Try Booking.com’s Alternative ‘First Time’ Cities
Whether travelling for the first time ever, the first time to a particular destination, as a particular type of traveller or in a particular type of accommodation, everyone remembers their ‘First Time’ on a significant trip. When it comes to planning the next one, we all want to capture the excitement that comes from the novel and fresh. If you’re on the lookout for a brand new travel experience in 2017, let Booking.com inspire you with some great recommendations when it comes to first time travel.
Having curated a bespoke list of 20 popular cities worldwide, the global leader in connecting travellers with the widest choice of diverse places to stay, gives you a compelling alternative for each, using its unique traveller endorsement data. Favourite destinations around the world are matched with lesser known places that offer an equally awesome experience when it comes to culture, food, nightlife and attractions - perfect for those looking to explore somewhere a little different for the first time. 
Take a look through the guides below to find your perfect first time trip!
If you like:
Quebec City, Canada
San Sebastian, Spain
 Compiled by Booking.com January 2017 by comparing each focus city to other destinations of the same size to find out which endorsement categories that city excelled at relative to the competition. This resulted in a list of stand-out categories for each city, which was then matched to other, lesser-known destinations around the world.
- Landscape: Paris is a one stop shop for iconic cityscapes that blends old and new. To explore the best of what Paris has to offer, start with the unforgettable Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame Cathedral and the Champs-Elysees – before sauntering down the lamplit streets, parks and terraces.
- Culture: The city is prized for its art scene in particular. It’s hard to beat the cherished Louvre or Musee d’Orsay if modern impressionism is more your style. If you’re after something a bit more glamorous, sample the city’s impressive fashion credentials via its huge department stores, vintage shops, flea markets and haute couture houses. Not to mention a wealth of opera, theatre, music festivals on offer throughout the year.
- Points of interest: The capital’s landscape is remarkable from the outside but make sure you go inside to really soak up the city – whether it’s venturing up the Eiffel Tower for the views, taking a tour around the Notre Dame cathedral, getting lost in the Louvre, travelling down the Seine River or visiting the beautiful Luxembourg Gardens.
- Food: ‘Cuisine’ is French for ‘kitchen’ and it’s fair to say the foodie reputation in Paris is first rate. From small bakeries to Michelin starred offerings, it has the best of what France has to offer. Most famous for its patisseries, bakeries, chocolatiers and cheese shops – nothing beats a fresh Parisian croissant and fresh baguette covered in butter.
- Nightlife: The city is definitely not all can-can girls and Moulin Rouge – there are a variety of evening activities, ranging from dance clubs, grand hotel bars, outside terrace tables perfect for people watching to chic wine bars and casual late night dining joints.
- Did you know? If you’re in the city with friends in summer, grab a bottle of wine, a fresh baguette and some cheese and join the hordes of local Parisians on the Seine quays.
- Landscape: Quebec, although small, is well known for its varied and picturesque cityscape. Its beautiful old town is an UNESCO World Heritage site - filled with cobbled streets, 17th and 18th century houses, churches, squares and the beautiful Chateau Frontenac on top of the hill - the city’s most visited attraction.
- Culture: The city is mainly split between the Old Town and Old Lower Town, but there is more to explore outside the historic town gates. There you can reach Port St-Louis and Porte St-Jean and sample even more wonderful restaurants, shopping and nightlife. Think antique stores, cosy bistros and world-class theatres. Not forgetting Quebec’s famous outdoor festivals that celebrate music, history and the winter season.
- Points of interest: Take a boat tour on the Saint Lawrence River to see the city in all its glory or walk down the Chateau Frontenac promenade to explore Quebec’s battlefield remnants and gain an appreciation of its rich military history.
- Food: The city has a dynamic and evolving food scene – famous for its gourmet coffee, meat pies and young raw milk cheese, you can sample pretty much anything at the local markets. Don’t forget to visit the stunning Chateau Frontenac for afternoon tea and sample the city dish of ‘poutine’ (pile of fries, gravy and cheese curd) – it’s a local delicacy.
- Nightlife: There are various nightlife options to sample after dark. Ranging from art galleries with bars included, microbreweries, karaoke and even bars featuring church pews. The main area to head to is the Grande-Allee which contains the majority of the best restaurants, bars and even clubs situated in gutted Victoria style mansions.
- Did you know? The imposing Morrin Centre, a former prison, now serves as Quebec’s only English-language library and well worth a visit to see its neatly lined book shelves and the balcony where prisoners were once hanged.
- Landscape: London provides one of the world’s most iconic cityscapes. From Big Ben, the Shard, St Pauls and London Eye, to the murky Thames, historic Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey and the formidable Tower of London. Walk through impressive streets lined with white town houses in Mayfair, or dive into the densely packed Covent Garden and China Town for shopping, food and vibrant atmosphere.
- Culture: The city is a mix of world class art galleries and museums, coupled with beautiful green spaces and a booming food and drink industry. It’s also very much a diverse, multicultural city renowned for its theatre in the West End and music – from underground indie gigs to opera and ballet. It is also very proud of its festivals – from the world famous afro-Caribbean Notting Hill Carnival – to chocolate, coffee and beer.
- Points of interest: The London Eye is a great way to sample the sights from above or take a bus tour to see up close. The Tower of London is a brilliant journey through time and don’t forget to visit Buckingham Palace or walk inside stunning Westminster Abbey for a royal flavour of the city. Hit the shopping streets on Regent Street if you don’t mind crowds and for families – head to the Kensington museum district for the Science Museum, Natural History Museum and the V&A.
- Food: London has long had a reputation as a food capital and offers variety in bucket loads – from decadent brunches, gourmet coffee, tapas, French, Chinese to Sunday roast pub lunches, first rate burgers and steak houses. Why not head to Borough or Maltby Street market for delicious fresh produce as well?
- Nightlife: Don’t miss the huge variety of shows in the West End district, the Covent Garden Opera House or the Albert Hall. Or visit the hundreds of oldie worldly pubs and bars dotted around the entire city. Music venues are also huge – from jazz, blues, or trendier Shoreditch for pop bars, gin tastings and craft beer by the bucket load.
- Did you know? The Dukes Bar in Mayfair is internationally renowned for its famous martinis and personalised cocktails. But did you also know that is was regularly frequented by James Bond author Ian Fleming and is said to be the inspiration for the classic line, 'shaken, not stirred'.
- Landscape: Laying on the shores of the Puget Sound with Mount Rainier towering in the background, Seattle’s landscape is made up of smaller cities, each with its very own charming landscape.
- Culture: It has a growing population that’s well educated, tech-savvy and the most literate city in the US. Seattle is the birthplace to Starbucks coffee but its independent coffee shops are well worth a visit. Music is also massive – there is a natural bias towards Jimi Hendrix but let’s not forget Pearl Jam, Kurt Cobain and its emerging hip hop scene.
- Points of interest: Head to the Pike Place Market on the waterside for a great foodie spot. Then visit the top of the Space Needle for iconic views of the city or embrace a bit of musical history with the Museum of Pop Culture.
- Food: There is a big variety of coffee shops, microbreweries and craft cider shops on offer – as well as huge number of delicious eateries. Fresh produce is everywhere, as are experimental first rate restaurants – seafood is a huge focus and the city is well known for fried oysters, clam chowder and salmon.
- Nightlife: There are plenty of dance clubs and bars and the Capitol Hill and Belltown neighbourhoods are where you’ll find it. From live theatre and jazz clubs, to craft cocktail bars.
- Did you know? Locals and visitors in Seattle have been sticking colourful pieces of gum onto the same wall since the early 1990s. Aptly named The Gum Wall, it’s now grown in size right along Post Alley and continues to spread. It’s a unique, bizarre and colourful must see.
- Landscape: Shanghai is home to the world’s second tallest tower and skyscrapers dominate the landscape. But that doesn’t take away from the beautiful old town, featuring art deco buildings, temples and cathedrals.
- Culture: Confident and colourful - you can enjoy anything from the latest fashion and foodie trends. It’s east meets west in China and offers a unique blend of Chinese tradition and western culture.
- Points of interest: The shopping in Shanghai is fantastic and there are a lot of markets, vintage shops and high end couture along the Bund. Sample one of the many art galleries, visit an acrobatic spectacle or take a night-time river cruise - a great way of sampling the colourful city scape Shanghai has to offer. Don’t miss one of the many ancient temples, old town markets, the Yuyuan Gardens and Bazaar, filled with rockeries and pavilions.
- Food: Shanghai’s food is diverse as it is delicious and the city has its very own Michelin dining guide. There is a lot of freshwater oily fish, steamed crab, lobster on offer, as well as peppered duck and lots of sugar! But get out into the streets for delicious steamed dumplings, pork buns, rich soups, fritters, pancakes and eel noodles.
- Nightlife: Shanghai’s nightlife has boomed in recent years – there are many bars open until sunrise, including underground dance clubs, sports bars and live jazz bands. It’s mainly concentrated around the Bund, which also features theatres for opera, dance, drama and even puppet shows.
- Did you know? To get the best view of the city, visit the Vue Bar in Hyatt on the Bund for a relaxing drink or a dip in the bar’s swimming pool.
- Landscape: Mumbai has a bustling mix of gothic, Victorian, art deco and contemporary landscape to soak in. It’s a city embracing energy and discovery. Where else can you find a tropical forest next to an urban metropolis?
- Culture: The city is the centre of India’s film industry and is a vibrant mix of working class and millionaires. It is also the country’s financial heart and at the centre of fashion – its fast paced and busy, with tradition at its heart.
- Points of interest: Arriving to Mumbai via the stunning Gothic train station is an experience in itself. Then there is the striking Iskcon Hindu Temple, the renowned walled Hanging Gardens or head north to the Elephanta Island, a World Heritage Site, for a labyrinth of cave temples, ancient ruins and Hindu carvings that date back to the 5th century.
- Food: The street food in Mumbai is impressive – it’s part of everyday life and considered just as good as the restaurants. There are numerous local delicacies but try to sample the pav bhaji’s, kebabs, potato patties and bhel puri – delicious puffed rice and vegetable snacks.
- Nightlife: The hectic buzz of the day makes way for fun, dance and food by night and there is an array of fun bars or romantic meals out to choose from. There’s a flourishing LGTB scene, as well as live music and late night foodie destinations.
- Did you know? For a real taste of authentic Mumbai food, try Swati Snacks in the Tardeo district for traditional specialities.
- Landscape: Think beautiful long beaches, tropical landscapes with forested mountains and smaller islands dotted around the coastline. The cinematic landscape is dominated by various iconic landmarks such as world famous Corcovado Mountain and Christ the Redeemer Statue, Sugarloaf Mountain and Ipanema beach.
- Culture: Music is at the heart of Rio, dominated by the samba and celebrated via the city’s Carnival Samba Parade holiday in February. Overall, it’s a vibrant city, filled with cinema, theatre, dance and strong traditional family values.
- Points of interest: You can’t miss Ipanema Beach for a spot of football, volleyball, surfing or people watching. Providing it’s not too hot, take a hike through the rainforest, rent a sail boat or take advantage of the various rock climbing activities on offer. After all that activity, take a relaxed walk around the Botanical Gardens or a cog train to visit the Christ the Redeemer Statue.
- Food: Brazilian food is vibrant, meaty and delicious. It has a BBQ focus, as well as stews – the most famous being the ‘feijoada’ stew - beef gravy, with potatoes, pork cracking, kale and orange. Street food is also huge so be sure to make a visit to local street vendors for pastries or ‘pastels’ and pancakes.
- Nightlife: Head to the Lapa district if you’re after some authentic samba, live music destinations and all night parties. But if dancing isn’t your thing, then the Flying Circus provides a brilliant music venue for emerging bands, or sample the variety of bars filled with cooling beers and refreshing ‘caipirinhas’.
- Did you know? Why not take the kids to the newly open AquaRio, the largest aquarium in all of Latin America.
- Landscape: San Sebastian is a charismatic Spanish city with stunning beaches and gothic style basilica’s, squares and castles wherever you look.
- Culture: The city houses a mix of the old town - filled with bars and charming places to stay - together with the shopping filled Area Romantica, the more relaxed Gros with its beach - perfect for surfing – or the more up market area surrounding the half-moon shaped Ondarreta Beach.
- Points of Interest: The Playa de la Concha beach is striking and filled with beautiful people. The Parque de Cristina Enea is another picturesque must visit, as is a walk to the Monte Urgull castle for stunning views across the city. For when the sun gets too hot, there is a brilliant aquarium and a variety of art museums to keep the whole family entertained.
- Food: Tapas culture is big and San Sebastian has the Michelin stars to match – it regularly tops the list of best places to eat in the world and is a real foodie destination. The quality of the food is excellent, whether dining at the best restaurants or smaller pintxos bars. It’s safe to say that San Sebastian is a food lover’s dream – try its many delicacies for an authentic flavour, including aged beef, superb bean dishes, tortillas, salted cod and baked egg custard.
- Nightlife: San Sebastian houses a lively but fairly small bar scene with a mix of traditional wine bars, small music clubs and chic modern bars in the old town, versus the slightly more relaxed area of Gros. There’s something for everyone - including a casino for those not ready to call it a night.
- Did you know? The city offers over 30km of cycle paths, known locally as ‘bidegorris’, which can conveniently take you around the entire city centre, promenades and surrounding areas.
- Landscape: Pioneering landscape swarms in Berlin and as it suffered a lot of destruction during the Second World War, post war design dominates today’s landscape. Its TV tower, standing at over 1,000 feet is unmissable – nestled amongst gardens, palaces, bridges, a beautiful cathedral and, of course, the Berlin Wall Memorial.
- Culture: There’s a sense of excitement in this hipster city – it’s busy, and there’s always something to see, do and talk about. It offers great transport, a relaxed café culture, a booming tech industry that houses hundreds of start-up businesses and top performers as part of its inhabitants.
- Points of interest: The Berlin Wall Memorial is a must visit way to find out more about the city’s history, while the Brandenburger Tor monument is one of Germany’s most visited landmarks. For something a little more musical, Berlin’s philharmonic orchestra is one of the best in the world and performs regularly in the city. The city also has a huge variety of markets and microbreweries for foodies.
- Food: Perhaps most famous for its ‘currywurst’ – a hot sliced sausage with ketchup, curry powder and chips - you also can’t leave Berlin without trying its schnitzel, pretzels or steins of beer of course. Another local delicacy – believe it or not – is pork knuckle, where it’s boiled for several hours in sauerkraut and served with potatoes.
- Nightlife: Well known as a party city, Berlin has everything from tech-house edgy clubs, to cocktail bars, opera and underground pubs. Head to the east side for the best partying areas but be prepared for a late night. Most clubs don’t get going till one am so why not start in the Kastanienallee area for great restaurants and good bars.
- Did you know? If you’re out and about on a Saturday night, try House Of Weekend – a rooftop bar with great views and local hotspot.
- Landscape: Resolute and urban probably best describe Belgrade. Whilst it has its green spaces with its parks, tower blocks and concrete dominate its gritty but still charming cityscape.
- Culture: The city has a thriving café culture, great food and lively nightlife. All come at great prices too, making Belgrade a fun, wallet friendly, must-visit city.
- Points of interest: The Belgrade fortress in the city’s Upper Town is beautiful and has a great restaurant and park within, or why not go for a bit of shopping through Knez Mihailova. The Tower of Sibinjanin Janko offers brilliant views, while the Museum of Fugoslav History has an unrivalled collection of historical artefacts, with free tours at the weekend.
- Food: Expect lots of meat, potatoes and vegetables at great prices. It’s most typical dish is a meat patty, usually made from ground lamb, pork, beef and onion. Kebab like dishes are also popular, as is rolled veal stuffed with bacon – or try ‘sarma’, stuffed cabbage with minced beef with rice.
- Nightlife: Belgrade has grown a thriving nightlife in recent years, with a focus on the DJ scene and underground clubs. Locals are big on cabaret nights and casinos. Don’t miss one of the quirky bars situated on river barges.
- Did you know? Belgrade has a huge number of mysterious underground tunnels, galleries and caves all over the city that house remains of previous civilisations. Book on a tour to get a real taste of the city’s history.