Day 1: Modern
10 a.m.: Start by paying tribute to Zaha Hadid, the Pritzker Prize–winning architect who died in March, at her stark Contemporary Arts Center. Check out the famous “urban carpet,” a sweeping slab of concrete that flows in from the outside and curves up the back wall.
11:30 a.m.:Catch an early lunch at local tapas favorite Mita’s (mitas.co), in the city’s newest office building, designed by Gensler’s Chicago group.
1 p.m.:Drive to the University of Cincinnati, a playground for modern architectural idols.
1. David Childs’s Vera Clement Edwards Center
2. Bernard Tschumi’s Richard E. Lindner Center (It’s best known for its curving white exterior and hundreds of triangular windows.)
3. Thom Mayne’s Campus Recreation Center
4. Charles Gwathmey’s Tangeman University Center
5. Michael Graves’s Engineering Research Center (He was a Cincinnati alum!)
6. Peter Eisenman’s Aronoff Center for Design and Art (Attractive, yes, but it’s been criticized for noise issues and dead-end hallways.)
7. Frank Gehry’s Vontz Center for Molecular Studies (Clad in red brick rather than gleaming chrome, its heaving shapes are still classic Gehry.)
Day 2: Historic
10 a.m.:Drive to Cincinnati Union Terminal, an art deco masterwork capped by the largest half dome in the Western Hemisphere. After visiting the city history museum here, ask about the semisecret whispering fountains on your way out.
11:30 a.m.:Park at the Netherland Plaza, then order pizza and dine alfresco at Via Vite (viaviterestaurant.com).
1 p.m.:Visit three blue-chip structures, all at the corner of 8th and Plum Streets: Samuel Hannaford’s Romanesque City Hall, the Greek Revival St. Peter in Chains Cathedral, and the Byzantine-Moorish Isaac M. Wise Temple.
2 p.m.:See the world’s first reinforced concrete skyscraper—the Ingalls Building—then head a few feet north to visit the Carew Tower, which inspired a little thing called the Empire State Building.
3:30 p.m.:Stop back at the Netherland Plaza, a meticulously restored 1931 French art deco–style hotel, for a snack at the bar in the acclaimed restaurant Orchids at Palm Court.
5 p.m.:Drive to Music Hall, which has been a venue for not only choral music but also industrial expositions. Carvings of flowers, gears, and protractors along the façade reflect that heritage.
5:30 p.m.:Cut two blocks east to Vine Street for dinner in the lively neighborhood Over-the-Rhine. Local favorite: the whimsical Asian street food at Quán Hapa (quanhapa.com). With more than 1,100 significant Greek Revival, Queen Anne, and Italianate buildings, Over-the-Rhine is considered one of the most well-preserved historic neighborhoods in the United States.
While you’re there: No visit to Cincy would be complete without a scoop of ice cream from the famous Graeter’s.
Where to stay: You’re here for the architecture. So stay in a national historic landmark: the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Place (from $188, hilton.com).