10 of the world’s most underappreciated cities worth visiting

Some cities bear famous names but they are hardly known to travelers. Don’t miss out on the less obvious but often world-class attractions.

Rotterdam, the Netherlands

Rotterdam lacks Amsterdam’s long history and relaxed canal-side atmosphere, but makes up for it with contemporary style, great shopping and a port-front location.

Remnants of the old town still survive, but reconstruction after World War II has left the city’s impressive architecture. Museumpark is an attractive green space adjacent to the excellent Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum, a gallery of centuries of Western art. Rotterdam has many other world-class museums and loves its summer festivals. See en.rotterdam.info

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Chennai, India

Chennai (formerly Madras) is a thriving high-tech hub yet boasts eclectic scenes from British-era antiquities such as St George’s Fort and ornate High Court to Portuguese churches and Hindu temples, vibrant visual arts and classical dance scenes.

It is also famous for its spicy south Indian cuisine. Surrounding the city is Marina Beach, which stretches for twelve kilometers and is a colorful procession of families, cricketers and street vendors. See Chennai. nic.in

Guangzhou, China

Zhujiang River and the modern buildings of the financial district.

123RF / stuff

Zhujiang River and the modern buildings of the financial district.

The fast-paced southern commercial city of Guangzhou (Canton) provides the astonishing energy of 21st century China amidst its eye-catching contemporary architecture.

The city is also dotted with sprawling gardens, venerable temples – the Temple of the Six Banyans was established in 537 – and monuments linked to revolutionary history.

Guangzhou also has one of the world’s finest cuisine and a dynamic fine-dining scene: it’s not best to spend the day away on Dim Sum. See eguangzhou.gov.cn

Houston, USA

Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Houston has ditched its established, business-oriented image only to reinvigorate itself with specialty shopping, ethnic dining, a distinctly immigrant flavor, and a more sophisticated vibe that hasn’t seen it sacrifice a relaxed cowboy attitude.

In the city there are galleries, first-class museums, an orchestra and ballet, and just outside the city is the wonderful NASA Space Center. It’s also just a short drive from gorgeous beaches. See visithoustontexas.com

Manchester, United Kingdom

Modern waterside apartments at Salford Quays in Manchester.

Steve Allen 123RF / Stuff

Modern waterside apartments at Salford Quays in Manchester.

One of the powerful cities of the British Empire over the past decades has undergone a remarkable transformation in Britannia that brought its monumental Victorian buildings, industrial heritage and basins to life, added contemporary architecture, and brought back a city that was once outclassed by its hustle and bustle.

Check into a stylish boutique hotel, dine in gourmet bars, enjoy the great nightlife and explore new entertainment and arts areas. See visitmanchester.com

Yokohama, Japan

Despite a short train ride from Tokyo, Japan’s largest port city doesn’t get enough visits despite its gorgeous redeveloped waterfront, maritime history, and fascinating allure.

A top sight is Sankei-en, one of the best classical gardens in Japan with reconstructed historic buildings and 2,000 cherry trees.

The Yokohama Museum of Art is excellent, the quirky Cob Noodle Museum and Yamate district feature 19th century European architecture. In bustling Chinatown there are 600 restaurants. See yokohamajapan.com

Gdansk, Poland

Gdansk is definitely no longer a dirty industrial city.


Gdansk is definitely no longer a dirty industrial city.

Most people of a certain age believe that Gdansk is a bleak industrial city that spawned the anti-communist Solidarity movement of the 1980s.

But this port city was centuries ago a Hanseatic trading port, and it has a wonderful old town to prove it, crammed with churches, warehouses, gargoyles, and half-timbered houses of wealthy merchants, now bustling with cafés, taverns, amber shops, and interesting little museums. See visitgdansk.com

Hamburg, Germany

Hamburg, Germany: The city is about to complete a two-decade waterfront renovation.


Hamburg, Germany: The city is about to complete a two-decade waterfront renovation.

Always rich commercial cities have upscale shopping, good restaurants, great green spaces and museums, and Hamburg sticks, with a bustling nightlife and great live music scene.

The Speicherstadt district, a World Heritage listed brick warehouse architecture, is full of cafés and galleries. The city is nearing the conclusion of a two-decade waterfront renovation that showcases the best of a forward-thinking Europe often overlooked by tourists. See hamburg-tourism.de

Alexandria Egypt

With no pharaonic monuments, Alexandria is overlooked with grand plazas and Belle Époque streets that exude understated elegance. Great cafés, street markets, antiques district, and laid-back youthful lifestyle are other reasons to visit.

Roman mosaics and Greek artifacts are constantly being discovered: in particular, do not miss the wonderful Greco-Roman Museum.

The ultra-modern cultural center and library Bibliotheca Alexandrina continues the cultural life of the city for a thousand years. See alexandria.gov.eg

Sao Paulo, Brazil

São Paulo is a huge and unpopular but multicultural and sophisticated city that beats Rio any day when it comes to culture, shopping and dining. Brazilians come to see the latest fashion, the best restaurants, art galleries, and first-class museums.

The Museu de Arte houses a collection of European artwork of world importance and collections of Brazilian, African and Asian paintings and sculptures. São Paulo also has a great nightlife and music scene. See cidadesaopaulo.com


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