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Sightseeing in big cities


Sightseeing in big citiesWhen you are traveling to big famous cities, they are usually full of breathtaking sights and fun things to see and do. Therefore you might face a difficult decision on how to do the sightseeing in big cities right. What to see and how do you make sure that you don’t miss anything cool and extremely worth seeing?

One way is to read countless “Top 10 things to do in this or that city” articles and choose on your route of sights based on other people’s taste in eye-candy that each city or country offers. And this is not a bad way.

However, these suggestions can often be exhausting to research, they can also be quite pricey so there’s actually another solid way – come up with your perfect sights map all by yourself with a little help and ideas from already organized hop on hop off bus tours and city walking tours.

For my trips I’m usually using the second way because that way I’m sure that I will be interested in all the objects, they will fit my price expectations and I will be sure that I have picked the best for my personal taste. But how to know if I’m not missing something important?

Should I go on a hop on hop off bus tour?

My formula is like this. The first day when I get to a new big city, I like to understand what’s there to see and how interested would I be in each of those places. Here comes in handy the hop on hop bus tour that most of the big cities have. It’s a good opportunity to save some money on transport as in this case you pay only once but can ride the whole day on even two, depending on the offer.

You get a very useful map with a route and stops, so you can take a bus and get out at any stop, explore the object and get back on the bus later to continue to the next one. So this is a good option not only to see the famous objects but also to see the city in general.

When is it best to take hop on hop off bus tour?

I usually like to take hop on hop off bus tour on the first days on the trip just to get the feeling where all the objects are located, to browse around the different areas of the city. From that you can understand where you would like to come back later to see more.

Also, you get understanding how to navigate yourself in different areas of the city and see the real distances between different objects. Quite often what looks near by on the map is actually extremely far in real life and sometimes you might get lost finding it. That can take a lot of your energy and time.

These bus trips work especially great in order to later be able to find special places that are not in popular tour guides but are interesting just for you. You can spot all kinds of cool cafes, shops, amazing architecture or just a nice little street driving through the city with a bus. Mark it on the map and you have a place where you’ll come back tomorrow to wander around.

What kind of routes hop on hop off bus usually offers?

It depends on the city though. In some, you can manage to get out at each stop and explore famous tourist objects all on the same day.  That way you’ll be leaving other days for a different kind of wandering around the city.

In these kinds of cities, the bus trips without getting out of the bus take about 2-3 hours. So if you start in the morning you can get through all the objects in one day. I have done this kind of day trips with London hop on hop off bus tour. Also in such cities like Havana, Rome, Barcelona, Athens, and Los Angeles. In all cases, it gave a good overview of the city in one day. I was sure I have seen all the important famous stuff.

By the way, they also gave good deals for two-day tours. Whatever seems like a better fit for you. After the tour, all the remaining time was up to me doing some soul-searching over the next days. We went wandering through the areas that I noticed on the first day.

There are bigger cities with much longer routes. There it’s quite difficult managing to see all areas and get out at every stop even within 2 days. LA is a good example of this. They have about 4-5 routes of different areas. The total time to go on all routes would take about 8 – 10 hours.

In this case, it’s good to take at least part of the tour. This way you have briefly seen all the areas and understanding where you’d like to come back the next days. This is exactly what we did in our LA trip. We are super-happy we took the tour just for the sake of understanding where everything is located. We good a good understanding which places are worth exploring more.

Sometimes people think that it’s not worth to spend money on these touristic bus trips. So I will list some pros and cons for you to understand gains and losses from this experience:

Pros of taking city tour:

You have definitely seen most famous sights and objects;
Great overview of the main sights and objects and distances between them;
A convenient way to understand where everything is located and where do you want to come back;
You get a very functional city map with all the important areas and sights marked;
You are in comfort on the bus and doesn’t have to worry about running around by yourself and looking for things to see.

Cons of taking city tour:

Costs money;
Takes  you only to touristic places;
Doesn’t give you a sense of uniqueness…
but you can find that for yourself later after you know where everything is located.

Another great way, I would even rate it as the best one, is to have somebody local to show you around. However, that is not always possible. So from my experience hop on hop off bus trips are always a great point how to start.



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  1. The Big City Tour and hop on hop off bus is basically now everywhere as I can see in many (almost all) European and US cities, I tried that in downtown Miami and it was fun passing through SoBe. @knycx.journeying

  2. The hop on hop off buses are cool. They are great use of transportation from one area to another. Also a great way to get a sense and layout of the city.

  3. Great points about leaving time in your schedule to explore the city once you got your bearing and to try a city tour first. If you have the budget, in either days or dollars, they can really help you get the most out of your stay.

  4. We love taking those double decker bus tours when we first arrive in a city because, like you, we get a sense of where we want to come back and spend more time ourselves. You also see how far things are from each other so you can make a plan. These are all great tips.

  5. When I have a short time to visit big cities I do the same tings! I belive that you can see the main things this way you dont miss out!

  6. Great post, full of useful advice! I was looking for a post like this because on a couple months I’m going to Europe and I’m going to visit several Cities, so I need advice on how to make the most of my stay. Particularly loved the tips on searching blog posts for the top 10 places to visit and taking the city tour the first day!