The Chicago Bean

The Bean in Chicago (Photo by Christopher Alvarenga on Unsplash)

The allure of fantastic architecture is undeniable. To some people, seeing and exploring the greatest American feats of engineering is a passionate pastime. From the massive bridges of the American coasts to countless skyscrapers, impressive American architecture dots the nation. Our list of the best U.S. cities for architecture are some of the most unique and storied locations in America that you can visit to see some amazing buildings.

Ever hear someone describe something completely differently than you would? According to a recent study from the University College London and Bangor Universities, this could have to do with what you do for a living. In other words, our jobs affect the way we see and explain the world, particularly when it comes to artists and architects. The study of nearly 50 painters, sculptors, and architects found each discipline comes with a unique way of seeing things.Results showed that “spatial professionals” approached the scenes in ways that seemed influenced by their jobs. For example, architects usually referred to the “end” of an area, while painters would call the same location the “back.” Researchers said such small differences could have big implications about the way people think.

The importance of the humanities for young students cannot be overstated. A little bit of culture can go a long way academically for students, according to a new study. Researchers from Brigham Young University, Johns Hopkins University, and the Heritage Foundation say culturally enriching field trips, such as class excursions to local science museums or art venues, lead to better grades, superior in-class performance, and greater cultural conscientiousness among middle-schoolers.

For the American explorer as well as the curious enthusiast, our list of the top five best U.S. cities for architecture could provide some interesting information. Our sources helped us construct our list and were instrumental in ranking these great American architectural cities. Let us know your favorite cities for sight-seeing in the comments below!

The List: Best U.S. Cities for Architecture, Per Travel Pros

1. New York City, New York

For many Americans NYC is simply “The City.” As a city like no other, NYC has grown from colonial roots into one of the world’s great metropolises. Travel Away raves about Manhattan’s famous architecture, “In his 1976 novel ‘Slapstick,’ American author Kurt Vonnegut dubbed New York City the ‘Skyscraper National Park.’ Indeed, America’s most visited metropolis contains some of the world’s most impressive high-rise towers such as Shreve, Lamb & Harmon’s Empire State Building, Daniel Burnham’s Flatiron Building, Cass Gilbert’s Woolworth Building, and Reinhard, Hofmeister & Walquist’s Art Deco icon – the Chrysler Building.”

Aerial view of Manhattan buildings during nighttime
Manhattan at night (Photo by Andre Benz on Unsplash)

“There are hundreds of thousands of buildings in New York, each trying to upstage the one next to it, the skyline a steel-and-stone echocardiogram. And let’s not forget one of New York’s greatest architectural marvels: One World Trade Center, America’s massive, gleaming middle finger,” exclaims Thrillist.

“From non-stop nightlife and world-class theater to top-tier dining and endless shopping, New York is a city that has a little something for everyone. The iconic buildings that make up the Big Apple’s famous skyline are no exception. New York City offers everything from iconic architecture such as the Empire State Building, Grand Central Station, and the Chrysler Building to mind-blowing modern-day structures such as the Oculus, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and the Vessel,” praises Mark Morgan in an article posted by Yahoo!

2. New Orleans, Louisiana

Some of the architecture of NOLA predates the American Civil War and has been battered by relentless storms for decades. Despite natural destruction, the beautiful building style of classic NOLA endures. Sixt says, “New Orleans is not only culturally unique, but its architecture sets it apart from other American cities. You have the French Quarter with its distinctive wrought iron touches and Creole cottages, the Garden District‘s grand mansions, and narrow ‘shotgun houses’ with a door at each end. The city’s history, with Spanish, French and Caribbean influences, has also left its mark on the architecture.”

new orleans building
A building in New Orleans (Photo by Aya Salman on Unsplash)

The Big Easy is a city with more charm, character, and vibrancy than many nations have within their entire borders. This can make it easy to overlook the fact that its location at the mouth of the Mississippi River has put it at the confluence of culture and history throughout its existence and helped shape the city’s truly unique appearance,” describes Best Life.

Sundae elaborates, “New Orleans is the most European city in the United States. Within minutes of wandering the streets, you’ll see a blend of French, Spanish, and Southern architecture. The city is full of Creole style townhouses that blend together the influences of many cultures to make something unique to New Orleans.”

3. Chicago, Illinois

The city of big shoulders, sweet home Chicago is home to some of America’s most iconic architecture. Buildings, public art, and museums are all on display in the windy city. Covington Travel comments, “Chicago, Illinois has been an architectural trendsetter since the 1880s when the Chicago School of architecture began steel-frame constructions that became the modern skyscraper. These innovative tall buildings allowed concentrated use of urban land necessitated by post-Civil War economic growth and a growing white-collar workforce. Famous architects Frank Lloyd Wright and Frank Gehry, among others, contributed to the stunning cityscape of gleaming towers.”

The Bean sculpture in Chicago, Illinois
The Bean sculpture in Chicago, Illinois (Photo by Sawyer Bengtson on Unsplash)

Thought Co. adds, “See Chicago for the roots of American engineering and design. Chicago, Illinois has been called the Birthplace of the Skyscraper. Some call it the home of American architecture itself… Chicago has long been connected with some of architecture’s biggest names, including Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Sullivan, Mies van der Rohe, William Le Baron Jenney, and Daniel H. Burnham.”

CNN Travel details, “Chicago is teeming with notable buildings, including the Willis (aka Sears) Tower, Tribune Tower, Montgomery Ward Complex, the Old Post Office, Lake Point Tower, Sofitel Water Tower and the John Hancock Center, among others… make your way to the Art Institute of Chicago for the masterpiece building and one of the greatest displays of art in the country, as well as the popular ‘Cloud Gate’ sculpture (aka ‘The Bean’) in nearby Millennium Park.”

4. Boston, Massachusetts

Boston is a city where a visitor can see American history firsthand. From Paul Revere’s historic path to some of the oldest restaurants in the nation, there is plenty for the architecture lover in Boston. Seeker explains, “No list of architectural greatness would be complete without Boston, Massachusetts. When you mix New England charm with colonial history and top it off with a rapidly-growing cultural scene, the result is an eclectic city that takes shape in old and new architectural styles.”

Boston skyline at night
Boston skyline at night (Photo by Lance Anderson on Unsplash)

Travel Away offers more on the history of this city, “Nicknamed ‘The Puritan City,’ Boston’s architecture is heavily influenced by the Puritan settlers who arrived here on the Mayflower from England in 1962. Expect to be wowed by enchanting Craftsman bungalows, and stately Georgian and Victorian Tudors as you explore the city’s main thoroughfares and narrow side lanes.”

“In a city that was central to some of the most significant events of the American Revolution — from the Boston Tea Party to the Battle of Bunker Hill – it makes sense that history would be prominently reflected in the city’s architecture. From Back Bay’s row houses and the cobblestone streets of Beacon Hill to the Beaux-Arts Boston Public Library and the Classical Georgian Old State House (one of the oldest public buildings in the United States, btw), Boston’s buildings exemplify America’s earliest colonial history,” states Thrillist.

5. Palm Springs, California

This west coast city captures the classic look that some associate with the golden age of cinema. Pastel colors and angular lines capture the retro-future feel of some of Palm Springs’ most famous structures. Sixt claims, “Unlike other cities on this list, Palm Springs is mostly known for its houses. Specifically, the city is famed for its large number of houses in the mid-century modern style. That is partly due to the Alexander Construction Company that started building subdivisions of homes here in the 1950s in a style that was later replicated in other parts of the U.S. You can still find some of these original Alexander homes in Palm Springs. Basically, if you drive around Palm Springs, you will see several architecturally interesting houses and other buildings.”

Palm Springs sign
Palm Springs (Photo by Cesar Cid on Unsplash)

Sundae relates, “Palm Springs is a paradise in the desert. Aside from being a resort getaway for many, it’s also the home of mid-century modernism. More precisely, the birthplace of Desert Modernism which is best characterized ‘by its minimalist clean lines and the seamless blur of indoor and outdoor space.’ Renowned architects flocked to this desert town, leading to marvels such as Palm Springs City Hall and Frank Sinatra’s ‘Twin Palms’ Estate.”

Seeker reviews, “What was once a bustling resort town in the early 1900s has become one of the most iconic cities in California. Palm Springs was the hot spot where early Hollywood elites would escape from Tinseltown and unwind in their beautiful, mid-century modern homes. Today, Hollywood’s playground now stands as a mecca of modernist architecture. A visit to this sleepy yet spectacular town is a must.”

You might also be interested in:


Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.

About Alan Corona

Our Editorial Process

StudyFinds publishes digestible, agenda-free, transparent research summaries that are intended to inform the reader as well as stir civil, educated debate. We do not agree nor disagree with any of the studies we post, rather, we encourage our readers to debate the veracity of the findings themselves. All articles published on StudyFinds are vetted by our editors prior to publication and include links back to the source or corresponding journal article, if possible.

Our Editorial Team

Steve Fink


Chris Melore


Sophia Naughton

Associate Editor