 

Must See Design: Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, The Wexler Steel Houses, Palm Springs City Hall

Where to Stay: The Wexler House

The Wexler House

8. Miami, Florida

Ocean Drive, Miami
Photo: chensiyuan (Wikipedia)

South Beach is the home to one of the most spectacular displays of Art Deco architecture. A trip down the city’s iconic Ocean Drive will fill your brain with pastel dreams, geometric shapes, and perfect symmetry.

Must See Design: The McAlpin, The Webster, The Carlyle, Jerry’s Famous Deli

Where to Stay: Jetset Franklin Miami

White and gray colored building with tall trees both sides of the entrance.

9. Shanghai, China

Shanghai Skyline, China
Photo: Simon Desmarais

This huge metropolis is full of contradictions. Rich and poor, traditional and modern, a cosmopolitan center where you can still find narrow alleyways strung with laundry on bamboo poles. For the architecturally-inclined, there’s more than enough to go around in either of the city’s two main districts (Pudong and Puxi, sitting across from each other on the Huangpu river). 

Must-See Design: The Bund (a collection of traditional European-style buildings), Shanghai Tower, Oriental Art Center (designed by Paul Andreau), and the Rockbund Museum (contemporary art and design).

Where to Stay: Green Court Apartments, Green City International

Green Court Serviced Apartment_Shanghai

10. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Philladelphia LOVE statue by Robert Indiana
Photo: Smallbones

The city of brotherly (and sisterly) love, Philly offers design-lovers a glimpse into early US history (it’s where the constitution was written, after all). Colonial-era architecture abounds in Old City, Art Deco lives on in the city’s train stations, and pop art pops up in public art works around town. 

Must-See Design: Robert Indiana’s LOVE sculpture, Suburban Station Commuter Rail Terminal, The Oval (seasonal pop-up urban space featuring contemporary artists’ work), City Hall (the largest municipal building in the United States). 

Where to Stay: ROOST Apartment Hotel

Living room with fireplace, T.V., couch, chairs, wall painting frame, lamp etc.

Are you an architecture aficionado or a design dabbler? Tell us your must-visit travel destinations in the comments below!

And don’t forget to enter #InstantParadise photo contest for a chance to make some of your design travel dreams come true!

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