I got thinking. How do people choose what to see, where to shop, eat and stay when exploring a city. We all know there is a plethora of things each city has to offer and with limited time how do we choose and navigate, and more so how do we keep a record of what we want to visit?
Back in the early 90’s i swore by the marco polo guides. Originated in germany, it was like a bible to me. Every time i would visit a new city, off i went to a shop (note ‘shop’ as we didn’t have internet shopping) to buy the accompanying guide. I would study it as if my life depended on it. They had the marco polo selection for every category and you could be sure that their ‘favourites’ were honest and had nothing to do with price. I’ve used so many of their suggestions and was never disappointed.
Slowly, they started bringing out english editions which i preferred. They are no longer available but the german version is still thriving.
City maps are everywhere and each person has their favourite. I did try many afterwards, here are some of my selection: luxe guides, travel guides with a difference. Super-svelte in format, it will fit into any pocket. No pictures, no graphics (except the front cover), only concise, curated travel companion for the discerning traveller. Updated each year, they also have monthly online updates.
Who hasn’t heard of wallpaper city guides? Of course you have. A run away success, they have dominated the travel guide market since their launch in october 2006. Many tell me they don’t like the guides because they associate it with the magazine. I can tell you i have had the best meals and other recommendations from them. I really like their 24 hours in a city section. For example, the first milan edition told of the then recently opened studio museo achille castiglioni. Achille castiglioni was a renowned itailian industrial designer who, at the age of 84 died in 2002. His heirs got some sponsorship and in 2006 signed a 5 year agreement allowing his studio to stay open and be visited by the public. I was so excited to be able to go and see the studio of such a talented designer, so phoned a friend and flew to Milan. It was magical and i will not forget that visit in a hurry. Additionally, through the guide, i found an incredible place to eat, an authentic 40 year old family run tiny restaurant.
A couple of years ago i came across a little start-up called à la carte. One to always support entrepreneurial endeavours, i immediately ordered myself a map. I was impressed with what i received: a guidebook, city map and piece of art all in one. Totally charming.
What’s great is that they also have maps for creative types: ‘create your own city à la carte maps come with a plain map and 2 pages of stickers and icons. You can, so to speak, decorate your own map.
Well, by that time i had already created my own maps out of normal city plans. I often go to berlin and sometimes like to take a 48 hours trip, rent a scooter and go trendspotting. So that i’m organised and know what i’m doing i create and decorate my own maps and keep adding as i go back to those cities. Here is a section of my personalised berlin map with some of my favourite haunts.
Here are some of the stickers i use. I got these from paperchase.
These days, although i still read city guides i rely a lot on the blogging world. What better way to find real gems? So, city travellers, will you share some of your ways of experiencing a city break? Do tell.