When you are in a new city/country, how do you find things to do? Are there apps or any recommendations you have?
Odd that you would ask this question on the website of a guidebook/travel info publisher?
The first thing I do when visiting a new city is to take a "free" walking tour.
Ah, the young digital age traveler.
Try TimeOut which was a magazine and now is strictly online. Or see if the Eventseeker app still works.
Bulletin boards in churches, libraries, city halls.
Strike up a conversation (interacting with a human instead of staring at your phone) and ask for recommendations.
The learning process never ends and your generation's Cliff Notes i.e. Wikipedia won't have all the answers.
Research, research, research.
If you go to YouTube and put in the city, a multitude of videos pop up. Besides Rick Steve's videos, I like Woltersworld. He just gives you a list of things to do, unlike Rick who gives you scenery too. And of course, purchase up-to-date guidebooks. Also, each city has their own website with suggestions. The information can become overwhelming. just start making notes of things that interest you and go from there.
Apps? Talk to people there. Don't avoid human contact.
Try search Google on smart phone
Wikitravel.org or Amazon to buy a destination guide in ebook form.
TripAdvisor has already done the legwork for you, and has a good "Things to do" pull-down menu for most cities. Also comes with traveler's ratings for the various attractions. Have used it many times to preview particular areas and cities - has been very helpful to us.
They also have a pretty good smart phone app.
The first thing you do when you visit a new town is to visit its Visitor Center and then of course talk to locals at every opportunity.
Normally I have a pretty clear idea as to what to do upon arriving in a new city/country, otherwise I would not be there. If I am in such a place unplanned, etc, then I go to the Tourist Office, or follow the signs to the centre ville/Zentrum, or look at the brochures at the hotel. Another way is I always go to the train station book/magazine shop to see what is available, basically I check out the train station. Train station book shops have postcards, where you can get a idea what the sights of the city. I don't use apps.
They are called TI or some variation on that -- Tourist Information! Always our first stop often at the airport or train station.
I always go to TI or Visitor Center or whatever they call it, even if I planned the trip. I always learn something new there. Not everything is in guide books or on web.
If it is a big city such as London: after I have done all the standard tourist things as described in guidebooks and want to do off the beaten track things or meet locals I will join a large meetup group and participate in some of their activities. Here is a link to my favorite group in London:
I was in London for two weeks this past November and I did the following with meetup groups: visited the largest mosque in the city, had a meal there, and walked over to Abbey Road to cross the street and see where Paul McCartney lives; attended a performance of the Royal Ballet; visited St. Pauls with the company of a nice English speaking tourist from Russia; watched the funky Lord Mayor's parade; visited the Wellcome Collection (medical history). I always found engaging company at these events. I might add that most of the people you will meet at these events are not tourists but are locals who are as curious about their neighborhood and surrounding area as you are. Because you will be interacting mostly with locals it will help immensely if you can speak their language - that's why London and Paris will work for me. Not sure about the rest of Europe.
Maps: Available within any guidebook to the area, often free at Tourist Information offices in each town, often free at hotels when you check in, often posted on street corners in cities that get a lot of tourists or in transit stops/stations, Google Maps with places saved, www.viamichelin.com is another one for driving directions, rail maps come with a rail pass, and other maps are widely available for separate purchase.
P.S. And yes, I start with a guidebook to get a lot of detailed info and further links in one compact, efficient package before leaving home. It's worked for me for years and I'm slow to change. You can build on that with other resources, both online and in person, but you wouldn't be "starting from scratch."
Well I do two things.
I google "top sights in " .. and then READ all about those sites.. the history etc.. to see if they interest ME..
Then I go on my forums,,this one, fodars and tripadivsor.com and I ask folks. I explain what my tastes are.. ( ie I hate shopping so don't bother suggesting it, but I love history so tell me about a great historical sight or museum)
Most of my friends do not travel as much as I do , so they aren't a huge resource for me, however I do ask, you never know, and an acquaintance once told us about a car trip they did in Spain and showed us some photos that totally made our visit when we visited one of the small towns they had suggested.
I used to read guidebooks.. dozens of them... from the time I was about 15 .. till about 5 years ago, now I just look at them occaisionally. I find I get more current info online.
I would suggest reading a guidebook. There is this guy, Rick Steves, that writes a bunch of them.
These are great tips, I really appreciate the feedback! Has anyone used apps such as Spotted Places when they travel? This helps you get recommendations from friends who have already been there. Wondering how useful this is when you are on the go?
You should try the Technology forum;
here we maybe old school.
"Not everything is in guide books or on web." How very true !
ha ha .. I travel without apps.. I use old fashioned stuff like paper maps.. lol
Seriously, it has only been my last trip I brought my phone.. and I didn't get a plan or chip, just used wifi where I found it..
I travelled Europe for months without even being able to phone home decades ago.. you kids are too soft...
Since this is the Student Travel forum, I'm probably a little old to give you useful suggestions for apps, but I do want to recommend you figure out before you go how you'll get internet while you're away. A lot of US plans either won't work or are very costly out of he country.
I've traveled successfully several trips with only hotel wifi, but that means while you're out you won't have the internet. A lot of map apps have download options with partial features but you have to initiate it, and other things can be saved or printed if you need to, but again you'd have to do this while you still have the internet. It's a good idea to put your device on airplane mode and try everything before you go just to see what you have if you're offline.
Good luck and have fun on your trip(s)!
I usually google the place name and month I will be there with "events" ie "Paris August 2017 events" this usually finds a website listing local events and festivals. This is also a good way to find if there will be large conventions or other gatherings in a city that might make you want to avoid a city during that time.
One thing nobody had yet suggested - find a travel group in your area. The Rick Steves Travel Groups welcome all comers. Your profile doesn't show where you're from, but check out the Travel Groups section of this forum; there's a good chance a RS group is meeting somewhere near you soon. If you're going to be in Northeast Oklahoma this weekend, we'd be delighted for you to come join us.
Several people have suggested guidebooks, and this is our main source of information. A good guidebook not only lists the sights (along with prices and locations) but places them in a historical and cultural context. Yeah, you can say "Wow" at the Eiffel Tower, but it's even better to know who designed it, when and why it was built, and how it escaped Hitler's order to have it blown up in WWII.
We always read several guidebooks before a trip, and take notes on what we'd like to see. We have never yet managed to see everything we've put on our "must do" or "would like to do" list. The books are treasure troves of information.
And yes, ask at your hotel or hostel. The clerks will point you to the obvious sights, but if asked, will send you to some of the less well-known places. (This works great for places to eat, as well.)
Enjoy your trip, but do most of your research before you go. And allow time on the trip itself for serendipity - some of the best memories come from things you just stumbled across.
jamest your original question was pretty specific: "when you are in a new city/country . . . ". so I take that literally as when you are already there. By all means do all the research before a trip with whatever means suits you. But once you're on the ground, consulting information online or on a website like this is inferior to real-time first hand knowledge from people who live or work there.
Some of the best times I've had were at things which I stumbled upon walking around. You can miss the serendipity and spontaneity of travel if you depend on online sites or guidebooks printed months ago.
Like others, I do my research before I go, which I figure you will to. Once I'm there, I ask people. . . . I went to a new sight in Sevilla last year that my hotel recommended - it had only opened 3-4 weeks earlier, so probably wasn't available through any apps yet. 2 years ago, I visited a small town in France that my hotel owner said was a "must-see" and I really enjoyed it. It wasn't in the RS or DK guidebooks. I've gotten great tips at local TIs, from walking tour guides, and from chatting with other tourists.