When visiting a city as a tourist, it's easy to get caught up in the commercial side of the place. And while it's fun to see some of the postcard-type landmarks that you've heard about for years, there's something to be said for pushing your way into the belly of the beast and seeing the city in the same way that locals do.
5 Ways to Really Experience a New City
Think about the things you do in your own city and then consider the things that outsiders do when they visit for a weekend. In all likelihood, there's some pretty serious disparity between the two. That's because locals are privy to what their city really has to offer.
If you want to view each city you visit through the lens of a local, try the following.
1. Put Down Your Camera
The very first thing you have to do is put down your camera (or phone). Not only do you look ridiculous pointing your camera all around, but you're missing the entire experience that's unfolding around you. You can run a quick Google search when you get home and find far superior images of the exact picture you were trying to take. Why waste your time? It's okay to take an occasional picture, but don't make this the primary focus. Be present and you'll notice a lot more.
2. Take a Walking Tour With a Local
In almost every major city, you can find a whole host of walking tours that will take you around the city and show you different highlights. Many of these tours are good and some are quite average. In addition to reading reviews and looking out for the tours that are worth your time, always consider taking the tour that takes you off the beaten path.
For example, this street art and graffiti tour is an awesome way to see London. It takes you down back alleys and through side streets to reveal a side of the city that most tourists aren't typically exposed to.
3. Stay at an Airbnb
Hotels are convenient - but that's just about the only benefit they have over an Airbnb. When you stay at someone's home, apartment, or loft, you get to experience the city through their eyes. It feels much more natural and less commercialized. It's an authentic view of what life in the city can feel like on a daily basis. (It's also substantially cheaper, in most cases.)
4. Shop at Local Markets
Instead of eating out for every meal, utilize the kitchen that comes with your Airbnb and cook some meals. Not sure where to shop? Head to local markets where you'll find fresh food and ingredients that aren't found in the nearest supermarket or big box store. You can find advice on how to find the best markets by checking out what these travel bloggers have to say.
5. Take Public Transportation
One of the quickest ways to see a city is by taking public transportation. (Uber doesn't count.) We're talking about riding the bus, getting a card for the subway, or even sharing a taxicab in New York City. Not only is public transportation super cost-effective, but it shows you a genuine side of the city. Though this side is notably less sexy than what the "office of tourism" wants you to see, it's far more authentic and revealing. Check it out for yourself and see what you think.
Truly See the World
There's nothing wrong with taking a ride to the top of the Eiffel Tower, walking across the Golden Gate Bridge, or watching the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, but there's more to every city than meets the eye. Ditch the brochure you found in your hotel lobby and create your own experience that's uniquely local and full of flavor.