The idea that in a country or territory, the second largest city is better than the largest. Better in terms of quality of life, but also to some extents being the place with the atmosphere you as a tourist would prefer to soak up.

This is probably because in history large cities attract industrial development, foreign invaders, grandiose government monuments, yuppies and over-population. The second largest city however avoids this unnecessary attention, and thus is left to develop at a more steady pace and without cosmopolitanism diluting its identity. It could be because the second largest cities were built around beautiful bays or mountain ranges (like Cape Town, Rio de Janerio or San Fransisco) that later became natural obstacles to urban growth.

Consider which city in each pair is a nicer place to visit:

Madrid vs Barcelona
Glasgow vs Edinburgh
Los Angeles vs San Fransisco
Damascus vs Aleppo
Moscow vs Saint Petersburg
Sydney vs Melbourne
Calcutta vs Mumbai
Toronto vs Montreal
Nairobi vs Mombasa
Sao Paulo vs Rio de Janerio
Zurich vs Geneva
Johannesburg vs Cape Town
Ho Chi Minh City vs Hanoi
Milan vs Rome

Of course, New York City, Paris and London are the irreconcilable exceptions. And heaps others.

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