“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.
– J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
There’s a lot I love about Tolkien, Frodo and everything LOTR but this quote seemed especially relevant for today’s post. 🙂
Since moving to London I’ve become a real expert at being a tourist in my own city – so much so that native-born Londoners come to me for tips and recommendations! Having grown up in Canada, London has and always will be a vast, exciting urban wilderness just waiting for me to explore it and it’s not something I take for granted. I’m constantly looking for opportunities to find new hidden corners and new places to try.
I totally get how easy it is to become complacent about the world that surrounds us. Who has time with work, relationships, social commitments, the quest for the perfect grey sweater… (just me, on that last one?) I hear you; I really do! But, having seen the benefits of adventuring in my home town through the eyes of a visitor, I can’t recommend enough setting aside time (a weekend, an evening, even a few hours!) to step outside your front door and see the world around you in a new light.
‘But where do I start’, you may say to yourself. I’m so glad you asked!
I’ve compiled a list below of my tips and suggestions for being a tourist in your own city. See what you think…
- Instead of avoiding the tourist zone embrace it full on. In any major city (and even in small towns) there’s the area that you avoid like the plague because you know it will be filled with those people – the out-of-towners with no concept of the expected rules (I’m looking at you, anyone standing on the left of the escalators on the tube despite the thousands of signs telling you to stand on the right, walk on the left!) Instead of going the long way round take the time to explore it from an outsider’s perspective. Seeing everyone taking pictures and marvelling at the building or location you normally walk by without a second glance is sure to make you take it in, in a whole new light!
- Check out museums that are new and known to you. If, like me, you’re lucky to live in a place where museums and galleries are not only in abundance but also free – take advantage of it! With new exhibitions all the time, the landscape of these places is constantly changing and will absolutely have new treasures just waiting to captivate you.
- Try restaurant with a cuisine or in an area you’ve never experienced before or, better yet, start a supper club with friends and commit to eating out at one new restaurant a month! Some places will be hits that you’ll return to again and again for years to come and others will be misses that will give you a great story. Either way it’s a great excuse to get out, try something new, and spend time with people you love.
- Spend a day walking the city streets. I always argue that the best way to see a city is via your own two feet. In addition to being great exercise, walking allows you the opportunity to quickly and easily slip down those side streets, finding hidden gems you may have unknowingly passed by a thousand times.
- Spend a night at a fancy hotel. Take the opportunity to see what the best hotel in your city offers in the way of hospitality while also getting a relaxing reprieve from day-to-day life. Bubble bath? Yes, please! A perfect’s night sleep in a king-sized bed covered in gloriously soft linens? Don’t mind if I do! (Do it mid-week and you’ll get extra savings!)
- Pose for pictures with the sights…rather than just yourself. Give the bathroom and bedroom mirror selfie a break and capture the beauty of the everyday world around you through the camera lens. Capturing the moment reminds us that every day is special…even the ones at ‘home’!
- Pick up a travel book about the place you live and pick five new places to explore that you’ve never seen or heard about before. These books are amazing resources and full of fabulous recommendations. (I’m partial to the DK books but find whatever works for you!)
- Go to a show or check out the cultural scene. Treat yourself to an afternoon or evening of cultural enlightenment with a dash of feel-good fun. To make it even more special, take the opportunity to get dressed up and tack on dinner at one of your (new) favourite places.
- Share suggestions about what to see and do with friends and family. Some of the best recommendations I’ve ever gotten haven’t come from guide books but from the people around me so start a conversation – you never know what new delight you might be introduced to!
- Leave the phone behind and enjoy the feeling of being completely immersed in the adventure. One of my favourite things about vacation is that feeling of disconnect and no responsibilities. So why not leave the phone behind when you’re venturing out to try one of the recommendations above?
Do you have any recommendations about how to be a tourist in your own city? Let me know in the comments below!