Six of the best cities for great architecture

BRUSSELS: AHEAD OF THE CURVE

It is hard to resist the delicate tendrils and sensuous curves of art nouveau; the good folk of Brussels, it seems, didn't even try. Early last century, when art nouveau was at its peak, the city's elite vied to have their homes designed by leading practitioners such as Brussels' own Victor Horta. Today, many of these buildings are regularly open to visitors, including the charming Maison Cauchie​ and the Horta Museum, housed in Horta's own home. Another landmark worth checking out: Bozar, another Horta creation, which houses a range of concert halls and exhibition spaces. See www.visitbrussels.be.

QUITO: ON THE GRID

Many of South America's cities have preserved a pretty colonial plaza or two, but nowhere has as glorious a town centre as Ecuador's capital Quito. Neatly laid out in a grid that covers 17 blocks, the buzzing old town is the best example of colonial architecture in the Americas. Aside from pretty streets such as La Ronda, its whitewashed houses brightened by colourful window frames and cheery geraniums, the most impressive structures are the baroque churches, which blend Spanish, Italian, Moorish, Flemish and indigenous influences. The piece de resistance is the jaw-dropping La Compañía​ church. See www.quito.com.ec/en.

CHICAGO: SKYSCRAPING

A trip to Chicago, the home of the skyscraper, is a rite of passage for every architecture student. With large chunks of the city levelled during the Great Fire of 1871, the city became a laboratory for architects such as Daniel Burnham and Louis Sullivan, who experimented with groundbreaking new techniques and materials such as steel-frame construction and plate glass. Any walk through town will take you past one classic building after another, from the gorgeous Marquette Building to the soaring Willis Tower, still better known as the Sears Tower. See www.choosechicago.com.

TORUN: GOTHIC ROMANCE

Europe's last remaining medieval towns tend to be overrun with tourists. Torun, in northern Poland, is an exception. Founded by the Teutonic Knights, this 14th-century powerhouse has preserved much of the townscape within its medieval walls. Although the castle has been razed, there are elegant churches and a mighty town hall to admire. The most distinctive buildings, however, are the merchant's Gothic residences, with their rich, recessed facades. Two of the most ornate now house a museum celebrating the local celebrity who was born there: astronomer Nicholas Copernicus​. See www.visittorun.pl.

BARCELONA: FEELING GAUDI 

The Catalan capital is Antoni Gaudi​'s city. From the playful Casa Mila and Park Guell​ to the Sagrada Familia​ church, Barcelona's most famous architect designed many of the city's most popular attractions, instantly recognisable by their organic shapes and colourful mosaics. However, architecture fans will find a lot more to admire, especially the equally flamboyant work of fellow Catalan Lluis Domenech i Montaner​, who designed the spectacular Palau de la Musica. Keep an eye out for works by contemporary greats such as Jean Nouvel​, Frank Gehry​ and Herzog and De Meuron. See www.barcelonaturisme.com.

MIAMI: EYE CANDY

If it looks familiar, that's because it is. With its pastel-painted houses, decked out with chrome fittings and lit up by neon, Miami's art deco district has provided the backdrop for countless films, from Esther Williams musicals to Scarface and The Birdcage. Many of the most striking buildings are clustered along the main drags of Ocean Drive and Collins Avenue, although gems can also be found lurking down the side streets. We love the oceanic touches, such as porthole-shaped windows and railings reminiscent of an ocean liner. See www.miamiandbeaches.com.

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