“Not all those who wander are lost.”
– J.R.R. Tolkien
Even though it’s both exciting and intimidating, you will never get a second chance at exploring a new city for the first time. Take it all in. Get lost or explore with an old-fashioned map. Find the beaten path and leave it again. Fall in love a little.
Our tips on how to create a wonderful wandering experience have you covered, no matter if you are in town for an afternoon or a month.
1. Cross off the sights
If you visit a city for the first time, you should definitely look at and pose in front of all the popular sights – monuments and the like are famous for a reason after all and you need to cross them off your list.
2. Hop on a bus
Buses are a great way to get a feel for a city: The touristy buses give you a good overview of the city center, while regular buses help you get to know the different neighborhoods. Hopping on and off is easy and you save muscle power for later.
3. Plan (or don’t)
Some people follow a strict itinerary, others go with the flow. As always, it’s probably all about a healthy balance. For example, you can plan to see that famous building in that cute little neighborhood by the end of the day. How you get there and back to can be completely go-with-the-flow-y.
4. Look around you
Listen, smell and look up, over and all around you. Sit down, take breaks, drinks lots of coffees in lots of different cafes, and maybe even get a little lost on purpose. Wear comfortable shoes, dress in layers and bring some cash (for those coffees). Make sure you stay hydrated and eat as much local food as possible for fuel.
5. Explore with a map
Not everyone wants to aimlessly wander and knowing where you are and where you want to go saves you time and sanity – having ample of both makes exploring much more fun. Maps not only make your life easier, they’re also a great conversation starter (one of you is bound to be better at reading them!) and a fun memory to take home.
6. Walk or ride
Your feet or a rental bike are the perfect and inexpensive tools to get you where you want to go. They also make it easy to stop anywhere to pose for a selfie or just take a break and do some people-watching.
7. Talk to locals
Asking locals is the best approach to finding hidden gems and exploring new areas. If you don’t like asking random people in the street, just go to a cafe or bar and talk to the wait staff. They are used to making small talk and are (generally) happy to help. And who doesn’t want to show off their know-how of the neighborhood?
8. Explore with a mission
Maybe you want to find the best burger in town or alternate between three left and one right turn. Having a mission or a geographic goal makes exploring more exciting and gives you something to do while leaving plenty of room to discover and explore.
9. And always remember…
No matter how you explore your new city: know which neighborhoods to avoid. Stay safe and become informed before you go – a travel guide or info from friends are a good place to start. Respect the rules and local customs and always behave as if your mom were watching.