Different guidebook brands tend to be suited for different types of travelling and specialised in different ways. For example, I find Bradt guides to be great for off-the-beaten-track travel, Lonely Planet seem to have cornered the market in "classic" backpacking round hostels, Trailblazer seem to specialise in outdoorsy challenges like trekking, etc etc, then there's a whole host of glossy books high on photos and low on practical detail that are more like coffee-table books for people on organised tours.

I'm trying to find city guides that are good for modern culture, local insights and quirky surprises, and am getting a bit lost. In particular I'm trying to place the Wallpaper series. They look nice, and they're clearly marketed narrowly at... someone. But I can't quite place them.

So, what's the deal with Wallpaper guidebooks? Can anyone with relevant experience advise on how the content and focus of these books differs to the alternatives? When would you advise them and when would you advise against them?

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I've tried reading reviews, but they're exceptionally unhelpful - haven't yet found a review longer than one line. I've also tried looking for blogs etc that compare, but only found one - http://www.vagabondish.com/essential-travel-guides/ - which pretty much just focuses on how they look:

Need to know every hot spot in a hurry? Don’t wanna look like a tourist? Grab yourself a Wallpaper travel guide. These tiny books have drawn-in the design conscious with their Pantone-like hues based on location.

Aside from aesthetics, they pack a surprising amount of information in such a tiny booklet. Plus, the packaging gives you an extra boost of confidence whether you’re [sic] main objective is safety or attractive hot natives.

So it sounds like they're not just dumbed-down directories of overpriced shopping and dining for posers, which is something I had initially feared. But what are they?

Edit: finally found some actually helpful reviews (although it is for an old edition): http://www.amazon.com/Wallpaper-City-Guide-London-Guides/dp/0714846872

Reading between the lines, it sounds like maybe they're guidebooks for people who don't think they need regular guidebooks, such as people on year placements or staying with friends, so they skimp on the standard stuff to add more offbeat surprises, curios and "did you notice" stuff like architecture. That's just the impression I get from reading between the lines of a couple of reviews though.

2 Answers 2


Wallpaper travel guides are an offshoot of Wallpaper* Magazine, the self-proclaimed "world's number one global design destination, championing the best in architecture, interiors, fashion, art and contemporary lifestyle." Or, if you haven't drunk enough of the Tyler Brûlé Kool-Aid to suppress your gag reflex when hearing the words "contemporary lifestyle", it's a magazine catering squarely to pretentious yuppies who want to read articles and see pretty pictures about obscenely expensive things they're unlikely to ever buy, and invariably glowing reviews of insufferably hip and obscure shops, restaurants and bars they're unlikely to ever visit. Compile enough of these articles about a single place together and, ta-dah, you've got a Wallpaper travel guide.

So the bulk of the content is, IMHO, "dumbed-down directories of overpriced shopping and dining for posers"; see the website's travel section for a sampling. I'm particularly impressed by their list of "10 travel essentials", and will definitely take a brass-studded Petit Dejeuner trunk along next time I hitchhike. But hey, if you just can't make up your mind about which hotel in Paris to blow €695/night on and "bespoke Lasvit chandeliers made up of 800 individual hand-blown crystal leaves" happen to be your thing, maybe Wallpaper is what you're looking for.

(And FWIW, I've actually got some respect for Tyler, his current mag Monocle has interesting stuff every now and then. But he left Wallpaper in 2002 and its current owner, Time-Warner, has been milking the cash cow for every cent they can get ever since.)

  • 2
    +1 for gag reflex, +1 for self-proclaimed, +1 for insufferably hip, +1 for dumbed-down ... posers, oh crap, ....mutters to self, how do I hack the system to give multiple up-votes....
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Sep 25, 2014 at 12:24
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    (+1) On a more pedestrian level, IIRC you will find a kind of map and a handful of addresses in each rubric but not much on the history, main sights, transportation, etc. so even if you are into these sort of things and actually do visit one or two hip places, you can't really rely on the Wallpaper guide to plan a trip.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Sep 25, 2014 at 12:25
  • @CGCampbell: The hack is called a bounty ;) Commented Sep 26, 2014 at 11:39
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    I had a good look at some Wallpaper guidebooks in a shop after you posted this. I have to disagree with your answer - they're actually even worse than this makes them sound... Commented Sep 30, 2014 at 23:23

Lol on jpatokal's answer. Since you're pretty much asking "what do you think of these?", I glanced at a couple once and they're worthless.

(Also, conceptually, since all paper books are out of date once printed: it's hard to reconcile the idea of "printed book" with "guide to cutting edge anything". Like, could you have a book on "latest nightclubs" ...?)

Just FWIW the "original" trendy, DJish travel books / hotel guides was the "Hip Hotels" series, Herbert Ypma

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They're OK as coffee table books. I guess they're kind of retro now. I suggest you'd get more value out of one of those, since, as JPat explains the " (airquotes) Wallpaper" series or anything with "Wallpaper" on it is now just cheesy marketing.

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