How to be a Tourist in Your Own City

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Some weeks ago, an old friend of mine came to visit me, I asked him if there was anything in particular he wanted to see in The Hague, the place I currently call home. I was already dreading a visit to the local world-famous painting that is a must see for first time visitors. But no, my friend had a challenge for me, he simply said: “why don’t we together explore a place in The Hague that you always wanted to visit, but never got around to.”  Challenge accepted!

We had a blast that day.  I was majorly surprised how much there was to see and how little I knew about the place I have been calling home for more than 10 years. We got lost in streets I have never walked down, learned about the complex culture of a mosque, which used to be a synagogue in the middle of Chinatown and found a hidden park, behind a door I had walked past millions of times, but never saw the little plaque that invited me to enter. I really saw my city in a completely new light.

I guarantee you can experience new cultures, learn about your cities secret history and come back home at the end of the day and feel like you have been on a real journey.

Go on and try it, no long queue at airport security or passports required! Are you ready to go on a trip around the world in your own city? Here are some helpful pointers on how to:

 

  • Check local blogs

 

Things always change and maybe you did not know about that new museum or the great festival. Look up any upcoming events, local celebrations and festivals in your city. Maybe you always wanted to travel to China – check if there are any Chinese artists in town, exhibitions or maybe the local Chinese community is hosting a local celebration.

 

 

  • Take pictures like you would abroad

 

Abroad the fruits at the quaint local market are picture worthy, the statues lining up in the beautiful park also and architectural details on local houses and monuments too. When we travel far afield we take pictures of the mundane everyday life that we soak around us. When we are going about our daily routine at home, we become blind to the little things that are hidden right in front of our eyes. Slow down, be mindful, look up, look around and click away!

 

 

  • Take the time to be curious

 

I bet you have been driving passed a statue a thousand times, ever stopped to find out the story? Or the church you have walked by on the way to your friends’ house so often, have you ever gone inside? Or what about that building at the corner that looks like it is different than the rest, do you know the name of it or its story?

 

 

  • Take a guided tour

 

We took a world religion tour, which lead us to a Sikh temple, a mosque, a synagogue and a Buddhist temple. All these religious sites are open to local visitors and were within 20 minutes of my home! I had no idea the local religious sites of worship just allow you to walk in and have a look around. The Buddhist and Sikh temples were in houses that looked plain from the outside and I would have walked straight past them, yet they welcome several hundred worshippers a week and are beautifully decorated. You might have admired the Buddhist temples in Thailand, but maybe the one close to home is also quiet impressive. Go and find out.

 

  • Ask strangers for their favorite places

 

When I became a mom, I realized that some of my favorite cafes and bars would now be off limit for a while. They had no play areas, no high chairs, late opening times and I needed to map out the baby friendly hang outs in my city. I mainly found out about the places to be via my network. How about doing the same when exploring your city? I asked a random person who walked by for her favorite café- we ended up at a little café, I had never been to as it always looked very old fashioned to me. Little did I know they had an amazing backyard! I asked an old man about his favorite place – which led to a private tour of a hidden church in an attic, which turned out to be one of the biggest churches in The Hague but only accessible by private tour.

 

 

  • Eat your way around the world

 

Tbilisi in Georgia (the country not the state) is high up on my list of places to visit, so why not stake out the local Georgian restaurant to sample the food? Planning a trip to South Korea, visit your local Korean to try Kimchi and get some travel advise from the owners.  I managed to eat my way around the world in one day – breakfast at a local French boulangerie (Europe), a quick snack at a tiny Lebanese place (Middle East), amazing dim sum at the local Chinatown (Asia), picked up some deserts at a local Kenyan restaurant (Africa) and ended the day at an Argentinian steak restaurant (Americas).

Experimental Travel 

I also want to share with you a playful way of traveling, which the kids will love. It is a concept called experimental traveling.  The Lonely Planet Guide to Experimental Travel  talks about 40 playful way of traveling, where the journey’s methodology is clear, but the destination is unknown. Some fun ways to explore the world the experimental way with kids are:

 

  • Travel to the end of the line

 

I am sure you have taken the train/bus/metro a million times, but did you ever take it to the final stop and went off to explore that unknown neighborhood.

 

  • Go on a K2 expedition

 

K2 is not just the second highest mountain in the world, after Mount Everest, it is also a map grid square on a good old-fashioned city map. Why not go to explore what awaits you in K2?

 

  • 12 Travel

 

Travel following the number 12 (or whatever your child’s favourite number is). Catch bus number 12, get off at the 12th stop, walk across 12 junctions before examining building number 12.
I hope I could convince you that traveling in your home city can be just as exciting as going abroad! Please share your local tourist tips and tricks in the comments. 

 

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***** This post has been linkedup with****

                                                                         #WanderfulWednesday

T ravel Loving Family
Wander Mum

Oregon Girl Around the World

 

  • Some cool ideas here – I’d never thought of taking a tour of my local city before – I may well have to do that! Love the K2/12 ideas too! #MondayEscapes

  • TraveLynn Family – Jenny

    What a fantastic friend you have there! Great idea they had. And I LOVE the experimental travel ideas! #MondayEscapes

  • minitravellers

    There are loads of fab ideas here but I partic like travelling to the end of the line! ‘m going to do this. Thanks for linking up to #MondayEscapes

  • I really, really love your post. I think you know your city well when you can be an excellent guide for those who visit. And, I am not referring to taking out of towners to the “touristic” sites. I am subscribed to the newsletters of publication specific to the area (LA Weekly, TimeOut LA, etc.). In that way, I am up to date with events, exhibitions and restaurant openings. #MondayEscapes

  • Jenny

    I love this post – and it is so very true. Can you believe I lived a 5 minute walk away from Westminster Abbey for two years – and never once popped my head inside! I’m now making much more of an effort to be curious and take lots of photos – just like a tourist! #MondayEscapes

  • yes, very true:) #wanderfulwednesday

  • I love this idea! We played tourist in our city a few months ago after hearing it as a happiness tip on the Happier podcast. We explored the old downtown area and visited a museum. It was such a fun day! We also did a walking food tour a few years ago that was SO fun. It sounds like you had a great time exploring your city too!

  • I love having people to stay because a) I get to see them and b) I get to be a tourist in my own town. I love exploring new places and some of my old favourites. I love these ideas, especially going to the end of the line. I had a friend who every weekend would go to a place on the train line/bus route that started with a letter in the alphabet. He started with A and many weeks, later finished with Z!

  • Untold Morsels

    Your friend is the best kind of guest. I have a guided tour of sorts for the places I live and they do get tired after a while. Love your tips for exploring your own city. I cant wait til my kids are old enough to get a lot out of the experiential travel concept Thanks for joining #FarawayFiles

  • Yes to this! Having people to stay is so fun as you get to see those places that you always meant to but never did. I am doing that just now as my parents are here for three weeks and so I am loving being a tourist 😀

  • Some awesome suggestions. I try to be a tourist in my own city (London) there’s so much to see there and places to go although photographing the mundane in my own country is stretching the comfort zone a little. Great tips and inspiration! #citytripping

  • So many great suggestions!! I’m about to move to a new city so there’ll be plenty of local exploring ahead. Will bookmark your tips for reference!

  • Clare Thomson

    These are all absolutely fantastic tips, Jules, and what a great friend to suggest it in the first place. It’s such fun being a tourist in your own city. There’s always more to see and learn. Glad you found so many hidden gems in your own. Thanks for inspiring me on #FarawayFiles

  • Brittany Cooper

    I LOVE this idea! My husband and I did this for our anniversary a few weeks ago. We had a blast and plan to do it again as there is still so much to be found! Thanks for sharing at Mama Blog Monday! 🙂

  • Gabriela

    This is really nice, I was actually looking for research to write something similar and even funnier than this is that I am also living in Den Haag. Thanks for sharing, I will give credits when I post my version.

    • Jules Stephan

      Oh really what’s your blog? Looking forward to read your version

  • Baby Loves Travel

    Some great ideas here, I love exploring my home town with new eyes #fearlessfamtrav

  • Emma Morrell

    These are brilliant tips thank you! Saving for planning our trip home at the end of the month.

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