Tourists seem to visit the same places – pull out their checklist, and it’s all there. In London, it’s Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey; in France, it’s the Eiffel Tour, the Louvre and Notre Dame. These sorts of attractions are great, of course, and they deserve their praise. But what’s almost always missing from these lists is the more obscure places tourists should really go to capture the essence of a foreign city—not just to find history or see what’s popular, but to discover culture.
So if you’re going abroad this summer, try to find these lesser-known spots where people actually live, eat and hang out. It’s here where tourists can get a real glimpse of what it’s like to live in the city and what it’s like to be, say, a Londoner or a Parisian.
And finding these places is much easier than it sounds—it just requires some adventuring.
First, take some time to wander. Find a neighborhood or an area of town you haven’t visited, and just walk. Don’t be afraid to step into markets on the side of the road or stop for a drink in the occasional seedy-looking bar. You’ll probably meet some really interesting people and see some fascinating things.
If you happen to have a tour guide, ask them for help finding some lesser-visited places. While studying in London, I was advised to visit old workhouses, run-down hospitals and mosques. These places all contain so much of the past that might not appear in history books, so they were that much more valuable to me as a learning experience.
If you don’t have a tour guide, don’t hesitate to walk up to a local. Ask them where they like to eat or hang out, or if they have any favorite spots in the city. You’ll likely go places you never would have thought of, and find great things in the process.
Whether you’re somewhere in Europe, Asia or even in the US, try to step out of your comfort zone. On top of all of the typical touristy spots, go on a mini-adventure, and you’ll be sure to find some hidden gems.