Holidays: the European capitals of design

UNESCO draws up a list of the Creative Cities of World Design Creative Cities of Design. Among these, we focus on a selection of the cities that this United Nations institution considers among the best in Europe in the design sector. We have chosen 5 cities that can be a revelation for those in search of a vacation to discover architectural beauties and modern design.

Here a brief guide to the major attractions, monuments and art museums for those who want to discover the best of European design and architecture. In our selection there are both established artistic capitals but also medium-sized cities which are far from the usual tourist routes.

Helsinki (Finland)

What to see:
Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma (Helsinki)
  • Design Museum: here you can find the most disparate and iconic items of furniture, with over 75,000 objects, 45,000 drawings and 125,000 photographs. For those who want to be inspired by Nordic design to renovate their home, the Helsinki Design Museum is the place to visit.
  • Alvar Aalto Museum: dedicated to the greatest Nordic designer, who left a great signature on the architecture of Helsinki itself.
  • Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma (in the picture): inside the spectacular building designed by Steven Holl there is a vast collection of Finnish and international contemporary art.
  • Helsinki Design District: it is the creative hub of the city. Crossing the Punavuori, Kaartinkaupunki, Kruunuhaka, Kamppi and Ullanlinna districts you will discover the most innovative ateliers and activities of the Finnish city

Bilbao (Spain)

What to see:
Guggenheim Museum (Bilbao)
  • Guggenheim Museum (in the picture): designed by the archistar Frank Gehry, since it was finished in 1997 it became the symbol of the new Bilbao and a place of pilgrimage for lovers of art and architecture.
  • Zubizuri Bridge: the bridge crossing the Nervion river, designed by the most famous Spanish architect Santiago Caltrava, gets immediately carved in the minds of passers-by and visitors for its characteristic sail shape.
  • Azkuna Zentroa: a former warehouse which was rethought and transformed into a cultural center by Philippe Starck. Inside it: cinema, media center, art gallery, swimming pool (on the roof), bars and restaurants.
  • Museo de Bellas Artes: the city museum of fine arts, with the largest collection in Bilbao, from the Spanish classics like Murillo, Zurbarán and Goya to the modern Gauguin and Francis Bacon.

Dundee (Scotland)

What to see
città del design
V&A Museum of Design (Dundee)
“Views of the V&A”
Immagine di nz_willowherb; Licenza:
  • V&A Museum of Design (in the picture): designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, it is the new “living room” of Dundee. It is a mammoth construction with an alien appearance that seems to rise from the water.
  • Dundee Contemporary Arts: not just a museum, but also a meeting point for creativity, with its two art galleries, cinema and research center.
  • McManus: a small museum in a spectacular Victorian Gothic palace from 1867.
  • Verdant Works: this former jute processing factory is now one of the best industrial museums in the World, with original machinery still in working conditions and a route that takes visitors from the raw material (Indian jute) to the finished products (including the covers for the wagons used in the American Old West).

Budapest (Hungary)

What to see:
  • Parliament: symbolic palace of the Hungarian capital and one of the most beautiful neo-Gothic palaces in the World, as well as one of the most impressive eye-popping shots in Budapest, especially at sunset. Some parts are open to tourists.
  • Museum of Applied Arts: currently closed for restoration, the jewel of the architect Ödön Lechner is immediately recognizable for its grandeur and for the typical Zsolnay porcelain giving the roof a vivid green.
  • Müpa Budapest: the palace of arts is the most important building built in the 21st century; a 70,000 square meter structure that serves as a cultural center for the entire city, containing the Bartok National Concert Hall, the Theater Festival and the Ludwig Museum of contemporary art (with an important selection of pop art works including masterpieces by Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein).
  • CET Building: also called “the Whale”, this futuristic multi-purpose center is a gigantic monster wedged between the historic buildings and the Danube bank. Inside it, commercial and cultural spaces coexist to outline a possible future for the Hungarian capital.

Graz (Austria)

What to see:
Murinsel (Graz)
“Mur Island bridge in Graz”
Immagine di Marco Verch Professional; Licenza:
  • Murinslel: the Isle of Mur, made by the American architect and designer Vito Acconci is a completely artificial island built of metal and plastic in the middle of the Mur river, inaugurated in 2003. In this new symbol of Graz there is a cafe and a children park.
  • Kunsthaus: designed by architects Peter Cook and Colin Fournier, the art museum of the Austrian city looks like a ship just descended from another planet with its typical“ blobitecture shape ”. Temporary exhibitions take place every three to four months.
  • Mumuth: the House of Music and Music Theater designed by the UNStudio in 2009 is a composite structure called blob-to-box, as it contains two very distinguishable volumes: a “box” and a shapeless “blob” to his side. Inside there is an auditorium with 650 seats and a foyer with a spiral staircase that connects the entrance with the music rooms upstairs.
  • Atelier Jungwirth: a former police station renovated and turned into a photo studio. This is the place in Graz where you can discover the best of international photography.


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