Posted December 14, 2016Travel booking site and app Booking.com has just released data on the top endorsed destinations for architecture based on millions of user reviews, and they’re not the places you might expect. You won’t find Paris on this list, nor will you find other top metropolises like New York City, London, and Milan. “Experiencing the unknown, encountering different people and cultures, and testing new limits has always been at the core of what drives us to travel, and 2017 is certainly shaping up to be an exciting year,” says Pepijn Rijvers, chief marketing officer at Booking.com. “For us at Booking.com, it’s not just about the destination in 2017, it’s about the entire journey, and finding new ways to empower travelers through technology to express and savor their own unique travel lifestyle at every possible moment.” The site’s Destination Finder uses crowdsourced data to show you the best places to travel for architecture, museums, ancient landmarks, modern art, and much more. If you’re looking for architectural inspiration, these five cities are excellent places to start.
BarcelonaThe Catalan capital is a veritable playground for architecture fans—between the Sagrada Familia, Casa Pedrera, Casa Batlló, and Park Güell, you could spend a busy weekend just exploring Antoni Gaudí’s masterpieces. But there’s much more to see, from the Gothic Quarter to Las Ramblas to Barceloneta Beach. And though the city has long been—and still is—a backpacker’s paradise, a slew of sophisticated new boutique hotels has cropped up recently. If you go, book a room at Casa Bonay—designed by Brooklyn-based upstart firm Studio Tack—or the Lázaro Rosa-Violán–designed Cotton House Hotel. Or, if money is no object, request the Majestic Hotel & Spa’s 5,000-square-foot Royal Majestic Penthouse, the city’s largest hotel suite.St. PetersburgRussia’s second-largest city delights visitors with its impressive history and its many architectural gems. Among the must-see sites are the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, with its colorful domes, the mint-green Winter Palace—home to the Russian monarchy until the Revolution—and the Empire-style General Staff Building. But St. Petersburg’s glory isn’t all in the past—last summer Dutch landscape firm West 8 revitalized an abandoned island known as New Holland that’s now home to a complex of restaurants, shops, a performance stage, a playground, and an ice skating rink. If you go, stay at the luxurious Astoria Hotel, a Rocco Forte Hotel in a historic landmark.PragueWith its storybook charm and bohemian edge, it’s no wonder booking.com users rated Prague among the top cities for architecture. The historic center is a beautiful maze of buildings opening onto gathering spots like Old Town Square, with its medieval astronomical clock. Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral, with its gothic spires, are not to be missed. But modern-day design is slowly creeping its way in—Frank Gehry and Czech architect Vlado Milunic’s Dancing House is a sight to behold, and a new project by Zaha Hadid Architects will revitalize the area near the Masaryk Railway Station in central Prague.ViennaBetween the Rococo Schönbrunn Palace, the ornate 19th-century Vienna State Opera, and Romanesque St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the Austrian capital enchants visitors looking for Old World grandeur. All you have to do is cruise around the Ringstrasse to see the Habsburg-era architectural masterpieces. But Vienna isn’t just a city preserved in amber. Contemporary Viennese culture can be found in institutions like the Leopold Museum and the Austrian Museum of Applied Arts/Contemporary Art—home to a light installation by James Turrell—new hotels like the Park Hyatt Vienna and the Jean Nouvel–designed Sofitel Vienna Stephansdom, and the ultra-modern Vienna Central Station.BudapestComposed of two parts—Buda and Pest—on opposite sides of the Danube, Hungary’s capital could hardly be more enchanting. And though it boasts ornate palaces and churches like other European capitals, one thing that sets Budapest apart is its collection of historic bathhouses. The famed Gellért Thermal Bath draws visitors to see the stunning Art Nouveau interiors, while the 16th-century Rudas Thermal Bath showcases Turkish architecture. Visitors should seek out modern pleasures as well. Today the city is home to a thriving nightlife scene characterized by avant-garde ruin pubs—old factories-turned-bars with shabby-chic furnishings—where locals gather after dark. Sophisticated places to stay include the tiny Brody House and music-inspired Aria Hotel Budapest.