- Fascinating cities to visit can get overlooked when they’re near other tourist favorites.
- Often overshadowed by Amsterdam, Utrecht in the Netherlands has castles, cathedrals, and a charming riverfront.
- Detroit, Michigan, is a Midwestern underdog that’s bouncing back after bankruptcy.
- Cafayate, Argentina, was named one of the best wine destinations in the world.
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Fascinating cities can get overshadowed when they’re near other tourist favorites. They may not be as well-known, but they have just as much to offer (and will probably be less crowded, too).
Here are 20 underrated cities you’ll want to add to your bucket list.
After filing for bankruptcy with $18 million in debt in 2013, Detroit is bouncing back. The city’s resurgence has included a new streetcar, a new arena that serves as the home for the Detroit Red Wings, and new developments in its Midtown area.
Nara was Japan’s first permanent capital, established in 710. Tōdai-ji, a Buddhist temple in Nara, was built in 752 and houses the largest Buddha statue in Japan. It’s adjacent to Nara Park, home to friendly populations of deer.
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A quaint village situated on the Mystic River, Mystic’s historic downtown district is full of independently-owned shops, bed-and-breakfast inns, and restaurants that would impress any foodie (including the pizza shop from the movie “Mystic Pizza”).
León was founded in 1524 by a Spanish conquistador and is one of the oldest colonial cities in the Americas. Aside from museums, churches, and architecture, it is also home to eight volcanoes.
A walled city dating back to the 1400s, Ahmadabad is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with ancient temples and mansions that once belonged to merchants and spiritual leaders.
Cities like Madrid, Barcelona, and Seville are all popular destinations in Spain, but Malaga’s claims to fame include being the birthplace of artist Pablo Picasso (the Picasso Museum holds 4,251 of his works), the coastal region of Costa del Sol, and medieval castles and fortresses such as Castillo Gibralfaro and Alcazaba.
Roughly an hour-and-a-half drive from Chicago, Milwaukee’s Midwestern charm stands on its own. The art museum designed by Santiago Calatrava also offers views of Lake Michigan, and brewery tours abound. No trip to Milwaukee would be complete without sampling the local favorite, Kopp’s Frozen Custard.
Asheville, North Carolina
Asheville is a quintessential small town nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains with stunning hiking trails and picturesque street cafes. Visitors can also take a peek inside Biltmore House, George W. Vanderbilt’s mansion claiming to be the largest home in America with 250 rooms.
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Sarandë (also spelled Saranda) provides a balance of historical sites and relaxing beaches. The remains of a 5th-century synagogue and Lekuresi Castle from the Ottoman period transport visitors back to ancient history, and Mirror Beach, Santa Quaranta Beach, and Pulebardha Beach are popular hotspots.
Estonia may not be as frequently visited as other European countries, but Tallinn’s soaring Gothic architecture in the form of St. Olaf’s church and Valjaha church provide plenty of worthy opportunities for sightseeing in the capital city. Estonia is also littered with the ruins of castles from the Middle Ages, and its walled Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
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The Old Towns of Djenné are a UNESCO World Heritage Site dating back to 250 BC, one of the oldest towns in sub-Saharan Africa. Its centerpiece is the Great Mosque, which was reconstructed between 1906 and 1907.
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Calgary’s Rocky Mountain views, quirky food truck scene, and plethora of museums make it worth a visit. There’s also a free 36-hectare bird sanctuary right in the middle of the city.
Between the National Aquarium, Inner Harbor, Fort McHenry (where the battle that inspired “The Star-Spangled Banner” was fought), and various art museums, Baltimore has no shortage of cultural and historic sites. That is, in case the song “Good Morning Baltimore” from the musical “Hairspray” wasn’t already enough of a motivation to visit.
Cafayate was named one of the best wine destinations in the world by Wine Enthusiast magazine. Aside from scenic vineyards and wine hotels, Cafayate also features Quebrada de las Conchas, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where visitors can hike among formations of vibrant red rock.
Port Douglas, Australia
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Port Douglas is one of the access points to the Great Barrier Reef, but it’s less crowded and touristy than the nearby Cairns. It’s known for its Four Mile Beach and is a short drive away from the Daintree Rainforest.
Busan, South Korea
Busan is South Korea’s second-biggest city. It might not have the international name recognition of Seoul, but it does have attractions such as the brightly-colored Gamcheon Culture Village, the Buddhist temple Beomeo-sa surrounded by mountains, and the Jagalchi Fish Market.
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Often overshadowed by Amsterdam, Utrecht’s Dom Tower, Castle de Haar, and St. Martin’s Cathedral are not to be overlooked. Utrecht also boasts a collection of artsy shops, eateries, and cafes along the riverfront surrounding the town.
St. Augustine, Florida
St. Augustine claims to be America’s oldest city, founded in 1565 by Spanish explorer Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles. It’s home to the mythical Fountain of Youth that Juan Ponce de León sought when he first explored Florida in 1513.
Kansas City, Missouri
The “City of Fountains” is not only decorated with 48 historic fountains, it’s also known for succulent barbecue, its jazz scene, and the only National World War I Museum and Memorial in the US.
Indianapolis’ Canal Walk along the Indiana Central Canal is a popular spot for biking and jogging situated right near the Indiana State Museum. The Mass Ave arts district on Massachusetts Avenue contains five blocks of restaurants, boutiques, and theaters.