The five best architectural tours in Europe

Learn about the built environment of these beautiful cities on tailored excursions with some expert guides

(Image credit: Edward Haynes)


Buildings in Berlin tend to be loaded with emotion, with the remains of the Wall a constant reminder of the way the city was divided until 1989. Guiding Architects run both customised tours for private groups, and ready-to-book tours around dozens of European cities, and offer a close-up look at Berlin's Museums Island. An extraordinary collection of five world-class museums all within yards of each other, it is Berlin's biggest inner-city project. Alternatively, the Sustainable Development tour focuses on the future-facing architecture as displayed in the curving beauty of Norman Foster's Philological Library.

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Last year the Catalan capital's 1.6 million residents hosted an estimated 32 million visitors, with most heading to tourist attractions designed by Gaudi. There is, however, another way to enjoy one of the world's most celebrated cities; Barcelona Architecture Walks are run by a team of practising architects who offer five different tours of the city, including the Barcelona and the Future tour. It's a fascinating two-and-a-half-hour walk around the former industrial district of Poblenou, rebranded slightly awkwardly as 22@. The recent economic crash in Spain forced building work to stop, but 22@ is now surging ahead with new green spaces and eco-friendly buildings.


Iceland is a country of staggering natural beauty, but it also boasts breathtaking architecture too. A walking architecture tour of Reykjavik is, of course, dominated by the modernist church Hallgrimskirkja, the tallest church in Iceland, its tiered concrete facade looks imperiously over the capital. Elsewhere in the city there's the gleaming Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre, its coloured geometric glass panels facing both land and sea. You would no doubt discover these two alone, but the E-Architect walking tour will also show you lesser-known examples of Icelandic architecture, such as the pyramid-shaped pedestrian and bicycle bridges along the Ellioaa estuary, which lead the curious out of the city.


Insight Cities' tour, 'Art Nouveau and Cubist Architecture – Prague after 1900', could easily be mistaken for a slightly daunting academic tour. Instead, it helps make sense of a place that only emerged from behind the Iron Curtain in 1991, nicknamed 'the City of a Hundred Spires' and widely agreed to be as beautiful as Paris. It takes in the defining features of Art Nouveau (including ginkgo biloba leaves on facades) and includes a visit to the Lucerna bar, once owned by Vaclav Havel's family and the building which housed the Grand Hotel Europa, which signified the Czech Republic's willingness to join Europe. The Cubist aspect of the city is explored via the House of the Black Madonna.


A few years ago, the National Trust restored the first ever Routemaster coach back to its pleasing green livery and set up Road trips by Routemaster. Lasting from three to six hours, the National Trust offers the kind of expert guides to the city that would surely inspire even the weariest Londoner. Look out for the Early Electric tour, which explores the development of West London suburbs from 1900 to 1950. There is individual audio equipment for ease of listening and, most pleasing of all, the National Trust can access sites usually closed to the public.

The Early Electric tour is on 5 August 2017;

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