How to find great architecture or decor that I can explore?
February 15, 2020 5:49 PM   Subscribe

When I travel to a city, which resources (websites, apps, books) can I use to find locations with great architecture & design, where I can explore or savor for an hour? I'd like to enjoy the building interior or grounds, not just peer at the exterior from across the street.

When I visit a city, I generally use Google Maps and TripAdvisor to find places to visit. These only include cursory mentions about architecture or design. Sometimes user reviews will praise a building's design, but the public is not permitted to enter the interesting parts of the building (and is only permitted to look briefly at the exterior).

I'm looking for a more in-depth experience, such as a tour, walking around the interior, or sitting and savoring the ambiance for an hour. It might be hotel lobbies, temples, museums, or historical homes.

I'm interesting in learning about many kinds of architecture styles: Ottoman, Romanesque, Buddhist, etc.

I've tried tour guidebooks. I've also read websites of "top 10 places for architecture lovers". They have the same issue of including some buildings that are not open to the public. While some people might be happy to travel 30-60 minutes to look at a building for 2 minutes from the street, I prefer buildings I can spend more time in.

Are there any websites, books, or apps that you can recommend to find these places? Thanks!
posted by cheesecake to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
My first thought is that you might have a lot of luck if you make it a point of checking out college and university campuses wherever you travel. Public libraries, too. They often have what you're looking for right there, and they can be great resources for finding other stuff. I can't imagine there's much harm in booking campus tours like a prospective student might do if you want to get some insider info.
posted by The Potate at 10:57 PM on February 15, 2020

I would search for city name + "archtecture tour". There are often some options.

Any specific cities? I might be able to make more recommendations that way,.
posted by mkuhnell at 7:35 AM on February 16, 2020

2nding mkuhnell's search terms. In the US at least you can also research the local 'historical' or 'architectural' society for details on the area. I found such a tour in chicago that took us inside many of the downtown buildings- facinating!
posted by pgoes at 8:40 AM on February 16, 2020

Best answer: Atlas Obscura is a good place to check for architectural sites before traveling.

In the US, the National Trust for Historic Preservation also provides a catalog.

The interface is dated and sucks, but Waymarking also has some finds.

Even though some sites may be listed as private, I have had pretty good luck when traveling with the likes of office buildings and hotel lobbies. Unless there is a clear restriction, it can be worth just rocking up to the building and entering. Variously, you might have to check in with a front desk or go through a security checkpoint. But explaining "I'm interested in historic sites and wanted to see this famous building" is something they are usually familiar with. As noted this varies dramatically but if you're already in that neighborhood, it's worth a shot. I've seen some wonderful buildings and interior decorative art this way!
posted by Miko at 8:44 AM on February 16, 2020 [2 favorites]

You might also try searching archives and/or posting on Cyburbia.
posted by Miko at 8:46 AM on February 16, 2020

Some local AIA chapters have guidebooks as well, depending on the city.
posted by q*ben at 9:01 AM on February 16, 2020

When you're planning a trip, you might also pick a handful of representative public buildings - like the city hall and public library - and check their websites to see if they offer tours. The San Francisco City Hall and public library tours are pretty great.

Another good search term is "walking tour."
posted by kristi at 12:17 PM on February 18, 2020

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