The Map of Laelith
Today I discovered a map I had never seen before which deserves the title of one of the most spectacular fantasy city maps ever made: Patrick Durand-Peyroles's map of Laelith. Odhanan presents the map, with a good high-quality scan of the entire map, in an Enworld thread Map of Laelith, the Holy City.
What do I love about this map? First of all it's hand-drawn to a very high bar of quality. Hand-drawn isn't everyone's bag, but you've got to respect the attention to detail. For example, note the white calligraphy title, the artistry on the water details, and the hand-hatched contour shading. There are tons of city detail too, calling out for adventure. Notice the torturous winding path down the lower left-hand side of the map leading to a lonely structure, then off the map.
But what I love most of all is the architectural palimpsest effect where the new city is obviously laid over top of an even more ancient (and, one suspects, more spectacular) city. There's the ancient temple on the left, bisected by a steep ravine, hinting at some past disaster. The upper half of the city is divided by what is apparently the remnant of an ancient grand avenue, not transformed into a maze of ad-hoc streets. It reminds me intently of Rome, where the streets and squares still have the shapes of vanished monumental buildings.