Faster Travel

The challenger cities

City break tourism is becoming an ever more competitive business. Here are six towns tempting affluent short-breakers away from the usual hotspots. By Etan Smallman


Hamburg, Germany

Always a formidable trading, fashion and cultural hub, the northern port city is fast becoming best known for its eclectic food scene. In fact, the only new three-Michelin-star restaurant in Germany last year, The Table by Kevin Fehling, calls Hamburg home. The city is also packed full of intriguing artisans: nab a beautiful oak fountain pen from Stefan Fink, a haute couture Lady Gaga-esque hat from Herr von Eden, or an upcycled vinyl souvenir from Lockengelöt
Don’t miss: The city’s newest landmark, the Herzog and de Meuron-designed Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, a super-modern concert hall and viewing platform that opened this year.


Austin, USA

Texas’ state capital sells itself as the ‘live music capital of the world’ and, more recently, has been described as America’s new Silicon Valley. But the bike-friendly, hipster-filled city is attracting just as many tourists as startups. Visit the Harry Ransom Center to see the world’s first photograph and Gutenberg Bible; Pinballz Arcade has aisle after aisle of vintage arcade games; and cool down with a dip in the Hamilton Pool collapsed grotto.
Don’t miss: The Cathedral of Junk, in which its creator has amassed 60 tons of miscellaneous debris – from surfboards to Barbie dolls – since 1988.


Rotterdam, the Netherlands

If Amsterdam is for design lovers wanting a Dutch city bathed in history, Rotterdam is its edgy younger sister. Europe’s largest port was bombed heavily during World War II, making way for some of the continent’s most striking modernist architecture – from the Kijk-Kubus cube houses, with roofs tilted at 45° angles, to the swan-shaped Erasmus Bridge.
Don’t miss: Refuel at De Markthal – the awe-inspiring indoor market is home to more than 100 food stalls, is overlooked by the city’s snazziest luxury apartments, and has a sprawling overhead artwork that is, to many, the cool Dutch version of the Sistine Chapel.


Calgary, Canada

You may know Calgary best as the first Canadian city to host the Winter Olympics, but there’s more to it than the slopes. Visit in summer and you can get a culture fix that’s on a par with any of its Canadian city counterparts. Enjoy open-air music at Opera In The Village in August, while the biggest film festival between the Great Lakes and the Rockies, Calgary International Film Festival, comes to town in September.
Don’t miss: The Calgary Stampede – a cross between a rodeo, a street party and an arts festival (7-16 July 2017).


Chennai, India

The city formerly known as Madras has had a chequered past. But the devastating floods of November 2015 haven’t halted the southern city’s rise. The opening of mega hotels such as the ITC Grand Chola showed that the city can and is making a successful pitch to business and leisure visitors alike. The historic palaces and temples of the Chola dynasty and the French enclave of Pondicherry really challenge the Mumbais and New Delhis.
Don’t miss: Plenty of h
istoric and hidden attractions such as Fort St George and Madi Poonga – Chennai’s prototype High Line.

San Diego

San Diego, USA

San Diego, southern California’s second city (and America’s eighth largest) has 263 days of sunshine a year – with 70 miles of coastline along which to enjoy it. But the city’s hip credentials are also on the rise, with a burgeoning craft beer scene (check out the San Diego International Beer Festival from 16-18 June) and diverse on-the-up neighbourhoods such as the Gaslamp Quarter.
Don’t miss: The stunning murals of Chicano Park in San Diego’s downtown neighbourhood of Barrio Logan, which has just been designated a National Historic Landmark.