The Old Continent has many architectural gems, but here we focus on 3 lesser-known, no less fascinating urban centres. On the contrary: between neighborhoods undergoing redevelopment, timeless buildings and creative experiments, you have to fall in love with them

We tend to think of architectural journeys as an experience reserved exclusively for insiders, therefore for planners, perhaps designers.

We are here to broaden this (restricted) perspective: architectural trips can prove to be a very stimulating type of holiday even for those who have a general passion for beauty, for those who wish to observe a city from a new point of view, but also and above all for those who want to discover the origins and evolution of a certain culture starting from its monuments.

Yes, because as the British historian Alfred Leslie Rowse wrote in the mid-twentieth century, «architecture could be considered as history imprinted in stones».

But how do you observe architecture?

There is no universally valid method. To say, if on your journey you are accompanied by an expert or a fan of the subject, you will enjoy the privilege of listening to his explanations and points of view regarding buildings, squares, facades.

But if you are simple amateurs, proceed in your itineraries with an mind open to receive the stimuli that each monument and perspective will give you.

There is no clearly beautiful or ugly architecture: it is the emotions - absolutely personal - that count.

And then when it comes to an architectural trip to a city, it will be the general atmosphere that wins you over, and not the individual architectural work. Have we convinced you? Here are 3 European cities for trips with a focus on architecture.

Stop in Geneva

Besides being a city with a high quality of life, thanks to impeccable services and high salaries, Geneva is described as the most international urban center in Switzerland.

It is no coincidence that it is the European headquarters of the UN.

The location is fortunate, being located at the point where the Rhone River flows into Lake Geneva. In the Vieille Ville, i.e. the old centre, visit the Maison Tavel.

It is one of the first Genevan houses, a testament to the medieval architecture of the time. Today it is home to an interesting Museum of Urban History.

The Cathedral of St-Pierre, at the top of the hill of the Vieille Ville, dates back to 1160 and was built on the remains of earlier Roman churches ( and in fact in the basement it preserves a vast archaeological site from the Roman era).

On Rue Louis Favre, in the Grottes district, fall in love with the smurf-houses. It is an eccentric housing complex with curved walls and bold colours, built in the early 80s inspired by the aesthetics of the Spanish Gaudì.

North towards Helsinki

We move to the land of Alvar Aalto, one of the most important figures of the Modern Movement: Helsinki, in Finland, represents our second urban stop.

The Nordic atmosphere is devoted to minimalism: ostentation is not part of the urban landscape of the capital.

The Studio Aalto structure is sober and extremely modern, designed in the mid-1950s by the architect of the same name in the suburb Tiilimäki, north of Helsinki. Total white facade and an amphitheater green courtyard, as well as full-height windows to connect with the external environment.

Monumental and austere is the Lutheran Cathedral of Helsinki, built between 1830 and 1851 in the neoclassical style.

Completely antipodes is Temppeliaukion Kirkko, a Lutheran church set in the rock, according to the lesson of rock architecture. In the Töölö district, it was consecrated at the end of the 60s.


In the former East Germany, it is known for its lively cultural scene, due to the large number of art schools and a very young population.

Designed by the Dutch architect Erick van Egeraat of the EEA studio, the new building for the University of Leipzig it is located on the site of the former Pauliner church, one of the few sacred buildings spared from the bombings, only to be razed to the ground in 1968 by the GDR regime.

Then enter the former industrial site Leipziger Baumwollspinnere: most of the factories have been converted in recent decades into cultural hubs and artistic universities, see the former Westwerk factories such as the Spinnerei , once a cotton mill, now home to ateliers and galleries.

A leap into the past with a view of the Alte Handelsbörsel. The old Stock Exchange of the city is a Baroque building dating back to 1668 and is located in the characteristic Naschmarkt, a small square with a monument dedicated to Goethe.