We all love visiting cities, discovering their culture, architecture and lifestyle. That’s why we’re here after all. But, in order to have a great experience in every city, here’s a couple of things you should check when planning your trip.
1. Explore the city virtually before planning
Get to know where the center is, what and where the main attractions are, and if there are attractions that aren’t listed on top lists that would be interesting to you. You can do this in Google Earth, in videos on YouTube/Vimeo, in blogs and city guides, such as yours truly.
2. Check when is the most recommended time to visit
Budapest and Vienna (for example), despite all their beauty and glory can be pretty depressive in November. Trust me, seen them both in that time. On the other hand, I highly recommend visiting Madrid in autumn – it is still lush, fresher than during summer and you can see snow in the Sierra in the background. And it’s not just about the weather. Every city comes to life during certain festivities.
Almost all European cities do around Christmas (Belgrade starts and ends a few weeks later 😉 ). Both Belgrade and Vienna also hold note-worthy Easter celebrations. Barcelona is really worth seeing during La Mercè (late September). Amsterdam during the King’s Day (formerly Queen’s Day) in April. Stockholm is at its best in Summer. And so on.
3. First time visit or you’ve already been there?
I like to believe I’ll visit all cities from my bucket list at least twice in my lifetime. One time to get to know them, and the next one to discover their soul and secrets. If you’re planning a short first time visit, you should strive to see as much as you can, at least from the outside. However, if you’re a huge art fan who doesn’t care that much for outdoor activities, go ahead and plan a bit more time for visiting the most interesting museums and galleries, and skip the parks, zoos or pub crawling.
If this is not your first visit, take some time to enjoy less known monuments, parks, museums, dig deeper into the city’s history or try some local specialties you missed during your previous visit. Plan some activities that are not available in your home town.
4. Check for interesting upcoming events
If you have any spare time, check if there are any events you could enjoy during your city break, or plan your trip to accommodate if your dates are not set. There might be concerts, art shows or festivals you wouldn’t like to miss.
5. How safe is your city break destination?
Check if it is safe to wander alone and at night, if there are areas to avoid or anything in particular that might put you in danger. Most city centers and crowded attractions are known for pickpockets and petty crimes, but the larger cities also have entire districts worth avoiding due to more serious criminal activities, drugs, prostitution, etc.
6. Download maps and guides, and save emergency numbers
We’re all addicted to the internet today and rely heavily on it. Yet, when we visit a foreign city, it might be unavailable or too expensive. That’s why it is smart to download, or even print essential information and maps for offline use.
7. Don’t overplan!
When planning your time and activities, leave some room for surprises, for wandering and getting lost (on purpose or accidentally). No matter how good your guide is, there will always be uncharted treasures to discover and enjoy.
Wrapping it up
When you plan a city break (or any trip for that matter), make sure to get to know your destination as much as possible, make a list of what you would like to see depending on your available time, save important info as if there were no internet on your destination, and learn how to keep safe.
Have I missed something? Please share your tips in the comments. And don’t forget to share this post with friends and fellow explorers!