Top 5 Local Must-Do’s in 5 Iconic cities

Photo by Jaanus Jagomägi on Unsplash

Have you ever visited a city and wondered what it would be like to live like a local? Shop like a local? Spend an afternoon like a local? Wakeup on a Monday and go to work, like a local? Sure we can all stay in an AirBnB and pretend we live in city. Buy groceries from a supermarket and eat in (Heck, I’m a local in my own city and I don’t even do this as much). Some even go as far as to speak the local tongue.

But until you are living in a city for a few weeks solid, can you really navigate during rush hour? Or determine which train to take if one is on the fritz or even know where to go where to mail things using coins (gasp!) as payment? Those gems of knowledge often reserved for the well-informed locals. Not for tourists.

Welcome to the first ever InterContinental ICons.These lists were devised to inform travellers what the most iconic sights, sounds, smells and sensations should be experienced in 2020 if they want to really get to know the city they are visiting. Travel experiences on the list were voted by over 7,000 global respondents and then ranked by a panel of leading travel experts. 75% of the global travelers surveyed – felt that when they travel, they wished they could experience each city like a well-informed local. To aid with the interest, InterContinental ICons offers guests with the opportunity to book activities curated from local knowledge in each city – a truly immersive and unique experience.

Below, I’ve picked a few of my favourite cities from around the world and their ICons list to share with you.

New York

Photo credit: Maurizio De Mattei (

It’s still a special city – no matter how many times I visit. It’s definitely a place where anything can happen. I’ve been in all seasons, from freezing wind tunnel to watching the ball drop on NYE live in Times Square (don’t do it!) to the summer time humid heat rooftop bar-hopping (remember to wear mosquito repellent). No matter what the season, my favourite thing to do is taking a stroll on the streets to explore the city – there is always something going on. Then again, there is something magical about walking out of building, holding up your hand and effortlessly hailing a cab.

New York ICon List:

  1. Fresh bagels at a West Village bagel shop
  2. Sipping craft cocktails in a bar in an up-and-coming neighbourhood in Brooklyn
  3. The sharp blue sky against the striking architecture of the city skyline seen from the Hudson River ferries
  4. Soaking up the sunshine on a lunchtime picnic in Central Park
  5. The astonishing luminosity as you stand on the concourse of the Oculus

Mexico City

Photo credit: InterContinental Hotels & Resorts

This was my last trip of 2019 (certainly not my last to Mexico City). While I had ventured on either coast, I soon realized that this was the real Mexico.  And the food – all I wanted was tacos and churros! We found the best ones while waiting in line at Casa Azul. From the many markets, to the museums and the Mezcal (Of course!) – Mexico City is a must see.

Mexico City ICon List:

  1. The smoky flavour of tacos al pastor
  2. The scent of Mezcal just before taking the first sip
  3. The surprising downtown museums, like the Palacio de Bellas Artes with its Diego Rivera paintings
  4. The contrast of buildings in Zocala, from the plaza and National Palace to the Templo Mayor ruins
  5. The view of Paseo de la Reforma in the early morning


Photo credit: InterContinental Hotels & Resorts

During my first time in Paris, we stayed at a hotel very close to the Eiffel Tower. There was a heat wave, Tour de France ended and France was in the finals of the World Cup. I remember my French got exceptionally better towards the end of the trip (and realized this held true in subsquent visits) and nothing really beats the smell of fresh croissants and butter.

Paris ICon List:

  1. Smell of oven-fresh bread from the boulangeries of Oberkampf
  2. The tickles of the blades of grass during a springtime picnic in the Buttes Chaumont
  3. Sounds of laughter and glasses tinkling at apero hour on the terraces in Place de la Bastille
  4. The washing sound of boats as your stroll along Seine near the haven of Ile Saint-Louis
  5. Filling your basket with organic cheeses and prunes from the organic market in Les Batignolles


Photo credit: InterContinental Hotels & Resorts

My first airplane trip was to the UK when I was 22. I bought the ticket on a Saturday and left on a Sunday. I just remembered that I didn’t have a lot of spending money and the exchange rate was terrible. I tried to soak up as much free culture as I could. I spent days checking out a few museums, my favourite being the V&A. I was in definite awe of the architecture.

London IConList:

  1. The contrast of old and new architecture on the ever-changing London skyline
  2. A Sunday roast enjoyed by the fireside in an historic, hidden London pub
  3. Hearing the market traders and watching the eclectic mix of people on Portobello Road on a Friday morning
  4. Spotting the stags emerge in Richmond Park on a misty, autumn morning
  5. The thrill of seeing the twinkling lights of the capital as you cross the Thames in a cab at night


Photo credit: InterContinental Hotels & Resorts

I was about 9 years old when my cousin had first introduced me to the idea of Dubai. Fast-forward to years later and I was my friends plus one to the city. We indulged between a ten-course Afternoon High tea, a spa treatment at a beautifully tiled Hamamm and a sit down dinner in the desert complete with Falcons to hold. Everything about Dubai is so opulent including the skyline.

Dubai ICon List:

  1. Tasting the many unique flavours of Karak Chai along Jumeirah Beach Road ​
  2. The enchanting smell of burning bukhoor, transporting you back in time​
  3. Sound of water lapping an Abra as it glides along Dubai Creek ​
  4. The crackle of a campfire breaking the silence on a night-time desert escape
  5. The fascinating contrast of old and new under the glow of a warm Dubai sunset

Do you agree with the ICon lists above? What would be on your top city ICon list?

For more details on InterContinental ICons and bookable experiences, visit




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