Architecture, A Love Affair

By Kate Riley August 8, 2012

We’re sightseeing today in a mystery city, and I’m so excited to be exploring the architecture here.  Summer is the height of travel season, and in years past we would forego a faraway vacation – not this year!  One of my good blog friends toured Spain recently and his pictures of Barcelona took me back to our travels there many years ago.  No doubt since we’re all watching the Summer Olympics, you’re admiring the modern structures built for the event in London.

I’ve had a long time love affair with grand architecture.  We used to travel abroad a lot before the babies were born, once I even I climbed all the stairs to the top of the cupola above St. Peters in Rome (while six months pregnant!) and the stairs to the Eiffel Tower too.  Earlier this week, we took the kids to another famous monument and they loved it!  They’ve got their father’s climbing syndrome, he’s always looking up and asking “How fast can we get to the top?”  :)

We try to grab a souvenir of monuments, some are small, others are art prints still in tubes waiting to be framed someday.  We’ve seen some iconic structures over the last 15+ years, my favorites include La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Il Duomo in Florence, and the Coliseum in Rome.

iconic structures

Photo series via Third Floor Design on Etsy


The two l want to see in my lifetime are the Parthenon in Athens and the Taj Mahal.

taj mahal watercolor

watercolor by Bohemian Habitats


Today I thought I’d feature a few architectural watercolor prints and city views found on Etsy – be sure to check out the shop portfolios, they have a lot more to see!

flatiron nyc watercolor

Flatiron, NYC by Ilker Cocahan


san francisco watercolor sketch


Golden Gate by Sketchaway


la tour eiffel melanie pruitt

Spring in Paris by Melanie Pruitt


cinque terre italy watercolor

Cinque Terre – Watercolor by Muren


big ben

Big Ben by Jessica Illustration


venice watercolor

Venice by The Painted Postcard


us capitol

US Capitol by Fiona Miller


What’s your favorite landmark building, church, or monument you’ve seen in your travels?  Is there one you dream of witnessing in your lifetime too?  I’d love to hear it!




  1. Both my husband and I enjoy architecture, and inadvertently started collecting architectural art a few years ago. Now when we travel we specifically look for a photo, print or piece of art we can afford that (1) is specific to that place, and (2) is architectural in nature. Over time we hope to have a nice big gallery wall full of fun pictures and photos from all over the world.

    You’ve shared some beautiful pieces in this post and I’ll have to go check out the sources. Since we only started recently to intentionally buy this type of art, we need to pick up pieces from places we traveled to in years past.

  2. Gorgeous artwork! I have a fascination with late 19th/early 20th century industrial buildings, especially the ones that combined iron fretwork with stone and ferro-concrete. Early skyscrapers personify, for me, the optimism of the era, a belief that things were only going to get better. The fact that so many survive, and are still redolent with beauty, is a little encouraging!
    Wish you safe travels….

  3. Oh this is the perfect post for me to request help in identifying the city in an oil painting I bought recently. I tweeted a picture, but no one had any suggestions! A couple of people have suggested Sacre Coeur in Paris, but I think the ridge around the dome looks a little different. Plus the other two domes aren’t visible…

    Please someone tell me where this is!

  4. Having been to both the Parthenon and The Taj Mahal, I can attest that these are two places that are a must see, and worth every penny you’ll spend getting there.
    Be smarter than me though – don’t go to India in July – it’s unbelievably hot (It was the only time I could go as I was in school at the time).

  5. Hope you are having a blast in your mystery city. :) i loved everything about Greece, the Parthanon was great but I really loved the island of Mykonos… The house, shops and restaurants all said “come, stay for the rest of the summer and relax…” everything was white with brightly colored roof tops, it was amazing from a color standpoint. Maybe that was part of the reason I loved the island, it was like my decorating philosophy… Work with tons of neutrals and then throw in the color, it’ll make everything feel relaxed.

  6. What lovely photos and paintings. We were in France last week and I loved taking pictures to hang. Now I just have to pick some of the few thousand we took! It’s the fun part of traveling, bringing a part of it back to your home :-)

  7. Beautiful work! I particularly love the Golden Gate one and the Paris one! You should consider doing the Grand Canyon or some of the beautiful Red Rock formations in Colorado!

    • Hi Kaara, I love the red rock formations of the southwest! I’ve seen Sedona and some outside Vegas but have yet to tour Colorado, my cousins live there and I need to visit!

  8. I love the first set of photographs. I was just talking with coworkers about this very thing today: I’ve been several amazing places, but I’m dying to go again (with my husband this time!).

  9. Just beautiful artwork you have featured here, and yet again you have me inspired :) My favorite place of absolute astounding beauty and wonder, is the Cliffs of Moher in Co Clare, Ireland. I’ve been to Ireland countless times in my single life – I’d go back tomorrow!
    When I met my husband, we went from dating to marriage in only 7 months. Our wonderful honeymoon was to St Lucia, although I’d always dreamed of a long trip through Italy. We had three children in rapid fashion, so far-away travel has been and is on hold for a few more years. But someday, our adventures will take us to those places I’ve dreamed of (Italy, Spain, Ireland, Grand Canyon, Napa and Sonoma…). Can’t wait to hear about your mystery city.

    • Wow Christine, I’ve read about the Cliffs but have yet to visit, Ireland is at the top of “must travel here” lists, thanks for sharing!

  10. hey lovely!

    gorgeous artwork…I love architecture too, especially taking photos of it!

    so nice to meet you recently…felt like I already knew you anyway – we must do it again sometime ;-)


  11. Beautiful! I hope you’re having a lovely, relaxing and fun vacation with your beautiful family! Soak up that sun and enjoy your time away.

  12. You can see fabulous architecture in Chicago. We took the architecture boat tour on the Chicago river, and it was very informative and entertaining. Great place to visit!

  13. I also find architecture very fascinating. When we were in Paris I seems I spent the entire time looking up! It was practically impossible to soak in all the millions of details in the architecture!!
    The watercolor prints are wonderful – enjoy!

  14. What beautiful watercolours, and so nice to have something like these at home to remind you of a great holiday.

  15. I love all the watercolors you posted — but my favorite building hands down – the one that makes my heart flutter every time I see it is the Chrysler Building in NY — just makes me swoon:)

  16. I love all the watercolors you posted… but the building I love the most, hands down – the one that makes my heart flutter every time I see it, is the Chrysler Building in NY. Its the one that makes me swoon :)

  17. I hear that Canada is beautiful this time of year! You guys must be having a wonderful time there. Please send pics!!

  18. @Emily – I believe your painting is of the Pantheon in Paris. If you google that and look at photos, there is a tower nearby that matches the one to the left of your dome. Nice painting!

  19. Love, love, love!

    I just recently came back from around your side of the country and grabbed a couple of San Francisco watercolor posters and postcards – nothing fancy or original, but I love watercolor so much that instead of the usual magnets & snowglobes I collect, I just have to have these!

    If your ever on my side of the country though, my super favorite, but least known building in Chicagoland is the Bahai Temple in Wilmette (Hmm, I should feature if one of these days on my blog)! it is beautiful – no matter what your beliefs may be, this is one architectural beauty you won’t wanna miss there! Happy travels!

  20. I have to admit that I miss Spain more than I thought. It was magical but modern at the same time. I am hoping to find my way back in the near future…..

  21. How timely is your post! The “Spring in Paris” print you feature above will be perfect for a dear friend’s upcoming anniversary party as they were engaged in Paris. I just snapped the print up on Etsy. Finger on the pulse, Kate!

  22. Those watercolors are just beautiful.

    I’ve wanted to go to Paris since I first knew it existed. I used to think I would go for an entire year, but now I’ll settle for just going at some point :-)

  23. Thank you so much for this wonderful article and this feature of artwork! You included my Paris painting and I have had many visitors to my shop and even sold one print today. I suspect this is thanks to you! I love all the other artwork you included too. Someday I would love to visit Italy and paint there!

  24. I used to live in belgium and miss the everyday sight of Art Nouveau loveliness interspersed with ancient castles and farm houses. I’v travelled extensively in Spain, but have yet to visit Barcelona and Gaudi’s masterpiece. that with the forbidden City and your two picks would make complete those longings.
    I think you were a little outed, so along with NYC, I’m guessing Montreal and Quebec City. I lived in Montreal for years so I’m hoping if that’s the case you’re loving it. I sure did! CTD

  25. Faves: Big Ben, Sydney Harbour Bridge, Melbourne’s Flinder’s Street Train Station, NYC’s Empire State, Valley of the Temples on Oahu…etc.

    My fave artist is my son-he does something like what you’ve posted and is on Etsy as well:

    We’ve been to lots of places, but there are so many great ones in the world…life’s an adventure!

  26. Chateaux Chambord (France, Loire Valley)—especially the roof and the Leonardo Da Vinci designed staircase.

    Also, I love the onion domed cathedrals of the Greek Orthodox Churches in Eastern Europe.

    I have been collecting old watercolors of landmarks I find in antique stores and flea markets. I love them in pairs and in old frames.

  27. I love all kinds of architecture, but art deco style buildings — like the Chrysler building — are my favorite. Thanks for sharing these artists. I’m off to Etsy to check them out.

  28. I grew up in the planned community of Columbia, MD – “where it’s all made out of ticky-tacky and it all looks just the same.” Or so the song goes. I enjoyed my childhood there, but I always loved good architecture, original designs, anything different really. Now I’m grown up and live in DC, where I can’t walk a block without seeing a building that’s visually stimulating in some way. It’s very energizing, and perhaps one of my favorite things about living here.

    I wouldn’t say that hunger for good building design is totally satisfied yet – I’d really like to see the Frank Lloyd Wright House, for example – but I no longer yearn for it like I used to because I get a daily diet of it. It’s a nice way to live. It also makes for a great backdrop in pictures.

  29. Such lovely paintings! I am so honored to be included! Thank you!!

    I too have a passion for architecture and travel, I really enjoyed your post! I have never climbed to the top of the cupola above St. Peters while in Rome, nor while being six months pregnant! Oh my goodness! :)

  30. For a whole host of reasons – and in spite of the fact that we really didn’t get especially high quality photos – St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow will forever be one of my favorite landmarks:

    Our newly-adopted toddler was just way too overloaded and way too comfy in his stroller to pose well for a pic. And our translator was rather poor at framing shots anyway. But still, this photo says it all:

  31. Emily – My first thought was of Santa Maria della Salute in Venice. It’s on the lagoon so the picture you have could be looking at it from one of the canals.

  32. Your post reminds me of the best keepsakes I’ve gotten on my trips…street artwork from the local artists. You know the ones, all lined up in the touristy areas. They may not be painted by anyone famous, but you can usually find an artist who captures your style and the scenery you want to remember. And it’s not all that expensive! I have a beautiful ink and watercolor of the Charles Bridge when we visited Prague four years ago. It hangs in my entry way and I see it every time I walk down the hall. You don’t need to buy a big piece to enjoy either. I brought home a 4×6 ink sketch of the Eiffel Tower that I bought from an artist in the Montmartre district. It’s simple and a sweet reminder of my time there with my husband while pregnant with our first child.

    Oh there are so many places I want to go and so many I want to go back to. I too climbed the stairs to the top of the cupola in St. Peter’s in Rome while 5 1/2 months pregnant! What a great view! On the same trip we also climbed the bell towers of Notre Dame.

    I am dying to go to London…all of the British Isles. I also want to visit Israel, and the Mediterranean ruins of long ago.

    • I agree Kari! I picked up two of those local street artist prints myself this week, can’t wait to frame them on the wall! So funny we climbed those steps in the same state of pregnancy…. my husband is visiting Israel next year with a friend, can’t wait to see his pics!

  33. Often you can find these as inexpensive souvenirs – I got quite a few and brought them back from Europe – mostly Paris. Just put them in a roll and had them at home to be matted and framed later for myself and as gifts.

  34. What a great post. I am in love with all those fabulous watercolors. I love architecture. My only wish is that I would like to have travelled more so that something had particular meaning to me personally.

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