It can be extremely overwhelming when you first arrive in your new city, especially if you’ve never visited before. Zaragoza, where I am, is a mid sized city in terms of population but is geographically pretty large. I needed to figure out ways to make a big city seem smaller and more convenient. Here are my tips for the first things you should find when you are in a new city.
- Transport hubs and maps – First thing is to figure out what kind of city you are in. Do they favor tram, metro or bus. Then you want to find the closest stops to you. There is probably an app that has everything consolidated into one succinct interface. I use the Zaragoza transport app all the time. It has tons of bugs but I can always find a nearby bus stop. You’ll also want to pretty much immediately figure out how to get a multi-use card as they almost universally are cheaper than paying for each trip. I don’t recommend getting an unlimited card at first in a mid-sized city for a number of reasons – the most important of which being that it is also extremely useful to get your bearings by walking before relying on transport.
- A market open 7 days a week – This is obviously specifically for people relocating to Europe. Even in major cities, some of the biggest chain stores might be closed outside of the center of the city. It’s extremely helpful to know where you can grab essentials like eggs, milk and basic vegetables on a Sunday. I always have the best intentions of shopping on Saturday. I never do. Luckily, there’s a small market down the street from my house. It doesn’t have the best produce but it has all the other essentials I might need to get ready for the week.
- A restaurant which has your favorite food – Whether you are craving pizza or a really good sandwich or Indian food – try to find a restaurant that has something comparable in your new town. Comfort food sometimes is the only thing that can calm me down and make me feel at home. For me, it’s pizza. I have a favorite pizza spot here in Zaragoza and also in Madrid (since I’m always there for some reason). My favorite pizza place in Barcelona recently shut down – open to suggestions 🙂
- A bar or cafe that you can comfortably spend time in – For me, this place needs decent wifi, beer or coffee and nice places to sit and read or write. Currently, I’ve been doing the extremely annoying American thing of going to Starbucks. If I’m honest – I really like all the people who work here. They always treat me very kindly and often give me tips about the city. There’s also a bar under my apartment which has a number of pool tables – another great (albeit dangerous) place to spend my down time.
- An Expat Facebook/Meetup Group that you could explore – I joined the Erasmus group as well as a female expat network on Facebook. If I’m honest, I’m too old for the Erasmus group BUT they do point me in the direction of good bars, restaurants and things to do. It’s also a good place to look for housing. I’m a bit of a solitary person so these groups don’t always work for making friends for me but there are many, many people who they are an amazing tool for.
- The biggest attractions – You should be able to find these places on a map and by public transport. There’s a few reasons I suggest doing this. First, they can be great navigational tools. Secondly, they are clear and easy meet up places. Finally, you can little by little start to visit and spend time in them. I’ve been in Zaragoza almost 7 months and I still haven’t gone inside one of the major churches or the Roman theatre. I know exactly where they are! An added bonus is that if you have people visit, you can give them advice on which ones to go to and how to find them if you have a working knowledge of the biggest things.