Taking the Road Less Travelled
There’s an uncomfortable truth in the world of travel that many tourists are avoiding: some of the most famous cities in the world are simply becoming too busy. Visit Rome’s Vatican Museums, or the Louvre in Paris during July, and you’ll be swept up in a tide of eager tourists that will rush you through these undeniably world-class attractions. That’s why 21st-century travel is all about leaving the well-worn paths behind and seeking out the world’s lesser-known delights. Our planet is full of incredible cities that are yet to hit the tourist mainstream, so we’ve highlighted five below that will seriously reward the curious traveler.
In 2017, a micro-budget independent film named Columbus was released and was beloved by the audiences that managed to catch it during its short time in movie theaters. It was, among many things, a love letter to the enchanting American city of its title. Not many cities get films named after them, but this off-the-radar destination in southern Indiana, with a population of only 45,000, is fully deserving of artistic admiration. Why? Because it’s one of the most architecturally diverse cities in the country. I.M. Pei, Eero Saarinen, Deborah Berke and Richard Meier are just a few of the superstar architects that make Columbus such an aesthetically bold city. Take an architectural walking tour of the city and marvel at the striking Modernist buildings. Here, the libraries, schools and churches all showcase remarkable 20th-century designs.
Trieste doesn’t try to compete with other cities in Northern Italy for attention. It would be hard to challenge Venice, which is only 100 miles away andbrings in a non-stop flow of visitors to its gilded canals. Yet that just makes it more of a treat for the people who do venture a little further east to this isolated city. Come here to sip on delectable espressos in cafés to rival the famous coffee houses of Vienna. Throughout its history, Trieste’s strategic location meant that dozens of different nations occupied it, leading to an intoxicating mixture of buildings from different nations and eras scattered throughout the city. The highlight is the sea-facing Piazza dell Unitàd’Italia, where you won’t be troubled by tourists as you gape in awe at the 19th-century Palazzo del Municipio.
France just has too many incredible places to visit. When so many travelers put Paris, the Côte d'Azur and the chateaux of the Loire Valley on their itineraries, few people spare a thought for somewhere as joyful and scenic as Toulouse. All the better, then, for the people who do make the trip to this picturesque city. Parts of its historic center look like an impressionist painting, with its pastel-pink façades and its canal running through tunnels of trees. The Basilica of Saint-Sernin, meanwhile, is a medieval architectural marvel, while its art galleries hold multiple works by European masters.
Bleached white buildings roll down the edges of dusty cliffsides in scenic Cadiz, a town so often overlooked in favor of Spain’s big hitters. It’s baffling that this ancient marvel of a destination, which sits on a peninsula jutting out into the Atlantic, remains largely undiscovered by tourists. Over 3,000 years of history have shaped the town, which seems sleepily reluctant to leave its past behind. For a European escape where there is never a pressure to do anything or be anywhere, head to thecobbled streets of Cadiz to spend your days feasting on seafood and enjoying the remarkable views. If you do find that you need to scratch that sightseeing itch, there are cathedrals, castles, and theaters to suit even the most avid culture vulture.
Sweden’s second city may not be as famous as Stockholm, but it has a punky, post-industrial edge that has seen it grow in popularity as a tourist destination in recent years. Catch it now, while it’s still sufficiently off the beaten track, and enjoy its laid-back atmosphere and hipster charm. It’s easy to fill your hours here with sightseeing; the Museum of Art and the City Museum offer history and fine art in equal measure, while RödaSten and the Röhsska Museum showcase modern Sweden as a center of design and fashion. Kids, meanwhile, will love the interactive joys of the Universeum, a sprawling science museum on the outskirts of the city. Don’t spend all your time hopping between the sights, though. Make sure you find time to pause for a coffee break, or fika, in a trendy neighborhood like Haga, where the historic streets buzz with students and workers slowing down to appreciate the old-world ambience.