Have you ever thought about how many beautiful cities you have been missing so far simply because you’ve never even considered visiting them?
Hiding in the shade of the big world capitals and sheltered by their being off the radar, these ‘minor’ destinations may not be top-of-mind but they are often full of surprises. From Europe to the United States and Japan, here are a few detours worth taking from your next travels.
The Capital of Western Loire, Nantes turned from a port and an industrial city into a cultural hub which attracts tourists and talents from all over the world, just like the l’Île de Nantes, a long island on the Loire that went from being an industrial district to becoming a civic and art space. The Bouffay district, around the castle, is yet another example: a maze of medieval streets full of small shops and bistros often welcoming creative intrusions from contemporary artists. Between July and August, Le Voyage festival helps visitors discover the city and its highlights, from the cathedral of Saint Paul et Pierre to the Museum of Fine Arts, featuring works by Picasso, Chagall, Kandinsky, and Monet.
The "Venice of the Baltic" is a city of water along the Trave river and 20 kilometers away from the sea. Accessing from Holstenstor, the ancient medieval gate that marks the entrance to the city, you will cross a maze of winding streets that open onto small squares surrounded by sloped roof houses. Lübeck's belonging to the Hanseatic League, the group of Baltic cities that dominated the trades in Northern Europe between the 14th and 16th centuries, has left marks everywhere. With its typical red brick architecture, the Buddenbrook Haus in memory of Thomas Mann and the delicious marzipan sweets, Lübeck is the ideal city for a slow weekend.
This vibrant Oregon city is mostly known as the home of hipsters and indie-folk music. Yet Portland is also a comaratively quiet and pedestrian-friendly town that you can explore by taking long walks, crossing the movable bridges over the Willamette River under a constant drizzle, listening to dozens of different languages and trying food from all over the world sold by the food trucks that dot the center. A multicultural college town, Portland offers tons of craft breweries, bicycles everywhere, a lively Chinatown and former industrial buldings converted into art galleries, creative hubs, and smart economy startups.
Hokkaido is the northernmost island of Japan and its landscape, by nature and climate, is close to that of the European Alps or the Sierra Nevada. Sapporo is one of its largest and most vibrant cities, featuring a vast urban park and the popular Snow Festival in February, which fills the city with ice and snow sculptures. As for food and drinks, the local beer of the same name is the perfect complement to some exceptional ramen from the Susukino neighborhood or seafood from the fish market.