Been to Bangkok? Paid a Visit to Paris? Here's Where to Go Next
The greatest cities in the world are also some of the most popular: from Paris to New York, these giants in art, culture, and food demand respect—but also high prices and a high tolerance for crowds. If you’re looking for a next stop, or somewhere to go instead of the well-traveled destination that everyone knows, we’ve assembled this list of “second cities”—suggestions that have something in common with a more familiar pick, but which may provide something different, too.
Swap Bangkok for Ho Chi Minh City
World-class food in a sweltering clime.
Bangkok is the largest tourist destination in all of Southeast Asia, and for good reason: it has bars and restaurants that are ranked among the best in the world, and is home to countless stunning temples. But once you’ve seen what that megacity has to offer, fly a few hundred miles east to Ho Chi Minh City (also known as Saigon), in Vietnam.
You’ll find a city buzzing with life, from the motorbikes that rule the road to markets overflowing with produce from the nearby Mekong Delta. You can dig into the never-ending street-food offeringson a tour with local students, and hop your way around the local craft coffee and cocktail scenes, too.
Swap New York for Toronto
Multilingual cultural capitals.
There’s nothing like New York, of course—but if you’re looking for a multicultural locale and you’ve grown tired of the boroughs, set your sights north to Canada’s largest city. A sprawling metropolis on the shores of Lake Ontario, Toronto is home to sparkling skyscrapers, delicious food from around the world, and the Royal Ontario Museum (housed in a building that looks like it was hit by a spiny meteor).
At sunset, it seems everyone in the city converges on the Toronto Islands, which have a marvelous view of the skyline, and are popular for bike tours as well. For more excitement, see the city from above in a helicopter.
Swap Abu Dhabi for Muscat
Middle Eastern boom cities, with very different vibes.
It seems there are more and more reasons to visit Abu Dhabi these days, including its branch of the Louvre and its palatial, opulent hotels. But just a short flight away, Muscat offers a different view of the region, away from the gleaming towers.
Walk through the traditional souq in the center of town before savoring some traditional majboos, a dish of savory rice and meat. Plus, nature is accessible close by, so you can snorkel off the coast with dolphins and whale sharks, or swim in the Bimmah Sinkhole and cool off from the desert heat.
Swap Paris for Marseille
Trade the classic for its artistic cousin.
Paris is one of the most visited cities in the world, due to its dreamy reputation and iconic sights. Marseille, long known as a port city, may lack the draw of an Eiffel Tower or Montmartre, but it’s grown into a hub for artists and rising chefs, with its own style of French food, culture, and sports (if you like soccer, try to catch a match between Olympique de Marseille and their rivals from Lyon).
Remember that the city also sits on the Mediterranean coast, so it’s easy to take a day trip to nearby Cassis, or just enjoy the fruits of the sea at one of the city’s great seafood markets or restaurants.
Swap Cancun for Bacalar
Maya culture and deep relaxation with fewer crowds.
Millions of people visit Mexico’s Riviera Maya each year to lounge around pools in Cancun, Playa del Carmen, or Tulum, but you can escape the crowds by journeying just a bit further south to the idyllic lagoon of Bacalar. (To get here, fly to Chetumal from Mexico City, or transfer from Cancun.)
Called the Lagoon of Seven Colors, Bacalar is a spindly lake that stretches for about 30 miles (48 kilometers) from north to south. Gorgeous and tranquil, it’s home to one of the oldest species of living things in the world, creating the oldest fossils—stromatolites, formed by microbes that maintain a symbiotic relationship with the lake’s extensive mangrove forests. See all this and more on a sailboat tour before tucking into a piña colada.
Swap London for Edinburgh
A grand UK city with its own unique heritage.
We’ll get it out of the way: there’s no replacement for London. Its monumental scope, countless museums, and multicultural population have no match. That said, Edinburgh—the capital of Scotland—is full of distinctive charms in a smaller package. The Edinburgh Castle looms over the center of town, and underground vaults below hold historical secrets.
It’s also a cultural hotspot, home to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival every August, the world’s largest arts and culture gathering with nearly 60,000 (that’s right, 60,000) events every year. Plus, it’s easy to travel from the city to the Highlands, just a few hours to the north.
Swap Rio de Janeiro for Salvador
Brazilian megacities with a drive to dance.
Rio de Janeiro—home to Copacabana, Ipanema, and Christ the Redeemer—draws scores of visitors each year. But just two hours away by plane to the northeast, Salvador da Bahia is a megacity with an even more compelling story. Known as the national capital of Afro-Brazilian culture, it was once a vicious port that served as the entry point for around 1.3 million enslaved people into the region. Now, it’s the fourth-largest city in Brazil and a site for remembrance and celebration of Black Brazilian culture, music, and traditions.
Immerse yourself with a lesson in the martial art of capoeira, once used as a form of resistance among Africans and their descendants; you can also learn more about Afro-Brazilian history on a city tour.
Swap Cairo for Tunis
Antiquities along the Mediterranean.
Cairo is justly world-famous for its proximity to the Pyramids of Giza, its many souks, and its rich cuisine. But for a fraction of the cost and with fewer tourists, you can see magnificent ancient ruins in Tunis, the capital of Tunisia, about 1,200 miles (2,000 kilometers) west along the Mediterranean coast. Here you can tour the ruins of Carthage, or, with more time, visit locales made famous as the planet Tatooine in Star Wars. The city itself, though, is also a star. Eat couscous, lounge on one of the many beaches, or visit the Bardo National Museum, home to over 8,000 works that span the history of the area.
Swap Rome for Trieste
Cities built on the ruins of empires.
Everyone knows the names of the iconic sights of Rome, even if you’ve never been: the Colosseum, the Forum, the Trevi Fountain. But packed with tourists during high season, Rome loses some of its appeal. Flee the crowds and take a train north, past Florence and Venice, to Trieste. Though not as well-known as other Italian cities, that’s part of the draw.
In place of Roman ruins, here you’ll find the remnants of other, more recent empires: namely the Holy Roman and Austro-Hungarian. Munch on apple strudels and sip coffee (the Italian giant Illy is based here) while wandering through the central squares and along the piers. It’s a city that served as a muse to James Joyce and a young Sigmund Freud alike. It’s also surrounded on three sides by Slovenia—if you have time, you can hop across the border to explore nearby Lake Bled in less than a day.