Whereas I’d by no means recommend skipping these locations solely, I like to enhance them with a go to to the nation’s “second metropolis.” In truth, you probably have 4 days to spend in any of those capitals, I like to recommend chopping your go to a day brief to find time for these cities.
Whereas missing the recognition and the bucket-list sights, Europe’s second cities are inclined to get pleasure from a artistic edge, a powerful civic spirit, a Rust Belt toughness, fun-loving eateries with cutting-edge menus, entertaining road artwork … and much fewer vacationers, which additionally means decrease costs, a extra genuine welcome and arguably a extra sincere cultural expertise.
In Portugal, guests flock to Lisbon. However the second metropolis of Porto — three hours north by prepare — is smaller and extra manageable. With out taking something away from Lisbon, the town has a pleasant meals scene and greater than its share of diamond-in-the-rough structure. And, as a plus for wine lovers, it’s the birthplace of port.
Portugal’s wealthy pastry custom goes far past egg tarts
In Scotland, the capital metropolis of Edinburgh — with its distinguished citadel, its Royal Mile and its romantic cityscape — grabs vacationers’ consideration. However only a one-hour prepare journey away, funky Glasgow entertains with a laid-back angle, sassy road murals, and Scotland’s greatest meals and dwell music scene. (Glaswegians wish to say, “We’ve got extra enjoyable at a funeral than individuals in Edinburgh have at a marriage.”)
A visit by way of ‘The Crown’: Faux Buckingham Palace and a royal yacht
In France, the good sights of Paris dominate most guests’ itineraries. However I’ve loved fantastic days within the livable culinary capital of Lyon, and within the bustling Mediterranean delivery heart of Marseille. The identical goes for London — understandably England’s high draw — and an entire record of rejuvenated postindustrial cities that Anglophiles like to discover: Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool and extra.
Brussels, the capital of Belgium and the European Union, boasts the beautiful Grand-Place. However after you’ve strolled by way of that thrilling sq., nibbled some pralines and seen the “Manneken-Pis,” it’s possible you’ll end up simply killing time. Why not hop on a prepare to discover the equally historic, way more entertaining design capital of Antwerp?
Guests to Eire shouldn’t miss Dublin. Whereas they’re at it, they’ll take a brief prepare journey as much as go to Northern Eire’s capital, Belfast.
Berlin has world-class museums and Chilly Battle historical past. However the German capital can be swarmed by worldwide vacationers. In the meantime, Hamburg has rebuilt its futuristic and engaging harborfront, and most guests are Germans on the town to expertise the town’s legendary nightlife.
This additionally works on a regional stage. Exploring the countryside west of London, the stately Georgian metropolis of Tub is an enormous draw. However in case you can squeeze in a side-trip, the port metropolis of Bristol is only a 15-minute prepare journey away.
If I flip my sights nearer to residence, this strategy works stateside, too. I’m proud to be from Seattle. However after poking round Pike Place Market, Pioneer Sq. and the House Needle, why not head down the highway to Tacoma to take a look at Dale Chihuly’s iconic works within the Museum of Glass?
I’ve been desirous about why I are inclined to favor Europe’s second cities. Usually, there’s a cause these locations by no means fairly managed to rise to the standing of “main metropolis.” Typically it’s as a result of they have been as soon as the middle of an trade that fell on arduous occasions. Or possibly they simply have a protracted legacy of at all times taking part in second fiddle.
However everybody loves an underdog. And possibly that’s why my loveliest journey reminiscences are inclined to happen in these underappreciated, typically neglected locations. They could not have the cachet or the world-famous sights. However they greater than make up for that with a resilient spirit, a scarcity of pretense, an easygoing allure and an exuberant creativity. Unshackled by the duty to be their nation’s position mannequin, second cities are free to simply be themselves. And that’s why they’re so fantastic.
Rick Steves is a TV host, best-selling guidebook writer and founder and proprietor of Rick Steves’ Europe, a journey enterprise with a tour program. Rick lives and works in Edmonds, Wash.