Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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Secular Stockholm’s Religious Past

St. James Church, Stockholm, SwedenNearly 80 percent of Swedes describe themselves as “not religious” or “convinced atheists,” and only about 4 percent of members of the Church of Sweden attend a weekly service. Those statistics belie the country’s religious past: There are more than 3,500 churches in Sweden, dozens and dozens of which are dotted around the capital city. I was enamored by the diversity of their architecture, history, and features, and I was enchanted by all of them. Read more about the top five churches in Stockholm >


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The Depthless Southern Charm of Natchez, Mississippi

Temple B'nai Israel, Natchez, MississippiWith a population that has been almost halved since its peak of only about 24,000 in 1960, Natchez, Mississippi, could easily become a forgotten, dying backwater along the Mississippi River. But its rich history, grand setting, elegance, and hospitality help maintain its relevance as one of the South’s most charming cities, particularly for those interested in heritage tourism. At the city’s zenith, more than 500 millionaires called it home — more than any other U.S. city except New York. They left behind a treasure trove of outstanding architecture that still lures a steady stream of visitors, including me, who come to gape at more than 600 antebellum structures — the largest collection in the United States. Read more about the top five buildings in Natchez >


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Key West’s Key Buildings

San Carlos Institute, Key WestKey West, Florida, is quite literally the end of the road, the final stop along the Overseas Highway, one of the world’s top 10 drives. The richest city in Florida and one of the richest in the United States in 1889, despite its isolation, Key West’s glory days didn’t last very long: It declared bankruptcy in the 1930s. During that short time span, however, the city thrived on its tobacco factories and shipwreck salvage industry, creating handsome structures while wisely maintaining a low-rise profile better suited to survive the annual threat of hurricanes. Read about the top five buildings in Key West >


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The Best Architecture in Des Moines, Iowa

Terrace Hill, Des Moines, IowaPretty much smack in the center of Iowa, Des Moines boasts some enviable national rankings, making the top 10 on such diverse lists as hippest midsize cities, best cities in which to live and work, most pro-business cities, best cities for retirement, best cities for young professionals, best farmers’ market, and so on. You’d think that with all that going for it, it would be a lively, dynamic place, even more so as the state’s capital and largest city. But when I visited on a regular Tuesday, downtown was virtually devoid of people despite the new office buildings, and I walked for a dozen blocks without passing a single place where I could pick up a cup of coffee or a newspaper. Perhaps I just missed the buzzing part of town, but it seemed unlikely. Nevertheless, this was a welcome break from the overcrowded streets of my hometown of New York, and the extra breathing room gave me plenty of space to enjoy some impressive architecture. Read more about my top five buildings in Des Moines >


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Art Deco Delights in Napier, New Zealand

Dalgety's Building, Napier, New ZealandSnuggled along the coast of Hawke’s Bay on New Zealand’s North Island, the small city of Napier owes its current fame to an earthquake that destroyed it. On February 3, 1931, a massive 7.8 earthquake leveled most of the city, killing 258 people in the temblor and the ensuing fires. With its citizens eager to rebuild their city as quickly as possible, construction projects sprouted up all over town in the next few years. Art Deco happened to be the architectural style of choice at that time, and, as there were so many simultaneous projects, the city achieved a uniformity rarely seen in urban environments. Today, after Miami, it’s the best city in the world to appreciate Art Deco architecture and style. Read more about Napier’s best buildings >


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A Scandinavian Mansion on the Shore of Lake Tahoe, California

Vikingsholm, Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe, CaliforniaMy loop around Lake Tahoe on the California-Nevada border included everything I expected — beautiful beaches, fiery sunsets, a couple of historic sites, a little gambling, and views of this gorgeous body of water. What I didn’t expect was Vikingsholm, one of the finest examples of Scandinavian architecture in the Western Hemisphere, conceived of by a senior citizen widow and created by a Swedish architect. Read more >


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Windy Wellington’s Best Buildings

Beehive, Wellington, New ZealandFrequently cited as the world’s breeziest city, the capital of New Zealand is one of the planet’s top draws for windsurfers, sailors, and kite enthusiasts. With an average wind speed of 16.6 miles per hour, the city certainly deserves its blustery reputation. But nothing more than a gentle zephyr greeted me upon my arrival in Wellington, and motionless anemometers characterized my departure a few days later, via ferry across Cook Strait to South Island — one of the world’s most treacherous rides in inclement weather, but also one of the world’s most beautiful on a fair day. Residents swamped pocket parks to enjoy the apparently unusual stillness — a glorious respite that permitted me to easily explore the city and its best architecture without chasing my hat down the street. Read more about my five favorite buildings >