Monocle editors on their favorite design capitals


Our friends at Monocle report from around the globe in print, on radio, and online. As its editors and correspondents dart from city to city they get to know the best places to stretch their limbs, shop for rare finds, or kick back with a friend over cocktails.They also comb the streets for the best of the built environment, from brutalist apartment blocks and cutting-edge cathedrals to modernist masterpieces. Here, the Monocle team pick four of their favorite design-led destinations, selecting the cream of the architectural crop.

1. Mexico City


Mexico City is nothing short of an architectural playground. From the primitive ruins of Aztec temples and the gleaming towers of Paseo de la Reforma to the tree-lined avenues of art deco Condesa and the crumbling cathedrals of the colonial Centro Histórico, a round-up of this city’s structures is a contest of color, composition, and contrast.

Don’t miss:
UNAM: mid-century university campus that brought together some of the country’s most visionary creatives.
Casa Luis Barragán: home and studio of the Mexican modernist maestro.
Biblioteca Vasconcelos: public library straight out of a sci-fi film.


Lardo: relaxed all-day bistro from star chef Elena Reygadas.
Xaman: basement bar with a cracking cocktail list.
ADN Galería: foremost vintage design gallery in Mexico City.

For Monocle’s full round up of the city’s most inspiring architecture, plus much more, grab a copy of The Monocle Travel Guide to Mexico City.



Few cities in the world are as architecturally rich as Barcelona. The beguiling fairytale structures of Antoni Gaudí and his contemporaries defined the city’s visual identity and have inspired more than a century of imaginative, and at times surreal, architecture. But this is also a city that has refused to rest on its laurels: the Catalan capital reinvented itself with an explosion of cutting-edge creations for the 1992 Olympics, celebrating the Games with innovative structures and a trailblazing tradition of both graphic and industrial design.

Don’t miss:
Walden 7: utopian social-housing project by Ricardo Bofill.
Barcelona Pavilion: modernist marvel in marble, onyx, steel and glass.
Casa Vicens: Antoni Gaudí’s polychrome wonder of a building.

La Dama: Catalan and French cuisine meet in a spectacular space.
Nømad Coffee: Barcelona’s superlative coffee, roasted in Poblenou.
Norman Vilalta: the city’s most progressive shoemaker.

For Monocle’s pick of the city’s most inspiring architecture, plus much more, grab a copy of The Monocle Travel Guide to Barcelona.



History has been hard on Tokyo’s architecture: fire, earthquakes, bombs, and high-speed economic development have all left their mark on this sprawling, enthralling capital. The architectural scene is as dynamic as it is unsentimental, but some buildings have managed to survive; the sense of history is barely hidden by the city’s superficial modernity. With the bombast of the bubble years in the past, Tokyo’s architecture is more thoughtful these days.

Don’t miss:
Nakagin Capsule Tower: the world’s first capsule structure features 140 capsules stacked into 13 storeys.
St Mary’s Cathedral: Kenzo Tange’s concrete cathedral resembles a soaring bird.
Meiji Shrine: Shinto shrine flattened by wartime bombing but sensitively rebuilt in 1958.

Ginza Maru: chef Keiji Mori sources the best seasonal ingredients.
Brillant: cocktails have been precision-poured by jacketed bar staff here since 1980.
45rpm: Japanese fashion label best known for its indigo cottons and denims.

For Monocle’s pick of the city’s most inspiring architecture, plus much more, grab a copy of The Monocle Travel Guide to Tokyo.



In less than 20 years, Copenhagen’s skyline has changed dramatically. While there is still plenty of historic architecture to discover, the city has become distinctly forward-looking. Much of the credit belongs to Jan Gehl, whose work on improving cities and their liveability has even birthed the term “Copenhagenisation”. The city’s gaze has also turned to its waterside: there has been a recent surge in harborside projects, from Olafur Eliasson’s Cirkelbroen to the BLOX building by Rem Koolhaas.

Don’t miss:
Grundtvig’s Church: biscuit-colored brick church towering over a quiet neighbourhood like a rocket ship.
Danmarks Nationalbank: Arne Jacobsen’s clean-cut design for Denmark’s central bank.
Axel Towers: five connected circular towers clad in zinc-coated copper.

Spise\Bar Nr 20: cosy wood-panelled haunt with relaxed approach.
Lidkoeb: three-storey, candlelit cocktail bar hidden in a courtyard.
Stine Goya: geometric prints and bold accessories tempered by easy cuts.

For Monocle’s pick of the city’s most inspiring architecture, plus much more, grab a copy of The Monocle Travel Guide to Copenhagen.

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Sunday, November 4th, 2018