5 European “Second Cities” that Are Worth a Visit

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Bucket List Worthy  

When we think about planning a trip around Europe, we usually think of visiting the big capital cities – such as Rome, Paris, London and Berlin. However, it is worth it to think beyond the capital and consider some of Europe’s second cities as well. Often these cities are cheaper, less crowded and more authentic than their capital counterparts.

Here are five great European second cities to visit during your trip around Europe:

1. Porto, Portugal

Lisbon is the capital of Portugal, but Porto is a lovely laid back city in the Douro Valley, famous for its fortified wines. Take a tour of the sun-soaked vineyards or walk through the cobblestone streets of the historical centre, which was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 1996.

Listen to a concert at the Casa da Musica (House of Music), hike through the Foz do Douro region or shop for fruits and vegetables at the Mercado do Bolhão. Take a cruise up the river or visit the Dragão Stadium – the home of FC Porto. There are also plenty of great beaches in the region where you can enjoy the sunshine.

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2. St. Petersburg, Russia

The second largest city in Russia, St. Petersburg is known for its truly stunning collection of architecture – each building a unique and ornate work of art. Visit the Hermitage Museum, which is one of the best collections of art and antiquities in the world. Marvel at the domes and cupolas of the Andreyevsky Cathedral and take the opportunity to see an opera or ballet performance at the world class Mariinsky Theatre.

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3. Bordeaux, France

If you want to explore beyond Paris, head to this French city known for its excellent cuisine, fine wine and historic châteaux. Stroll along Les Quais and take a ride on the ferry, offering a stunning view over the bridges. Peruse the thought-provoking modern art at the Musee D’Art Contemporain or the roman relics at the Musee D’Aquitaine. Climb the 243 narrow steps up to the tower of Saint-Michel and look out over the panoramic view of the city.

Bordeaux also has a great nightlife, with many exciting dance venues that keep the party going until the early hours of the morning.

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4. Rotterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam can be a lot of fun, but if you are tired of the busy red light district and the persistent waft of a certain herb in the air – head to Rotterdam for a completely different experience of the Netherlands instead.

It is sleek, modern, industrial and cutting edge – offering an exciting contemporary art scene and several excellent museums including the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, the Kunsthal, the Nederlands Fotomuseum and the Hendrik Chabot Museum. Check out the historic architecture in the lovely Delfshaven neighbourhood and ride the Snerttram, an old fashioned mode of transport that offers guided tours.

Skyscrapers of Rotterdam
Skyscrapers of Rotterdam

5.  Antwerp, Belgium

Go beyond Brussels and visit this charming city, which has evolved from a bombed out shell after the war to a beautiful and confident tourist attraction today. Wander through the cobbled lanes of the historic centre and you will find diamond shops, antique dealers, luxurious chocolatiers and beautifully ornate churches. Also, you can rent a bike and head for a picnic in the lovely green Stadspark, where you will find sunshine, rabbits, ducks and chilled out local families.

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These are just five examples of great second cities that are worth visiting in Europe… so why not explore beyond the capitals?

A Canadian freelance writer with a love of art, culture, literature and adventure, Kelly loves exploring foreign lands and expressing her experiences through the power of the written word. She and her English boyfriend Lee run Global-Goose.com, packed full with travel guides, stories and inspiration for those who dream of travel. They have been location independent and travelling the world digital-nomad style for the last three years, with no address, no car and no fixed schedule.

About the Author: Kelly Dunning

A Canadian freelance writer with a love of art, culture, literature and adventure, Kelly loves exploring foreign lands and expressing her experiences through the power of the written word. She and her English boyfriend Lee run Global-Goose.com, packed full with guides, stories and inspiration for those who dream of travel. They have been location independent and travelling the world digital-nomad style since 2011, with no address, no car and no fixed schedule.

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