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Travelling for the first time? Here’s our pick of the best cities around the world that tick all the boxes for the perfect first trip. Get your passport ready, these destinations are tourist-friendly, easy to navigate and have plenty of attractions and activities to keep you busy.
London is a place with some of the world's most recognisable icons to tick off the bucket list – think Big Ben, the London Eye, Black Cabs, red telephone boxes and Buckingham Palace. A bustling, busy city, London will leave you in awe by the sheer history of the place. It’s one of the most-visited cities in the world, and for good reason – art, food and culture surround you every step you take. From charming and historic English pubs, centuries-old architecture, West End shows, museums galore and an impressive foodie market scene, to taking selfies with the Queen’s Guard, channeling your inner Anne Boleyn at the Tower of London, and taking a ride on an iconic red double decker bus, London will impress you with its grandiosity. Plus, with a world-renowned public transport system, it’s super easy to get around, making it a great bet for first-time travellers.
Verdict: Step back in time to a city that’s steeped in rich history, drawing in visitors from all around the world with its English charm. It’s a city not to miss.
Don’t miss: A ride on the famous London Underground. It’s a quintessential London experience and the oldest underground railway network in the world.
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Australia’s largest city boasts some of the country’s most iconic attractions, from the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge, to the sandy stretches of Bondi Beach and nearby World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains, which makes Sydney an ideal first-time destination for travellers who want to tick some impressive icons off their bucket list. It’s easy to get around the city – purchase an Opal Card to catch trains, buses and even ferries across the harbour. Plus, tourist-friendly areas like The Rocks and Circular Quay delight visitors with historic buildings and more cafés and restaurants than you can poke a stick at. Shopaholics will find heaven at the Queen Victoria Building and Pitt Street Mall, while the Botanic Gardens in the heart of the city offer a green refuge from the hustle and bustle of Sydney.
Verdict: Sydney has a little something for everyone. Just one look at the sparkling, turquoise harbour, and we think it will be love at first sight.
Don’t miss: Catching a ferry across the harbour to the seaside suburb of Manly for a swim or surf, followed by fresh fish and chips on the beach.
Closest airport: Sydney Kingsford-Smith Airport
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No trip to Sydney is complete without a trip to the seaside suburb of Manly
Yep, we know this one isn’t a city, but we simply couldn’t decide on just one New Zealand town – the whole country is perfect for first-time visitors. From the geothermal activity and Māori culture at Rotorua, and the Te Papa Museum in Wellington, to waterfront dining and drinking in Auckland, being simply awe-struck at Milford Sound, helicopter rides above the icy wonderland of Franz Josef glacier, getting your Lord of the Rings on at the Hobbiton set in Matamata, and adventure-pumped activities in Queenstown, you’re spoilt for choice in the ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’.
Verdict: Whether you explore the North Island, South Island or (preferably!) both, New Zealand welcomes first-time travellers with friendly locals, plenty of cultural attractions, a thriving food and wine scene and some of the most spectacular and rugged landscapes in the world. As it’s small in size, you can visit a lot of the country in a short amount of time (and as an extra bonus, unlike its neighbour Australia, you won’t find any venomous wildlife!), making it perfect for first-timers.
Don’t miss: A visit to the quaint seaside town of Akaroa. This European-influenced village is home to the world’s smallest dolphins, the very rare Hector Dolphin.
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Whether you’re an adventurous soul who loves the great outdoors, a foodie fanatic wanting to eat the latest and greatest from the gastronomic world, a film buff in search of the iconic locations of many famous Hollywood movies, or you’re after a perfect family friendly destination, you’ll find all this and more in San Francisco. Indulge in fresh farm produce at the Ferry Building Marketplace, admire the old-world charm of Nob Hill, explore the former island prison of Alcatraz, or sip on a drop of something special from nearby Napa Valley.
Verdict: It’s got culture, great food, parks, walking tracks, museums, cable cars and a famous bridge. You really can’t go wrong with San Francisco, and it’s very easy to get around with the MUNI bus and metro system, cable cars and BART rapid trains.
Don’t miss: Cycling along the Golden Gate Bridge to the nearby town of Sausalito for a truly San Franciscan experience.
Closest airport: San Francisco Airport
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One of the lesser-known Australian capital cities, Adelaide is quickly garnering attention not only as a foodie destination (the famous Barossa Valley is right on Adelaide’s doorstep), but also as a city to rival the likes of the ever-popular Melbourne and Sydney. Charming coffee spots, towering church spires, fine-dining gourmet restaurants, Glenelg Beach just a tram ride away, and a thriving arts, music and culture scene, Adelaide has all the amenities of a big city, but the soul and charisma of a small country town.
Verdict: It’s no surprise that Adelaide is becoming known as the lifestyle capital of Australia. It’s small enough in size that you can easily navigate without getting lost or overwhelmed, but big on free activities (like the Art Gallery of South Australia), eclectic suburbs to explore and easy walking trails.
Don’t miss: A trip to nearby Hahndorf, a delightful German village located in the quaint Adelaide Hills – it’s Australia's oldest-surviving German settlement.
Closest airport: Adelaide Airport
Glaswegians are known as some of the friendliest people in the world. Combine this with one of the UK’s best live music scenes and a thriving nightlife and cultural scene, and you’ve got yourself a cosmopolitan city that’s perfect for those wanting their first passport stamp. During the day, shop til you drop at one of the 1,500+ retail stores, spend an afternoon in one of the many free museums (including the Gallery of Modern Art, well worth a visit), wander around the Glasgow Cathedral or indulge in a gastronomic delight at one of the many fantastic restaurants, before catching a live gig at a pub – any night of the week.
Verdict: A captivating city that will ensure you feel welcomed. Plus, it’s an easily walkable city, so first-time travellers will have no problem getting around.
Don’t miss: Seeing a live band play at one of the best Glaswegian venues, King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut.
Closest airport: Glasgow Airport
For a dose of Glaswegian history, head to the Glasgow Cathedral in Cathedral Square
Dublin may be the official capital city of the Republic of Ireland, but Corkonians will attest that their youthful, cosmopolitan city is the ‘real’ capital. Cork’s city centre lies on an island in the middle of the River Lee and boasts one of the best foodie scenes in Ireland, as well as traditional Irish pubs galore, a fun waterfront lifestyle, and an impressive 24 festivals on its social calendar, including the Cork Film Festival. There are historic cathedrals to admire, craft brews to sample, markets to buy local foods from, and an electric atmosphere that permeates the city.
Verdict: If you’re looking for a city that blends tradition and reinventions, love artisan products and enjoy quality fresh produce served up in restaurants, put Cork on your bucket list. The small city centre is also easily walkable, making it perfect for a first-timer. Plus, the welcoming Irish charm is unbeatable.
Don’t miss: Breakfast at the English Market; you’ll find bakers, fishmongers, grocers, household wares, art, and cafés in this traditional undercover market that dates back to the mid-19th century.
Closest airport: Cork Airport
If you want a bustling, urban, larger-than-life experience for your first trip away, then you can’t go past the city that never sleeps. New York’s iconic skyline is dotted with famous landmarks, including the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, and Top of the Rock, with the green oasis of Central Park smack-bang in the middle of the city. There are museums and art galleries galore (The Met and the Guggenheim are favourites, but check out the smaller, lesser-known ones too), plus streets full of architectural wonders and gritty, urban beauty.
Verdict: No matter what time of day or night it is, there’s always something to excite and delight in the urban jungle that is the Big Apple. Although the sheer scale of the city can be daunting, take your exploration in small doses and you’ll soon start to feel familiar to this incredible city.
Don’t miss: A jaunt over the bridge to Brooklyn. This NY borough is buzzing with creativity and culture, energy and excitement. Shop for vintage clothes, catch a live band, or simply wander in this capital of cool.
Closest airport: John F. Kennedy International Airport
Travelling for the first time? Now that you’ve picked your ideal destination, it’s time to get organised. Flights… hotels… and don’t forget your airport transfer! Navigating airports can be a daunting and tedious experience for any traveller, so to make your trip as smooth as possible, and get an easy connection to and from your hotel with an airport transfer. Whether you want a shared shuttle or private transfer, you can search and compare to find a great deal on Jayride.com.
Tourist-friendly areas like The Rocks and Circular Quay delight visitors with historic buildings and more cafés and restaurants than you can poke a stick at. Shopaholics will find heaven at the Queen Victoria Building, and the Botanic Gardens in the heart of the city offer a green refuge from the hustle and bustle of Sydney