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