Been there, done that – or have you? There is a certain comfort in going back to a familiar place, I guess that’s why I’ve been back to Amsterdam 5 times. Certain cities you just fall in love with. That’s why so many movies, books, television shows and songs reference the magic of Paris, the beauty of Rome, the energy of London. They’re so good, you have to go back. In the early days of my travel adventures, my goal was to go to new places, one new place a month. As I’ve travelled more and more I have learned what I like and don’t like about the cities I visit. Sometimes a guarantee of enjoyment, like when you listen to an old favourite album rather than the newest release, is just as important as ticking new places off your travel list. So how do you get the most out of your second, third, fourth time visiting the same place?
1) Skip the touristy stuff (or pick and choose to revisit what you liked)
Upon arriving in Paris for the third time, I recognised the sights, the sounds, even the smells. I knew exactly what I wanted… a giant chocolate macaron, made the way only the French know how. I wanted to drink all of the wine and eat all of the cheese (everyone knows the French keep the best for themselves, the exports are poor substitutes). I wanted to explore the Galeries Lafayette and see the view from the Sacre Coeur. There was no time pressure on me nor did I have a “to-do” list of things that other people had recommended to me or that I had compiled from travel blogs. I had been there, done that – and I had to only revisit the places I enjoyed the most.
2) Lose yourself on purpose
One of my favourite things to do when in a new town is to lose myself exploring the streets without any plan or direction. In Paris, I could do that without worrying how I might get back to my hostel again. I knew exactly where I was and it allowed me to fully be in the moment, appreciating the Parisian buildings, following my nose to pastry shops, popping into the nearest wine bar when it started to rain. I went where I wanted, when I wanted. From my early travel days I knew the semi-stressful feeling of wanting to see and do everything on your list. However, as I become older and wiser, I am learning to let things, and yourself, go. My third trip to Paris was the first time I realised how bloody great this freedom actually was.
3) Stay somewhere different
In our most recent trip to Amsterdam, we stayed slightly further away from the red light district, in the North West of Amsterdam (Haarlemmerbuurt). The neighbourhood contained cute coffee shops, shops with locally produced or handpicked items and bars where we were the only ones speaking English. There were no obnoxious big groups of lads on bucks parties, crowds of tourists blocking the pathways or blinding signs and flashing lights in your face. It was so much nicer to have the option of walking into the busier areas without having to deal with it constantly. The coffee, the beer and the service was all noticeably better. Avoiding tourist bars is also a must do for me and staying outside the centre made it much easier to do so!
4) Act like the locals do
In Amsterdam, we also attended DGTL festival, and although this is a big, well known festival in the electronic music world, we found ourselves basically surrounded by Dutch people. In the past, festivals that I have travelled across countries for have been internationally renowned (e.g. ULTRA Croatia, Awakenings) and it was not unusual to see multiple shirtless guys representing their countries by wearing their home country’s flag as a cape. Having experienced how the real Berliners party, it was cool to see how the Dutchies like to dance.
Of course, being a previous local of London, I naturally go back to places that remind me of when it was my home. Brick Lane in Shoreditch is a favourite of mine. Whenever I am there I make time for wandering down the street looking into vintage shops like I used to do any old weekend. I go to Piccadilly circus, where it was the first time I remembered having a “wow, I’m in London” moment. I go for a drink at the old pubs we used to call our local. There’s an element of nostalgia factor that can creep in, not only when I am visiting London, but also when we walked past the other air-bnb we stayed at last time we were in Amsterdam, or the moment I recognised a restaurant I went to last time I was in Paris.
5) Go for a reason, not just a weekend away
If you want to almost guarantee a good time, the best way to structure your trips can be to go for a specific event. We have travelled to many cities to attend music festivals, I have friends who go specifically to spectate sport (e.g. French open, football world cup, olympics), even for conventions (e.g. tattoos, travel, wellness). Whatever you’re into, find out the city that showcases or hosts it best and go there. That way you are already doing something you love, with a bunch of people who love the same things as you, in a city you may well discover you also love.
The other obvious reason I go back to London and will in the future visit Berlin when I no longer live here is for the people. I have a friend who basically planned his trip in Europe around the friends he had met traveling. It’s also how many people structure their backpacking trips. But who said you have to limit your visits to chance? We often fly to London for the weekend purely to see our old friends, or to other cities to meet friends who are on holiday. Believe me, catching up over French wine and cheese is even better if you’re actually in France.
Do you have a city you just can’t stop going back to? Why do you keep revisiting the same destinations? Share your stories with us in the comments below!