City trips are always a good idea. Getting away from all the daily hassles for a couple of days and heading to a beautiful old city in Europe. London with the River Thames and famous Big Ben, Paris to awaken your romantic feelings, Berlin to let your creativity bloom up again… there are so many options and there is so much to see!
Don’t get stuck in the tourist trap
The trap most people get caught in, is reading travel guides and making lists with all the things they necessarily want to see or do. They make a bucket list and try to cross off as many famous highlights as possible in their short weekend Prague or Lisbon, because “you simple must have seen that”. Consequences are getting home exhausted with broken feet and a enormously standardized view of the city they have been.
Some people are okay with that: they’ve had a fantastic weekend and they feel very satisfied by seeing so much. For other people, like me, this approach doesn’t work. If I’m visiting a new city, I’m not mainly interested in the big touristic spots where you stand side to side with hundreds or even thousands or other people to see that one famous painting or building.
Discovering new places: How to Look for the Vibe
What I find way more interesting, is the vibe or atmosphere of a city. What feelings does the city awaken in you if you wander through its streets without paying attention to where exactly you go? How do the ordinary people live in this city? I have found a way to do this!
You start at a metro station or a touristic hotspot in the center of the city you’re visiting. Let’s say: the Big Ben in London. The Eiffel Tower in Paris. The central station in Amsterdam. Then you start walking. Just walking. No predetermined route, direction or destination. Just walking with your intuition as your only guide. At every intersection you come across, you stop walking and start looking around you.
What do you see? In what things do the streets differ from each other? Which street attracts you the most and why? Maybe it’s the small alley of which you can’t see the end. Maybe it’s the broad chic avenue with trees on both sides and beautiful old buildings. Or maybe you just like the shopping street with all the cozy flags and cafe terraces. Whatever the options you get, choose the one that attracts you the most en walk into that street. And at the next intersection, you stop again to look around. Walk, stop, watch and choose. It doesn’t matter if you walk in circles, if you’re wandering away from the center or if you’re still ending up with all the famous hotspots.
Listen to your intuition
And so you wander through the city, only being led by your own intuition. Look around you, turn your head in every direction. The facade above an ugly shop can be beautiful. Perhaps you discover a piece of street art on a unexpected place. Remember: the beauty of a city is not always found in the big touristy places or the things that catch your eye the most. Sometimes a city merits its atmosphere by the graffiti, the stickers on lamp posts or by what people place on their windowsill or in their garden.
Watch the people, make eye contact and smile. It might give you a nice conversation in a seemingly uninteresting street. Perhaps you get to know a special spot of the city from a local. And never forget to nourish your curiosity. Glance around corners, pull church doors to see if they are open. And don’t feel ashamed to just visit that famous museum in London or that well known monument in Berlin if you come across. Touristic hotspots aren’t forbidden, they are just not everything!