As much as I love quaint historic villages and the imposing structures built during the past centuries, I am a huge fan of modern, futuristic architecture and quirky design too. An important part of my travels is to include destinations that feature unique modern architectural masterpieces and innovative places.

This year, I was able to tick off several locations from my ever growing list. All of them were amazing in their own right and I had a great time exploring them.

So here are my top 5 architecture-led travel moments in 2018.

Rioja wineries

Rioja in northern Spain is not only a location for wine lovers. Alongside the world-renown and award-winning wines it is also home to several truly amazing design-led wineries.

Hotel Marques de RiscalHotel Marques de RiscalMarques de Riscal

Perhaps the most famous is the stunning Marques de Riscal although the modern building with the amazing roof designed by Frank Gehry actually is a hotel. It is however part of the ‘city of wine’ including the historic Bodegas Marques de Riscal winery, which is one of the oldest but nevertheless one of the most innovative within the Rioja Alavesa wine region, founded in 1858.

 

There are several more which are worth a visit though, including Bodegas Baigorri, Bodegas Ysios, R. Lopes de Heredia, Vina Real, Eguren Ugarte and the winery and wine museum Bodegas Vivanco and Dinastia Vivanco. Many of these structures are not only spectacular looking. They have been built to incorporate the most innovative and sustainable production processes. For example, a number of them were built largely into the underground and using gravity to make the wine.

If you want to know more about the wineries of Rioja and the region itself, check out my posts here and here.

Cité du Vin, Bordeaux

The futuristic-looking swirling aluminium and glass structure that is shaped like a giant wine decanter, shimmering in hues of gold and blue, rising 55 metres high on the banks of the Garonne river, will catch you eye already from afar.

La Cité de Vin, BordeauxLa Cité de Vin, BordeauxLa Cité de Vin, Bordeaux

Cité du Vin, Bordeaux’s latest wine museum since opening its doors in summer 2016 has attracted some one million visitors; and this certainly also thanks to its futuristic look. However, the main reason to visit is found inside where a number of excellent wine-related exhibitions wait to be explored. The museum is highly interactive and an audio system allows the visitor to engage with the exhibition in a whole new way.

It’s safe to say, there is currently no other wine museum that could rival the experience offered by Cité du Vin.

Louvre Abu Dhabi

This is truly one of the most jaw dropping structures I have visited over the past few years. To a large part, this is down to its amazing rooftop which is formed of nearly 8,000 steel stars letting through the sunlight and by doing so creating the most stunning impressions of light and shadows.

 

The complex is composed of 55 different but interwoven whitewashed buildings nestled on the shores of the blue-greenish Arabian gulf.

In addition to the amazing architecture, this place should be on your list for its historic and modern art exhibitions from all over the world. Indeed, with 8,000 sq m of galleries, it is now the largest museum in the Middle East.

Trust me, you can spend hours here without getting board. And when you are getting exhausted from wandering the galleries, head to the Museum Café restaurant. It is one of those which are part of a new generation of museum restaurants that actually offer exquisite food, with a breakfast, lunch and dinner menu.

Read all about my visit to Louve Abu Dhabi here.

Oslo Opera

Getting a firsthand glimpse of Oslo Opera was one of the (well yes, many) reasons to visit Oslo. And it certainly did not disappoint. It’s a beautiful piece of architecture made of white marble, granite and glass, designed to resemble a glacier rising out of the Oslo Fjord.

 

Although many buildings allow you to access the rooftop, Oslo Opera is actually build in a way that allows you to walk up the buildings ‘walls’ in order to get to the roof, at the top offering amazing views over the city and Oslo Fjord.

City of Arts and Sciences, Valencia

A futuristic, jaw dropping complex, the stunning City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia was perhaps my favourite design moment in 2018. Build by star architects Santiago Calatrava (the same who is currently building the world’s next largest building, The Towner, in Dubai) and Felix Candela.

 

The complex is made up of a number of different buildings which are home to various museums, an opera and Europe’s largest oceanographic park spanning 110,000 sq m with 42 million litres of water and more than 500 species.

Do you integrate architecture and design into your travels? What was the most stunning architectural location you have visited so far?