The best Lego Architecture sets celebrate both the iconic designs of famous buildings, and the modular nature (and even whimsy) of Lego.
The best Lego Architecture sets all make excellent display pieces, sitting on your desk or shelves as a testament to the damn good taste you have in both building design and ways to to while away the hours.
Like many of the best Lego sets for adults, these can be quite fiddly, fitting in ludicrous amount of detail in some places. But in the case of the city skyline series, they're still not too overly involved as builds – you can finish them over the course of an evening, and they won't take up the whole kitchen table.
The Lego Architecture sets of individual locations tend to have a lot more pieces, and take longer to complete, but they also make for satisfying projects to finish, with big and striking results to display.
We've ranked the best Lego Architecture sets here, to help you decide which deserves a space on your desk. What we're looking for is a mixture of inventiveness in the Lego medium, models that honour the original structures, and choices of buildings that inspire us. (Also don't miss our extra bonus building section at the end of this guide: jump straight to the buildings here).
Also read: The best Lego City sets
The best Lego Architecture sets
This set is a double design masterpiece, not only giving an astoundingly faithful recreation of the architecture at the base of the Statue of Liberty, but also somehow mimicking the flowing shape of her copper cloak in smooth plastic. Standing 44cm/17in tall when complete, it looks eye-grabbing in the best possible way on the shelf. The colours have been carefully matched to the real thing. Plus, if you're going to have an impressive Lego showpiece, it's nice to have one with Lady Liberty's welcoming principles.
This is our favourite of all Lego's skyline Architecture sets because it feels like does the most with the medium. On the left, you have a series of great buildings from the city, including the old of Coit Tower, the modern of the Transamerica Pyramid, and the medium of 555 California Street. Adorably, though, you've also got the steep hill of San Francisco's famous streets, complete with a little red brick evoking the trams.
But the really clever part is the Golden Gate bridge, which has its two towers at different heights, to give a it the look of stretching off into the distance (even going to far as to put the second bridge tower behind the little Alcatraz island in the middle). It looks absolutely brilliant, and brings a smile every time we see it.
It's like, how much more loving architectural detail could you cram into this space? And the answer is: none. From the intricate front of the National Gallery (which has a hidden interior, incidentally, with art in!), to the fountains and sculpture plinths, to the four lions, to the trees and lampposts and double decker buses, all to scale, this set has it all. It looks so busy, in the best way – it looks full. Bustling, even with no figures in it. As mini dioramas go, it's one of our favourites Lego has ever done.
You want great buildings? Here's New York. We've got the second appearance of the Statue of Liberty, this time in clever micro-figure form (without a torch, alas, the only failing of this set). The other buildings look excellent – there's the instantly recognisable texture of the Empire Statue, the Chrysler's iconic peak, and we love the scale you get of One World Trade Center's size. The Flatiron Building is maybe the cleverest design here, using round single-stud pieces at the front to create its wedge shape. This is maybe the Lego Architecture skyline set that best captures the looks of the buildings with little compromise, though there is some very hot competition.
Much like the San Francisco set above, this really has fun with its concept, mixing buildings and locales in a way that's deeply satisfying. Again, it's also a lovely mix of the new (the Tokyo Skytree, Cocoon Tower and Tokyo Big Sight) and the traditional (cherry trees and a pagoda). And with Mount Fuji looking over it all, which is the kind of thoughtful touch that really elevates the best of these sets.
The final flourish is the collection of vibrant, translucent Lego for Shibuya Crossing, bring the jungle of neon to your desk in spirit.
With its orderly and pleasing increase in the size of the building, a rich mix of architectural styles, and a nice set of colours, this has a good claim to be the most aesthetically pleasing of the skyline sets. It certainly comes across that way in photos and from a distance – the only reason it's not higher on the list is that it doesn't look quite as good in person – the joins are just a little too prominent (as compared to the fidelity of the New York set, say).
But it's still an excellent set, for all the reasons given above, and then more if you love Shanghai. Again, the combination of traditional buildings (Longhua Pagoda, Chenghuang Miao Temple), the modern (World Financial Center, Shanhai Tower), and the unique (Oriental Pearl Tower). It's a bit of a shame than Jin Mao Tower didn't make it in, considering its neighbours did, but you can't have it all.
This thing is monolithic. It's impressive in a way that few Lego sets achieve. It's imposing, at 55cm/21in tall – the tallest Lego Architecture set so far. And it's a beautiful, faultless recreation of the building.
So why isn’t it higher on this list? As stunning as it is, the clever part of using Lego to mirror the look of the real thing is the ‘grille’ pieces, and this is the same trick used in the New York skyline set further up this list, just on a much larger scale.
Now, obviously, we're not saying you shouldn't get it. If you look at it and desire it, you will not be disappointed one iota. But when the deals are right, you can get two of the skyline sets for the same price (including New York), and we'd be tempted to do that. Though we would still desperately covet it.
This set absolutely nails its smaller buildings, and we really love it for that. The Grand Palais' clear roof and intricate front are ingeniously made, the Louvre's pyramid is perfect, the little Parisien houses are adorable, the Arc is a triumph, and there's even a hint of Champs Elysees.
The Eiffel Tower is a little divisive – we think it's actually a really impressive bit of Lego engineering to make it look good at this scale, but in real life, it does look a little bitty, which it honestly pains us to say. As with all the sets here, though, not bad by any means – just not quite the verisimilitude of others. We're not convinced by the inclusion of Tour Montparnasse, though – Tour First and Tour Majunga are both much more interesting designs.
The only reason this isn’t higher is that, again, it’s one that looks better in pictures than in real life. The Burj Al Arab is fantastic, as are the Jumeirah Emirates Towers. The Frame feels like a bit of a cheat given that it's simply a Lego door frame finished in fold, but you can hardly fault the result, so touché.
But while the Burj Khalifa is a show-stopper in pictures or from across the room, it looks a little bitty as you get close. The construction of it quite ingenious, and we hold our hands up (as ever) to the skill of Lego’s designers, but we just find other sets here more pleasing in practice.
While the miniature versions of all the buildings here are excellent, we can’t help feeling that while many other sets celebrate buildings old and new, here we’ve only got some (admitted) classics, and with just the London Eye representing the new. You might say that the Paris set does this as well, but that has more buildings in it, whereas this is limited to only four (we're counting Nelson's Column and the National Gallery as one). A Lego Gherkin or Shard feels like a slam dunk.
Still, this is one that actually looks better in person than it does in pictures, though, so if you like what's visible here, definitely don't hesitate to buy – it also tends to be one of the cheapest here.
Fun note: if you were lucky enough to grab the Creator Expert Big Ben and Creator Expert Tower Bridge when they were available, and the Trafalgar Square from further up this list, you could recreate most of this little setup in giant scale. You would need to devote half a room to that, though.
We love 50 per cent of this set, but the other half leaves us relatively cold compared to the other skylines in this list. Listen, Bellagio and its fountains? YES Luxor's ridiculous, opulent monuments? YES. Las Vegas sign? YES, OF COURSE.
Wynn Encore? Hmmm. Stratosphere Tower? Like, okay, but in a city of bonkers buildings, it's not the most interesting design. And isn’t the Freemont Street Experience really more of an indoors thing?
We know recreating Frank Gehry's Lou Ruvo Centre this scale would be… challenging, to say the least, but we just feel that there are more inspiring buildings in Las Vegas, even if the brown look of the Wynn is certainly recognisable. It’s still more than worth it for that lovely Bellagio front, and its little fountains.
Bonus! More beautiful real Lego buildings
These may not technically be Lego Architecture sets, but if you have an interest in Lego making beautiful versions of real buildings, these can't be ignored.
This is of the most famous Lego sets among collectors, because it was the largest set ever made in terms of number of pieces for a long time – until the Lego Star Wars Ultimate Collector Series Millenium Falcon beat it a couple of years ago.
It's a huge set that goes to great lengths to recreate the curved windows and domes, and transparent elements give light the right 'glow' through it. If you've got the space (and the time – it's a real monster of a build), this is a great exploration of how bitty pieces come together to form a beautiful final result.
Stadiums have always been places that include incredible structural engineering, and often wear it on their metaphorical sleeves, and that's the case here too – not only does this 1:600 scale set pack in details that are important to fans of Manchester United, but it includes all the visible architecture that makes this 110-year-old marvel hold together.
We admit, it may not carry quite as much majesty for non-United fans, but the care that's gone into its details is still a marvel, from the players' tunnel to the statues to the careful placement of every beam, to the mini team coach that sits outside.