As Pretoria dwellers will gladly attest to, the ‘second city’ of a country might be the second-largest, second most-visited, or even the second most-important, but it certainly does not mean that they’re second best. So when you’re busy dreaming up your next travel itinerary, look a little bit off the main cities and check out one of these ten second cities instead; they’ll blow you away!
Barcelona is home to one of the best football teams, some incredible gothic architecture and a vibe
which is quite different to Spain’s capital of Madrid. If you’re planning on visiting, it’s worth knowing
that Barcelona also has a milder climate with winters that are warmer and summers a bit cooler than
Madrid. Barcelona is more contemporary than Madrid and has loads of wonderful restaurants, bars,
modern art galleries. It’s also considered Spain’s fashion capital, so fashionistas can shop up a storm!
Sweden’s second city is possibly less sophisticated than Stockholm, but eequally captivating. It’s gritty, sociable, a heavy metal paradise and a seafood lovers’ dream. Neoclassical architecture is everywhere and because the city is only half the size of Stockholm, you’ll see loads of independent, quirky little coffee shops and restaurants owned by locals. While Gothenburg may lack the old-world beauty of Stockholm, it more than makes up for it in character, charm and authenticity.
Montreal plays second to Ottawa in terms of Canada’s largest cities, but this French-speaking city has been voted one of the best places to live multiple times, by multiple organisations and publications. It’s cultured, has a wonderful dining scene which will delight foodies to no end, and the romantic, narrow cobbled lanes are lined with centuries-old brick facades. It’s the festival capital of Canada and certainly doesn’t lack in things to keep your interest. It’s like New York meets Paris.
4. Rio de Janeiro
So there’s a small technicality here in that Rio is not a smaller city than Brasilia – but, Brasilia is the aptly named capital city of Brazil so we think that makes Rio a good candidate for the ‘amazing
second city’ title. We also think it totally beats out Sao Paulo too, for the record! Home to the famous carnival, Rio is a majestic city lined by granite hills, sandy beaches and dense forest, all watched over by the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue. It’s a laid back city, so grab a bite to eat from a street food cart, kick off your flip flops and join the locals for a samba on the beach!
Porto is only a short distance away from Lisbon, but the vibe is worlds apart. Much more relaxed and slow-paced than it’s more Southern and larger counterpart, people in Porto will tell you about how much nicer their city is than ‘Lisboa’ until the cows come home. We have to agree, too. There’s the famous Douro valley nearby and world famous Port Cellars just across the river in Gaia, so you can
spend lazy afternoons sipping port. The food scene is incredible in Porto, and it’s far more affordable than Lisbon too – quite an impressive feat considering that Portugal is already one of the cheapest
countries in Western Europe.
While Tokyo is a delightfully fast-paced culture shock, Osaka offers something a bit different to travellers. While it doesn’t have the Michelin-starred dining prowess that Tokyo does, it’s more
affordable and traditional, so you can grab a variety of amazing Japanese snacks without worrying about killing the budget. While Tokyo offers skyscrapers, bright lights and busy streets the slightly quieter Osaka allows you to very easily visit Kyoto or Kansai, famous for their temples and lakes.
Krakow is hands-down prettier than Warsaw. It’s a seriously cultured city too, with a real love for the arts. If you’re into performing arts like theatre, ballet or orchestral performances then Krakow will
be a dream for you. There’s also art galleries and events aplenty, and lots of museums and historical tours to be had. It wasn’t damaged during WWII, so there’s beautiful original architecture and because all the sights are close together, it’s easy to walk between everything. The train links to the rest of Europe are excellent, and the food and beer are dirt cheap!
While nobody dreams of seeing Melbourne the way they do of flocking to Sydney’s famous opera house, Melbourne is nevertheless a city not to be overlooked. It’s been voted one of the most
liveable cities in the world multiple times, due to a wonderful mixture of arts and culture, great coffee, dining and a bustling migrant population which makes for an eclectic dining scene. It’s known
as Australia’s “cultural capital” so is a must-visit for all things sport, music, art, dance and history when you’re down under.
Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon) often gets the attention when it comes to Vietnam, but those that ignore Hanoi are missing out. It’s the closest major city to the majestic Halong Bay, but it’s also famed for it’s expansive lakes and greenery as well as a thriving street food scene – far more so than Ho Chi Minh City. Visit for the big Asian city experience of busy streets, honking scooters and early-morning Pho.
10. St Petersburg
Often referred to as ‘the Venice of the North’ as it’s built around a series of canals, St Petersburg is worth a visit if you’re heading to the land of Vodka. Moscow might have the famous Kremlin and the
red square, but St Petersburg is spectacular in terms of classical baroque architecture and splendour, evident in the ornate decorations in buildings all across the city. It’s also cheaper than Moscow