However touristy, certain tourist towns in the world just get things right. They have great attractions, a distinct feel and history, and are just enjoyable places to stroll around or visit. It’s even better when these sorts of towns are located near major tourist cities. WIthout further ado, here’s five great day-trip towns near major tourist cities.
Salem, Massachusetts, United States
Let’s start with somewhere close to my home. Salem is a short ferry ride or commuter rail journey from Boston. Salem’s a charming kind of place that makes you glad you visited New England. It has a rich history, distinct from that of its nearby major city, Boston. The most well known event in its history was the Salem Witch Trials, in which 20 people (mostly women) were executed after false accusations of witchcraft. Because of this, many tourist attractions and souvenir shops here have a tacky but appropriate witchcraft theme.
Tokyo’s great but it can get overwhelming with all its crowded department stores, confusing tangles of subway lines, and busy streets. When you need to get away from it all and visit serene temples up in the mountains, it’s hard to beat Nikko. Nikko is a mountain town with some incredible temples. It’s known for one of my favorite ever regional food specialities, Yuba Noodle Soup. Yuba is basically sheets of the outer skin of tofu, rolled up into balls and served in a delicious soup. To get to Nikko from Tokyo, there are two options: 1, take the Shinkansen to Utsunomiya and change for a regional train to Nikko JR station or 2, take the privately-run Nikko Tobu train from Asakusa in Tokyo.
Like Nikko, Yokohama’s a great getaway for a day from Tokyo, though you probably won’t spend up spending as much time here. It’s got a great port museum and a ship which you can explore, as well as a fantastic Chinatown, one of the Tokyo area’s few non-Japanese neighborhoods. The city developed as a major port city after the era of isolationist Japan, and was one of the first places in Japan to open to Western influences. To get to Yokohama, there are several combinations of regional train routes from Tokyo.
Sterling is 50 minutes by train from Edinburgh, and well worth the journey, many would say. It has a beautiful old town as well as Scotland’s best castle, though the place is also a contemporary university city. Stirling has a rich history and was granted city status in 2002.
The Hague, the Netherlands
Only 50 minutes by train from Amsterdam, the Hague is one of those great Dutch cities that’s near the capital, yet has managed to maintain its own personality. It’s well known for the international court of justice where many war criminals are tried today. The city itself has that classic Dutch feel, complete with canals and some great museums; but is far less heavily touristed than Amsterdam.