• How to get to the heart of a city in 5 simple steps

    2014-10-02

    Arriving to a new destination is the easy part; getting to the heart of that place is the real challenge for any cultural traveler. From doing your research to shopping at the outdoor markets, here are five travel tips to implement on your next trip. No matter where you go or what you seek, remember to keep your eyes and ears open and don’t underestimate the power of getting lost. Sometimes, the best treasures are found during an afternoon wander.

    1) Cover the basics
    While getting lost is one of my favorite ways to travel, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do your research. Planning ahead, or at least covering the basics, is something that will enhance your trip. Guidebooks are a great tool for learning about the local culture, deciding where to stay and finding the trendiest neighborhoods. Internet connection isn’t necessarily a given so make sure you have an offline map downloaded on your smartphone as well as a map of the city’s subway system or bus routes.

    2) Shop at a local market
    Public markets are one of the most immersive ways to meet both locals and fellow travelers. Most cities have at least one popular Farmer’s Markets where vendors sell fresh produce and herbs. The early bird gets the worm so if you’re a picky eater, make sure to get there in the morning. Stick around in the evening for a more casual vibe and pick up a few items for half the price. Stylish travelers should seek out the nearest vintage market selling everything from second-hand designer clothes to vinyl records.

    3) Explore a revamped neighborhood
    One can tell a lot about a city just from strolling through a neighborhood. Revamped neighborhoods, like Wynwood in Miami or Grünerløkka in Oslo, are ones that have had a major facelift either through gentrification or some other cultural force. In many cases, they were former factory districts that have reemerged as fashion hubs. Here you’ll spot the trendiest bars, restaurants, cafes and independent boutiques. Even with all these changes, the neighborhood still has remnants of its former self, whether through gritty street art, building constructed in different architectural styles or hole-in-the-wall shops.

    4) Take a themed tour
    Just because you’re on a tour doesn’t mean you’ve fallen into a tourist trap. General tours are ideal for first-time travelers hoping to get their bearings in a new place. Themed tours, like street art walks or an architectural highlights tour, give cultural travelers a deeper look into a city’s unique history. First think about what your city is known for and then make sure it falls in line with your personal interests. For example, Kreuzberg in Berlin is known for its vibrant street art scene while Manhattan’s Lower East Side is where some of today’s biggest musical acts got their big break.

    5) Discover local trends
    Social media has the power to reach thousands, sometimes millions, of people across the globe. Sure, most of us use it to post our travel photos and connect with family and friends back home but it’s also a great way to spot local trends. Instatag displays popular hashtags based on both category and geo-location, instantly connecting you to locals in your area. Another helpful app is Field Trip, which gives users access to off-the-beaten-path hotspots. If nothing else, simply type your destination into Twitter’s search bar to connect with local experts, travel guides and get recommendations.

    Megan Eileen McDonough is the Founder of Bohemian Trails, an award-winning lifestyle blog designed for the savvy and stylish traveler. Covering everything from avant-garde neighbourhoods and colorful street art to innovative tech hubs and everything in between, Bohemian Trails is a one-stop-shop for cultural exploration. Megan’s travels have taken her to Europe, Latin America, the Middle East Asia and across the United States. Follow her adventures on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.



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