Post‐Second World War reconstruction is an important field of research around the world, with strands of enquiry investigating architecture, urban archaeology, heritage studies, urban design, city planning, critical cartography, and social geography. This thematic issue offers a critical statement on mid‐twentieth century urban planning, starting from the period of the Second World War. We approach post‐war reconstruction not only from the mainstream actualised perspective, but also considered by alternative visions and strategies, with an emphasis on empirically driven studies of post‐catastrophic damage and reconstruction, implementing a range of different methodologies. In this editorial we identify two research strands on post‐war planning of destroyed cities, one investigating the processes and practices of reconstruction and heritage conservation and the other assessing the legacies of planning decisions on the social and urban fabric of today’s cities. These two strands are interlinked; early planning visions and subsequent decisions were dominated by contemporary concerns and political values, yet they have been imprinted on today’s urban and social fabric of various bombed cities, affecting our urban lives. Thus, reconstruction strategies of destroyed cities should engage diverse voices in a broad dialogue through sensitive inclusion, as today’s planning decisions have the capacity to define the urban and social conditions for future generations.