General

Playing Tourist in Your Own Town

In my last post, I talked a little bit about travelling while you’re away on exchange. Travelling is a lot of fun, but I neglected to mention one important detail…it is EXPENSIVE. With the end of the semester coming, and my bank account balance looking sadder and sadder everyday, I think my travelling days are over for now. But, fortunately, I came up with a solution. Being a tourist in my own town! No airfare to worry about, no hotels to pay for, no expensive meals out – just me and my camera wandering around Edinburgh.

Pretending to be a tourist at the National Museum.

Pretending to be a tourist at the National Museum.

Even though I’ve been in Edinburgh since the start of September, I haven’t actually done any of the touristy things you’re supposed to do here. You know how it is – when you live somewhere, you just never get around to doing that kind of thing. I mean, I lived in Toronto for four years and never went up the CN Tower. But I had a friend from Toronto visiting me, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to play tourist in my own city. And it was a lot of fun. We went to museums, finally trekked out to parts of town I’d been meaning to visit forever, went to kitschy tourist shops and ate haggis. It was proof to me that hanging out in your own city can be just as much fun (and much, much more affordable) than travelling.

So if, like me, you run out of money for travelling, or if you just want to make the most of all the wonderful touristy-things your city has to offer, here are some ideas for getting you off to a good start.

Go to museums. In Edinburgh museums are free, which makes them an awesome and affordable thing to do. Hopefully they’re free in your city too – if not, most will have free nights or big discounts for students. Though not necessarily a touristy activity, spending a day going to museums makes it feel like you’re on vacation. Bonus: it gives you a good, guilt-free and educational excuse to take a long study break.

Possibly the most heavily touristed corner in Edinburgh (on days when it isn't pouring with rain).

Possibly the most heavily touristed corner in Edinburgh (on days when it isn’t pouring with rain).

Head to the touristy parts of town. There’s a street in Edinburgh called the Royal Mile, which is basically just one mile of stores that sell bagpipes and kilts to tourists. I’m sure every city has some place like this. I always avoided it (so touristy! Yuck!) but when my friend visited we spent a day going in and out of shops, buying Scottish shortbread, and strolling with the other tourists. It was a fun break from real life in the city. And I got to check out some pretty cool kilts.

Go to famous landmarks. It’s free to look! And they’re usually really amazing. I got a guidebook on Edinburgh out of the library here, and spent a couple of days wandering around to the famous sites it listed. It turns out I had been walking by some really important and interesting things everyday, and I never knew it!

This one's for the Harry Potter fans out there: the hotel where JK Rowling finished the last book.

This one’s for the Harry Potter fans out there: the hotel where JK Rowling finished the last book.

Go to famous restaurants, bars, and cafes. This is related to the landmarks one, but these places might be a little bit harder to find. In Edinburgh, for example, you can hang out in the café where JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter for the price of a coffee or a bowl of soup. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s pretty cool to know that Harry Potter was born in the same place where you’re drinking your coffee.

Go for a walk. Another free one! And a deceptively easy way to be a tourist. I know it sounds silly, because you probably walk all the time, but if you take a few hours and head out on an aimless walk, you never know where you’ll end up and what you’ll see. You’ll probably come across some new, cool thing that you’ve never seen before.

Hopefully these ideas help you feel like you’re still travelling and having adventures, even when you’re at home. A big part of going on exchange is just living every day life in a new city, but sometimes its fun to take a break from that and play tourist for a little while. Happy exploring!