All Articles A design-lover's travel bucket list

A design-lover's travel bucket list

Fill your next trip with eye-catching art and architecture.

Esme Benjamin
By Esme Benjamin26 May 2022 2 minutes read
Courtyard of Nasir ol Molk Mosque, Shiraz, Iran
Courtyard of Nasir ol Molk Mosque, Shiraz, Iran
Image: Getty Images

If a deep appreciation for art and architecture drives many of your trip ideas, you’re not alone. From museums to mosques, palaces to pyramids, here are six destinations every design-lover should see.

Sculpture of a man sitting on a bench at the Benesse House Museum in Japan
Benesse House Museum, Naoshima-cho, Japan
Image: sugapapa/Tripadvisor

Japan’s Art Islands

If you’re a contemporary art fan, head to Japan’s design-filled archipelago in the Seto Inland Sea. The original and most famous of Japan’s art islands, Naoshima (which made headlines in 2021 when a typhoon swept Yayoi Kusama’s yellow polka–dotted pumpkin off its pier and into the ocean) found fame with the opening of the Benesse House Museum in 1992. Since then, several more sparsely occupied islands nearby—including Teshima and Inujima—have introduced their own sculptures and museums housing pieces by artists including David Hockney, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Richard Long, and Shinro Ohtake.

Aerial view of Crystal Bridges Museum
Aerial view of Crystal Bridges Museum
Image: Scubasmom/Tripadvisor

Bentonville, Arkansas

The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art opened in 2011 with an impressive array of U.S. masterworks spread over 50,000 square feet of gallery space. Designed by celebrated Boston-based architect Moshe Safdie, the building itself seamlessly integrates art with the natural landscape just beyond its doors. In between viewing pieces by Georgia O’Keeffe, Asher B. Durand, Maya Lin, and Félix González-Torres, wander through the eight linked pavilions for views of crystal spring–fed pools.

Sunset at the Pyramids, Giza, Cairo, Egypt
Image: Getty Images

Cairo, Egypt

Though their treasure-filled interiors and limestone facades were plundered long ago, the Pyramids of Giza remain astounding in person. Located where the bustling city of Cairo meets the Western Desert, the meticulously built collection of structures is all that remains of the original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. To really grasp the incredible feat of engineering, architecture, and design, hire a local guide. Then head to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo proper to view the world’s largest collection of Pharaonic antiquities and imagine the grandeur of the pyramids as they must have been, more than 4,500 years ago.

Exterior of Prada storefront installation in Marfa, Texas
Image: Management/Tripadvisor

Marfa, Texas

It’s nothing but open road and tumble weeds on the way to Marfa, one of America’s preeminent art destinations. Minimalism artist Donald Judd put Marfa on the map when he moved there in 1971 and opened the Chinati Foundation, a live-work compound that lured other artists to this laid-back area of west Texas. In the age of Instagram, however, Marfa is best known for its remote Prada store installation. Visit and you’ll also find a town full of galleries, boutiques, casual restaurants, and quirky accommodations like El Cosmico, a glamping spot with airstreams, yurts, and tiny houses.

Interior windows of Nasir Al-Mulk, a traditional mosque in Shiraz, Iran.
Image: Getty Images

Shiraz, Iran

The Nasir al-Mulk Mosque (also known as “The Pink Mosque”) is a famously decorative place of worship located in historic city of Shiraz. Visiting early in the day, when sunlight filters through the stained-glass windows, is like stepping into a kaleidoscope. Then head outside for a peaceful moment by the courtyard pool.

Exterior of the Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain
Image: Frenchfrog39/Tripadvisor

Bilbao, Spain

Designed by Frank Gehry, the curvy, titanium-clad Guggenheim Museum Bilbao is its own artistic spectacle—not to mention the perfect home for an impressive collection of modern art. Expect pieces from the likes of Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, and Yves Klein, plus a section dedicated exclusively to Spanish and Basque artists. The Guggenheim Bilbao was a controversial addition to this struggling seaport city when it was constructed in the ‘90s; ultimately, though, the building helped turned Basque Country into a top tourism destination.

Esme Benjamin
Esme Benjamin is a Brooklyn-based award-winning writer and the current editor-in-chief of Full-Time Travel. Her editorial work, which covers wellbeing and travel, can be found online at Self, Refinery29 and Culture Trip, and in British "glossies" like Red, Grazia and The Telegraph Magazine. She was a contributing author to the book Wanderess: The Unearth Women Guide to Traveling Smart Solo and Safe, and currently hosts The Trip That Changed Me, a podcast from Full-Time Travel featuring transformative travel stories from guests like writer/illustrator Mari Andrew, celebrity Chef Markus Samuelsson and former star of ABC's The Bachelor Ben Higgins.