Topographic and physical maps display the most detailed information about cities. These types of maps are current and can generally be found in government and county offices. The maps are considered to be a step above political and road maps, the styles of map most people are familiar with.
Topographic and physical maps are geographically descriptive; they offer details such as streams, rivers, valleys, mountains, hills and other geographic features. They also often display cemeteries, major landmarks and county roads. These maps are the best resources for understanding the lay of the land. The only real difference between a topographic and physical map is the style in which they display changes in the landscape -- whereas topographic maps use contour lines, physical maps use color changes.
Thematic maps can also be quite detailed, but are very specific in nature. These are created to address a particular theme or special topic, e.g., the population change of a city between 1984 and 2000. Thematic maps do not generally display geographical features, making them very different from topographic, physical, political and road maps.
Combining a topographic or physical map with a thematic map addressing a specific topic of interest creates the most complete analysis of a city.