How To Meet The Locals In The World's Coolest Cities

Get the best travel tips about a city by chatting to the people who live there.

24/05/2017 11:47
Instants via Getty Images

We’ve all heard the old adage that a stranger is just a friend you haven’t got to know yet. But for many of us, making genuine connections on our travels doesn’t always come as easily as we’d like. If that’s you, help is at hand – booking a homestay, guided tour, class or group experience can work wonders for your confidence and get you right under the city’s skin.

  • 1 Share a bike ride through Central Park, New York, USA
    itsskin via Getty Images
    It’s easy to fall in love with Central Park when you’re exploring on two wheels. With 47 miles of bike-friendly paths and a delightful assortment of fountains and follies, it’s an attractive and sociable place to ride. Bike hire is available nearby and groups hold regular park get-togethers, open to all. The Weekday Cyclists, for example, ride around the 6.1-mile central loop every Tuesday morning and have a healthy mix of locals, expats and visitors in their ranks.
  • 2 Eat like a local in Polanco, Mexico City, Mexico
    Gen Sadakane / EyeEm via Getty Images
    For an insider’s perspective on Mexico City’s culinary, cultural and architectural heritage, treat yourself to a guided walking tour of Polanco’s coolest cantinas. This cosmopolitan neighbourhood is paradise for foodies. Join the locals over a plate of traditional specialities such as tacos, mole sauce and Oaxacan tlayuda (a toasted tortilla with beans, meat and avocado), then indulge in dessert made by one of the city’s famous chocolatiers.
  • 3 Enjoy a cosy night out, Copenhagen, Denmark
    marco wong via Getty Images
    Remember the hygge craze? This is where it started. The Danes, a famously contented and eco-friendly lot, love to socialise at home – see Meet The Danes, below – but they’re big on homely cafés and restaurants, too. You’ll find some heartwarmingly friendly and atmospheric hangouts in Copenhagen’s Nyhavn and Nansensgade districts. Tour guides specialising in eateries and nightlife are on hand to reveal the best spots.
  • 4 Go food shopping in Nishiki market, Kyoto, Japan
    FUTURE LIGHT via Getty Images
    The locals call this narrow, supremely colourful market the Kitchen of Kyoto. For over 400 years, chefs and foodies have shopped at its family-run stalls and shops, and anyone is welcome to join them, sampling delicacies such as tsukemono (pickled vegetables from the surrounding mountains), yuuba (the world’s smoothest sashimi tofu, made with Kyoto’s famous mountain water) tako (octopus with quail’s egg) and sparkling sake straight from the tap.
  • 5 Get into tango, Buenos Aires, Argentina
    volkankurt via Getty Images
    If you want to understand and impress the Porteños and Porteñas – the natives of the port city of Buenos Aires – learn to dance. Passionate and nostalgic, Argentine tango is a stylised, rhythmic walk to music, typically paired in a close embrace, chest to chest. Once a local tutor has helped you crack the paso básico (basic step) and you’ve mastered a little improvisation, you’re ready to hit a milonga, or tango night. Roll up a little before midnight, and prepare to strut and arch till dawn.
  • 6 Hang out on a classic city beach, Surfer's Paradise, Australia
    Tigeroner via Getty Images
    Aussie surfers can be an intimidating bunch. If you break a point of etiquette by mistake – by not looking properly before taking off, for example, and (perish the thought) dropping in on someone else’s wave, they’ll let you know you’ve messed up. Stay on their good side, though, and you’ll find them supremely matey. Roll up to the Surf Life Saving Club for an all-you-can-eat breakfast or a post-surf beer, and you’ll see what we mean.
  • 7 Make local friends via your phone, worldwide
    Hero Images via Getty Images
    We all know about networking via Facebook and Twitter and finding a homestay through Airbnb or Couchsurfing, but there are many other networking apps and websites that could help you meet people on holiday. While Tours By Locals and Vayable can hook you up with local guides all over the world, it’s also looking out for destination-specific services. Try Meet The Danes, for example, if you’d like to enjoy an evening of home-cooked food and friendly conversation in Copenhagen, or Tabl for something similar in selected British cities.
Suggest a correction
Comments

CONVERSATIONS