The best time to explore the city is in the morning

I’m lucky – I work a 9/80 schedule. Every 4-day work week, I look forward to my off Friday so I can sleep in and unwind from the week. And every Sunday after a 5-day week, I think about how I wish I had more time off to relax.

I say this because I relish the mornings I can sleep in. I love sleeping in. It’s such an indulgent luxury and I look forward to the weekends where I don’t need to set an alarm clock.

But one of my favorite things to do when I travel is to wake up early-ish and explore the city. I know setting an alarm clock while you’re vacationing may seem like blasphemy, but hear me out: the best time to explore the city is in the morning, and you’re wasting your vacation time if you don’t try it at least once.

I hadn’t ever really experienced jetlag until I adventured to Europe alone to backpack on the heels of getting laid off. I was staying in a trendy hostel with an attached bar… a bar just outside my dorm room. Plus the bunk beds were squeaky and any time my bunkmate shifted, I felt it. I was stressed, overwhelmed, and exhausted. But on my third day in Paris I had an early bike tour of Versailles, so I begrudgingly rolled out of bed around 8 am and started my walk to the meetup point.

Prior to this I had explored Paris the way everyone else does: during peak hours and in massive crowds. The “city of love” had felt congested, dirty, and touristic. I was honestly not impressed and wondered if I was cut out for traveling.

That is, until, I explored in the early morning.

It wasn’t early-early, just maybe 8:30 or 9, but the city was quiet. The crowds were replaced with the occasional couple walking a dog or the trash men laughing as they worked their route. Birds were chirping, a crisp breeze rolled down the alleys, and shop owners waved as they prepped to open their store fronts.

It felt peaceful. Serene. I was in Paris, and I practically had her to myself.

This is why I love exploring the city in the mornings.

I ended up having some free time and peacefully sat outside at a bistro table, sipping a cappuccino with my pain au chocolat while watching the city wake up.

Watching the city slowly risebefore diving straight into the hustle and bustle is peaceful, serene, and personal. Now it’s tradition for me to explore in the morning and soak it in while I have her to myself.

Next time you’re jet lagged and up earlier than you’d like, take that opportunity to wander without a direction. Pop into the local cafe and chat with the owner. Walk by the water front and listen to the birds chirp. See the city without the crowd. I think it’ll make a morning person out of you – at least for one day.

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2 thoughts

  1. I’ll do you one better… go for a run (or walk) at, say, 6:00 am or earlier. It is when the city is truly just waking up. There’s less traffic, fewer people, and the day just feels so full of possibilities at that hour. Granted, I’m someone who regularly rises at 4:30 am, even on weekends (and is asleep by 8:30 most nights – the life of the party… that’s me), but still, it’s a wonderful time of day in a foreign city.


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