David Whitley looks at the cities that improve on a second visit – and the smaller places where going back can be a mistake

When I first went to Melbourne, I was 22 years old. I quite liked the place, but – as with many travellers – I didn’t really click with it. I’d just come off the back of four riotous months in Sydney, and it didn’t seem to have the same appeal. Everything seemed too spread about, there was a different vibe and it just wasn’t as much fun. Coming back as a 30 year old, the city I remembered seemed to have changed. The centre seemed a lot more vibrant, everything felt a bit more ‘me’ and I liked the place a lot more than I originally did.

Something similar happened with Prague. I’ve been three times over the years, and the first visit is little more than an alcoholic blur. Second time round, my vague memories from the first trip were sullied – it seemed to be an utter tourist trap from top to bottom. I went back this year though, and saw different sides to it – underground cave bars with a degree of sophistication, beautiful buildings on every corner and public art trails that could be followed with a bit of research beforehand. Great cities change. It’s part of what makes them great cities – the ability to adapt and morph into something different as the years pass. But people change too. The 22-year-old me and the 30-year-old me may have a lot of similarities, but the differences are significant too.

And it’s for these reasons that places are often worth revisiting. If you didn’t take to them the first time, there’s a high chance that the pair of you met at the wrong time. Go back, see the changes, tackle the things you wouldn’t have been interested in when you’re younger and the city can appear very different. The reverse, of course, can be true as well. There are numerous places that I regarded as magical when I first visited but had lost a bit of the lustre when I went back. These places, bizarrely, tend to be the smaller ones where time tends to stay still somewhat. Instead of change and new perspectives, you end up with a jaded perspective on somewhere that, at best, has just become a little bit more popular. Think of all the bores who will tell you that everywhere they’ve been to in South East Asia was much better when they went 20 years ago – it’s much the same thing.

Sometimes the treasured small finds are best left in the memory while the bigger disappointments are worth reassessment with an older mind and outlook. The trick is to remember that, even when places stay largely the same, people most definitely don’t.


Do you have any cities you liked a lot more second time around? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.