Oftentimes when we make maps it is based on our subjective interpretation of what is aesthetically pleasing. I would like it if people posted examples of beautiful maps, displaying any phenomena in any manner.

Below I have posted one of my favorite maps. This is an example of a value-by-alpha map recently asked about as How to implement value-by-alpha map in GIS?, and the picture is taken from the GeoVista website.

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Citation for the map's makers:

Geovisual analytics to enhance spatial scan statistic interpretation: an analysis of U.S. cervical cancer mortality Jin Chen , Robert E Roth , Adam T Naito , Eugene J Lengerich and Alan M MacEachren International Journal of Health Geographics 2008, 7:57

It would be best for the cultivation of knowledge if people would elaborate on why the particular maps they cite are beautiful.

The reason I believe I think the cited value-by-alpha map is beautiful is that it creates a very simple, but obvious and striking visual hierarchy with which to interpret the standardized mortality ratio's. This is in particular useful combined with the very "noisy" standardized mortality ratio's, and the typically very noisy clusters of abnormally high rates produced by the SatScan clustering technique. One can even clearly see very small clusters around Chicago and Philadelphia.

There are other supplemental elements of the map that make it easy on the eyes. For example, the black background, the heavier white outline for around the states and the white outline for the states (that is blended the same as the attribute values). Maps with many polygons can particularly be distracting if one does not take care when plotting the polygon outlines.

Also the legend is particularly well created, and effectively demonstrates the concept (although it certainly isn't a typical legend, so took some original creative thought).

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I really like the 1:25'000 maps of Switzerland:

1:25'000 map of Switzerland

They manage to convey a huge amount of information while not looking overfilled. Also, I like the combination of the shading (which immediately gives you a good clue about the shape of the terrain) and the elevation lines (which you can use to determine the exact elevation at any point on the map).


This is one of the maps from ER Tufte's The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. What I like best here are the vertical labels for mountain peaks and places. It is a perfect fit for Japans' tategaki (columns going from top to bottom) writing direction.

Tufte Tourist Map


I saw fellow GIS.SE user Michael Markieta's piece on airline flight paths on the BBC News website today. Very nice presentation. What tools were used to create these images?

Global Flight Paths North America Flight Paths


Not sure if this applies but check out the ones at http://www.davidrumsey.com/. Older maps georef'd and overlayed on google maps... lots on here but I like the Yosemite on http://rumsey.geogarage.com/maps/g2738110hires1.html


There's some nice shading on this oneThere's some nice shading on this one -



In french : L'âge d'or des cartes marines, Quand l’Europe découvrait le monde (trans google : The Golden Age charts, When Europe discovered the world), from the Bibliothèque Nationale de France.

All images : http://expositions.bnf.fr/marine/icono/index.htm

An example : http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b8447838j/f64.highres


I recently found some beautiful maps in my local map store in Cologne. These are satellite images that have been edited. In my opinion, they offer a great balance of pure picture and annotations and you get a good impression of elevation. Maybe you have to see them in reality, but here are some examples. I have no connection to the distributor of these maps, I just love them! enter image description here

Zoomed in:

enter image description here


I'd like to cite here the color version of the french "carte d'état-major" (1825-1866).

Source info

Examples :

Perpignan Dunkirk

These maps are available on the IGN interactive mapping portal (here centered on Saint-Malo).


ESRI recently published the following map due to its EsriUC Map Gallery and Software Applications Fair. I will be following this event and I am very excited for further maps. enter image description here

The map shows the estimated annual energy consumption of New York City. I regret that the quality is low. Still it is a great map in my opinion.

Source: https://www.facebook.com/esrigis (February 12, 2013)


Some of the work of Pieter van den Keere is quite impressive. See this example Leo Belgicus from 1617.

enter image description here

I think that what makes some of his maps particularly beautiful, is the ability of combining the spatial information with caricature or heraldic, mixing cartography with illustration.

Here another example by Gezeichnet von W. Trier.

enter image description here


I've been a great fan of the thematic maps by French cartographer Philippe Rekacewicz. I especially like his hand drawn sketches and the maps derived from that. He captures well the emotional aspect that sometimes lies in the topic.

Three frontiers of Europe

fatalities of immigrants at the Schengen-border


There's this mural in the Tokyo Sky Tree, it's a map of Tokyo which is partly animated using LCD screens, it's rather accurate while depicting the city in a fun way with hints about what the different areas are known for.

Detailed pictures and video here: http://www.team-lab.net/en/all/pickup/skytreemural.html

Tokyo Sky Tree mural


The contrast of the lack of completeness and the amount of detail on this map makes it one of my all time favourites.

It is a italian/protuguese world map by Alberto Cantino from 1502 according to Wikipedia.

(Gigantic, high resolution images are available on the free web)

enter image description here


I once saw some important meeting of political leaders on Tv some years ago and they had an amazingly beautiful world-map that was gigantic in size. It was a beautiful orange and blue color and it had almost digital like squares popping out of it with small connecting nodes.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to find it online after watching it so I don't have a link for it.

Other maps that I really like are by Vicente Fernando

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Just got this book in the mail this week. it has some truly beautiful maps in it.enter image description here

This is one of my favoritesenter image description here


I've always loved these cartoon maps by stephen walter (featured in a great BBC documenary series on the beauty of maps) http://www.stephenwalter.co.uk/wp/maps/. The ideas behind them was to integrate personal stories and human connections to a place into a map framework

enter image description here

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I like the map with a dark base layer. The representation of the overlay's is very interesting. I choose two map's with social network data's.

The first map is the localisations of the tweets

The second map is an extract of the game Watch Dogs with many live data's from Paris like Tweets, Instagram publications etc... enter image description here

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