7 City Apps that Give you the Key to Explore

Travelling on holiday to a sprawling city can be daunting. Here we list 7 apps that help you to open the secret doors every metropolis seems to hide. From navigation made easy to gigs and local tips, these apps show you the way!

1. For Cool Nights Out:


This app specifically covers London. The concrete jungle becomes a little more manoeuvrable as soon as you download DOJO and enter your needs/preferences/tastes/desires. Sit back and watch your weekend take shape! It’s the ideal way to explore, because when time is limited you don’t fancy scrolling through hundreds of websites to find out what’s going on. Focusing on the unexpected and the unique, this app offers a plethora of cool activities; from whimsical pop-up shops to temporary art installations to underground speakeasies in your chosen area. DOJO helps you to unearth the hidden happenings of London in just a few swipes.

Coffee shop

Hipster coffee shop secreted away.

2. For the Non-Traditional Tourist:

Spotted by Locals

The offering is in the title. Compiled and contributed to exclusively by locals, this is a non-conformist way to see a city. Ideal for snobs and/or the curious-quest-seekers. Seeing what the locals get up to is always the best way to understand a place, its culture and its inhabitants. The creators handpick these locals (aptly nicknamed “spotters”) in order to ensure authenticity and legitimacy.

When you buy a travel paperback, you can often be disappointed. Old editions render many suggestions obsolete. Conversely, digital apps allow for greater relevance. The Amsterdam born creators regularly check the top tips and often add new ones. The best part? No obvious suggestions abound. Ideal if you’d prefer to find a tiny tapas bar with onions hanging from the roof instead of snapshotting local monuments. You won’t need data or wifi either as the maps are fully available offline. You can also save your favourite destinations to the map. Alternatively when online you can discover recommendations near your current location. Hence a time-effective addition to your trip! At only around R70 per city guide this is a bargain.


A restaurant high up and away from the crowds.

3. For Navigation:

City Mapper

If you find yourself tangled in multiple maps of tube lines, you need this app. It can be so exhausting to get around new cities, especially coming from South Africa where our public transportation options are minimal. Many other parts of the world have a plethora of modes to navigate. Fortunately all of them are reflected here. When you enter your desired destination you have the option to select bus, metro, taxi, tram or whatever else that city might offer! Importantly you can also see how long the journey will take. The app analyses traffic and due to real-time data the journey times are more accurate than estimations.

Quirky illustrations depict each locale which makes it attractive. It is also user-friendly. You can save routes like you can with google maps. This makes them available offline. You can access approximately 39 urban locations across the world. Above all, it is free!

4. For Exercise Fanatics:

Bike Citizens (Looking at you, Cape Townians)

If you enjoy cycling and want to do it during your holiday then this app is geared (excuse the pun) for you. You can choose routes in urban areas based on the effort level you require that day! It can be a little scary to be on a bike in a foreign place. This app is noteworthy for highlighting risky areas and gathering data to make cities safer for cyclists.

You can enter details about your bike and this is taken into account when depicting the routes. For instance, there won’t be a suggestion of cobble stones for a road bike. More than 450 cities are represented which means that nearly half a million people use the app. By anonymously gathering the routes used, this app is making a difference in urban planning. The collected data is used in campaigns to improve conditions for its users. Practical and important!

5. For Fancy Footwork:

Run Go

If running is more your thing, this app is optimal. Voice navigation steers you as your feet hit the ground. This is much safer than constantly checking your phone for directions! There are more than 100 000 available routes and around 200 are added each day. Everything is verified and if you have had a particularly pleasant journey you can share it with the rest of the community. This furthers feedback and accuracy. It can be a remarkable way to see a city.

You can stay aware of your stats like speed and time because everything is tracked. If you want to check your progress this is helpful. If you are competitive and improvement-oriented, this is also useful! While exploring you can track your pace, endurance and the routes you have already taken. As with the previous apps, information is stored and can be accessed offline. Pretty nifty.


Contemporary architecture

6. For Looking Up:


If you are searching for an insightful way to see a city, this architecture app is for you. Architects created it for us plebeians to better understand our surroundings as we travel. Information about both historical and modern architecture is provided, with more than 40 000 spots to learn about. Of course, 40 000 is minimal in relative terms to all the buildings around the world. As a result some cities are less represented than others. However, the ones that are discussed are done so accurately and thoroughly. This allows for a far greater appreciation of where we are when we travel.

This user-generated database helps to lay a firm foundation of history and is available in ten languages. Finally, the app is free! Profound for the mind and the wallet.


Sunset near Waterloo

7. For History, Art and Architecture:

Geotourist is an app that has “audio trails” curated by experts, so you can take yourself on your own walking tours. You can discover a city’s landmarks, architecture and art in a discerning way. You can also tailor your experience owing to the high standard of information being GPS based.

Understanding heritage is a crucial component of travelling. Audio guides are effective in highlighting what could otherwise be misunderstood or overlooked. A relatively recent addition, this year it has already won awards for its innovative approach to global narratives.

Apps provide us with creative, thoughtful ways to connect with our surroundings. Hopefully the ones listed here will enrich your journey and elevate your travel itinerary!

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