Do you spend the first days of your holiday seeking out the most eye-catching buildings and spaces? Can’t resist finding the perfect Insta shot of the city you’re in? Make it easier to seek out inspiration in metropolises where innovative architecture and great design make every corner picture-perfect.
Seoul, South Korea
Walk down the street and you’re sure to brush elbows with an arty type: 73 per cent of Korea’s designers live in Seoul. By tapping into digital innovations, the city has become a truly futuristic, boundary-pushing place, best demonstrated by the Dongdaemun Design Plaza. Designed by Zaha Hadid, it’s a huge buzzing structure that houses a design museum and art space, as well as 24-hour shops and restaurants.
Beaten-up sneakers won’t cut in on a walking tour of this stylish city – you’re going to at least need on-trend trainers to fit in in the “design capital of the world”. Its well-heeled residents worship at the alter of good style but fashion isn’t the only thread of design celebrated in Milan: along its streets you’ll find a wealth of beautifully built homes and palazzos and, each April, Milan Design Week highlights innovations in furniture design.
The clean-edged, minimalist Scandinavian aesthetic has infiltrated lounge rooms around the world so if you’re a fan, you need to visit ground zero. Copenhagen’s cityscape makes the most of the milky northern light and nearby ocean with swathes of open space letting nature in between the buildings. Plus, the lays claim to the first “design hotel” in the world – Raddison Blu Royal Hotel.
Yes, South Beach is awash with dreamy, sorbet-coloured Art Deco buildings but, back from the water’s edge, there’s a new space so dedicated to good design that it’s known as the Design District. Within its streets you’ll find a slew of high-fashion brands in good-looking buildings, the brand-new Institute of Contemporary Art and a collection of edgy public art installations scattered by bus stops and in parks.
Known for its emerging collection of Michelin-starred restaurants, Bilbao has also become an art hotspot thanks huge names in the design world contributing to the layout of the city. Highlights include Frank Gehry’s undulating Guggenheim Museum and Phillipe Starck’s Azunka Zentroa community space.
Beijing proved its design template was well and truly in the 21st century when it revealed the Bird’s Nest stadium for the 2008 Olympics. In the decade since, its remained dedicated to pushing the boundaries of architecture and art, including a new national performing arts centre and the Zaha Hadid-designed Galaxy Soho building. The new guard of designers are also starting to make their mark on the city: there are more than 300,000 students currently attending Beijing’s 119 design colleges.
Mexico City, Mexico
Mexico City is the first metropolis in South – and North – America to be awarded the coveted World Design Capital title for 2018. It nabbed the moniker for its efforts to revitalise low-income areas and focus on freshening public spaces such as parks. There’s also a slew of impressive museums, such as the Frida Kahlo museum and Museo Soumaya, and a strong community of architects and designers creating eye-catching hotels, office buildings and crafts.
If it wasn’t for the scooters whipping past at high speed, you could easily mistake the tree-lined main arteries of this northern Vietnamese city for a Parisian boulevard. French Colonial architecture characterises most of the structures built at the beginning of the 20th century but there’s a new wave of buildings and boutiques springing up that better reflect modern Vietnamese style.
Palm Springs, USA
So dedicated are the homes in Palm Springs to the Mid-Century Modern design aesthetic that driving into the city conceivably feels like being transported back in time. The favoured retreat of Hollywood stars since the days of the Rat Pack, with the San Jacinto Mountains looming in the distance, the best way to see the highlights of the retro architecture is to take part in a guided tour.