Travel quests for architecture buffs

Plan your architectural travel around epic skylines, architectural movements, modern wonders and more

By Jennifer Mitchell

One of the greatest rewards of traveling to a new destination is learning about another culture. Some aspects of culture may appeal to each of us more than others, and when you feel really passionate about a certain aspect of culture, it can be the basis for an amazing travel quest. The culture of a place is made up of the values, beliefs and experiences of people living there expressed through language, art, food and architecture, among other things. We’ve covered travel quests inspired by food and drink and we’ll touch on art in an upcoming blog post, but this post is for those who will go out of their way to admire architectural feats.

At No Small Plan, we’ve always been inspired by architecture. In fact, our name is a nod to a popular Daniel Burnham quote, and we feel his philosophy on architecture and urban planning can be directly applied to exploring the world.

Often architecture inspires people’s travel more than they perhaps realize. For instance, if you’ve ever dreamt of seeing the New York City skyline, taken a trip to San Francisco to see the Golden Gate Bridge and the Pink Houses, or hopped the pond to see Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace, you’ve been chasing awe-inspiring architecture.

For those who want architecture to inspire all your travels and not just one trip, check out these architecture-inspired travel quests and get started planning your next sightseeing trip!

Architecture travel quests Petra Jordan

Petra, Jordan | photo: Dennis Jarvis via Flickr Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 2.0

Stop by the 7 Wonders of the Modern World

In our post about nature-inspired travel quests, we discussed the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World. Now, we’re moving on to the 7 Wonders of the Modern World, which happen to feature some of the world’s most renowned man-made structures. This travel quest will take you to four continents and seven different countries and cities, most of which are popular tourist destinations in and of themselves with plenty to see. So if you create a travel quest to see the 7 Wonders of the Modern World, each trip will be packed with incredible sights. The 7 Wonders of the Modern World include The Great Wall of China, Christ the Redeemer Statue in Rio de Janeiro, Machu Picchu in Peru, Chichen Itza in the Yucatan Peninsula, The Roman Colosseum, The Taj Mahal in Agra, India and Petra in Jordan.

Architecture travel quests Hagia Sophia Istanbul

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul | photo: Kara Walsh

Visit the world’s most iconic buildings and structures

Architecture may bring to mind artistically constructed homes and skyscrapers that blend into the skylines of major cities. But don’t forget about the iconic buildings and structures that we’ve come to know and associate with a particular location. After combing through lists of the world’s most iconic, famous and renowned buildings, we’ve identified 15 buildings and structures that should top your list. If you’re looking to travel the world and see the finest architecture in history, be sure to visit the Empire State Building, the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, the Sydney Opera House, Acropolis, the Forbidden City, the Sagrada Familía, Hagia Sophia, Saint Basil’s Cathedral, Burj Al Arab, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Parthenon, the Pyramids of Giza, Burj Khalifa (the tallest building in the world) and One World Trade Center.

Architecture travel quests Columbus Indiana

Columbus, Indiana, an unexpected architectural mecca | photo: Chris Smith / Columbus Area Visitors Center

Explore the architecture of a region

As we mentioned before, a city’s architecture helps to define the culture and aesthetic of a city. For instance, walking the streets of St. Petersburg is drastically different than traipsing through the Historic District of Miami or exploring the dramatic Baroque architecture of Rome. And while a city may not have one defining feature that’s worth a trip, the collective design of a city may be. Both Condé Nast Traveler and The Travel Channel have compiled lists of the world’s best cities for exploring architecture, which contain many destinations you’d expect (Dubai, Brasília, NYC and Athens), along with some surprises (hello, Columbus, Indiana). We’d recommend creating a travel quest to hit up the top 20. 

If this sounds like the travel quest for you, consider booking your trip with Architectural Adventures, the official travel program of The American Institute of Architects. Take an immersive, multi-day or multi-week, small group tour with architecture experts who introduce you to the past, present and future of a city’s buildings and design.

Architecture travel quests Chandigarh India

Chandigarh, India | photo: David Quinn

Get moving with an architectural movement

Most architecture buffs are partial to certain styles or movements, which can serve as a strong foundation for a travel quest. If you are a fan of art deco for its simple, clean shapes and geographic ornamentation, you can experience the best in cities from Miami to Mumbai and Havana to Shanghai (and many more unexpected international cities). If your style aligns more closely with the romantic fluid lines and organic, natural forms of art nouveau, this style is best spotted in cities including Prague, Paris (symbolized by those iconic metro station entrances), Glasgow…and even Gaudi’s masterpieces in Barcelona have art nouveau roots. Mid-century modern architecture has legions of fans who make pilgrimages to Palm Springs, CA, Phoenix, AZ, even Oklahoma City. If you happen to be on the love side of the love-it-or-hate-it sentiments towards Brutalist architecture’s blocky, concrete, seemingly unfinished structures, you can explore the most notable examples in New York City, Washington, D.C., London and—further afield—Chandigarh, India where Le Corbusier was tasked with creating a master plan for the city in the 1950’s.

Architecture travel quests Frank Lloyd Wright Taliesin West

Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West | photo: Kara Walsh

Follow your favorite architect

True architecture buffs also tend to be interested in the works of a particular architect. While not everyone is ambitious enough to visit all 531 Frank Lloyd Wright buildings, you may attempt to visit the buildings of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, Ieoh Ming Pei, Frank Gehry or Renzo Piano. These men have designed some of the most famous and beautiful buildings in the world and their works will take you around the world, making it an ambitious and educational quest.

So whether your travel plans include the most iconic buildings, the most historic or those designed by your favorite architect, you’re sure to see the most beautiful man-made creations in the world. Once you’ve chosen your architecture-inspired quest, share your plans with us on social using the hashtag #NoSmallPlan. Then create your map and don’t forget to order t-shirts, totes and tanks from No Small Plan so you can “wear your plan.” Who knows? You may inspire other architecture buffs you encounter along the way.

Want to learn more about travel quests? Read our earlier post "what is a travel quest and why should you have one?"

Jennifer Mitchell is a blogger, comedian, freelance copywriter and travel enthusiast. 

Map and share your travel quest on a personalized No Small Plan t-shirt

Map your travel quest on a personalized No Small Plan t-shirt

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