With modern generic architecture taking over the more traditionalist and vernacular approach, it is important to remember and appreciate cities, which are famous for their established architectural styles and consistency of design. 

1. Gion, Kyoto, Japan

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Gion, Kyoto, Japan ©japan-guide.com

This famous district, known for its traditional machiya merchant architecture made of wood, is home to geisha’s, who provide entertainment in local teahouses. The houses have narrow facades because historically taxes were collected based on the width of the frontage. Gion is very atmospheric, especially in the evenings when it is lit by many lanterns located in front of shops, restaurants, and cafes. 

2. Kanazawa, Japan

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Kanazawa, Japan ©wikipedia.org

Kanazawa is within Ishikawa Prefecture and is famous for a geisha district from the Edo period (1603 – 1867). It is called Higashi and is located across the Asano River. It consists of two-storey, narrow wooden houses with austere facades and in the evening is lit up by the street lamps from the Taishō-period. Also distinctive are the clusters of temples within the city.

3. Bruges, Belgium

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Bruges, Belgium ©wikipedia.org

This small, medieval town is intertwined with many canals and bridges. It was once an important trading port in North Europe. The city’s center has been UNESCO-listed since 2000 and has many examples of Gothic architecture. One of its most important landmarks is Belfry of Bruges, which is a bell tower, first erected around 1240, and housed municipal archives as well as a treasury.

4. Venice, Italy

Considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Venice has its architectural representation in Venetian Gothic style, which first examples date back to the 13th century. It is a variation of Italian Gothic, with influences from Byzantine and Islamic architecture. One of the best-known examples, featuring a loggia created by a row of small columns and roofline decorations is the Palazzo Santa Sofia built in the 15th century on the Grand Canal.

5. Matera, Italy

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Matera, Italy ©wikipedia.org

Matera is located in Southern Italy in the region of Basilicata and its original habitations are located inside the canyons created by the Gravina River. The city is carved in the typical for this region – calcareous rock and some of the dwellings are simply small caverns. The city is considered to be one of the oldest in the world which was continuously inhabited. 

6. Paris, France

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Paris, France ©wikipedia.org

Paris is well known for many architectural masterpieces, however, one of the styles that hugely affect the character of the city and is considered its trademark is Hausmannian residential boulevards. Baron Haussmann drastically affected the tissue of the city by destroying medieval houses and creating new, wide streets with eclectic buildings of the same height, color, and facade, influenced by the Renaissance. Louis XV and Louis XVI styles. 

7. Carcassonne, France

Hidden behind two defensive outer walls with 53 watchtowers, the city was added to the World Heritage Sites list by the UNESCO in 1997 as one of the largest to survive medieval walled cities. It was occupied by the Roman Empire until its demise, and later on, was taken over by the Visigoths. 

8. Toruń, Poland

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Torun, Poland ©wikipedia.org

Toruń is a city located on the Vistula River and is a part of a UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It is one of the oldest cities in Poland and its architecture varies from Brick Gothic to Baroque. It is known for its completely preserved historical marketplace as well as consists of the largest amount of preserved Gothic residential architecture in Poland. Many of them are rich in wall painting and wood-beam ceilings. 

9. Zamość, Poland

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Zamosc, Poland ©wikipedia.org

Located in southeastern Poland, Zamość has been a part of the UNESCO World Heritage site since 1992 as a unique Renaissance town, designed in agreement with the Italian concept of “ideal town” by the architect Bernardo Morando. Its most famous space surrounding the brightly colored historical buildings (vital to its character) is the Great Marker Square with a beautiful Town Hall.

10. Chicago, USA

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Chicago, USA ©wikipedia.org

Chicago is an example of the city, which traditional architecture dates back only to the 19th century. In the early 1880s, pioneers of the Chicago School created a unique style that took advantage of steel-framed construction and the use of large panels of glass. An architect, Louis Sullivan, designed buildings with an emphasis on their verticality, recognizing skyscrapers as a completely new style of architecture.

11. Córdoba, Spain

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Cordoba, Spain ©dom.edu

This city located in Andalusia in southern Spain has the largest urban area in the world which was included in the World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It is known by many examples of Moorish architecture – the most famous one being Mezquita Cathedral. Its Old town is the second largest in Europe. 

12. Bath, UK

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Bath, UK ©wikipedia.org

The city is located in Somerset in the valley of River Avon and was named after Roman Baths that were built in the city in the 60-70CE. It was included in the World Heritage site in 1987. Most of its architecture dates back to the 18th and 19th centuries and is built from a local golden stone. The dominant style is Georgian, which was based on the Palladian revival. One of the most famous views is onto the terraced houses of Royal Crescent, designed by John Wood.

13. Marrakech, Morocco

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Marrakech, Morocco ©wikipedia.org

Marrakech is located within the foothills of the Atlas Mountains and is one of the four imperial cities of Morocco. Many of its buildings have Andalusian influences through the craftsmen from Cordoba and Seville that decorated many palaces within the city and developed Umayyad style with carved domes and arches. The medina quarter within the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

14. Havana, Cuba

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Havana, Cuba ©courtyardtvl.com

Havana was founded in the 16th century during the Spanish conquest of America and was declared in 1982 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s five hundred years of existence made it a city where diverse architectural styles, an explosion of colors and decay merge into an architectural spectacle that can be found nowhere else. 

15. Sanaa, Yemen

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Sanaa, Yemen ©wikipedia.org

It is the biggest city in Yemen and its Old City is a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is considered the city of ancient skyscrapers due to its several stories residential towers, with flat roofs, decorated in geometric patterns, stained glass windows, and intricate frames.

Katarzyna Czapiga
Author

A graduate from the Architectural Association with an interest in urban studies and public spaces that actively change and influence the neighbourhood. Her area of research focuses on the development of European metropolises and the way the architectural theory impacts their design.

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