In a bid to protect the environment and to help reduce overtourism, the idea of second city tourism is to lure travellers away from the world’s most visited cities to a similar alternative in the same region or country.
Travel off-the-beaten-track this year and discover 16 amazing second city destinations that should be on every intrepid traveller’s bucket list.
16 of the Best Second Cities to Visit in 2022
San Diego, California
The southernmost city in California, San Diego combines the best of both worlds; relaxing sun-soaked beaches with a welcoming cityscape, where each neighbourhood has something unique to offer.
Those looking for a laidback holiday will find that San Diego has fantastic restaurants, attractions and shops to explore, as well as 70 miles of coastline where there’s plenty of opportunity for watersports. This year will see the opening of a new hotel in La Jolla – Cormorant Boutique Hotel – the reopening of the Museum of Contemporary Art, and the completion of the Comic-Con Museum in Balboa Park, meaning there are lots of exciting new reasons to discover the city this year.
Fort Collins, Colorado
Located just a short drive north of Denver, Fort Collins is a vibrant town with numerous amenities, from local eateries and places to drink to beautiful boutique hotels and shops. Home to more than 20 craft breweries, including the fourth-largest craft brewer in the US, Fort Collins is a great place for craft beer lovers to explore and enjoy a beverage.
With wide bike lanes and winding trails that follow the Poudre River and Spring Creek, both of which offer scenic views along the way, cycling is a great way to get to know the much-loved city. Visitors can rent e-bikes and scooters through a program called Spin.
Nicknamed “San Francisco’s Brooklyn,” Oakland is located just across San Francisco Bay and has the same assets as the famous New York borough—a fascinating maritime history, bay and cityscape views, a stunning bridge, and an exploding food and wine scene.
Diverse, dynamic, artsy, edgy, an influx of young locals, drawn not only by the vibe but also by the city’s lower rents, have moved into downtown lofts and condos, and arriving with them are the single-pour coffee bars, cutting-edge art galleries, and cocktail lounges.
Located in western Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh is home to numerous arts and cultural pursuits, award-winning dining, fantastic family attractions and outdoor adventures.
The city has a number of one-of-a-kind experiences including the Andy Warhol Museum – the largest museum dedicated to a single artist in North America – and the world’s largest permanent robotics exhibition at the Carnegie Science Center. The robotics offering is set to expand in September with the opening of the Moonshot Museum, Pennsylvania’s first museum dedicated exclusively to space.
Located in the Pacific Northwest, Seattle is known for its musical heritage and surrounding evergreen forests. The city is the perfect place to experience culture whilst boasting both adventurous and relaxing activities. From kayaking at Alki Beach and hiking around the Chain Lakes Loop to immersing yourself in the culture at the many museums and attractions, Seattle should be on every city hopper’s bucket list.
Highlights include seeing the incredible skyline from the famous Space Needle, learning about the city’s musical heritage at the Museum of Pop Culture, and strolling around the oldest farmers market in the US, Pike Place Market.
Foresta, Yosemite Mariposa County, California
Located just under 30 miles from Buck Meadows the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it turnoff to Foresta means that few visitors explore this hidden meadow vista. Situated at 4,314 feet, Foresta has an interesting history and is one of only three areas of private property within the boundaries of Yosemite National Park.
Worth seeing in Foresta is the McCauley & Meyer Barns (National Historic Landmarks) while hikers can check out the lightly-visited Foresta Falls — an easy two-mile out and back to a cascade along Crane Creek. There are no hotels in Foresta, but visitors can stay in a number of holiday rentals, some with views of a surprisingly close Half Dome to the east.
R Street Corridor, Sacramento, California
Sacramento is the capital city of California and largest city of Sacramento County. As the location of the Oscar award-winning film, Lady Bird, Sacramento was thrown into the spotlight as a must-visit destination on a California road trip.
R Street Corridor is a must see district home to some of the best art studios, dining and entertainment that Sacramento has to offer. Many of the transformed brick buildings and streets still reflect the former rail-based business activities that once took place in the area.
Avila Beach, SLO CAL, California
Tucked away into the coastal cove of San Luis Obispo Bay, Avila Beach is a small seaside town that is often overlooked in favour of the bigger SLO CAL spots of Pismo Beach and San Luis Obispo. A relaxed escape with multiple beaches and piers, this oasis is your hub for a variety of things to do.
Take your time to browse the boutique shops, sip the local vino, and soak in the natural hot springs. Whether from a beach blanket, kayak, trail, or the patio of a waterfront eatery, there might not be a better spot in SLO CAL to take in the ocean views. And get ready to reach the peak of bliss with beach yoga or spa treatments inspired by the soothing sea waters. Venture a short distance away from town to explore the area’s farm roots. Swing by See Canyon, home to U-pick orchards, family-owned farm stands and lush local vineyards.
Mammoth Lakes, California
The mountain town of Mammoth Lakes offers relaxed California vibes set amongst the stunning scenery of the High Sierra.
The name speaks to the size of the mountains, the expanse of the valleys, the incredible number of crystal clear mountain lakes and the endless opportunities for adventure, from skiing to dirt biking, soaking in hot springs or exploring old ghost towns from the Gold Rush era. The drive to get to the town along the spectacular Highway 395 is an adventure in itself.
Rest of the World
Japan’s fifth-largest city, and the prefectural capital of Hokkaido, Sapporo is a dynamic urban centre that offers everything a visitor to Japan could wish for; a thriving food scene, stylish cafes, neon-lit nightlife, shopping galore and more. While many travellers see the city as a transit hub from which to access Hokkaido’s mountains and hot springs, there are enough worthwhile attractions to keep you here for days.
Summer is the season for beer and food festivals whilst in February, Sapporo’s population literally doubles during the famous Snow Festival. Be sure to visit Ōdōri-kōen, a haven in the heart of the city of green lawns, flower gardens, fountains and sculptures. The Sapporo Beer Museum is another must-see attraction where visitors can learn about Japan’s oldest beer and taste signature craft classics.
Nagasaki is a charming, vibrant city filled with historical significance. The city boasts a long history of trade with Europe and China, interesting churches, shrines and temples, and a fusion culinary scene, all set prettily around a glittering harbour.
A still, serene and deeply moving place, Nagasaki Peace Park is one of the city’s top attractions together with the Atomic Bomb Museum and National Peace Memorial Hall. Visit the Ōura Cathedral – the oldest church in Japan (1864) – a testament to Japan’s fascinating history with Christianity. The church and other Nagasaki Christian sites were named to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2018.
Nestled in the wine region in the northeast of Slovenia is Maribor, a traditional city that offers travellers beautiful scenery, fantastic dining and rich cultural experiences. Visitors can take in the historic architecture in Maribor’s Old Town, enjoy a rafting trip along the Drava River, or sample the region’s homegrown wine at one of the many vineyards surrounding the city.
Maribor is home to the world’s oldest vine which has been growing for over 450 years and has its own museum, anthem, and a number of festivals dedicated to it.
Officially known as Hida Takayama, the city has one of Japan’s most atmospheric townscapes, with Meiji-era inns, hillside shrines and a pretty riverside setting. It’s also home to one of the country’s best loved festivals – the Takayama Matsuri. The town’s present layout dates from the late 17th century and incorporates a wealth of museums, galleries, and temples for a place of its compact size.
Takayama is easily explored on foot and is the perfect start or end for a journey into the Japanese Alps. Be sure to visit the Takayama Festival Floats Exhibition Hall, a rotating selection of four of the 23 multitiered yatai (floats) used in the Takayama Matsuri. These spectacular creations, some dating back from the 17th century, are prized for their flamboyant carvings, metalwork and lacquerware.
Matsumoto, Three Star Road
The vibrant city of Matsumoto sits in a fertile valley in the magnificent Japan Alps. Formerly known as Fukashia, Nagano Prefecture’s second-largest city has been here since the 8th century. In the 14th and 15th centuries it was the castle town of the Ogasawara clan and it continued to prosper through the Edo period to the present. An attractive, cosmopolitan place loved by both locals and tourists alike, Matsumoto boasts a superb castle, pretty streets, galleries, cafes and incredible mountain vistas.
With a Pacific shoreline of outstanding natural beauty, fantastic cultural sights, vibrant markets and delectable seafood, Hachinohe punches well above its weight. Located in the Aomori Prefecture in the Tohoku region, Hachinohe offers visitors the chance to explore the region’s long and fascinating history in a series of fine museums. For the adventurous traveller, Hachinohe’s Tanesashi coastline is the perfect place for natural splendour and has been a source of inspiration for countless artists, writers and creatives.
Marquesas Islands, The Islands of Tahiti
Located 932 miles northeast of Tahiti, the lesser-known Marquesas Islands are spread across 12 islands, of which only six are inhabited. They are home to many archaeological sites, including stone temples, giant tiki statues and ancient petroglyphs. The largest island of the southeastern group is Hiva Oa, the burial place of the French artist Paul Gauguin. Hiva Oa is commonly called the “Garden of the Marquesas” due to its fertile and lush land.
The island features endless untouched nature and the rugged landscapes blend sharp ridges, peaks and valleys scattered with archaeological sites and ruins. They are home to the largest tiki statues of French Polynesia. Hiva Oa is lined with black sand beaches and sharp cliffs diving into the Pacific Ocean. The island’s main village, Atuona, is nested at the end of Taaao Bay and is overlooked by the highest mountains, Mount Temetiu standing at 4,186 ft. and Mount fe’ani standing at 3,366 ft.