17 Of The Best Guide Books For Exploring A New City
If that summertime wanderlust is just starting to kick in, now might be the perfect time to pack a bag and head out into all that wild blue yonder — or, you know, just someplace you’ve never explored before. These guide books for exploring a new city will help you out. Have you ever wanted to eat like a local in Hong Kong? Or how about cycling like a pro around Melbourne? Maybe you’re looking for a brand-new way to take in New York City, or you’ve been dying to try some Delhi street food but have no idea where to begin. Whether you’re wandering for 24 hours or 24 days, each of the fun, information-filled, and quirky travel guide books on this list have got you covered, from food and drink to art and adventure, and tons more.
If traveling like a non-tourist is totally your style, then get ready, because you’re about to see some of the most iconic destinations from the eyes of their locals. is Celebrating 17 global cities — though of course there are tons of amazing guides for countless more — this list features some of the best travel guides for exploring a new city, on your own terms and with your unique interests in mind. Happy travels! (And, of course, happy reading.)
1‘The Raymond Chandler Map Of Los Angeles’ by Kim Cooper and Paul Rogers
Perfect for the wandering book-lover, if you’ve ever envisioned yourself skulking in secret alongside private detective Philip Marlowe, this is the Los Angeles guide book for you. The Raymond Chandler Map Of Los Angeles by Kim Cooper and Paul Rogers will take you from crummy dive bar to swanky late-night lounge, on a tour through locations from the Philip Marlowe books and films, as well as key locales from author Raymond Chandler’s own personal life.
2'NFT Chicago 2017' by Not For Tourists
Globetrotters know the test of a true traveler is their ability to suss out what your everyday tourist won’t — and with NFT (that’s “Not For Tourists”) Chicago, you can travel neighborhood-by-Chicago-neighborhood just like the locals do. Ever wondered where the best deep dish pizza is really hidden? Or how about the indie bookstore that’s every local book-lovers best kept secret? This guide will get you there, and beyond.
3'New York Doughnut Map' by All-You-Can-Eat Press
It’s easy to catch the iconic, the typical, and the totally touristy in New York City — it’s one of the busiest global cities in the world, after all. But if you’re looking for a unique, offbeat way to take in the Big Apple (sans apples, that is) check out the New York Doughnut Map by All-You-Can-Eat Press. Including a brief history of doughnuts and featuring 35 favorite New York doughnut shops, this guide will take you on the sweetest (literally) of city tours. Plus, the guide comes in its own wax bag, so you won’t get it completely sticky. #Winning.
4'New Orleans' by Wildsam Field Guides
Wildsam Field Guides specializes in featuring the hidden, the unexpected, and the totally surprising, by documenting places thorough the people who live there and the stories they tell. The Wildsam New Orleans Field Guide showcases all that is classic, romantic, and a little ghostly about The Big Easy, from the city’s relationship with jazz, to cocktail recommendations, to how Hurricane Katrina changed this city and her people forever.
5'Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time' by Mark Adams
This memoir isn’t exactly a travel guide, but it will guide you through Machu Picchu in a way that few (make that, no) other travel guides will — approaching one of the most celebrated wonders of the world with a particular degree of humor, skepticism, and disgruntlement. Travel writer Mark Adams tries to re-create the original expedition to Machu Picchu in his travelogue, Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time — and as someone who has trekked Machu Picchu myself, believe me when I say Adams will have you both intrigued and amused every step of the way.
6'Rio de Janeiro: The Monocle Travel Guide' edited by Tyler Brûlé, Andrew Tuck, and Joe Pickard
Rio de Janeiro tends to maintain a reputation for two things: soccer obsession and partying. But there is so much more to this Brazilian city than popular assumption will have you believe (although do check out both the soccer and the parties.) The Monocle Travel Guide to Rio de Janeiro will take you through the quieter, less-touristy locales in Rio, from the public gardens and the architecture, to the best neighborhood eateries and local shopping.
7'Galapagos: World's End' by William Beebe
OK, though technically not a city, no trip to the southwest hemisphere (quarter-sphere?) is complete without at least considering a venture into the Galapagos Islands. And while you won’t be able to guide yourself through this breathtaking landscape (you’ll need to book a tour), you will want to supplement your on-land and underwater experiences with a little reading (especially if you love books as much as travel.) William Beebe’s Galapagos: World’s End will add some literary magic and mystery to your island adventure, documenting the remarkable wildlife and scientific history of these unforgettable islands.
8'City Cycling London' by Max Leonard and Andrew Edwards
If you don’t want to speed your way through a city, but traveling by foot is still a tad too slow for your wandering heart, then the City Cycling Guides by Max Leonard and Andrew Edwards might be just what you’re looking for. In City Cycling London, Leonard and Edwards take you on a two-wheeled journey through the city. Each guide and map are designed by a local artist, giving your travels an added dimension of cool and authenticity.
9'A Weird And Wonderful Guide To Barcelona' edited by Kati Krause
The first thing you’ll notice about A Weird and Wonderful Guide to Barcelona is that it’s organized by hours of the day — an idea so brilliant you’ll suddenly wonder why all guide books aren’t arranged this way. From sunrise to partying late into the night, this guide book has your days (and nights) in Barcelona covered — helping you discover unique and non-touristy experiences you’ll never forget.
10'The Streets of Paris: A Guide to the City of Light' by Susan Cahill and Marion Ranoux
Travel Paris the way famous Parisians did: by foot. Susan Cahill and Marion Ranoux's The Streets of Paris: A Guide to the City of Light, Following in the Footsteps of Famous Parisians Through History, is part history and part travel guide, beginning each chapter with a different Paris metro stop and taking you through the homes of historical Parisian figures, the places that iconic Parisians frequented and found inspiration, and the scenes of their lives’ triumphs and tragedies. While gorgeous, this is definitely not a fit-for-your-back-pocket guide, so be sure to bring a backpack.
11'Street Art in Berlin' by Kai Jakob
While Berlin is known for tons of different landmarks, one of the most iconic elements of this German city is its street art — an offbeat and artistic aspect of Berlin that is always (and I mean always) changing. Dive into the latest edition of Kai Jakob’s Street Art in Berlin (Version 7.0 is the most up-to-date) and head out into the streets, taking in Berlin one work of graffiti at a time. The book features a brief introduction to Berlin’s street art culture, as well as the various artistic forms to look out for, and then takes you through the city’s art, one revolutionary artist at a time. The specific locations of each piece aren’t always detailed, however, so be prepared for a little aimless wandering (that’s the best way to travel anyway, amirite?)
12'Fez Encounter' by Virginia Maxwell and Helen Ranger
Published by Lonely Planet, Fez Encounter features a number of one-of-a-kind experiences designed to immerse you in all the art, music, and culinary culture Fez has to offer a traveler. Tradition meets tourism in this guide, which can advise you through everything from buying a pair of buttery-soft leather slippers in the medina to getting a serious scrub-down in a nearby hammam.
13'Footprint Focus: Nairobi & Rift Valley' by Lizzie Williams
Nairobi is a city near and dear to my heart, and this travel guide will take you from the urban to the savannah. A slim, advice-packed read, Footprint Focus’s guide to Nairobi and the Rift Valley features everything you’d want in a travel guide, from tips on what to eat and where to say, to once-in-a-lifetime wildlife experiences.
14'The Delhi Walla Food + Drink' by Mayank Austin Soofi
The self-described “gateway to alternate Delhi”, the Delhi Walla blog has been called “a one-man encyclopedia of the city" by The Guardian, and is considered one of the quirkiest and most offbeat websites of the region. They’ve channeled all that insider know-how into a travel guide bound to give you a mind-blowing Delhi experience. The Delhi Walla Food + Drink will take you on a culinary excursion through Delhi, featuring (alongside photographs and typical prices) everything from fine dining to street food. Be prepared to bring tons of cravings back home with you.
15'CITIx60 City Guide to Hong Kong' by Vivian Ho and others
Pocket-sized and filled with some awesome artwork, CITIx60 City Guide to Hong Kong is a one-stop-shop for all the places that only non-tourist insiders of Hong Kong know about and frequent. Take in Hong Kong’s art, entertainment, architecture, and food like a local, while learning about all things unique and cutting edge in Hong Kong’s advertising, fashion, and music industries, and more.
16'Clueless in Tokyo: An Explorer's Sketchbook of Weird and Wonderful Things in Japan' by Betty Reynolds
Artist Betty Reynolds spent seven years living in Japan — filling dozens of sketchbooks during her time there. The result is her book Clueless in Tokyo, a quirky and artistic introduction to all-things-Japanese. Filled with snapshot info on Japanese fashion, food, sports, transportation, holidays, and hobbies, this collection of sketches and blurbs will not only serve as your bucket list for everything you want to see, eat, and experience while visiting this capital city, it will also improve your familiarity with the Japanese language.
17'The Casual Cyclist's Guide To Melbourne: Routes, Rides, Rants And Raves About The City And The Bike' by Matt Hurst
Another guide for the traveler who loves to cycle, The Casual Cyclist's Guide To Melbourne will transport you through this global city on two wheels — featuring info on everything from the history of cycling culture in Melbourne to the (sometimes clothing-optional) cycling events that take place in the city today. This guide also features recommended rides — from two-wheeled pub crawls, to self-guided architecture tours, to trips through the city’s parks. Happy trails.