Where to Travel Next? Beat the Crowds at Lesser-Known DestinationsBy Shayla Martin
Destinations around the world are becoming overwhelmed by visitors. And while it’s great that more people are traveling, some of the most well-known cities in the world are seeing travelers arrive in droves and are having a hard time putting their best foot forward when demand is so high.
While these popular cities do deserve a visit, maybe it’s also time to give those places a chance to catch their breath and plan on checking out somewhere else for now.
We’ve rounded up six of the most famous cities in the world, along with alternative destinations to consider — all with beautiful landscapes, great food, rich culture and none of the crowds.
After Barcelona, Try Alicante
Although you’ll miss out on the Gaudí-designed buildings, the beaches in Barcelona play second fiddle to those on Spain’s Costa Blanca. Alicante’s white, sandy beaches and clear Mediterranean waters are ideal for a summer vacation, and when you’ve had enough sun, there are castles, churches and museums to explore.
High atop Benacantil Mountain is the Santa Bárbara Castle, a medieval fortress that’s accessible by hike or a lift just in front of Postiguet Beach. As with Barcelona, food is a big deal in Alicante, and they even have their own simmered rice dish that parallels paella called arroz a banda or arroz al horno, both made with local seafood.
Pay a visit to the long-running Mercado Central, where more than 290 food stalls offer meat, pastries, fruits and vegetables, and of course, some of the freshest seafood in Spain.
After Paris, Try Lyon
We know there’s no true substitute for Paris, but hear us out. Even if you go to Paris for a couple of nights to snap a few photos at the main sights like the Eiffel Tour or Sacre Coeur, you can escape the city’s tourist throngs with a quick two-hour train ride to Lyon.
Although it’s often referred to as the “Second City,” Lyon tops bucket lists for several reasons. First, there’s the architecture, which spans 2,000 years and features Roman ruins, the classically French 19th-century Presqu’île quarter and the Renaissance-era Vieux Lyon (one of the largest Renaissance quarters in Europe).
Lyon even has its own Notre Dame, the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourviere, which sits atop the city’s main hill, or you could church hop to the Lyon Cathedral. Lose yourself in the less overwhelming but equally rich Musée des Beaux-Arts, where 70 rooms are home to Egyptian and Asian art, as well as paintings by Degas, van Gogh and Picasso.
Then there’s Lyon’s French cuisine, which leaves some gourmands arguing that Lyon is France’s true culinary capital. The late, great French chef, Paul Bocuse, is considered the father of French cuisine, and his three-Michelin-starred L’Auberge du Pont de Collonges is a must-visit.
After London, Try Manchester
Beyond soccer, Manchester has had a hard time stepping outside of London’s shadow, but things are changing. Travelers are going beyond the British capital and into England’s second-largest city to enjoy its Gothic architecture, beautiful green spaces, a thriving restaurant scene and, of course, all things Manchester United.
Even if soccer isn’t your thing, anyone will be awe-inspired by a Manchester United Museum and Stadium Tour at one of the most iconic soccer stadiums in Europe, Old Trafford. As one of the newer stadiums in Premier League soccer, the Manchester City Stadium has a tour that is worth the visit due to its immersive experience using the latest technology.
After visiting both stadiums, practice your own soccer skills at the National Football Museum, the biggest in the world dedicated to the sport. Take in expertly curated fine art collections at the Manchester Art Gallery and the Whitworth; then view stunning Gothic architecture at the John Rylands Library and Manchester Cathedral.
Finally, you won’t miss out on great food in Manchester, where cozy gastro pubs and contemporary drinking holes are popular, alongside microbreweries, street food and swanky spots for afternoon tea.
After Dubai, Try Doha
The glittering, ultra luxury city of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates is known for its over-the-top experiences, but if you’re looking for a similar setting with less in-your-face splash, make your way to Doha.
Doha, Qatar, has glitz and glamour, but it’s a bit more understated, and while much of the city is modern and downright futuristic, there are still major portions that honor the traditional lifestyle of the bustling port city.
Walk the lively streets of the Souq Waqif to find everything from spices and fabrics to live falcons, an important animal in Qatari culture; then spend an evening on the Persian Gulf on a traditional sunset dhow cruise.
At the Museum of Islamic Art is the largest collection of Islamic Art in the world, but if soccer is more your style, keep an eye out for the flashy stadiums built in preparation for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
After Cape Town, Try Port Elizabeth
Most people head to Cape Town for the beaches, but chances are you’ll be searching for an empty stretch of sand among other tourists. On the Eastern Cape is Port Elizabeth, home to some of South Africa’s cleanest city beaches along nearly 25 miles of coastline.
As one might imagine, water sports are popular here, spanning everything from surfing, sailing and fishing to scuba diving, windsurfing and kiteboarding. Beyond the water, Port Elizabeth has an art and culture trail called MDBA’s Route 67, consisting of 67 public art works symbolizing Nelson Mandela’s 67 years of work dedicated to freeing South Africa from apartheid. You’ll find murals, statues, mosaics and more, all with informational markers to detail each site.
After New York, Try Philadelphia
New York City’s five boroughs welcomed a record 65.2 million visitors in 2018, and in a city where there are already nearly nine million residents, you’re going to crave some space.
Just an hour and a half south is Philadelphia, a city ripe with history and culture, fantastic restaurants, great sports teams and enough space so you don’t feel on top of your fellow visitors.
Checking out the must-sees like the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall and grabbing a Philly cheesesteak at Reading Terminal Market are nonnegotiable, but picnics in Washington Square Park, sipping cocktails at South Philly’s rooftop Bok Bar and strolling among the row houses in the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood are also part of what makes Philly so great.
In the fall, join some of the most loyal fans in football at a Philadelphia Eagles game, especially when they play their rivals, the New York Giants.