10 of the coolest “third party” cities in the world

There is a familiar pattern in tourism. Everyone rushes to the biggest and most well-known city, then it gets crowded, so savvy travelers turn to the second city. Alas, it often gets deluge too, as once-hip Porto, Antwerp and Barcelona can attest. So why not take a look a little further at the cool third-party towns that are eagerly awaiting their moment in the spotlight?


Where? Spain

Calpe beach with Peñon de Ifach in the background.  Autonomous Community of Valencia, Spain.  Copy space available for text and/or logo.  Outdoor DSRL photo taken with Canon EOS 5D Mk II and Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L IS USM wide-angle zoom lens Credit: istock single use for traveler only For The Third Cities Traveler by David Whitley 10

Photo: iStock

The spiritual house of paella has a lot of heritage – the central market and the cathedral are magnificent. But Valencia is carving out a niche for modern architecture, with the City of Arts and Sciences offering bold architecture and a string of museums and cultural attractions. It’s also a beach town – the big and wide Playa de la Malvarossa is the best place for swimming, sunbathing and people-watching.

See visitvalencia.com


Where? South Africa

aerial view of durban, south africa credit: istock single traveler use only for third cities by david whitley traveler 10

Photo: iStock

Durban offers something Johannesburg and Cape Town cannot: miles and miles of Indian Ocean beaches. There are also strong Zulu and Indian influences. If you’re heading downtown, try some Bunny Chow – basically a curry in a bread bowl. Durban’s main attractions – uShaka Marine World Aquarium and Umgeni River Bird Park are fairly generic animal parks. But the Kwa Muhle Museum gives a fascinating insight into local history and how the precursor to the apartheid system was tested in Durban. See visitdurban.travel


Where? Belgium

Daytime long exposure panorama of the famous Graslei canal view in Ghent, Belgium.  credit: single use istock for traveler only For David Whitley's Third Cities Traveler 10

Photo: iStock

Prettier than Brussels and Antwerp, Ghent manages to retain a sense of canalside reality. It’s a hotbed of vegan food, while the 10th-century Gravensteen Castle might as well have come straight from children’s storybooks. There are also beautiful cathedrals and churches, but it’s a city made for wandering between ridiculously strong beers. See visit.gent.be



Aerial view of Chicago Lake Shore Dr at sunrise in the fall - October 2019 credit: single use istock for traveler only For David Whitley's Third Cities Traveler 10

Photo: iStock

Sorry New York and Los Angeles, you don’t look as cool as Chicago. Here, skyscrapers soar around the Chicago River as El trains rattle overhead on elevated tracks.

Chicago also retains the energy of the big city while ditching the attitude. It’s just a fun city to hang out in. Key items to tick off the list include a visit to the Second City Comedy Club, giant dinosaur encounters at the Field Museum, world-class outdoor art installations at Millennium Park, and ogling the glittering towers on an architectural cruise. See choosechicago.com


Where? Vietnam

2K5F30B Old French colonial building, downtown Hai Phong, Vietnam Credit: Alamy single use for travelers only CHARGES APPLY For third cities by David Whitley traveler 10

Photo: Alamy

Haiphong feels much more relaxed than Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, and still has plenty of French colonial influence in the boulevards and buildings. There’s also a strong café culture, which is just as well considering it’s a city to hang out rather than rush to tourist attractions. It is arguably best used as a gateway to Cat Ba Island, a wildlife-rich nature reserve.

See Vietnam.travel


Where? Canada

A panoramic drone view of downtown Vancouver.  credit: single use istock for traveler only For David Whitley's Third Cities Traveler 10

Photo: iStock

Toronto and Montreal may surpass Vancouver in population, but not in natural beauty. Vancouver is known for being ‘pleasant’, with a walk or bike ride around the Stanley Park Seawall as a mandatory introduction to the city. But that can be followed by taking the small ferries to the Granville Island Market, teetering on the Capilano Suspension Bridge surrounded by forests, and sampling craft beers in historic Gastown. See destinationvancouver.com


Where? France

Aerial morning cityscape view with beautiful old buildings and skyscrapers in Lyon city, France

Photo: iStock

Paris and Marseille may be bigger, but Lyon has carved out a niche as the culinary capital of France. This is best explored in the many restaurants, but the Cité Internationale de la Gastronomie is an interactive museum dedicated to all things food. Meanwhile, the Musée des Confluences specializes in anthropology, while the Roman theater is the largest of several clues to a Roman past. See en.lyon-france.com


Where? Brazil

Aerial view of Fortaleza city beach, Ceara, Brazil.  credit: single use istock for traveler only For David Whitley's Third Cities Traveler 10

Photo: iStock

Few cities are as beach-focused as Fortaleza, Brazil’s third-largest city after Sao Paulo and Rio. 5km long, Praia do Futuro is arguably the most spectacular of these beaches, but there are dozens to choose from. On the wholesome and educational side, the Centro Cultural Dragão do Mar brings art and a glimpse into traditional life in northeast Brazil. See visitbrasil.com


Where? Italy

Terrace of the pizzeria with a view of Naples, Italy credit: single use istock for the traveler only For the traveler of the third cities of David Whitley 10

Photo: iStock

Naples doesn’t have the history of Rome or the art and style of Milan, but it more than makes up for that with a fiery character. There is no shortage of grand and monumental buildings, with the fearsome Castel Novo now housing an art gallery and the Royal Palace featuring lushly decorated apartments. But the personality comes from the culinary scene – it’s the home of pizza – and the looming volcanic backdrop provided by Mount Vesuvius. See visitnaples.eu


Where? queensland

Story Bridge over Brisbane River in Brisbane City CBD at sunrise.  credit: single use istock for traveler only For David Whitley's Third Cities Traveler 10

Phot: iStock

Australia’s third-largest city is confidently edging its way out of the shadows of Sydney and Melbourne, including securing the 2032 Olympics. The backstreet scene in the CBD and Fortitude Valley brings the chill, but Brisbane is at its best as an outdoor city. The man-made beach on the south shore, the botanical gardens at the tip of the CBD and the walking path along the river provide the perfect introduction. See visitbrisbane.com.au

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

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