World's Best "Second" Cities

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We like winners. Whether it's the winning army of a war or the world's fastest 100 meter runner, we lavish attention and praise on the victors and relegate the losers to the dustbin of history. The same is true of travel - the most important travel cities like New York, London, Sydney and Tokyo are favored by visitors while lesser-known destinations like Salvador, Brazil or Melbourne, Australia are skipped, scratched from the itinerary or just plain ignored.
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Worlds Best

We like winners. Whether it's the winning army of a war or the world's fastest 100 meter runner, we lavish attention and praise on the victors and relegate the losers to the dustbin of history. The same is true of travel - the most important travel cities like New York, London, Sydney and Tokyo are favored by visitors while lesser-known destinations like Salvador, Brazil or Melbourne, Australia are skipped, scratched from the itinerary or just plain ignored.

The destinations we visit win our attention for good reason. They're typically the biggest cities - meaning they have the best restaurants, biggest museums and largest inventory of hotels. Yet, when we limit our travel to "the most popular" or the "biggest" cities, we overlook some spectacular urban areas. The following picks boast many of the same amenities that make their bigger rivals so famous - top notch cultural institutions, unique local charm, great cuisine and nightlife. How many have you visited?

Worlds Best

Picturesque Rio de Janeiro and glitzy Sao Paulo may get all the attention in Brazil, but it's Salvador that's really stealing the show. The city's laid–back citizens, fantastic beaches and historic colonial architecture make it strong competitor for best place to visit in Brazil. Plus, if you want to go to Carnival, Salvador hosts some of the country's most authentic celebrations.

Worlds Best

Travelers love to talk about Tokyo, but focusing exclusively on Tokyo does serious injustice to the city of Osaka. What Osaka lacks in population, it more than makes up for in its citizens' lust for life and sheer zaniness. Along the streets of Osaka's Dotonbori district you'll find a raucous party of eating and drinking that is virtually unmatched anywhere on earth. In addition to the city's famous Takoyaki octopus balls and grilled snow crab, Osaka also boasts cultural attractions like Osaka Castle and the Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum.

Worlds Best

Stockholm is unquestionably Sweden's capital and its largest city. But not nearly as many have been to Gothenburg, the country's second largest metropolis and home to Sweden's largest university. The large population of students means Gothenburg has a surprisingly fertile arts and culture scene, frequently rivaling its larger sibling Stockholm for an unassuming, fun experience – all at a fraction of the price.

Worlds Best

Krakow has slowly become of one Poland's greatest tourist attractions in recent years, steadily easing out of the shadow of much larger Warsaw. Unlike Warsaw, which was leveled by bombing during World War II, Krakow retains much of its historical architecture – a unique feature that will have first time visitors in awe.

Worlds Best

Neighboring Sydney might boast the Opera House and stunning harbor views, but Australian visitors ignore Melbourne at their peril. The city is packed to the brim with top–notch shopping, hidden laneways and world class events like the Australian Open tennis tournament.

Worlds Best

Auckland might appear to dominate New Zealand's economic and cultural agenda, but in truth it's modest–sized Wellington that's really calling the shots. In addition to being New Zealand's capital city, Wellington has a world–class museum at Te Papa, killer food and what might be the best cocktails this side of the Pacific.

Worlds Best

Any visitor that's been to Montreal can tell you: the city will give Toronto a run for its money any day of the week. In addition to hosting two fantastic music festivals each summer and bohemian nightlife, Montreal is also full of plenty of French colonial architecture and charm.

Worlds Best

A list of "second cities" would not be complete without Chicago, arguably the birthplace of the term and perennial competitor to bigger American cities like New York and Los Angeles. Make no mistake about it though: Chicago might be called the second city, but it has first–city amenities, including amazing museums, some of the best food in the U.S. and plenty of friendly residents.

Worlds Best

True, rowdy Dublin has the Guinness Factory and Book of Kells. But don't forget about Galway, a gem of a town along Ireland's wild and windy West Coast. Galway's position as home to many of the country's university students, rugged natural beauty and frequent festivals make it strong contender for Ireland's best–kept secret.

Worlds Best

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