Our Favourite Second Cities

Often overlooked in favour of their larger counterparts, second cities rarely get the recognition they deserve. With eye-catching architecture, sprawling green spaces and vibrant cultural scenes, these are some of our favourites across the world.

Montreal

Canada

While Toronto remains Canada's bustling business centre and Quebec draws in nature lovers, Montreal proudly marks Canada's cultural hub. Offering French-style patisseries, rickety pubs, generations-old Jewish delis and sprawling food markets that sell heaped servings of poutine, the city's culinary scene is a huge draw. Fuelled up, explore Montreal's bountiful cultural spoils. Admire architectural triumphs such as the Notre-Dame Basilica, the Olympic Stadium and model community Habitat 67, and wander along the Lachine Canal or through Le Plateau Mont-Royal before spending the evening settling down in any of the city's many theatres for a night of comedy, jazz or musical mayhem.

Busan

South Korea

When thinking of visiting South Korea, Seoul is the city that springs to mind. While perhaps not offering as many modern spoils as the country's capital, Busan has sprawling beaches, towering temples and hiking-mecca mountains that should be enough to tempt. Spend mornings lazing on Haeundae Beach before lunching at Jagalchi Fish Market - one of the country's largest fish markets in which narrow lanes bustle with rickety carts and stalls selling stonking seafood. Don't miss Gamcheon Culture Village, an old mountainside slum-cum-art hub filled with colourful cafés, galleries and twisting stairways.

Galway

Ireland

Although recently popularised by Ed Sheeran, this bohemian city has been steeped in culture for centuries. Walk along the River Corrib, spot remnants of the medieval town wall, or stop by the quaint shops dotted throughout the harbour city. If you're there on a Saturday, be sure to visit the centuries-old street market, where countless food stalls are sandwiched between arts and crafts stands and buskers playing merry Irish tunes. Don't miss the Fishery Watchtower - built in the 1850s to monitor fish stock, the Victorian tower now houses a museum, but head to the top for wonderful views across Galway's waterways and rivers. It's no surprise this Irish city has been named the European Capital of Culture for 2020.

Manchester

United Kingdom

With a rich history of invention and progression, this forward-looking city remains a popular stalwart in the UK. Manchester refused to let the horrific Arena bombing in 2017 dampen its spirit or its pride, instead responding by way of cranking up its standards of inclusivity, tolerance and global outlook. A place of sporting legend, it's prime territory for touring the rival stadiums of Old Trafford - home of Manchester United - or Man City's Etihad Stadium. If football isn't your thing, spend days exploring the centre's many galleries and museums. Come sundown, head to the Northern Quarter for cheap pints down the Oxford Road Corridor, or sip on cocktails for an evening of opulence in Spinningfields.

Guadalajara

Mexico

Home to mariachi music and wide-brimmed sombreros, Guadalajara has cultural spoils galore - without the frenetic confusion of the country's capital. Get your history-fix by wandering around the city's historic core, admiring ancient colonial architecture such as the Catedral de Guadalajara and the Instituto Cultural de Cabañas before heading to centuries-old neighbourhoods such as Chapultepec, Tonalá and Zapopan. Guadalajara is the capital of the Mexican state of Jalisco, famous for being the birthplace of tequila, so be sure to take a tour through the city to learn about the drink's history (and have a few shots along the way).

Alexandria

Egypt

With sandy, glistening beaches, ancient historical landmarks and quaint, old-world cafés - this Mediterranean port city has just about everything needed for the perfect city break. Founded in 331 BCE by Alexander the Great, Alexandria has a history to rival any other city, with tales of pharaohs, one of the Seven Wonders of the World and a wealth of ancient knowledge. Today, the modern city pairs faded remnants of its grandeur - think: catacombs and fortresses - with a vibrant cosmopolitan scene and underground, hipster corners.

Gothenburg

Sweden

Just off the country's west coast, romantic views of the Göta älv river are just as much of a draw as the buzzing city streets. A champion of understated appeal, Gothenburg is the kind of place to walk alongside the 17th-century canals or hop on a rattling tram before stopping for a lunch of typical Swedish delights and a spot of vintage shopping. Thrill-seekers should head to Liseberg, Scandinavia's largest amusement park, while culture lovers should while away the hours at Röda Sten Konsthall, a defunct power station which now houses four floors of contemporary Swedish and international exhibitions.

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