February 8, 2023

Happy Travel & Tour

Specialists Travel & Tours

Our 10 best City Guides, according to readers

Local favorites on what to eat, see and do from Texas to Tokyo

(Cyril Marcilhacy, Alicia Vera, Emily Kask, Ginevra Sammartino, Ilana Panich-Linsman and Ulf Svane for The Washington Post)

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Do you know how to find the best fried rice balls in Rome? Or where to see local jazz in New Orleans, in the heart of where it was born? We do, because we asked the locals who know best.

If you’re looking for the best places to eat or after-hours hangouts in a new city, chances are you’re asking a resident expert during your travels. That’s why By The Way’s City Guides tapped trusted hometown journalists and authors in 70 cities around the world to take you through their favorite neighborhoods, places to eat and things to do.

Our more than 200 city and neighborhood guides skip the tourist noise and reveal their city’s best-kept secrets — places to get a carajillo (coffee cocktail) in Mexico City and where to eat in Austin beyond the Tex-Mex and barbecue joints. They’re meant to feel like your best friend is taking you through their beloved city.

These are our 10 most popular guides, from America to Asia, in no particular order. So get planning — or at least daydreaming.

Paris is often seen from the outside as a place of love and light — a magical city bathed in romance. This can be true, but Paris is mostly a place of imperfection, a mixture of beauty and chaos. And this is why it’s probably the most charming city in the world. Far away from the Eiffel Tower, life vibrates from little cafes and restaurants (from fancy to quirky), public art and wide diversity found in few European cities. Show us you love our city as much as we do, and you may even walk away thinking Parisians are actually nice.

Read the full guide by Jennifer Padjemi.

Eat: Du Pain et des Idées

We could save you some reading and simply say that many Parisians regard this little bakery near Place de la République, one of the central meeting points of Paris, as the best in the world. It’s esteemed especially for its range of options. Located in a traditional Haussmannian building, it has a facade that recalls typical bakeries of the 1910s. Inside, you’ll find gilded mirrors and an ornate painted ceiling above the stacks of bread and pastries.

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The Palais de Tokyo is the most contemporary museum you can find in Paris. Having originated as a simple museum of modern art, it quickly morphed into a multidisciplinary space, hosting conceptual exhibitions, fashion shows and cultural events. Within its enormous complex, it invites visitors to connect with art playfully and learn about the artists.

New Orleans is a city built on joie de vivre. Excess is the order of the day, whether you’re a first-timer hunting for cheap beads and bad booze on Bourbon Street or a lifer deciding what to order on your po’ boy. Everyone’s mom or grandma makes the best gumbo, and — yes — they do want to talk about it. Food is synonymous with identity here, one that all New Orleanians hold equally regardless of race or class. Art is everywhere — even on the water-meter covers. There are at least as many ways to experience New Orleans as there are people who have contributed to its revered culture.

Read the full guide by Stephanie Carter.

A dozen long years after Hurricane Katrina forced it to shut down, this beloved family-owned restaurant made a triumphant return in 2017. Gabrielle enjoys a loyal following because it embodies the ideals of New Orleans hospitality: pitch-perfect service and a gracious attitude that seems effortless. The fan-favorite slow-roasted duck sits on a bed of duck dirty rice with a crispy duck cracklin’ as a crown.

Tremé is the oldest African American neighborhood in the United States, home to the Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts and Congo Square, where jazz developed. The legacy lives on in high-energy, no-frills music venues. Kermit’s Tremé Mother-in-Law Lounge, the funky, color-soaked club where musician Kermit Ruffins himself can often be found tending the barbecue on the back patio, is an excellent spot to catch live, local music.

One of the largest urban centers in the world, Mexico City overflows with life, traffic and great food; you can find street vendors and fine dining on the same block. There’s always something happening, a new restaurant to try, a new museum or art exhibit, a concert from artists who travel from around the globe.

Residents are known as “chilangos,” and while the roots of that nickname have been scrutinized, many of us carry it with pride. It’s like a badge that means we can endure anything. We take long drives to work, eat quick lunches and stretch out long chats with post-meal coffee and desserts. At this sobremesa, or roundtable, there is always room for a carajillo, a coffee spiked with sweet liqueur.

Read the full guide by Issa Plancarte.

In the world of tacos, Mexico City is best known for suadero: brisket slowly stewed in a pot full of meats. A suadero taco is the go-to at this little window downtown, and the best way to enjoy it is with a dash of lime, cilantro, onion and salsa. Be sure to try some other delicacies such as longaniza (sausage) and lengua (beef tongue).

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When the Mexicas ruled 500 years ago, Mexico City was like Venice. The city was built in the middle of a lake, so people used to travel by boats in canals. You can still get a glimpse of this lifestyle in the Xochimilco neighborhood. Arca Tierra is a project devoted to rescue this model of agriculture, and its weekly experiences bring on some of Mexico’s most recognized chefs.

Rome is beautiful chaos and contradictions, and this should absolutely be expected from a city whose thousands of years of history and personalities have formed its pulsating present. There is no patience, and there shouldn’t be. This is Rome, where anything goes. The energy can be overwhelming. Keep walking around; eventually, you’ll realize that Rome is not quite as big as you thought — geographically and socially. Everyone knows everyone. If you visit the same places and piazzas a few times, you’ll find that they know you, too.

Read the full guide by Erica Firpo.

The supplì — a deep-fried rice ball in ragù with a piece of melted mozzarella in the center — is a beloved Roman delicacy. For nearly 50 years, Suppli in the Trastevere neighborhood has been the spot for supplì and pizza al taglio. Fresh out of the oven and crunchy, you eat them streetside, no questions asked.

An ancient pastry is having a rebirth in Rome. These are all the ways to eat it when you’re there.

Do: Bike the Appia Antica

Loving Rome means getting out of the city, so we’re lucky the Romans built amazing streets crossing the country. The oldest and longest is the Via Appia Antica, and you need to travel only a tiny stretch to feel like you’re in the country. The ride is lined with ancient monuments, tombs and Roman pines along fields of green. Expect to pass flocks of meandering sheep.

To know Washington is to peel back its suit: The briefcases and blazers the rest of the world sees are just covers for a vibrant, creative community. Whether it’s the food scene — one of the country’s best — or the murals tucked away in historic alleys, the city D.C. residents know is quirky — and inspiring.

After you sit in on a Supreme Court hearing, you can explore an eccentric mansion with more than 70 hidden doors. Once you are done reading the oldest book in the Library of Congress, you can take a wine tour through a haunted cemetery. There is kayaking, urban hiking, rare-book hunting, brunching and rich history beyond the white buildings.

Read the full guide by Austin Graff.

Daru, a corner restaurant with a growing list of accolades, is just a right turn away from restaurant-lined H Street NE. Chef Suresh Sundas fills his Indian menu with playful twists, such as a dal makhani burrata, blue-cheese-marinated chicken kebabs or za’atar olive naan. The creativity of the cocktails matches the food: Bartenders mix drinks with toasted coconut, green papaya and masala chai.

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Do: Congressional Cemetery

Congressional Cemetery has been dubbed “the hippest cemetery in America,” and it lives up to the title. Located in Hill East, it was America’s first national cemetery, established in 1807, with several VIP eternal residents, including former D.C. mayor Marion Barry and several congressmen. Once in disarray, the cemetery started promoting itself as a dog park and charged people for it. Beyond hosting the city’s pets, the cemetery has tours with wine, horror-novel book clubs, yoga and free live music on Sundays in the chapel.

Why we love a good cemetery

Change is inevitable in any city, but in Austin, it’s a particularly sensitive subject. New high-rises crowd the skyline, old music venues have shut down, and the sidewalks are clogged with scooters. But it’s not all changing. While Austin’s restaurant scene has blossomed and its reputation as a high-tech hub has grown, the city has retained a lot of its laid-back, slacker vibe. It’s still a university and state-government town with idealists and budding artists trying to make their marks alongside Bitcoin-mining start-up CEOs.

Read the full guide by Omar L. Gallaga.

The middle of Texas is not where you’d expect to find one of the finest bowls of ramen, but Ramen Tatsu-Ya has overperformed for years, outgrowing its North Austin strip mall beginnings and expanding into three locations. The restaurant has spawned several great offshoots, including Dip Dip Dip Tatsu-Ya (hot pot restaurant), Tiki Tatsu-Ya (tiki bar/restaurant) and Kemuri Tatsu-Ya (smokehouse with shareable plates).

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Do: Hamilton Pool Preserve

Less than an hour’s drive from downtown, this gorgeous swimming hole lies beyond a quarter-mile hike. Just off the Pedernales River, it includes a pool and grotto alongside a 50-foot waterfall. You’ll want to take plenty of photos, and you’ll want to plan ahead; online park reservations fill up quickly and are required from March to October.

Tokyo is such a sprawling metropolis that even lifelong residents will never really know certain neighborhoods. There is always something to uncover or a new area to explore. Here, it’s easy to eat like an emperor, even on a budget. There is respect for others, which explains why packed trains are quiet. The city is devoid of litter despite the relatively few trash cans. The attention to detail is evident across the landscape, from how stores present items for sale to how food is packaged. It’s a peaceful society. Our transit-system cars are clean and frequent. And we have the best toilets in the world. It all makes visitors fall hard for Japan.

Read the full guide by Yukari Sakamoto.

Handmade flour noodles are cut in the front window of Taniya, whose udon noodles have a rich, al dente texture. Aficionados will tell you they prefer the cold noodles over hot. Be sure to order some tempura with your noodles, such as Kashiwa-ten chicken, soft-boiled egg, lotus root or a minty shiso leaf. The owner, Tani-san, is from Kagawa prefecture, famous for its udon.

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Our island nation is home to active volcanoes, so the country is blessed with many onsen — hot springs — used for relaxing and health. If your travels outside of Tokyo don’t take you near an onsen destination, then be sure to hit up one in or near the city: Niwa no Yu, in the suburbs, is the perfect choice. Sourced by an all-natural spring, this one has a variety of water features and saunas, an outdoor bath, a bar and a Japanese restaurant. You could park yourself here for an entire half-day.

With Copenhagen’s ample green spaces, an inner-city harbor clean enough that anyone can — and does — swim in it, and laws that require all housing to be within 500 meters of public transportation, it’s a city that takes its citizens’ well-being seriously. But so, it seems, does everyone else: Cafes brighten the long winter nights with candlelight; the summer is full of outdoor dance classes, movie screenings and music festivals; and bars and cinemas hold “baby and me” happy hours, during which parents park their prams and their infants outside. And as Copenhagen consolidates its leadership in fields like cuisine, design and sustainability, it’s also becoming a more diverse and interesting place.

Read the full guide by Lisa Abend.

The project of Emil Glaser — a former chef at Noma and Amass — Juno opened in 2018 and quickly began attracting crowds. Juno’s sourdough loaves, made from a blend of Danish and Swedish flours, are visually striking (topped with pumpkin seeds, or in the case of the Morning Bread, shaped in a rectangular mold that makes it perfect for sandwiches). And its seasonal cakes — from a very French pistachio frangipane tart to a fluffy Swedish semla, filled with fresh raspberries and cream — are swoon-inducing.

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Cycling is, of course, the best way to get around the city, but it also allows you to explore a little farther afield. A 10-mile ride up the coast to Dyrehaven will take you past the stately mansions of Hellerup, the swimming docks and beach at Bellevue, and an Arne Jacobsen-designed gas station that also functions as an ice cream parlor. And Dyrehaven itself makes an excellent destination: The former royal hunting grounds is today a sprawling reserve punctuated with forests, fields and a herd of wild deer. At its edge sits the charming Bakken, Europe’s oldest amusement park still in operation.

Wander the streets, people-watch from a cafe or spend the evening in Dublin’s old pubs, and soon you’ll understand its essence. This is a city where you’ll find excellent live music — even on the streets, in atmospheric pubs and in innovative restaurants serving Irish produce with a clever twist. You can tour old castles and cathedrals, visit art museums and theaters, see street art or read local writers. Shoppers will find the latest fashions alongside antiques and vintage clothes that are hundreds of years old. Best of all, you can just relax, make new friends and find your own favorite haunts in this small but vibrant Irish city.

Read the full guide by Yvonne Gordon.

This Dublin favorite, with bare wood floors and tables and bookcases in the corners, is full of character. Each of the restaurant’s two levels (reached by stairs, of course) has some of the best views in Dublin: The huge windows look over the River Liffey and the Ha’penny Bridge. The menu changes seasonally, but favorites that remain year-round include cockles and mussels and smoked poached haddock. After lunch, browse the great collection of Irish titles (new and secondhand) in the Winding Stair bookshop on the ground level.

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Dublin has some pubs that are hundreds of years old (one dates back to 1198), but our favorites are those from Victorian times in the 1800s, with lots of wood, glass, mirrors and snugs (small rooms beside the bar, from the times when women weren’t allowed at the main bar). The Swan Bar on Aungier Street first opened in 1661; its wooden interior dates from 1897. The pub is in the center of the city but a little off the main tourist track. Grab a stool at the counter and listen to the locals while you watch your Guinness being poured.

Sydney is the emerald jewel in the crown of Oz, a sparkling, seaside city that works hard and plays harder. It’s in a period of substantial growth, with commercial and residential development battling with the cultural and historical backbone of a city known globally for its art, design, food, flair and beaches. Despite the rising cost of living, Sydney — home of the Indigenous Eora nation — is exceedingly accessible: botanical gardens, cliffside walks and white-sand beaches are open year-round. We sometimes forget that we live in a place that celebrates social diversity, good food, coastal swells and pub culture with almost the same reverence.

Read the full guide by Riley Wilson.

This spot is a stalwart for sailors (the navy base is next door), theater patrons and locals alike. It’s the site of the original Harry’s pie caravan, which Harry Edwards opened in 1938 before heading to war. He reopened it in 1945, and it has been continuously running since. These days, the pies are a little pricier, but the peas are still mushy, and the gravy is still hot.

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Most visitors make a beeline for Bondi and the photogenic Icebergs Pool. Check out Bronte instead, two beaches south. A park next to the beach has picnic tables, and there’s a free-to-use ocean pool at the right of the beach. When you’re done in the suds, or before you even make your way to the sand, stop in at the Bogey Hole Cafe. Locally famous Iggy’s Bread is used in the sandwiches, and the mango-and-banana smoothies are thick and tangy.