Get Inspired: The Top 10 Cities for Design Lovers

Haley Grant
Haley Grant7 min read
Get Inspired By The Top 10 Cities for Design Lovers

It goes without saying that designers must continuously seek out inspiration to thrive in their craft. And what better way to be inspired than by traveling to places that showcase stunning design and architecture?

Designers and design lovers can get the most out of their travels by visiting UNESCO’s Creative Cities – international destinations that are revered as design hot spots. UNESCO started its Creative Cities Network in 2004 and, since then, has promoted  specific cities around the world that place creativity at the heart of their culture.

Here are some of the UNESCO-approved Creative Cities that anyone with a passion for design should check off their travel bucket list:

1. Montreal, Canada

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Image source: Pixabay

Appointed by UNESCO as a “city of designers,” Montreal boasts over 25,000 professionals in the design field; a whopping 34% of the overall economy is derived from the cultural sector. It’s also the first North American city to have created the position of Design Commissioner, a role dedicated solely to the development and promotion of design as well as raising awareness of the benefits of good design.

Whether it be strolling along Montreal’s streets to admire the art murals – the most popular being the House of Meggs – or spending a day in the renowned Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, there is no shortage of design-related gems to be discovered in this Canadian metropolis.


2. Berlin, Germany

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Image source: Pixabay

With a deep-rooted history in design, Germany’s capital has been a UNESCO Creative Cities member since 2005 and continues to demonstrate a commitment to its creative economy. Berlin’s most notable efforts include its Projekt Zukunft, which develops strategies to maintain Berlin’s stature as a center for the arts.

Must-see design attractions include the iconic Bauhaus Archives Museum, featuring the graphic design of the Bauhaus design movement leaders. Designers shouldn’t miss the Hamburger Bahnhof Contemporary Art Museum, which showcases 1,500 modern artworks, or The Tchoban Foundation Museum for Architectural Drawing.

3. Mexico City, Mexico

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Image source: Pixabay

Awarded the Official World Design Capital title in 2018, Mexico City is an international hub for art and design. Its renowned design festivals include the Abierto Mexicano de Diseño, Design Week Mexico and City Mextrópoli, all of which attract professional creatives and design admirers from all over the world.

Mexico City features architectural wonders around every corner, including Casa Gilardi, the iconic Barragán-designed home. Designers should be sure to visit the Museo Anahuacalli on their next trip to Mexico City, as well as the Museo Nacional de Antropología and, of course, the Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo House Studio Museum.

4. Istanbul, Turkey

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Image source: Pixabay

A UNESCO Creative City since 2017, Istanbul’s unique positioning between two continents has continuously inspired a diverse culture and architecture throughout the city. With magnificent domes, towering arches and vibrant mosaics, it would be nearly impossible to be uninspired after a visit to this city. Istanbul hosts many organizations and events that are devoted to enhancing the city’s design potential, including Istanbul Design Biennial, Turkey Design Week, Eco-Design Conference and Istanbul Fashion Week.

Whether it be basking in the Hagia Sophia’s glorious architecture, admiring the Islamic art of the Topkapi Palace, or simply losing oneself in the city’s growing street art culture, Istanbul offers something for every design enthusiast.

5. Beijing, China

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Image source: Pixabay

As China’s cultural center, Beijing boasts some of the world’s most renowned architectural designs, including the National Center for the Performing Arts by Paul Andreu, the Galaxy Soho by Zaha Hadid and Terminal 3 of Beijing Capital Airport by Norman Foster. The city joined the UNESCO Creative Cities in 2012 and hosts many international events, such as Beijing Design Week, the China Red Star Design Award and the Beijing International Cultural and Creative Industry Expo.

Visitors love wandering through the city’s 798 Art District, a concentration of contemporary art galleries, art bookshops and cafés. For a taste of Beijing’s exquisite architecture, designers should be sure to visit the CCTV Headquarters, as well as the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace and the Lama Temple.

6. Dubai, United Arab Emirates

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Image source: Pixabay

A UNESCO Creative Cities member since 2017, Dubai has taken a strategic approach to development; valuing creativity to enhance both economic and social growth. Dubai’s Downtown Design features Downtown Editions, one of the most significant fairs in the Middle East and South Asia that is devoted to collectible and limited edition furniture design. The Dubai Design Week, the region’s largest creative festival, highlights Dubai’s design community, from graphic designers to architects.

Travelers can enjoy Alserkal Avenue in the city’s industrial area, with various art galleries, innovative furniture shops, and a theater to explore. And no getaway to Dubai would be complete without a visit to the Dubai Design District, the most popular spot in the city for design and fashion.

7. Detroit, Michigan, United States

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Image source: Pixabay

Detroit opened its Detroit Creative Corridor Center (DC3) in 2010, its main objective being “to give international recognition to Detroit as a global center of design, innovation and creativity,” says UNESCO. To celebrate its joining of UNESCO’s Creative Cities in 2015, Design Core hosts an annual Detroit Month of Design throughout September. This citywide event invites designers and creatives to celebrate Detroit’s one-of-a-kind talent.

And for those who can’t visit the city in September, there are still plenty of sights to see all year round. Designers can spend a day in one of the U.S.’s most famed art institutions, the Detroit Institute of Arts, or stroll through The Belt and admire The Heidelberg Project, an outdoor art space.

8. Bilbao, Spain

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Image source: Pixabay

Bilbao’s reputation as an international design destination began with Frank Gehry’s world-renowned Guggenheim Museum opening in 1997. Since then, Bilbao’s tourists have been inspired by Gehry’s genius, as well as other design attractions throughout the city, such as the Zubizuri Bridge and the Azkuna Zentroa cultural center. In addition to hosting various international design events, Bilbao is committed to enhancing its economy and social well-being through creativity and design.

While the Guggenheim takes center stage in the city’s thriving art and design scene, Bilbao offers many other attractions for designers to explore, such as the Museum of Fine Arts, the Bizkaia Bridge, and the architecture of Plaza Berria.

9. Buenos Aires, Argentina

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Image source: Pixabay

A UNESCO Creative City since 2005, Buenos Aires hosts the annual arteBA festival, South America’s largest art fair that attracts thousands of design lovers every May. The city’s diverse architectural styles are credited to its history in trade between Europe and South America.

The city’s vibrant Design District was created in 2014 and is home to the Metropolitan Design Center (CMD), the city’s most prominent design and industrial institution. Designers can also visit the city’s most significant art institution, the Museum of Latin American Art (MALBA), as well as the Recoleta Cultural Center and numerous galleries, BARRO being the most popular.

10. Cape Town, South Africa

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Image source: Pixabay

Cape Town has been a UNESCO Creative City since 2017, but has been an international design destination for much longer. Since South Africa’s democratization was initiated in 1994, creativity and innovation have been central to Cape Town’s core values to help foster a better city. Named World Design Capital in 2014, Cape Town hosts many international annual design-related events, such as the Open Design Festival and the Design Indaba Festival.

While visiting Cape Town, designers can’t miss the famed Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art, Africa’s first major contemporary art museum, designed by British architect Thomas Heatherwick. Design lovers can also visit the Southern Guild gallery, featuring contemporary South African design, and the Watershed, a gorgeous space that houses over 365 brands of ceramics, textiles, furniture and fashion.

Published: Aug 28, 2019
Haley Grant
Written by
Haley Grant
Haley Grant is an American writer based in Madrid, Spain. A world traveler, Haley is also a huge fan of “Sex and the City,” spin classes and chugging iced coffee.

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