A TRAVEL writer has urged travellers to ditch major European capitals like Paris and London for second cities.

Rick Steves, also an author and television personality, makes the persuasive case for destinations perched in the shadow of their more culturally attractive main cities.

Rick argues that second cities are all too often overlooked for not boasting "bucket-list sights", but offer an alternative which ought to make flockers think twice before digging their heels on the beaten path.

In his Washington Post column, he argues: "Europe’s second cities tend to enjoy a creative edge, a strong civic spirit, a Rust Belt toughness, fun-loving eateries with cutting-edge menus, entertaining street art … and far fewer tourists, which also means lower prices, a more authentic welcome and arguably a more honest cultural experience."

The Europhile writer compiles a number of alternatives to default European city selections.

Porto, lying along the gorgeous Duoro River, is a "smaller and more manageable" pursuit than Portugal's capital Lisbon.

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Rick urges Gallic adventurers to visit "culinary capital" Lyon or the "Mediterranean shipping centre of Marseille."

Dublin is shelved for Belfast and bohemian Berlin for Hamburg.

Hidden gem Antwerp offers medieval streets, Renaissance monuments and a heady nightlife – leaving Brussels in its wake.

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Second-city must-visits

England – Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Bristol and Bath

Scotland – Glasgow

Ireland/Northern Ireland – Belfast instead of Dublin

Germany – Hamburg

Belgium – Antwerp

Portugal – Porto

France – Marseille and Lyon

The writer goes on to prescribe a handful of "rejuvenated" post-industrial English cities – including Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham – as welcome spots in lieu of London.

The intrigue of second cities, Rick discusses, lies in their lack of exposure, and at times, appreciation.

This, he argues, eliminates the risk of anticlimactic indifference.

"Unshackled by the obligation to be their country’s role model, second cities are free to just be themselves", Rick concludes.

"And that’s why they’re so wonderful."

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