Tourist map of Stavanger, NorwayTourist map of Stavanger, Norway A map is a representation of space that allows us to see the relationship between places, objects or themes. The space shown on a map may be on the Earth’s surface, beneath its surface or oceans, in outer space—or entirely imaginary. Most maps are two-dimensional (folded sheets and atlases), but some are three-dimensional (globes and models) or digital (on satnavs or websites). We think of modern maps as being accurate, but in fact all maps contain inaccuracies and omissions, most of them deliberate. Map-makers, called cartographers, carefully choose what information to include and what to leave out of a map, depending on the map’s intended use and theme. In pictorial maps, often created for tourists, pictures of landmarks, neither accurate nor to scale, nevertheless allow the user to recognize them quickly—which is the intention of the map. 

Hiking mapHiking map

Types of maps

Among the most commonly used maps are transport maps, which help the user to navigate. Transport maps include: road, bicycle, hiking and train or bus route maps, and nautical and aeronautical charts for navigation at sea or in the air respectively. Details helpful to the user, such as road types, tolls and petrol stations for a car driver, are included, while other, unnecessary details are left out. Many city maps, for use with a range of modes of transport, offer wide-ranging information about streets, building types and public transport. Plans of buildings, such as museums, allow the visitor to navigate a small area.

Some cartographers deliberately draw mistakes—such as “trap streets” that do not exist—to catch out people who copy their work. The famous London A–Z Street Atlas contains around 100 trap streets.

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