LEGO is a behemoth of a hobby to get into as an adult. There are hundreds of sets available at any given moment and they range wildly in size, complexity, and price. However, there is a nice selection of sets available that strike a balance between those factors, and those are the ideal sets to pick up if you’re just starting.
So, how can you tell what sets strike that balance? There are a few things to consider.
- Difficulty Rating: On LEGO.com, you’ll find a “Level of Difficulty” rating under each set determined by customer reviews. This is a great way of seeing how difficult a LEGO set is to build, just remember that the answers will be quite skewed. There are a lot of LEGO sets out there aimed at younger kids, which make up the lower difficulty ratings. You’ll want to look more in the 2.5 out of 5 and up range of sets. You can also rely on LEGO’s official age ratings that are included in all their sets (some of the 18+ ones, in particular, are really challenging). We focused on sets that don’t go too far in either direction difficulty-wise for this list and rely more on smart, simplistic designs over complex ones.
- Price and Piece Count: The bigger and more complex a LEGO set the higher the price gets. This typically measured by the piece count (which we’ll list for every set), with the standard conversion rate being around 7-11 cents per brick. But some builds have a large focus on smaller or larger pieces that can heavily affect the price to piece ratio, and minifigs (the small figures included with LEGO’s sets) can also drive up prices. Branded sets (Marvel, Star Wars, Harry Potter, etc.) also tend to be pricier because LEGO has to pay for that license.
- Aesthetics: Of course, you want something cool-looking for all your effort during the building process, so we paid a lot of attention to the finished products as well. Whether you’re interested in putting these builds up on your shelf or not, the sets we’ve chosen all showcase the creative potential of LEGO’s building system. This can then help inspire you to come up with your own LEGO builds—if you’re interested in that side of the hobby.
The Architecture theme is home to plenty of cool sets, and chief among them is the Skyline series. These take real-world cities, boil them down to their most iconic landmarks, and merge them into a relatively small, but highly detailed build. These sets make for great display pieces, are reasonably priced, and are a great introduction to the creative thought that goes into making a quality LEGO build.
At the moment, the Skyline series covers Dubai (740 pieces), New York City (598 pieces), Tokyo (547 pieces), Paris (649 pieces), San Francisco (565 pieces), London (468 pieces), Shanghai (597 pieces), and Las Vegas (501 pieces).
Turning to one of LEGO’s more recent experiments, the Bonsai Tree set is a very different type of build from what LEGO usually offers. Still, the process of building up the base, pot, and the tree itself is a great time and the ability to switch the tree from normal green leaves to cherry blossoms is a nice bonus. And the more unique aspects of this build like the loose pieces simulating dirt inside the pot only go further to ensure the finished product looks fantastic.
There are a lot of Star Wars sets out there from the massive Star Destroyer to the more affordable micro-builds. And those sets are great, but if you’re just starting you likely want something that strikes more of a middle ground between the simplistic and expensive. Fortunately, the latest line of Star Wars sets provided a great option: Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing. Based on the iconic ship from the original trilogy, this build does a fantastic job recapturing the look of the vessel while not inflating its price too much—and that’s without mentioning the great minifigs. For Star Wars fans new to the world of LEGO, it’s hard to think of a better starting point.
These brick-ified displays feature some great builds with intricate detailing. In the box, you’ll get the pieces for building a Triceratops, Tyrannosaurus Rex, and Pteranodon in skeletal form, alongside a paleontologist minifig. These builds look fantastic and with plenty of smaller touches, the building process is a great time as well.
While most of the superhero sets LEGO makes are aimed at the younger crowd, this Iron Man set offers a nice substitute for older fans. It’s a pretty straightforward build but excellent shaping and smart use of greebling (a LEGO building technique that involves exposing studs for added texture) makes this a satisfying build to complete and a welcome addition to any Marvel fan’s room. The included stand is the cherry on top and cements this as a fantastic display piece.
If you’re mostly into LEGO for displays, then the Brick Sketches theme should be considered. These builds are pretty simple, but the way they approach recreating iconic characters through a mix of is undeniably charming. The characters quite literally pop off their bases, and the variety of different parts used and heavy use of greebling ensure these simplistic builds still look interesting. The theme only covers Batman, Star Wars, and Mickey Mouse characters for now, but there’s a decent chance for expansion over time. It’s also nice to see the base you create these builds on is outfitted with a simple kickstand for display purposes
The entire Speed Champions theme is a great source of smaller but still accurate recreations of real-life cars, but we’ve gone with the Porsche 911 specifically for this list. This inexpensive model features a nice minifig, functional wheels, and a sleek design. For those interested in cars, it’s a great set to have resting on the shelf. And if you wind up enjoying this set, then LEGO’s more recent set, the LEGO Creator Expert Porsche 911, is a nice follow-up that’s much larger and more detailed.
When it comes to office decor there are few things more iconic than a ship in a bottle, which is why it’s great we get to see LEGO’s interpretation of one in this Ideas set. The bottle, mini-ship, and detailed stand all come together to form a great build, and the smaller touches like the brick-built water and small globes on the stand really seal the deal. This set is great for just about anyone and is rather unique compared to the rest of LEGO’s catalog.
Who doesn’t love space? This build from the Ideas theme faithfully recreates the International Space Station for your office, while also including a nice display stand, a couple of astronaut microfigs, and a few smaller builds such as the space shuttle. While the finished product is a bit fragile, that should be fine considering its display-focused nature. For those interested in modern space programs, this set covers all the bases well.
There is a good selection of LEGO Harry Potter sets out there, and while the real prize is certainly Hogwarts Castle, beginners may want to start with this feathery friend first. This set features a full brick-built model of Hedwig complete with a slick display stand and even some motion functionality (turn the crank on the stand and Hedwig’s wings will flap). It looks cool, the build is fun to complete, and it makes for a fantastic display piece for fans of the series. It checks all the boxes for a great LEGO display, and the Harry and Hedwig minifigs included only sweeten the deal.
While LEGO’s Technic system is different from the standard bricks, it still embodies a lot of the same creative spirit. So if you want to give this alternative building system a spin, then the Chevrolet Corvette model does a good job introducing it. There are some neat touches like the engine pistons moving as the car rolls around, and the finished product is fairly accurate considering the piece count. Technic’s staple feature is complex inner mechanisms, and while this set doesn’t go as far as others, what is here is still fun to figure out and it’s a good taste of what Technic has to offer.