Rick Steves: Don’t skip Europe’s second cities


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Every European nation has its marquee metropolis that draws the overwhelming majority of vacationers — assume Rome, Paris, Amsterdam. And all too usually, that tourist-pleasing vacation spot is a traveler’s one and solely cease.

Whereas I’d by no means counsel skipping these locations totally, I like to enhance them with a go to to the nation’s “second metropolis.” Actually, if in case you have 4 days to spend in any of those capitals, I like to recommend slicing your go to a day quick 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 trustworthy 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 outstanding citadel, its Royal Mile and its romantic cityscape — grabs vacationers’ consideration. However only a one-hour prepare experience away, funky Glasgow entertains with a laid-back perspective, sassy road murals, and Scotland’s greatest meals and stay music scene. (Glaswegians prefer to say, “We’ve got extra enjoyable at a funeral than individuals in Edinburgh have at a marriage.”)

A visit via ‘The Crown’: Pretend Buckingham Palace and a royal yacht

In France, the good sights of Paris dominate most guests’ itineraries. However I’ve loved great days within the livable culinary capital of Lyon, and within the bustling Mediterranean transport middle of Marseille. The identical goes for London — understandably England’s prime draw — and a complete checklist 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 gorgeous Grand-Place. However after you’ve strolled via 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 will take a brief prepare experience 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 interesting 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 Bathtub is a giant draw. However for those who can squeeze in a side-trip, the port metropolis of Bristol is only a 15-minute prepare experience 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 Area 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 interested by why I are inclined to favor Europe’s second cities. Generally, there’s a motive these locations by no means fairly managed to rise to the standing of “main metropolis.” Usually it’s as a result of they have been as soon as the middle of an trade that fell on laborious instances. Or possibly they simply have an extended legacy of at all times taking part in second fiddle.

However everybody loves an underdog. And possibly that’s why my most lovable journey reminiscences are inclined to happen in these underappreciated, usually ignored locations. They might not have the cachet or the world-famous sights. However they greater than make up for that with a resilient spirit, an absence of pretense, an easygoing allure and an exuberant creativity. Unshackled by the duty to be their nation’s function mannequin, second cities are free to simply be themselves. And that’s why they’re so great.

Rick Steves is a TV host, best-selling guidebook creator and founder and proprietor of Rick Steves’ Europe, a journey enterprise with a tour program. Rick lives and works in Edmonds, Wash.