10 Jul Real European City Maps
Whether you are bunking in hostels, splashing out in hotels, rolling the die with Couchsurfing or becoming a semi-permanent fixture on your buddy’s couch – you will still need to know the lay of the land in a new city when traveling. One way, of course would be to do your due diligence and read guidebook after guidebook or use online research to know the tops things to see and do in a new city. Another would be to annoy your hostel/hotel staff by asking the same question they hear daily for the umpteenth time, or hope your friend/CouchSurfing host hasn’t been like most lazy residences all over the world and not even seen the treasures in their own city (I haven’t been to Yoesmite yet – shh). Or you could go along with a one of the big, Free Tours groups they have around in almost every European city, if you don’t mind being in a massive group*…but alas, I am way too lazy for all of that. I am more of a show up last minute and kick myself for not planning ahead kind of guy. Fortunately, at least in Europe, several non-profits (CitySpy, UseIt) supported by each cities municipality have taken the liberty of producing maps for people who don’t want to ride a tour bus with the walking dead. Filled with bars, restuarants, local hang outs, these maps are actually readable without a microscope and lack the massive border of advertisements of companies desperate for your business. These are maps made by locals (under the age of 30) with the aim of getting you out of the socks and sandals hordes and into the where the real magic of their city lies (bars with sexy, young people).
Unlike most maps or guidebooks that focus only on typical tourist attractions, these maps help to show you some more alternative sites and help steer you away from restaurants where you are surrounded by unappetizing food and a bloated bill. While not perfect and subjective of the young persons’ opinions who provide the inside scoop, it is sure better than going to the restaurant Lonely Planet recommended to only to find it swarmed by other tourists hoping to find a hidden gem (instead they usually find long waits and higher prices). You can find these maps at the more updated Hostels (regardless of if you stay there or not, they are free for anyone). Go to hostelworld.com and pick any of the top-rated hostels in a moderately cool to popular city in Europe, pop in, grab one and you should be solid.
*side note, these tours are “free”, and by tips only, and are meant to encourage you to buy other tours. The guides are usually non-natives of the country, but are local and tend to offer good information. Just keep in mind you will be with a big group and the other maps mentioned are more to find the hidden, non-tourist spots rather than the massive (and usually boring after 10 minute attractions).