Paris, Hong Kong, Rio de Janeiro – the world’s great cities are often on top of travelers’ bucket lists. But while these destinations are usually characterized by their most popular tourist attractions, they have so much more to offer! After all, New Yorkers don’t hang around the Statue of Liberty every day and Londoners certainly don’t spend their free time taking photos of Tower Bridge. Go beyond the known sights and see for yourself why locals really love living in these places!
1. Book a room on Airbnb or try Couchsurfing
Even before you arrive and get to explore a city, you can already pave the way to a more authentic trip. While staying in a modern and clean hotel room with full-on service may be comfortable and a bunk bed in a hostel probably gets you connected with party-hungry students, these two options will still leave you stuck in the tourist spheres.
For a more genuine experience, find an accomodation right amongst locals with Airbnb. Choose either a private room in a shared apartment with residents to get the full experience or get your own flat for some more privacy – but make sure you find a place where people actually live instead of a flat that is rent out full-time to tourists.
If you want to get even closer, be brave and try Couchsurfing. The community will help you find hosts that let you crash on their couch for free and often even show you around town. It is also a great opportunity to create longterm friendships and make your trip a lasting experience.
2. Walk around and explore on your own
Hop-on hop-off bus tours may be tempting sometimes as they comfortably take you around town to see all the famous sights. However, they just take you to places where you will hardly find any locals or authenticity! A much better way to really get a feel of a city is to simply walk around and explore the streets by foot. You don’t always need a specific destination. Just wander around and let yourself be guided by interesting spots along the way. Getting lost is not a concern, it’s the goal!
3. Rent a bike
You don’t feel like walking around as much? Just rent a bike and feel the wind in your hair while riding through the streets. It’s a great way to easily see a big area of the city which gives you lots of flexibility at the same time. Simply lock up your bike somewhere for a little coffee break or to check out some cool shops and jump back on to discover some other corners of the city.
4. Take public transport and get off at a random stop
Another, less physically active option to get around is public transportation. Many destinations have vast networks that locals use to get to every corner of the city. Make use of this great opportunity to get away from the overcrowded routes and discover new places and neighborhoods that might not be found on the tourist maps. Just get onto some public bus and ride it around town until you get to a spot that looks worth exploring.
5. Ditch old-school guide books
While editorial city guides have taken tourists to the most important sights for decades, the online possibilities nowadays with real-time advice and collaborative sourcing of information simply run the ranking. Whether printed or online, traditional tourist guides still mostly focus on the well-known spots and take you right along the main tourist routes. They are written by editors that have to make them appeal to a mainstream reader base looking to check off monuments on their bucket list. And with so many things happening in big cities – new places opening and old ones closing almost on a daily basis, street food markets popping up and amazing graffiti being created – you will miss out on a lot of great things if you rely on outdated tourist guides.
6. Use blogs or apps to discover unique things off the beaten path
Two things are for sure: 1. You will not find any locals in the queues for big tourist attractions, and 2. The things cities offer are as diverse as the people living there. So why should everybody just visit the same top 10 attractions promoted by conventional tourist guides? For this matter, travel blogs and special apps are a great way to discover alternative ‘sights’ that reflect the essence of the city. There is something for every taste and even the most niche interests will be satisfied.
Booee helps you find great places from bustling neighborhood markets, impressive street art and eerie abandoned places to cool shops, cozy cafés and fun events – whatever you are interested in. The app will also lead you to hip areas and chillout spots off the beaten path where you can dive right into locals’ everyday life.
7. Hang out where the locals are
In order to get a glimpse of the daily life and how people experience their city, it is best to go to spots where locals actually spend their time. Start your day with some breakfast at a cozy café or bakery, wander through residential neighborhoods off the tourist paths and check out small farmers’ markets, boutiques or art galleries. Don’t let the hip and fancy restaurants lure you in at night. Instead, grab dinner at places frequented by locals and have a drink in a traditional corner bar. Another absolute must-do is checking out a supermarket. The different kinds of products being sold, the way everything is set up and packaged will tell you a lot about the culture and cuisine of a place.
8. Ask people for recommendations
For some people it may be strange to just walk over and talk to a stranger. But asking locals for their personal suggestions is definitely one of the best ways to find great spots and will certaily pay off. It often happens though that they might want to impress you and therefore come up with fancy restaurants or top tourist attractions, at first. To avoid this, make sure you tell them that you would like to see and experience their own favourite spots. Ask them where they would go for breakfast or dinner, or where they like to hang out in their free time.
Now get out there and explore! You will see the places you visit with totally different eyes – promise.