So many cities have a design district or claim to support new artists that we cut through the tall claims and instead asked normal travellers which cities really deserve to be called a ‘design destination’. Here are their answers.
Witness a transformation in Saint-Étienne, France
The futuristic design of Saint-ÉtienneTown Hall
The 21st century has seen the French city of Saint-Étienne undergo a reinvention as one of Europe’s foremost design destinations. Large-scale initiatives like the city’s annual design fair (the International Design Biennial) and joining the UNESCO creative cities network have run alongside the growth of creative startups.
Museums like the Cité du Design and Musée d'Art et d'Industrie chart Saint-Étienne’s evolution from industrial hub to design destination. Or you can take a walking tour (design hotels like Chambres d'Hôtes Belle Étoile can usually recommend a good one) before retiring to restaurant Aromatic, the centre of the city’s next evolution into a culinary paradise.
Visit the Design District in Helsinki, Finland
Helsinki's design district feels like the beating heart of the city
Helsinki's layout make it seem as if all the roads eventually lead to the design district; a cluster of independent designers’ boutiques, studios and other creative projects, this district occupies an enviable position in the heart of Helsinki and its popularity more than demonstrates the city’s love of good design.
Keep your eyes peeled for the next generation of Finnish design talent and make Hotel Klaus K the base for your explorations, with its fusion of Renaissance opulence and contemporary Nordic furniture.
Immerse yourself in thoughtful design at Weil am Rhein, Germany
The Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein
The Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein really does typify the residents’ passion for good design. Founded by Rolf Fehlbaum, the CEO of Swedish furniture design company Vitra, the museum has played an integral role in Weil am Rhein’s development as a design destination.
By hosting a rolling lecture series and with an ever-changing exhibition roster featuring some of the world’s greatest designers, the museum has brought the best in design to this relatively small German town. And visitors to the town are spoilt for choice when it comes to beautifully-designed accommodation.
Go furniture shopping in Milan, Italy
Milan's architecture showcases its blend of style and modernity
When it comes to design, Milan really does have it all. Fashion, architecture, urban design, food science, ceramics; there’s very little you can’t find here but it’s best to start with the city’s latest design obsession: furniture. Opposite Via della Spiga (the Milan version of 5th Avenue) is where you’ll find cutting-edge Italian furniture and interior design showcases.
From there, it’s only a short walk to Raw on Via Palermo, a combination of eclectic oddities and industrial homeware. When you (or at least your bank account) are all shopped out head to the Hotel Viu Milan where you’ll find rooftop views of the city centre, the latest in eco-friendly design and a Michelin-starred chef.
Search for inspiration in Graz, Austria
Graz in Austria is a UNESCO City of Design
As Austria’s second largest city, a European Capital of Culture and a UNESCO City of Design, Graz is the cultural and creative hub that most of the world still hasn’t found out about. Along with the city’s award-winning universities comes a fresh creative scene, and any stranger exploring Gratz will be inundated with design studios, boutiques, labels, initiatives and start-ups.
Designed and built by famous Austrian architect Günther Domenig, the Augarten Art Hotel is only a short walk from the city centre and has a collection of over 200 pieces of contemporary art. Enjoy a drink in the immaculately-designed courtyard and then take yourself on a mini art tour without having to leave the hotel.
** The data scientists at Booking.com looked at endorsements for ‘design’ by our customers. They then found the destinations that were most highly rated for this endorsement.