Explore This Map Of The World’s Best Alternative Capital Cities
When planning a vacation, it can be easy to choose the capital as a starting point and, when planning a city break, as the focal point of the entire trip. It is often the capital that offers the largest port or airport and the most convenient and inexpensive way to get there. It’s often the capital that gets the most columns in the travel press and has the best guidebooks.
And while it’s hard to argue that a country’s capital is often the most impressive city it has to offer, that’s certainly not always the case. Indeed, a capital city is often a microcosm that contrasts with the country in which it lives, failing to best showcase the culture and magic of its people and history. That’s why the good folks at Premier Inn did some research in a study that analyzed Google search data to uncover the world’s most popular ‘alternative’ capital cities.
The study looked at about 420 cities in 89 countries to see which sparked the most interest among travelers, and the results are surprising. Topping the list, for example, is Malaga in Spain – a country whose capital, Madrid, is already overshadowed by its more famous coastal neighbor, Barcelona. But Barcelona isn’t second choice, perhaps thanks to its reputation as a crazy tourist hotspot already bursting at the seams with visitors. Instead, Malaga’s beautiful beaches and free attractions like La Alcazaba and Gibralfaro Castle draw people from far and wide. Visit the birthplace of Picasso and home of the Picasso Museum (free on Sundays!) and you’ll soon see why the world’s eyes are on this stunning corner of Andalucia.
Alternative Capitals in Europe
The second most popular alternative capital in Europe after Malaga is Brighton in the UK. The legendary seaside town and the unofficial ‘gay capital’ of Great Britain is famous for its laid-back, bohemian and hedonistic atmosphere, whether frolicking on the beach or strolling through the historic streets. Don’t miss the historic Royal Pavilion and Brighton Pier. Other popular European second cities are Munich in Germany, Lyon in France and Thessaloniki in Greece.
Alternative capitals in Asia
At the forefront of alternative capital cities in Asia, Antalya sits on Turkey’s turquoise coast with its stunning beaches and vibrant blue-green waters. This centuries-old port city is home to Turkey’s longest hiking trail, the Lycian Way, and is filled with Roman ruins. Elsewhere, Osaka beats some fantastic other cities to be Japan’s alternative capital, with Shenzhen in China and Chennai in India doing the same.
Alternative Capitals in North America
The most searched second city in North America is San Francisco. Major attractions like the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz do the legwork, but much like Brighton in the UK, it’s probably San Francisco’s reputation for bohemianism, hedonism and fun that keeps people coming year after year. Next comes the Canadian city of Vancouver, home to the world’s longest uninterrupted seafront promenade and the destination for vacationers looking for a quieter alternative to bustling Ottawa. And after huge, sprawling Mexico City, it’s Monterrey that takes Mexico’s second spot.
Alternative Capitals in South America
Brazil is another of those countries where many would assume the capital is Rio de Janeiro, but that is actually its alternate capital to Brasilia, which was inaugurated as the capital in 1960. Rio is famous for its golden beaches, endless sunshine and extraordinary man-made and natural wonders. Then of course there is carnival. Mendoza has emerged as Argentina’s alternative capital, perhaps thanks to its fabulous location in the heart of the Cuyo wine region.
Alternative Capitals in Africa
Among the countries with enough data for investigation, the extraordinary Casablanca emerged as Morocco’s most popular second city as well as the largest – Rabat being the capital. To the east, Hurghada is popular with Egypt’s 25 miles of Red Sea coastline and offers world-class diving. In South Africa, it’s beautiful Durban that’s emerging as the most popular alternative to its capital, Pretoria.
For a complete list of all cities surveyed, see Premier Inn
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