The first time you visit a country, you likely spend time in its capital or most famous city. You want to see the well-known sites-whether it's the Eiffel Tower, or the Acropolis, or Machu Picchu. But if you really want to go deeper into a country, consider adding a few days in a "second city" and slowing things down, taking your time to savor what makes that place unique. To round up some compelling places to add to your travel wish-list, T+L polled our A-List of veteran travel advisors about their favorite underrated, non-capital cities.
My go-to destination as an alternative to Athens would be Thessaloniki, which is undoubtedly considered to be Greece's second-capital. With a fascinating history, a complex cultural tapestry that is the result of generations' worth of interplay between different peoples, excellent cuisine, beautiful sea views, and a vibrant local character, Thessaloniki is easy to love. The city's different neighborhoods are like small worlds onto themselves, each with its own distinct history and atmosphere. All around the city, old meets new as Roman monuments and Byzantine churches overlook modern buildings and busy streets.-Christos Stergiou, True Trips
Visiting Fez is like traveling back in time. The fortress-like medieval city is a maze of steep, narrow streets, lined with sellers and craftsman, alive with noise and color. You can smell the tanneries long before you reach them and the largest and oldest, Chouara Tannery, is located in the oldest medina quarter, Fes el Bali. Viewed from above, you see the vast number of stone cauldrons used for dyeing and softening leather, using a process that has remained unchanged for centuries. Samantha Gee, Red Savannah
This is the coolest little off-the-radar city in Australia. Often overlooked for cosmopolitan hubs, Hobart and greater Tasmania is the perfect blend of Australia and New Zealand in one tiny island package. For foodies, oyster farms, farm-fresh cheese tasting or award-winning whisky distilleries can easily fill a day. For culture buffs, the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) playfully pushes boundaries. To take advantage of the outdoors, hiking in Freycinet and Cradle Mountain are all accessible day trips. –Elizabeth Gordon, Extraordinary Journeys.
San Sebastian, Spain
This tiny coastal town in the Basque country is world-renowned for its fantastic restaurants, but it also has great surfing. It's a very pedestrian-friendly old town that never feels crowded, and it's also very close to the wineries.-Jim Strong, Strong Travel
I instantly fell in love with Porto, Portugal on my last, pre-pandemic European trip. Porto is a charming, small, cobblestone, industrial city with just enough grit to have a soul. The unique 18th century Baroque facades covered in Portuguese tiles, the port cellars right across the river in Villa Nova de Gaia over the Eiffel designed Dom Luis bridge, and the gateway to the Douro Valley's vineyards make this a unique gem full of character. The city's museums are few, but don't miss the influential Serralves Foundation who runs Porto's highly respected Contemporary Art Museum. –John Clifford, International Travel Management
Just an hour by train from London, Bath is a wonderful alternative to the big city. There is so much history from the Romans to the medieval times to the Regency era. The architecture is exquisite and there is something special about walking where Jane Austin – and so many of her characters – walked. The shopping is as good as in London, and less expensive, plus there is excellent theatre in Bath, where many productions debut before going to the West End.- Ellen LeCompte, Travel Experts
There is great shopping, food, wine and 2,000 years of history in the ancient city of Verona, built in 300 AD (but made most famous, of course, by Romeo & Juliet). Oenophiles can easily reach Trento and visit the sparkling producer of Bellavista, or in 30 minutes reach the Valpolicella where Amarone is produced. Head to Lake Garda where you can hire a boat for the day, or lake surf on the reliable Ora winds that blow in from the south. Dine in nearby Mantua at the famous Dal Pescatore, a Michelin-starred ristorante, and then visit the impressive Ducale palace of the mercenary Gonzaga family. Not to be missed is the Roman Grotto di Catullo at the tip of Sirmione. Even more reason to go? The city's ancient arena will be used for the closing ceremony for the 2026 Winter Olympics.- Joyce Falcone, Italian Concierge
Adelaide is a cosmopolitan, coastal city in the south of Australia that is neither too big nor too small. It's frequently named one of the world's most livable cities, and is the perfect location for a relaxed sampling of all the country has to offer: it is close to beaches and wine regions, as well as the Adelaide hills for hiking and outdoor activities. – Susanne Hamer, The Travel Store
Small and historic, the capital of Provence was the seat of the Catholic Papacy for many decades in the 1300s. Spend a day touring this UNESCO World Heritage Site and admiring the architecture of the Palais des Papes, the famous Pont d'Avignon, and other medieval monuments. –Kathy Stewart, Butterfield & Robinson
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