10 of the world’s coolest ‘third’ cities

There is a familiar pattern in the tourism industry. Everyone flocks to the biggest and most famous cities, and then it gets overcrowded, so savvy travelers look to a second city. Alas, this too is often submerged, as once-chic Porto, Antwerp and Barcelona can attest. So why not go a little further down the line and check out those cool third cities eagerly awaiting their moment in the spotlight?



Calpe beach with Peña±on de Ifach in the background.  Comunidad Autonoma de Valencia, Spain. Copy space available for text and/or logo. DSRL outdoor photo taken with Canon EOS 5D Mk II and Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L IS USM wide angle zoom lens Credit: istock only use for Traveler only For David Whitley's third cities traveler 10

Photo: iStock

The spiritual home of paella has a rich heritage – the central market and cathedral are gorgeous. But Valencia is carving out a niche for modern architecture, with the City of Arts and Sciences offering bold architecture and a range of museums and cultural attractions. It’s also a seaside city – the wide promenade, Playa de la Malvarossa, is the perfect spot for swimming, sunbathing and people-watching.

Look Visit the Valencia website


Where?South Africa

Aerial view of Durban, South Africa Image Credit: istock One Time Only for Travelers David Whitley's Third City Traveler 10

Photo: iStock

Durban offers something Johannesburg and Cape Town can’t – miles and miles of Indian Ocean beaches. There are also strong Zulu and Indian influences. If you go downtown, try the rabbit – it’s actually a curry in a bread bowl. Durban’s main attractions – uShaka Seaworld Aquarium and Umgeni River Bird Park – are fairly average safari parks. But the Kwa Muhle Museum gives you an insight into local history and how the pioneers of apartheid were tried in Durban.Look visitdurban.travel



Daytime long exposure panorama of the famous canal landscape at the Graslei in Ghent, Belgium. Credit: iStock Single Use Only for Travelers David Whitley's Third City Traveler 10

Photo: iStock

Prettier than both Brussels and Antwerp, Ghent manages to retain its canalside authenticity. It’s a hotbed of vegetarian restaurants, and the 10th-century Gravenstein Castle might as well have been straight out of a children’s storybook. There are beautiful cathedrals and churches too, but this is a city for hanging out between ridiculously strong beers.Look visit.gent.be



Aerial view of Chicago's Lakeshore Dr at sunrise in autumn - October 2019 Photo credit: istock One Time Traveler Only For David Whitley's third City Traveler 10

Photo: iStock

Sorry NYC and LA, you guys don’t look as cool as Chicago. Here, skyscrapers soar around the Chicago River and El trains rattle overhead on elevated tracks.

Chicago has retained the vibrancy of a big city while shedding attitude. It’s just a fun city to hang out in. Top things to do include visiting the Second City Comedy Club, encountering giant dinosaurs at the Field Museum, checking out world-class outdoor art installations at Millennium Park, and gazing at the gleaming towers on an architectural tour.Look Select a Chicago site



2K5F30B Old French Colonial Building, Haiphong Town Center, Vietnam Photo Credit: Alamy Once Traveler Only Fee applies to David Whitley's Third City Traveler 10

Photo: Alami

Haiphong has a much more relaxed feel than Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, and still has a lot of French colonial influence in its boulevards and buildings. There’s also a strong cafe culture here, which is also good considering this is a city for hanging out rather than recharging around the tourist spots. However, it is arguably best used as a gateway to Cat Ba Island, a nature reserve teeming with wildlife.

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Panoramic drone view of downtown Vancouver. Credit: iStock Single Use Only for Travelers David Whitley's Third City Traveler 10

Photo: iStock

Toronto and Montreal may surpass Vancouver in population, but not in natural beauty. Vancouver has a reputation for being “good,” and a walk or bike ride around the seawall in Stanley Park is a must for getting to know the city. But then take the mini-ferry to the Granville Island Marketplace, teeter on the forest-fringed Capilano Suspension Bridge, and sip craft beer in historic Gastown.Look destinationvancouver.com



Morning aerial cityscape of Lyon, France with beautiful old buildings and skyscrapers Photo Credit: istock One Time Only for Travelers David Whitley's Third City Traveler 10

Photo: iStock

Paris and Marseille may be bigger, but Lyon has become the gastronomic capital of France. This is best explored in the many restaurants, but the Cité International de la Gastronomie is an interactive museum dedicated to all things food. Meanwhile, the Confluence Museum majors in anthropology, while the Roman Theater is the largest of several threads on Roman history.Look en.lyon-france.com



Aerial view of beach in Fortaleza city, Ceara, Brazil. Credit: iStock Single Use Only for Travelers David Whitley's Third City Traveler 10

Photo: iStock

Few cities are as beach-centric as Brazil’s third-largest city, Fortaleza, after São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The 5km long Praia do Futuro is arguably the most spectacular of these beaches, but there are dozens more to choose from. In health and education, Centro Cultural Dragão do Mar brings art and insights into traditional life in northeastern Brazil.Look Visit Brazil site



Pizzeria terrace with views of Naples, Italy Photo credit: istock Single use, for travelers only David Whitley's Third City Traveler 10

Photo: iStock

Naples doesn’t have the history of Rome, or the art and style of Milan, but it makes up for it in fiery character. There is no shortage of grand monumental buildings here, with the formidable Newcastle now housing an art gallery and the Royal Palace displaying lavishly decorated apartments. But the personality comes from the food – this is the home of pizza – and the looming volcanic backdrop provided by Mount Vesuvius.Look Visit naples.eu



The Story Bridge across the Brisbane River at sunrise in the Brisbane CBD. Credit: iStock Single Use Only for Travelers David Whitley's Third City Traveler 10

Ppicture: stock

Australia’s own third-largest city is confidently emerging from the shadow of Sydney and Melbourne – not least by securing the 2032 Olympics. The laneway views of the CBD and Fortitude Valley bring in the cool, but Brisbane is at its best as an outdoor city. The artificial beach on the south bank, the botanical garden at the top of the CBD and the walking route along the river are perfectly fascinating.Look visitbrisbane.com.au

Disclosure: David Whitley has been a guest of local tourist boards in Brisbane, Chicago, Vancouver and Ghent.

See also: 10 Weird Capitals You Didn’t Know About

See also: 10 Big Cities You’ve Never Heard Of

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