The Best Authentic City Experiences According to Locals

InterContinental Sydney Club InterContinental View

The things you should see and do in some of the world’s most loved cities, according to the locals who live there

How many times have you joined a queue or bought a ticket just because the guide book told you to? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. The Eiffel Tower in Paris appears in 10% of all posts on social media, while Buckingham Palace is the most-tagged site in London.

For those choosing to turn away from the tourist trap, and instead opt for experiences that let them ‘live like a local’ (which generally means getting as far away from those ‘top ten to-do’ places as possible), how do you discover the real city?

Before you start burning your guide books, luxury hotel brand InterContinental Hotels & Resorts has done the hard work for you, starting the somewhat controversial conversation on what the real ‘iCons’ are in Sydney, New York, Mexico, Paris, London, and Dubai.

To do this, IHG turned to a panel of influential individuals from each featured city, including Sarah Harris, the Deputy Editor and Fashion Features Director of British Vogue; Brandon Bryant, the Creative Director of Wall Street Paper and Venture Partner of Harlem Capital Partners; Dina Broadhurst, a Sydney-based mixed media artist; Isaac Jero, a Mexico City-based photographer; Haifa Beseisso, a Dubai-based Palestinian-American TV presenter and activist; Jacob Santiago, a New York-based photographer; and Manu Espinosa, a Mexico City-based content creator, travel blogger and marathoner.

With their insider knowledge leading the way, they’ve developed a range of bespoke and bookable experiences through IHG, so you can leave each destination knowing you saw its true, ‘real’ side.

So, what should you really be doing in each city?


  • Let the cool breeze brush your face as you ride the Manly to Circular Quay ferry
  • See the Sydney skyline from a rooftop in Five Ways Paddington
  • Smell sunblock and barbeques cooking on the North Bondi grassy knoll
  • Have fish and chips for dinner while barefoot at Kutti Beach
  • Feel the sun on your shoulders on the Hermitage Foreshore walk while you soak up some of the best views of Sydney Harbour

After your walk, why not enjoy a gourmet picnic prepared by InterContinental Sydney Double Bay at the IConic Hermitage Foreshore Walk. Sit back with a selection of cheeses, sandwiches, salads, sweet treats, and the setting sun.

InterContinental Sydney Presidential Opera Suite
InterContinental Sydney Presidential Opera Suite

New York

  • Sip on craft cocktails in a bar in the trendy, hipster neighbourhood of Brooklyn
  • Check out the striking architecture in the city skyline from the Hudson River Ferry
  • Soak up the sunshine with a lunchtime picnic in Central Park
  • Experience something like nothing else as you stand in the luminous concourse of the Oculus building
  • Pick up fresh bagels at a West Village bagel shop

Or have those bagels prepared for you at the InterContinental New York Barclay. Chef Peter Betz is inviting guests into the kitchen for a private New York Breakfast at the Chef’s Table. Get involved with cooking, cocktail-shaking, and a tour of the rooftop garden and Apiary. Plus, guests will get tickets to One World Observatory and a Central Park picnic-inspired welcome hamper.

New York City
New York City


  • Taste the smoky flavour of tacos al pastor
  • Smell the strong scent of mezcal before you take your first sip
  • Explore the surprising downtown museums, such as the Palacio de Bellas Artes
  • See the contrast between buildings in Zocalo, from the plaza and National Palace, to the Templo Mayor ruins
  • See the view across Paseo de la Reforma in the early morning

With InterContinental Presidente Mexico City you can immerse yourself in these experiences during a IConic city tour with a visit to Chapultepec Castle, a performance of traditional Mariachi music in Plaza Garibaldi, and a trip to the Tequila and Mezcal Museum where you can try before you buy.


  • Smell oven-fresh bread from the boulangeries of Oberkampf
  • Feel the grass tickle your skin as you picnic in the Buttes Chaumont
  • Hear laughter and glasses tinkling at apero house on the terraces in Bastille
  • Watch the boats rock gently as you stroll along the Seine near the haven of Ile Saint-Louis
  • Fill you basket with organic cheese and prunes from the organic market in Les Batignolles

Or have InterContinental Paris – Le Grand Executive Chef Laurent André hand pick your basket for you. Afterwards, head back and enjoy a private cooking lesson in the kitchen of the iconic Café de la Paix, before enjoying your fresh picnic amid the lush greenery of Parisian park, Les Buttes Chaumont. You wouldn’t truely be eating like a Parisian though, until you’ve tried a croissant or two from Utopie, voted best bakery in France in 2016.

Seine and Notre Dame de Paris, France
Seine and Notre Dame de Paris, France


  • See the contrasting architecture in the ever-changing London skyline
  • Enjoy a Sunday roast fireside in a historic, hidden London pub
  • Do some people-watching on Portobello Road on a Friday morning
  • Spot the stags emerging in Richmond Park on a misty morning
  • Catch the twinkling lights of the capital at night as you cross the Thames in a cab

Choose between a dusk or dawn experience at InterContinental London Park Lane, which either takes you to Richmond Park with a picnic, or a seven-course dinner for two with cocktails in Eighteen Sky Bar and a late checkout.


  • Taste the unique flavours of Karak Chai along Jumeriah Beach Road
  • Smell the burning bukhoor that will transport you back in time
  • Hear the sound of water lapping an Abra as it glides along Dubai Creek
  • Be mesmerised by a crackling campfire on a night-time desert escape
  • Check out the fascinating contrast of old and new under the glow of a warm Dubai sunset

Or discover a unique tea-tasting experience in a Karak Chai masterclass with InterContinental Dubai Marina, where you’ll learn to prepare the humble brew from scratch and take home your custom blend along with a clay cup souvenir. Following this, indulge in a private Bakhoor masterclass with a master perfumer.

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