Exploring new places can often seem straightforward, but in practice it can be time consuming and daunting.
Whether you’re visiting a brand new city and want to get off the tourist-beaten track or you want to get off the routine-beaten track you’ve created at home, it can be hard to know where to start.
Fortunately, like seemingly everything else in life, there’s an app to help you, and these are some of the best.
Like a Local
Like a Local for iOS and Android helps you "skip the tourist traps" by collating insider tips from locals in over 324 cities. Contributors can offer suggestions for places to eat, drink, and see as well as recommend tours and activities.
Destinations can be saved to a list for viewing in offline mode at a later time so you don’t have to worry about your phone dying when you’re straying from the tourist path.
If you’re looking for something more specific like the quietest time of day to visit that popular café, there’s also a section for asking those sorts of questions.
Live in more than 50 cities, Sidekix aims to help you find new places whilst you’re going from A to B.
Simply enter your destination, what kinds of places you’d like to discover, and the app will generate a route that highlights points of interest along the way. Sidekix also has an option for when you’re walking at night that offers the best-lit routes.
It’s only on iOS at the moment, with plans for an Android version later in the year.
One of Pokémon Go’s main aims has been to encourage iOS and Android players to explore the world around them using the incentives of catching Pokémon and visiting PokéStops.
Playing the game won’t quite lead to a Kanto-level adventure but it’s shown that something as simple as altering your usual route to lunch could lead you to discover new and interesting things in otherwise familiar places.
Trip4Real connects travellers with locals offering tours and activities that are something mercifully different from two hours aboard an open-top bus wearing terrible headphones.
There are more than 4000 experiences across London, Lisbon, Rome, Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, Athens, Budapest, Dublin and throughout Spain, from sailing with the captain of a yacht in Barcelona to discovering the best street art in London with a local graffiti artist.
Each activity is listed with a detailed description, estimated duration, a minimum and maximum number of participants, and a public meeting point. The locals usually offer their activity frequently and there’s a review system to help you pick the best one.
You could search through endless restaurant reviews looking for somewhere new to eat or you could have a home-cooked meal. Live in over 150 cities, EatWith connects people looking for a good meal with those willing to cook them one in the local area.
When booking you can choose to fly solo at a communal table or bring a group of friends along. Charges for the food can range from £20 to £60 but it’s easy to tell whether you’re getting value for money since hosts often post a menu with their listing.
EatWith vets the cleanliness and skills of hosts before they’re allowed to accept guests which, in conjunction with the service’s guest review system, should offer assurance that you’re getting a good meal.
Bike Citizens is an app for exploratory cyclists. Using the knowledge of local couriers, Bike Citizens shows the best cycling routes in your city, offering a choice between the fastest route or the easiest one (unfortunately they’re rarely the same).
Once you’ve selected your route, the app will highlight points of interest along the way such as cafes, cash points, and museums with voice guidance to keep your eyes on the road and an offline mode to save battery. Bike Citizens is active in over 330 cities across Europe and works on both iOS and Android devices.
If you love adventure of the organised kind, Gogobot for iOS and Android is absolutely for you. It recommends hotels, attractions, restaurants, and guides which you can filter according to your interests , your budget, who you are, or who you’re with.
If uncertainty around public transport prevents you exploring, you definitely want to take a look at Citymapper for iOS and Android. Type in where you are, where you want to go and how you want to get there – whether that’s by bus, train, tube, taxi, a ferry, or using your own two feet – and Citymapper will give you the best route, live times, journey lengths.
It’ll even identify the best tube carriage and most convenient exit for your destination. Citymapper is less about showing you places off the beaten track than most of these other apps on this list, but it’s the one that will give you the most confidence to leave it.
Spotted by Locals
Spotted by Locals is a series of frequently updated city guides which contain exploring tips provided by residents. The locals that contribute to the service reveal their favourite bars, restaurants, and sights as well as insider information on local traditions and tips for travelling around.
Spotted by Locals covers cities across North America, Europe, and the Middle East with 66 locations in total. The guides are available on iOS, Android, or in PDF format and all work offline.
If you’d rather get advice from travel experts rather than the locals, the Lonely Planet guides for iOS and Android are what you’re looking for. There are more than 38 cities to choose from, with more to be added through the year.
Each city has over 1,000 points of interest for you to explore and offline maps to help you do so. The recommendations aren’t always hidden gems but they’re reliable, easy to filter, and come from travel experts who have lived and breathed the city you’re in.