As Autumn slowly makes its way in, the cultural calendar picks up steam at the same time cities turn vivid ochre and old gold. Europe is always a good idea for a trip during this season as besides the undeniable charm, there is an interesting and educational program going on. Cities are at their most active period. The proximity between European countries also means you can even visit more than one on the same adventure.
This list is a compilation of cities that are pretty, quaint and overall picture-perfect. Locations where you’ll spend a lovely weekend (or more) of walking, Instagramming and sipping a nice and warm drink. All whilst discovering some of the most historical landmarks in the world. What these places have in common is a solemn built history.
September is a great month for planning. If you are looking for inspiration, look no further as this list will provide plenty of ideas. Not only in terms of countries but also in terms of architecture, Instagram spots and restaurants. I’ve included all those important aspects on the specific map of each place. In this way you can quickly have a glimpse of what each city has to offer. And no, it didn’t take me a glimpse to put these detailed maps together. They are the result of years of work.
Let me warn you, the hardest part of this list is choosing where not to go.
Shall we begin? ✈️
Lisbon, with its bright ceramic tiles dressing churches, houses and stations, dazzling hilltop views and pasteis de nata is a city that one tries to visit over and over because of its beauty. Anybody can take much delight in wandering up its loveliest streets, sipping bica (espresso coffee) and admiring the historical legacy impregnated in the city’s buildings, parks and avenues. Lisbon has seen Vasco da Gama go and Columbus arrive.
It has been visited by Voltaire, Hans Christian Andersen and Ian Fleming; and has made Madonna stay. In all honesty, Lisbon is utterly charming in Autumn and in any other season. Oh Lisbon, that city that will inspire the next promised trip as soon as you’re leaving.
Check the map below for inspiration or download the Free Architecture Guide of Lisbon.
From the grand Modernisme architecture of Lluís Domènech i Montaner in the grand avenues of L’Eixample to the medieval legacy in the cobblestone alleys of Barri Gòtic, Barcelona is a magnificent open-air museum. Rich in colour, sea salt and creative energy, it’s not only the City of Gaudí but also the arias of Montserrat Caballé, the paint strokes of Joan Miró and the molecular gastronomy of Ferran Adrià (to name a few).
The history, art and food are remarkable and with each visit, you’ll be closer to the dream of actually making it your city – who wouldn’t want to live there for a while?
Check the map below for inspiration or download the Free Architecture Guide of Barcelona.
Paris is one of the most beautiful and romantic cities in the world. The city’s charm is balanced and carefully preserved. The skyline is protected under UNESCO Heritage rules, which limits buildings to six storeys.
From the cobbled lanes of Montmartre, the vibrant Marais to the grand Georges Haussman-designed central Paris, it’s no wonder that such a lovable city keeps attracting creatives (and couples). Art and Paris go together like café and croissants, champagne and oysters and pretty ladies and flowers.
The romantic appeal of Paris is something in between Paris When It Sizzles (1964) and Funny Face (1957).
Check the map below for inspiration or download the Free Architecture Guide of Paris.
La Città Eterna is both a legend and a living ruin. Twins Romulus and Remulus were abandoned to their fate on the banks of the river Tiber when they were saved and suckled by a she-wolf. When they grew up they decided to found a new city: Rome.
This magnificent city expanded to the far-flung reaches of Europe and Africa and held much power over them. The empire eventually faded but Rome was always referred to as the Eternal City and it only takes a stroll to feel that the disappearing potential, vividly comes back with every step.
Check the map below for inspiration or download the Free Architecture Guide of Rome.
Even on a lousy rainy day Amsterdam will proudly stand as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. This man-made city has centuries of prosperous history and culture. It has attracted creatives such as Rembrandt van Rijn, jazz musician Nina Simone and was temporarily the home of Holocaust victim Anne Frank.
Amsterdam is an extraordinarily diverse city, featuring traditional canal houses, manicured shorelines and superb contemporary architecture.
Check the map below for inspiration or download the Free Architecture Guide of Amsterdam.
Stockholm is vast and its history is softly infused in the landmarks that stretch across the Baltic Sea. The capital’s architecture is brimming with significance. From Vaxholm Fortress, built by Russian prisoners (and used as the filming location of Pippi) to the royal palaces of Kungliga Slottet and Drottningholms Slott.
From the charmingly ancient streets of Gamla Stan and Riddarholmen Church (the oldest building in Stockholm) to the new residential towers in concrete that pinch the sky. Autumn dissuades the fake architecture lover, as the temperatures go down. Stockholm’s beauty at this time of the year peaks.
Check the map below for inspiration or download the Free Architecture Guide of Stockholm.
In 1858 the city of Vienna did something some modern cities have yet not done: got rid of its city walls. The Ringstraße came to life after dismantling the city fortification walls. Vienna prospered and experienced an unprecedented flowering of culture, the arts and architecture.
Vienna still retains that royal allure in its solemn palaces and institutional buildings like the Kunsthistorisches Museum or Rathaus. And at the same time there is tense contrast with buildings that represent the opposite such as the Hundertwasserhaus and Karl Marx-Hof. These contradictions make Vienna so beautiful and interesting.
Check the map below for inspiration or download the Free Architecture Guide of Vienna.
This little city is oozing with personality and will to prove itself. Prague’s history has made it what it is at a very high cost. But there’s something bewitching in its many scars, represented as signs of strength in its surviving buildings.
When architect Petr Parléř designed the famous defensive towers in 1380, he set the bar very high for future generations. Softer parts of the city include leafy parks, glamorous cafés and the uber photogenic Dancing House building by Gehry. Treat yourself to a good meal under the historical wooden roof of U Fleků Restaurant.
Check the map below for inspiration or download the Free Architecture Guide of Prague (Link coming soon).
Istanbul is pretty in Autumn, Winter, Spring and Summer. In fact, Istanbul is one of the most prepossessing places in the world and a city I have visited twice this year. Like Rome, Istanbul is a living ruin, but without the ruin part.
Hagia Sofia is an impressive condition given that it has been receiving visitors sin the 6th century. However, the past is not its only remarkable aspect. New constructions – amongst which many stunning mosques like Çamlıca Mosque – are being erected continuing an architectural legacy that has never been interrupted in its 3,000 years of built history.
Check the map below for inspiration or download the Free Architecture Guide of Istanbul.
Did I just leave the best city for the end? Probably. London is my home, the place that nurtures my creativity and where I’ve discovered some of the most amazing places (and I’ve discovered quite a lot by now). London can’t be defined as a place rich in history, Brutalism and gorgeous parks, because is more than that. You’ll know what I am talking about only if you’ve visited and felt that electrifying shock of happiness. London is pretty, very pretty. Every.Single.Part.Of.It.
I hope you enjoyed this wish list and that you are able to visit these amazing cities and buildings soon. I’d be delighted to read in the comments your traveling plans and the places you’d really loved. I am sure some buildings have shocked you. Time to pack your bags this Autumn!
As they said in Mamma Mia:
“Life is short and the world is wide”
Go out and explore!