A city is one of the most complicated yet fascinating ecosystems of human habitation. Every city in the world is backed by a story that narrates its origin and growth. In the words of Spiro Kostof “no city, however arbitrary its form may appear to us, can be said to be unplanned”. 

We immediately connect to certain cities or develop an immediate distaste to others. Some make us want to return to them again. Tourist destinations often induce this longing in most visitors. Let us look at a few cities that became the clay in the hands of tourism as the potter.

1. Rotterdam, Netherlands

Rotterdam is also known as the “Gateway to Europe”. It is Europe’s largest seaport and considered a “city of experimental architecture.” The city had to undergo a reinvention because of the destruction it faced during WWII. The city completely transformed post-war. It aimed to improve its cultural climate and promote urban tourism.

The city skyline is dominated by award-winning architectural projects and is a dream canvas for most contemporary architects. Sustainability is one of the primary missions the city took up. It also boasts well designed public spaces and tourist-friendly urban events. The public transport network utilizes electric trams. Its urban plan focuses on a cultural axis that attracts tourists with museums, hotels, and designated shopping streets.  

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Tourist map of Rotterdam (Image source: https://blog.redcheeksfactory.com)
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Experimental architecture (Image source: https://en.rotterdam.com)
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Street character (Image source: https://en.rotterdam.com)

2. Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon has always been famous as a historic city. The capital city of Portugal has an organic and historic urban character. The city decided to opt for an urban regeneration program to market its tourism potential further. The initial endeavors included rejuvenating the areas with poor infrastructure. It was followed by the development of public spaces. 

The incorporation of spaces for cultural events was created with a defined link to the historic sites. Large tracts of land were reclaimed and developed. Transportation and communication infrastructure also saw and uplift. Commercial areas and shopping hubs like Centro Colombo and Centro Comercial Vasco Da Gama became developed. 

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Tourist map of Lisbon (Image source: https://lenikauffman.com/)
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Seaside settlement (Image source: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/)
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Seaside settlement (Image source: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/)

3. Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona has a rich architectural history. Its initial urban plan followed the Roman gridiron pattern. Barcelona has been subjected to reinvention time and again. The city managed to cope with the changing trends while maintaining its original urban character. Ildefons Cerdà’s Barcelona is a city that saw an anthropocentric urban plan. 

By the 1990s Barcelona began to concentrate on tourism generation. The creation of better transportation links, rejuvenation of the waterfront, and well-planned public spaces were added. At present, the city is looking forward to another transformation. The current target is the promotion of sustainable and eco-friendly tourism. It will be accompanied by the inclusion of more pedestrian-friendly networks and tourist-oriented public spaces. 

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Tourist map of Barcelona (Image source: https://travelfamilyblog.com/)       
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Aerial view (Image source: https://www.departures.com/) 
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La Rambla (Image source: https://www.planetware.com/)  

4. Vienna, Austria

Vienna is renowned for creating a mark in the cultural field. The city has been lauded for the ‘Quality of Living’ offered by it. It has a vibrant medieval character as it flourished during that era. The original plan of the city followed the gridiron pattern of streets. Post World War, there was a drive to re-establish the cultural and tourist status that the city enjoyed.

The urban design of Vienna shows an established historic core. Eventually, the fortifications of the old town were torn down and replaced with tourist attractions. The tourist attraction within the core and outside is well linked by the street network. The city also has a unique morphology that enhances pedestrian usage and reduces congestion during peak tourist season. 

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Tourist map of Vienna (Image source: https://christinewittedesigns.com/)
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View of the city (Image source: https://www.travelanddestinations.com/)
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Shopping area (Image source: https://www.travelanddestinations.com/)

5. Budapest, Hungary

Budapest – The capital city of Hungary is also its financial capital and vibrant tourist destination. It has an equally fascinating history. It began as a Celtic settlement, followed by Roman occupation and it flourished during the Renaissance. It underwent more ups and downs and eventually took the position of being a global city. 

The rich history contributes to the aesthetic appeal of Budapest, which showcases the different eras it underwent. The city undertook many schemes to enhance its tourism potential. The underground tramway system, revitalizing the historical tourist attractions, creation of an up to date tourism infrastructure was seen in Budapest.

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Tourist map of Budapest (Image source: https://mir-s3-cdn-cf.behance.net/)
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View of the city (Image source: https://budapest.ticketbar.eu/)
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Grand market hall (Image source: https://www.absolutetours.com/)

6. Prague, Czech Republic

Prague, also called ‘City of a Hundred Spires’, is an important cultural and economic center of the Czech Republic. Prague also has a rich architectural history, which serves as a beacon to tourists worldwide. The changes in the socio-political layer of Prague profoundly influenced its planning. The transformation of Prague from an industrial city to its current status is very much influenced by tourism.

Tourism brought forth the various changes in the Urban Planning of Prague. A well-managed and cost-efficient public transit system and incorporation of pedestrian-only zones in the core city constitute a significant step. The city also worked towards making it more accessible. Tactical paving and accessible transportation are also major additions to links to all tourist destinations. 

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Tourist map of Prague (Image source: http://www.jessolah.com/)
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View of the city (Image source: https://www.amazingczechia.com/)
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View of the city (Image source: https://www.amazingczechia.com/)

7. Benidorm, Spain

Benidorm’s planning has been shaped by the tourism industry. It is a compact city with a concentration of vertical development. It was initially a fishing village. The boom in the 3S tourism industry is one of the reasons that brought about the change in Benidorm’s architecture. The city has opted for high-density development since the beginning of its tourism focussed development.

In the 1950s the city underwent a massive transformation. The creation of a tourism centered urban development plan was seen. New hotels and skyscrapers began springing up along the beaches. Improvement in motorization and strengthening of the tourism infrastructure was undertaken. Currently, Benidorm is attempting to incorporate sustainable tourism and architecture. 

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Tourist map of Benidorm (Image source: https://www.gifex.com/)
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View of the city (Image source: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/)

8. Dubai, UAE

Dubai is one of the major tourist destinations in Western Asia. Historically it was a mercantile city. The city saw a meteoric rise in infrastructural development and economic income following the oil boom. At present tourism and aviation industries play an essential role in the economy of Dubai.

Dubai began focussing on creating a striking urban image. It utilized globalization as a scaffolding to become a vital tourist center. The skyline was decked with iconic architectural marvels. It was followed by the enhancement of the travel industry. The development of the hospitality and entertainment industry only added to it. The city planning is determined by the intention of enhancing tourism within it. 

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Tourist map of Dubai (Image source: https://www.pinterest.es/)
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View of the city (Image source: http://www.travelstart.co.za/)
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Market (Image source: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/)

9. Seoul, South Korea

Seoul is a major technological hub in South Korea. Despite a history spanning almost 2000 years, the city presents the urban image of modernity and futurism. Seoul is often recognized for the introduction of ‘The Korean Wave’ to the world. During the 1990s, the city was reeling from the aftershock of becoming a metropolis. The city then decided to use ‘Urban Design’ as a tool for city branding and establish its status as a ‘Creative city’. 

This rebranding was done through various steps. The first step was the formation of a cultural district that promoted the cultural tourism aspects. It was followed by the addition of public cultural spaces for visitors. This was concluded with the development of adequate supporting infrastructure.

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Tourist map of Seoul (Image source: https://www.seeouterspace.com/)
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View of the city (Image source: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/)
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A shopping street (Image source: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/)

10. Taipei, Taiwan

Taipei, also known as ‘The City of Azaleas’ is the financial and cultural center of Taiwan. The city harbors the past and the present through sectors in its urban design. The eastern side of downtown Taipei preserves its vernacular characteristics, while the western side is the face of modernism.

The urban design of Taiwan dictated by the growth of its tourism industry. The city view was enhanced by the addition of new landmarks and linking the existing ones. In 2016 they embarked on a journey to become the World Design Capital. For this, the city earmarked 16 projects that would help its transition towards becoming a Smart City.

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View of the city (Image source: https://www.tripadvisor.in/)
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A shopping street (Image source: https://www.tripadvisor.in/)
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Namita is an architect. Her experience at COSTFORD paved her interest in the architectural philosophies of Laurie Baker. She has a passion for writing. Her mother, a preceptor in English literature instilled in her the passion for books and languages. She also loves to explore new places and wishes to be a globetrotter.

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