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How to fall in love with any city

"Paris will never break your heart "

The benefits of travel are infinite. If you are lucky enough to live in Europe, we have so many beautiful cities just a short flight, train journey, or ferry ride away.

I have spent a lot of my life visiting London. I thought of it as home and envied the tourists who walked around in such awe. It is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, but I had never given it the appreciation it deserved. I wish I had realised earlier that just because you live in a city or have visited a lot, you can fall in love with it again everyday.

So here’s a list of ways to keep falling in love with a city; whether you are visiting it for the first time or have lived there youre whole life. Cities are so rich with culture and people travel from all over the world to visit them.

Take advantage of being there.

Do your research

Most cities have websites or free magazines to keep you updated on what’s on. Find the best way to get information and use it. Look out for independent guides too where you are more likely to find niche events.

If you would prefer something more longterm, pick up a rough guide. I would recommend DK Eyewitness Top 10 if you love lists. You will have probably been on Tripadvisor before to research holiday destinations, but they also have information on pretty much every town and city. Your hometown is probably on there too.

Look closely at the buildings around you

Grace Coddington once said, “Always keep your eyes open. Keep watching because whatever you see can inspire you.” If you have ever been on a city break, you will know how true this is.

Whether you are cycling past the gorgeously ornate architecture of Paris, or walking the streets of post-Soviet East Berlin, look out for little details that might otherwise pass you by. It is easy to become complacent and think you know your hometown inside out, but that is when you stop looking. You never know when you will notice something new that can inspire you.

City breaks tend to be short and they consequently turn into a mad rush to try and fit as much in as possible. Take some time to slow down. The best way to take in the whole city is to book a walking tour, or take yourself on your own walking tour.

Write everything down

You might be too busy to do this in detail whilst you are there, but take some time in the evenings to list what you have done each day. Write down snippets of memorable conversations, historical information, new favourite foods you have tried. If you do this, then parts of the city will be with you forever as you can refresh your memory frequently.

It is useful to keep a journal at all times, even when you are not visiting a new city. Take your journal to local parks in the summer and independent cafés in the winter.

Make a playlist

This is particularly important if you are going to be spending a lot of time on your own in a city. Curate a playlist for when you are walking around, relaxing in the evening and travelling from one end of the city to the other. Afterwards, those songs will always remind you of that time in your life.

Don’t discredit the nightlife

But people who want to party hard just go to Magaluf or Zante, right? You came here for the culture. Well, night life is an important part of the culture. The ruin pubs in Budapest and techno clubs in Berlin are like nowhere else in the world. If yours is a short stay, just make sure you manage to get out of bed the next day no matter how bad the hangover. Do something relaxing like taking a walk in a park or visiting an art gallery.

Seek out bars and clubs in your hometown with the best atmosphere. Try not to fall into the routine of going to the same places every week and not enjoying it anymore.

Try the local cuisine

Every city, no matter how big or small, has a famous food. It might be gelato in Rome, or Henderson’s Relish in Sheffield. Don’t discriminate.

Absorb the city’s culture before you go

Cities are rich sources of inspiration so it will not be difficult to find cultural texts to explore before you go. Look out for books written there, films filmed there and musicians from there. Think Kafka for Prague, Rimbaud for Paris, Van Gogh for Amsterdam.

If you live there, you have even more time to dig into the local culture. You probably have a good chance of meeting contemporary artists too.

Look out for one-off exhibitions and events

These won’t be in the rough guides, so will probably attract a lot of locals and few less tourists. Find events on Facebook and look out for posters around the city and in museums and galleries.

Start to learn the language

You might not get much further than learning how to say hello and thank you, but in most situations, that is all you will have to say. As far as anyone knows you’re fluent!

Make a plan (but don’t stick to it religiously)

Planning is obviously an important component of travelling. You will want to make sure that you make the most of the city by fitting in everything you want to do. However, keep a few hours free to wander around and find lesser known places. Have lunch at a small bakery near where you are staying. Walk down a busy street and people watch.

Try to do something new every weekend in the city you live in. This doesn’t have to be expensive. There are usually plenty of free activities to try if you look for them.

Stay hungry with wanderlust, and you can fall in love with any city.

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