Travel tales

Repeat destinations: Why I love revisiting old favourites

Repeat destinations: Why I love revisiting old favourites

I read an article recently where the writer said she would never visit the same city more than once. That there were so many places in the world to see, how could you justify a return visit? It got me thinking about the cities I’ve been back to – whether that’s once like Dublin or Marrakech, or repeatedly like New York or Paris. And I realised that some of my favourite city trips have been the return visits. I love to discover new places too, but often the second-time trips have been more relaxed, more spontaneous and more enjoyable. And who says you need a change of destination to see something new? Even if you live in a city for years you’ll never have seen everything. Going back to a place lets you dig a bit deeper and uncover another layer of the place – and here are five other reasons why I would never say no to a return visit.

Read more: My six ages of travel

Views from the Rockefeller Center

New York views – how could I ever get tired of them?

You’ve done the famous sights

Of course there’s no reason you couldn’t take a trip to Cairo without visiting the Pyramids, go to Rome and miss out the Colosseum or avoid the Louvre and Eiffel Tower on a weekend in Paris. But most big name sights are popular for good reason (well not always – I’m looking at you Leaning Tower of Pisa). So it’s understandable that on a first trip to a new city you’d want to visit the most famous attractions. Unfortunately though they usually come with high price tags and long queues. So there’s something nice about repeat visits when you’ve already done the big names and can concentrate on exploring the off-the-beaten-path aspects of the city. Whether that’s a quirky tour, an obscure museum, or just wandering around different city districts to see what you stumble across. Plus there’s no need to feel bad about spending an entire trip doing nothing but eating and drinking if you did the museums and galleries last time.

Canal life in Christianshavn, Copenhagen

Wandering the canals of Christianshavn – a Copenhagen highlight

You know how to get around

Despite a degree in geography, I’ve always been a bit directionally challenged. So when I arrive in a new city there’s always a slightly confused phase I have to go through to work out how to get from the airport, find out how the public transport works and get my bearings on the streets. But if you go back to a city for the second time you bypass all of that. You already know how to buy a metro ticket, how late the buses run and you don’t have to keep getting a map out to find your way around. You also know where to find that bakery that does the best croissants or that hidden-away bar that stays open late. Of course you’re not going to want to go to exactly the same places twice, but having that basic local knowledge means you already have a few old favourites and don’t have to waste so much time on boring logistical details.

Map reading

Which way is north?

You have more local insight

This is particularly the case for bloggers, as once you write about a destination you find you get lots of tips from locals about things you missed. People love to read about their home cities and see what people are saying about them, and to share their own favourites. After writing about my weekend in Glasgow last month I had a flood of comments from Glaswegians listing other things to see and places they love to eat and drink. So next time I visit I’ll have a ready-made list of recommendations that I’d never have found otherwise. Even if you don’t have a blog you often get tips from locals – whether that’s a taxi driver or a barman – that you don’t get chance to try out. So going back means you can put them to good use.

The Finnieston Crane Glasgow

Along the Clyde in Glasgow

You can experience different seasons

The same city can feel like a different place with a change of season. I’ve watched the Bastille Day parades and sunbathed on a beach along the Seine in July, then been back to see the Christmas lights and drink mulled wine in December. Two totally different experiences in the same city. Changing seasons will mean you concentrate on different areas and aspects of a place. Even a change of weather can do the same – you can spend a sunny day exploring parks and pavement cafés or a rainy day of museums and long lunches. Many cities are transformed for special events like festivals or national days at certain times of the year too. A visit to Edinburgh over Hogmanay, New York on Independence Day or Mexico City for the Day of the Dead would be completely different to being there at any other time of the year.

Sunbathers on the Paris Plages

On the beach at the Paris Plages

Your feelings might change

The cities that I go back to tend to be ones I loved first time around. But you can also look at it the other way and give the ones you weren’t so keen on another chance. Although so many people love it, I have to confess I wasn’t that taken with Prague when I visited a few years ago. I was there in July and although it was certainly beautiful it was hugely busy and felt full of touts, rubbish souvenir shops and people trying to rip us off. But maybe both Prague and I were having a bad day and if I went back at another time of year or steered clear or the touristy spots my feelings would be completely different. Bad weather, bad choices or bad luck can all turn you against a destination but maybe it deserves a second chance?

Charles Bridge, Prague

The Charles Bridge in Prague

So what about you? Do you like to revisit cities or are you always on to the next destination?

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Do you like to revisit places or are you always on to the next destination? Here are five reasons why I love to make a return visit to an old favourite destination.

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36 Comments

  • Reply
    Jenn
    November 30, 2015 at 2:23 pm

    I agree! There are so many places that I do go back to or would like to go back to because you really can’t see everything in one trip. I also like that I don’t feel rushed in the cities that I return to.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      November 30, 2015 at 9:14 pm

      I know what you mean, the second trips I’ve done have always felt more relaxed and less pressurised as I have seen a lot of the things I really wanted to already.

  • Reply
    Heyjude
    November 30, 2015 at 2:51 pm

    Oh Lucy I agree with so much that you said. Though familiarity can also breed discontent https://smallbluegreenwords.wordpress.com/2013/03/29/the-city-of-love-how-i-left-my-heart-in-san-francisco/
    however, not having been there for a few years perhaps I’d enjoy it again now.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      November 30, 2015 at 9:23 pm

      Interesting to read about your San Francisco experience, the only place that I’ve found to lose its shine was London – after living there for years I couldn’t wait to leave but actually enjoy going back now. So maybe a few years would make the difference!

      • Reply
        Heyjude
        December 1, 2015 at 12:11 am

        I’m not keen on London though it does have its attractions. I just find it too crowded and too busy. I wanted to live there when I was 19, but not since. It is a young person’s city I feel. Paris is a city I can return to and Vancouver and Cape Town and Sydney, though I much prefer quieter places as a rule. What was disappointing about Pisa then?

      • Reply
        Lucy
        December 1, 2015 at 11:02 am

        London and I have a bit of a complicated relationship – I did two stints of four years living there and it has a lot to offer but the cost and busyness are hard work. Pisa as a city I didn’t mind at all it was just the Tower, so busy and surrounded by hoards of people doing the same old photo pose, and it doesn’t actually lean all that much now anyway!

  • Reply
    Polly
    November 30, 2015 at 4:32 pm

    I mean, yes! there are tons of places to see in the world without repeat trips, but not returning somewhere just because you’ve already been there is somehow really limiting to me!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      November 30, 2015 at 9:25 pm

      I think there are some travellers who get a bit competitive about how many countries or places they’ve ‘done’ and it becomes more about ticking them off than really experiencing them.

  • Reply
    Citizen on Earth
    November 30, 2015 at 5:17 pm

    I just revisited London 15 years later and I loved it. It is fun comparing your feelings and refreshing your memories. I also visit Istanbul at least 2 times a year and always discover something new even though it is my home town. I also want to see always new places and countries, and choose rather destinations I haven’t been to yet but revisiting a destination is pretty cool too. I’d love to revisit Cuba definitely 🙂

    • Reply
      Lucy
      November 30, 2015 at 9:26 pm

      Big cities like London and New York change so quickly it can be like visiting a whole different city after 15 years! I definitely enjoy visiting new places too but try and have a balance, sometimes I combine an old destination with a new one which has worked really well.

  • Reply
    Ashley
    November 30, 2015 at 6:58 pm

    I totally agree with you! I love getting to see the non touristy side of cities when we go back for a second or third visit. We’re headed to NYC for a fourth time this weekend, and every time we go back we see something new and different.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      November 30, 2015 at 9:27 pm

      I love New York! That’s one place I’m sure I could go back to again and again and never get bored – I’ve been staying in different neighbourhoods on each trip and it’s like being in a different city. Have a great trip.

  • Reply
    mjthecreator
    November 30, 2015 at 8:48 pm

    Paris deserves a lifetime visit 😉 I’m one of those that always wants to do something new, but I find I”m really looking forward to going back to Lisbon! Not sure if you’ve been there but it’s lovely

    • Reply
      Lucy
      November 30, 2015 at 9:30 pm

      Paris is probably the city I have visited the most and I still have a big list of things I want to see! Not visited Lisbon yet but I hear really good things about it, and enjoyed Porto a couple of years back so it’s one to visit soon.

  • Reply
    Vlad
    November 30, 2015 at 9:24 pm

    I am torn because on one hand, there are so many cities I’ve loved that I want to revisit, but there are way more other places I’ve yet to visit so with limited time, it makes sense to focus on new destinations. However, on the last couple of years I revisited places for the second (or even third) time and it was great. On my recent return trip to Barcelona most of the time I did nothing but eat, drink and relax. And I loved every minute of it 😀 I’m revisiting Vienna in January and I hope I’ll like it more than I did the first time.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      November 30, 2015 at 9:32 pm

      It is a dilemma! As much as I like going back to places I do always want to see new places too. I think it’s the relaxed pace of the return trips I enjoy as it really feels like a holiday, so a bit of both might be the answer.

  • Reply
    MummyTravels
    November 30, 2015 at 10:21 pm

    I completely agree – I am reluctant to go back to the same place over and over but some cities really deserve more than one visit. My first trip to NY, we packed in all the highlights but I wasn’t as wowed as I’d expected. Trip 2, I relaxed, hunted down secret bars, went shopping and loved it. Paris I’ve visited at least half a dozen times – each time at a different stage of life or with different companions so each time it’s been different too.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      December 1, 2015 at 11:03 am

      New York and Paris are the two I could just keep going back to – a change of district or who you’re travelling with can make it feel like a totally different place.

  • Reply
    ladies what travel
    December 1, 2015 at 12:16 pm

    Great post, I totally agree! It’s often much more fun to return and see the city again, exploring things you may have overlooked the first time. Also I love going back to sights or restaurants I really enjoyed, if they were that great the first time, why the hell not! K

    • Reply
      Lucy
      December 1, 2015 at 9:22 pm

      Quite right, it can be so hit and miss trying to find great places to eat especially that it helps to have a place you already know is good!

  • Reply
    lexklein
    December 1, 2015 at 1:32 pm

    Ahhh, you’ve written my post! I always joke with friends and family that if I stopped repeating destinations, I’d have visited 100+ countries by now! I am a huge repeat visitor, for many of the reasons you listed (great job!). In fact, even though it was not two entirely separate visits, my 2 times in Kathmandu were the subject of my last post a few days ago. Return visits are a luxury, though – it was expensive and time-consuming to get to Lhasa, Tibet once, so going again when I could have hit multiple other destinations for the same price was a tough call. Nevertheless, like you, I find myself going back to places I’ve loved or been intrigued by. Some of my favorites are Beijing, London and Paris of course, Athens, Cusco, and Mexico City.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      December 1, 2015 at 9:25 pm

      I’ve not been to Athens, Cusco or Mexico City yet but would love to (if I can drag myself away from the places I want to go back to – ha!). It’s funny how certain places really get under your skin, and going back really does let you dig deeper and get to know a place more.

  • Reply
    John
    December 1, 2015 at 8:09 pm

    Couldn’t agree more! I’ve found with cities I’ve gone back to, instead of being caught up on the sights, I’ve spent the second trip exploring areas or neighbourhoods as opposed to just hopping from place to place. This has been my trick for discovering London over the years but I still have plenty left to see!

    Which city has changed most in your mind from trip #1 to #2?

    • Reply
      Lucy
      December 1, 2015 at 9:31 pm

      I lived in London on and off for 10 years but there are still so many areas I’ve not explored! I do the same thing with New York though and stay in a different area each time, and it almost feels like a different city.

      I think Brussels was the place that changed my mind between visits the most – first time I found it a bit soulless but second time I went for the Jazz Festival and it was full of music and events and felt totally different.

  • Reply
    Shikha (whywasteannualleave)
    December 4, 2015 at 11:30 am

    Made me feel better that you also find yourself directionally challenged despite a geography degree as I am the world’s most hopeless navigator and I always use the fact that I didn’t do geography even at GCSE as my excuse!! This all rings so true with me. I absolutely love NYC, don’t think I’ll ever tire of it and going for my 3rd visit next week – and you know, despite being twice before, the itinerary is totally packed mostly with things I’ve never seen yet, which proves how much more you can do and how you can see a totally different side even to a place you’ve visited many times!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      December 4, 2015 at 1:54 pm

      Have a fantastic time in New York! I seem to go every five years so think I am due another trip next year (any excuse) – we’ve been staying in different neighbourhoods for the last couple of times and it makes the trip feel so different. And the city changes so much that there’s usually a whole load of new things to see that weren’t there for the last trip – don’t think I could ever get bored of it.

  • Reply
    mjcolbert
    December 4, 2015 at 10:05 pm

    I definitely agree with this, Lucy. Great post! I know when I first visited Philadelphia, I only visited the big ticket sites, like Reading Terminal Market, Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and Franklin Institute, but on return trips I’ve gotten to see such a fun side of the city (and some of that has been from blogger/commenter suggestions).

    • Reply
      Lucy
      December 7, 2015 at 10:48 am

      Yes it’s tempting on a first trip to just do all the big name places but often more fun to just wander around and see what you find!

  • Reply
    Suzanne Jones
    December 7, 2015 at 12:04 am

    I’m definitely a returner – the big sights are a must-see on a first visit but digging deeper on a return trip is equally as enjoyable.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      December 7, 2015 at 10:54 am

      Definitely – you can have such a different trip in the same destination!

  • Reply
    thebritishberliner
    December 7, 2015 at 7:10 am

    Oh absolutely! I always go back to cities and countries that I have visited before. In many cases every two or three years. And why not? It doesn’t prevent me from going to new places but if I like a destination then most definitely, I’d want to visit again and again and again. And yes, it feels good to be able to stroll around as if you know exactly what you’re doing and if you go a few times. You do lol!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      December 7, 2015 at 10:55 am

      Yes it’s nice to feel at home enough to know what you’re doing somewhere but it’s still new enough to have lots to explore!

  • Reply
    Eirians
    December 13, 2015 at 6:56 pm

    I’m always so torn between wanting to see everything and staying at the same place until I know the streets like the back of my hand. It saddens me I don’t have time for both haha

    • Reply
      Lucy
      December 13, 2015 at 10:27 pm

      I know that feeling – there’s never quite enough time to do it all!

  • Reply
    thegrownupgapyear
    December 14, 2015 at 4:38 pm

    I totally agree with this Lucy – I love going back to the same places. I especially agree with your first point – I really enjoy just sitting in cafes or walking around and soaking up the atmosphere and not feeling under pressure to visit all of the big attractions!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      December 15, 2015 at 9:51 pm

      Soaking up the atmosphere is my favourite bit! Did lots of that in Seville last weekend (along with lots of eating tapas) and you come back really feeling like you’ve had a break rather than needing another holiday to recover!

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