It’s Thursday and you just booked your trip to Ljubljana, Slovenia and you couldn’t be more excited! Everything is perfect until you realize one little thing, you know nothing about Ljubljana. What is there to see? What food should you (or shouldn’t you) eat? This scenario has played out over and over again during my time here at CIMBA. When you are traveling to a new city, how do you plan out your time when you don’t even know what there is to see? Read on for some tips on how I have learned to tackle cities from Ljubljana to Geneva using tricks ranging from getting lost to finding a church!
This one might sound obvious but before you leave, Google! While it’s true that you could spend hours and hours reading countless websites and blogs with detailed information on each city, that’s not necessary. Even if you’re pressed for time a quick Google search can help a lot. Doing a quick search can give you a general idea of what to expect and help make sure that you don’t miss any major sights. WikiTravel is also great resource on the web to help you plan out your trip. We used WikiTravel to plan our time in Madrid, Spain and it told us some useful tips like to try paella and how to buy tickets for a professional soccer game!
When you do finally get to your destination a great first stop is the tourist information center. There is one in pretty much every city and it is usually located near the major train station or airport. This is a great place to go to get things like a free map, help finding your hostel, and some additional advice on what to do. Also while you are there be on the look out for city passes. You can sometimes find these passes that you buy for a flat fee and then you will free or discounted admission into a lot of the major destinations in the city. I have seen some city passes that are really good deals and they have saved us a lot of money, but I have also seen ones that are rip off, so read carefully to see what you are actually buying!
Another great place to ask for advice is the front desk of your hostel. The people working there are used to dealing with tourists all day and can help you with things like taxis and logistical questions. Another thing that I have found is that they are a great resource for finding amazing food! Remember, these people actually live in these cities, so they know the area well and have tried many of the local restaurants. My friends and I have found some amazing little restaurants just by asking the workers at our hostels what their favorites are!
If you want to get to know a city really well, walk everywhere. Yes, most European cities have great public transit and yes, walking makes getting lost almost a given, but getting lost in beautiful cities can be really fun! Getting lost has helped me find unique areas that are a little more removed from the city center and more authentic to the area. Plus after getting lost and finding your way back a few times, you get to know the layout of the city pretty well! This is exactly what happened in Venice. We went from wandering around lost one day to giving other people directions the next! So as long as you are in a group of people and a way to call for help if you get too lost, try exploring a little!
When in doubt, find a church! Ok, so I know that this sounds strange at first but if there is one thing that every city that I have gone to has in common, it is amazing churches. They are almost always open to the public and are usually free and believe me, it is worth your time to stop in a few. From history significance to phenomenal architecture, these buildings are like little gems hiding around the city. I have gone in churches that range in size from St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome to tiny ones in Berne, Switzerland that no one has ever hear of. Each one is so unique and reflects the culture of the area. The best part, you can usually pay a small fee and climb to the top of the church! If you want the best view of the city, the top of the church is where you will find it!
So hopefully these tips and tricks will help you plan out your next trip to a random city. On that note I am off to plan my weekend in Florence, WikiTravel here I come!
Until next time, ciao!