Exploring a new city can be as complicated as mastering a new language. On a spiritual level, you have to learn how to vibe with a new atmosphere. Logistically speaking, how do you master the metro, geography & perilous winding streets? We have a few suggestions for improving your metropolitan fluency anywhere in the world.
Cities are delicate melodies, and you don’t want to be caught singing off-key. Whether you are a life-long city dweller or a kid from the ‘burbs, learning a new metropolis is both thrilling & daunting. You may be used to a city’s pace if you live in London and are visiting Moscow, but you are certainly not automatically acquainted with the metro stops labeled in Cyrillic and the fast’n'furious ring road system.
There are several key tips you can exercise in the first twenty-four hours in a new city to improve your ease & navigation. Go from tourist newbie to international socialite in a New York minute!
Walk, walk, walk, walk, walk. And when you’re done walking, walk again.
Cities were made for pedestrian transport. The absolute fastest way to learn a new place is not from the window of a taxi, but from the ground. Buy a map (yes, a map – they still exist) and hit the road as soon as you settle down. It’s a great jet-lag fighter, and the most obvious way to get acquainted with landmarks, local businesses & the attractions you’ll want to visit later. Barring extreme weather conditions (but hey, I walked the whole of Montreal in January), you really have no excuse to skimp. A long walk in a new city is one of the most romantic, thrilling adventures you can afford yourself. Keep a pen with you to mark off any hidden gems you want to check out in further detail (there are monuments in Barcelona other than the Sagrada Familia!). If you’re navigating with an iPhone, you might want to download a Conde Nast Traveller City App or Wallpaper* City Guide for recommendations. If you’re more into listening, check out iAudio Guides for downloadable audio guides to over 50 cities.
Master the metro apps & maps during your flight.
You have twelve hours in a metal capsule to do as you please – why not get your metro game plan down before stepping foot in a new place? Many cities have major airports directly connected to a metro line, so you’ll want to have your navigation skills down before you haul your luggage underground. A lot of tourists casually avoid public transportation because they find it too daunting to master. If you were to take fifteen minutes to get acquainted with the metro map (and apps!) in a new city, chances are you’ll feel more confident and willing to explore upon landing. Amazing applications such as HopStop are now available for smartphones and tablets, mapping both your metro route AND your walking route once you ascend from the underground. In countries where metro stops are written in another (indiscernible) alphabet, take the time to copy the names of the stops you need to reach. In case you feel like you’ve entered the twilight zone, a helpful local or police officer may be able to point you in the right direction.
Do you need a drink? Get the bartenders talking for ulta-hot information.
No one knows a city like a bartender. If you decide to step into a local bar for a jetlag night cap, get to know the wait staff and ask for their personal recommendations. They see tourists and locals alike all of the time, and are often the authority on local happenings. Magazines and newspapers write up the most colorful bartenders all of the time, so do a quick Google search to find the one you want to hit for information. If the source of your recommendations is not connected to your hotel staff, all the better; concierges are extremely helpful, but often receive kickbacks for recommending select local businesses. If you’re in Paris, stop by the Ritz on Place Vendôme to chat with Colin Field, who may just make the best cocktail of your life. Are you Singapore-bound? The historic Long Bar at the Raffles Hotel serves up the original Singapore Sling, along with plenty of great tourist advice.
What is your favorite way to get to know a city? Do you have any recommendations for readers visiting your home turf? Leave them in the comments below!
Photo credits: Jordi Labanda, Creative Commons, Αττικό Μετρό, Jordi Labanda.