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Maps Reveal the Difference in How Cities Are Perceived by Tourists and Locals (archdaily.com)
192 points by touristtam on July 17, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 102 comments

Regurgitated content from more than half a decade ago. Here is the direct link with all you need to know: https://www.flickr.com/photos/walkingsf/sets/721576242091586...

(Click "show more" for the description with is more verbose and honest than the aggregator spam submission).

I've lived in SF before— this is so accurate to my experience. Went to SoMa a lot and actually never visited the Golden Gate bridge.

Thanks for sharing. This deserves more upvotes. And all the respect to Eric Fischer who is more likely to be the author.

Thanks. Yes, I made these maps several years ago.

Completely unrelated to maps, but I really enjoyed your talk about the origins of the "else" keyword at !!Con West a few months back! Thanks for picking that topic. Really got me thinking.

Oh man, I never expected you to respond. These images are much better on Flickr, I like how you can actually click links to the hot spots.

Living in semi-touristic district, it’s funny to see how locals views differ from tourists. We have a special term for it: local resident syndrome. It’s when someone asks you if there is something interesting to look at here, but you don’t know, despite living here since forever. Well, I can show you where that expensive nightclub is on the map, does it count? I also see people making selfies with decorative street elements (simple installations and/or statues) that were installed, say, a year ago, and really mean nothing, but are perceived as if they had a history. Accidentally hearing what tour guides tell to groups about locals and their traditions is another story.

> Accidentally hearing what tour guides tell to groups about locals and their traditions is another story.

I have a bit of an extreme-anecdote about this from the late 90s. I had a friend who was working part-time as a tourist guide while studying international relations. He normally gave people an accurate description of things, but one day, IIRC on account of being frustrated with the tourism company that hired him, the described a nice downtown square as "This is Plaza <his name>, in honor of an important 19th century artist".

On the flipside, I live in a semi-touristic district myself, and I often find people taking pictures of some architectural detail, which in turns makes me look at it, and realized I had been walking by the place without really looking at it until then.

I strongly recommend anyone living in at least a semi-touristic city to get a tour guide for your city and look around. Liekwise, get a list of museums, cultural galleries and other such things.

You can discover many interesting things you had no idea existed.

I did this in Montreal and discovered many little gems in the tourist area I had previously visited, including a lovely museum of the restored house of a 19th century politician. And I found many museums off the beaten track.

Ha, I have the exact same experience. I live in a very touristy neighborhood and often get asked for directions to local attractions and landmarks. I usually have to get out my phone and look up directions despite living here for more than three years.

I also see tourists photographing my apartment building all the time. It's not really anything special to me, just an early 20th century walkup with a brick facade on a street of similar buildings. But I guess I'm numb to the charm of it because tourists seem to love it.

The tour guides are pretty funny too. I'm pretty sure at least half of what they say is completely made up.

My dad in his youths was a tour guide for bus trips from Sweden down into Europe. He has admitted he made up lots of trivia about the castles and stuff they passed.

He is a history buff, though, knowing "everything" about every king and fight the last centuries in Europe. So I think what he told would be plausible and rooted in truth. But makes me wonder about the stories he told me as a kid, before smart phones that could rebuff his tales.

Your story reminded me of my experience with my stepdad.

I grew up hearing his descriptions on every conceivable historical event, and I was amazed of how much he seemed to know about everything. At the time I felt that he was truly knowledgeable, and I couldn't even conceive of knowing even a fraction of what he knew.

Then, when I grew older, I finally asked how he managed to know so much. His response? Laughingly, he told me that he made a lot of educated guesses on how things seemed to him!

That was a decisive formative experience for me: so that's how he pulled it off? Now I'm much more relaxed with the degree of detail I can know about things, and I also take what anyone is saying at any one moment with a saltier dose of skepticism. We're all humans after all, and telling tales is deeply rooted in our natures.

My dad's routine is to slowly make the story more and more absurd until someone questions him.

Are you my stepson?

I grew up in an area that had a lot of tourism (Stratford, ON). I always thought it was strange that people would travel so far to visit.

Now when I go home I see the city through new eyes and it really is a charming place. It feels like it would be a really nice place to live. When I did live there, I couldn't wait to leave.

I would assume one's age has a lot to do with this. As a younger person, the history of things is just not very high up on the list of things interested in. Especially if the community is perceived as "small town", where all the kids can't wait to leave. However, as one gets older, the history of something becomes much more appreciable. People then realize the "small town" is where they'd rather raise kids, and the cycle repeats.

Do people commonly move to tiny towns to raise kids? I'm drawn to them but always figure they would not be a good place for kids. Nothing to do, limited schools, little opportunity.

It's for sure due to my different perspective.

I still have almost no interest in history, but after living in a bunch of different places I appreciate how Stratford is very clean and well maintained, has no visible homelessness, it is pedestrian and bicycle friendly, and has lots of interesting shops and restaurants. The people that live and work there are shockingly friendly, even by Canadian standards. When I lived there I had nothing to compare it to. I had to leave to find out how nice it really is.

>>I grew up in an area that had a lot of tourism (Stratford, ON). I always thought it was strange that people would travel so far to visit.

Just in case people don't know, the Stratford Festival[1] is pretty famous in Ontario, if not all across Canada, as a rather prominant Canadian arts event[2]. It's certainly the main reason our school raised funds on occasion to visit during the festival. It was a big deal for us and we were only 2hrs away by bus.

[1] https://www.stratfordfestival.ca/

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stratford_Festival

Also (not sure how much tourism this attracts) it's the hometown of Justin Bieber (sorry)

That happend to me too. They take photos of stuff that I didn't pay attention to. Maybe I should take a tour guide of my own city, since there's a lot to see apparently.

Anyway, those maps could also be that way because locals try to avoid tourists. It's not a big deal where I currently live, but it is very annoying in Barcelona, Madrid, etc, that kind of places. Not only because touristy places become pricey or there's too many people, but because some tourists are... special.

Maintaining the same level of curiosity about your city that a tourist has is a challenge. You "just" live and work there, it's hard to get excited about your own city.

Some years ago I tried to be a tourist in my own city and basically treated my weekends like going on a city break as a tourist (helped that it was a city of several million inhabitants and some centuries of history, so it had some potential). I discovered some really wonderful places, sometimes right next to the streets I drove on every day for work. That made a difference for me in how I looked at the city and made my life there just a bit more content.

My gf and I started a project to spend a day in each borough of London, a couple of years ago. Originally we were aiming to complete it in one or two years, but life got in the way; it's paused at 16 out of 33 right now. I'm a born and bred Londoner in my mid-40s, and in the course of this (despite only being halfway through) have been to so many places I'd never visited - we research interesting cultural, historical, and alcohol-vending places to visit beforehand and it's ludicrous amounts of fun.

> Maybe I should take a tour guide of my own city, since there's a lot to see apparently.

I've done that accompanying friends around London. It's interesting, fun and I highly recommend it.

I love my city, and often have people tell me that they feel like I'm a tour guide when I'm showing new people around the city. One of my favorites is that the people got tired of the city flooding, so they just moved the river. Sure, cause, that's what one does.

Those Seattle pig and San Francisco heart fiberglass art installations really messed things up touristicly. After that every city has to have some kind of pop symbol tourists could ID as of that city do they could take selfies with it.

That said, implicit in some of the commentary is that tourists miss the local aspect of s city they visit by remaining in tourist areas. My take is that is the whole point of most tourism. They don’t want to see the same humdrum stuff they have in their home cities, they don’t need to know about boring shitty areas or family residential areas. No, they want some foreign entertainment and feel. They want some levity and some pop on their holidays.

I don’t know when it started but my not-at-all exhaustive list suggests your examples didn’t start it.

LOVE statue in Philadelphia, 1978.

Spoonbridge and Cherry in Minneapolis, 1985.

Pork ‘n’ Beans in Seattle 2001.

Peanuts statues in Minneapolis/St. Paul, 2003.

Chicago Bean, 2004.

SF Hearts, 2004.

Sure, there have been the Eiffel towers and statues of liberty and such, but the pigs and hearts took it to a pop art level (I do see a resemblance to the spoon cherry though) They could easily and cheaply advertise a city and in a manner tourists love. They’re approachable and everywhere.

These later exhibitions seem reminiscent of "CowParade" (established first as Zürich's "Land in Sicht" in 1998), which was ultimately developed into an exhibit not specific to one city, but appears to have inspired at least some similar city-specific exhibits including the Seattle Pigs (three years after the first "cow parade" debut, and entitled "Pigs on Parade" in the same fashion as a 1999 Chicago "Cows on Parade" exhibit). There's much more related information at the CowParade Wikipedia entry[1], with a long list of similar exhibits.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CowParade

> Chicago Bean, 2004

Lion statues at the Art Institute of Chicago, 1893

What are the San Francisco heart fiberglass art installations? I've lived in SF since 2011 and have either never seen or never noticed them.

When I visited Cairo, I went to see the pyramids with a local who had lived in Cairo her entire life but had never been to the pyramids.

And now I live in San Francisco's North beach right near Pier 39, I'm surrounded by tourists. I do actually enjoy walking along the touristy area and seeing the sea lions on occasion, although the tourist prices for all the restaurants aren't great, and sometimes the crowds are very annoying if I'm just trying to get somewhere specific.

I also see people making selfies with decorative street elements (simple installations and/or statues) that were installed, say, a year ago, and really mean nothing, but are perceived as if they had a history.

How do you know how other people perceive these things?

Good question. tl;dr I don’t.

Maybe I’m looking at it through my own bent glasses. One example on my mind was a ‘thing’ right before my building. Imagine like a 2m tall painting in a thick wooden frame and a foundation to hold it, but there is no painting, as if someone cut it entirely. Like empty frame. People make self-shots sitting in it, and it has some plate with a description on it. But it was mounted only last winter. I’ll maybe check it next time, but my pragmatic side tells me that it’s yet another artistic catch for touristic attractiveness. I also know the guy in his 60s who spent his childhood there. The entire area was built and cultivated from scratch as a heritage corner by few powerful mosque rulers (locally famous people still lived there, no doubt, but that’s true for the entire old town).

Reminds me of looking at a map of where I used to live a few days ago. Turns out there is a sports ground at the the end of the street I used to live on (and it was there when I lived there). Lived there three years and I had no idea.

I was born, raised, and continue to live an hour north of San Francisco. I've visited Pier 39 and other attractions all throughout my life, especially as my kids were younger,and am intimately familiar with the area. My wife an I actually had our wedding reception at a (historic) restaurant in the area after a ceremony at city hall (which is gorgeous).

I probably couldn't point out one interesting historic part of my own city if put on the spot, though I know they exist (while not as old or as large as SF, it's been around a while too).

I have been living in a tourist town for the last 10 years, which means that I often end up on pictures against my will (tourists just photographing stuff I happen to walk in front of). For a little personal revenge, I have developed the following hobby: whenever I walk towards a tourist making a picture of something behind me, I turn to whatever he/she is photographing with a confused look that may be described as: "what on earth is picture-worthy here?". It's fun.

> you don’t know, despite living here since forever

A lot of tourists here in Memphis come to see Elvis Presley's house (Graceland), but many local residents have never been there, despite having some degree of connection to him. I met a couple from England on the street a few years back. They were eager to hear some stories about relatives and coworkers who met Elvis, but when asked about Graceland, I had to say 'Nope never been there'....

My parents immigrated (not to the US) in their 30s and they were amazed at how many locals had never been to the postcard spots.

I work across from the famous Sugar Loaf mountain with the trolley between the mountains, maybe familiar to some from James Bond movies. It's really really really expensive to go there.

As someone who lived in Paris for many years now, it's fascinating how the city has sort of three identities:

1. What outsiders think it's like

2. What they see when they encounter the city as tourists

3. What the city is like for a local

You'd say this is true for any city but Paris in particular has concentrated so many stereotypes together that it's almost comical to see people's attitudes yo-yo so dramatically in both directions.

I'm reminded of Paris Syndrome, which is phenomenon common with the Japanese, where they assume Paris is something it is not, and get angry and frustrated upon visiting.


I'd say similar things about Texas, DC, and NYC, for that matter.

Watching it happen can be quite a slice-of-life event. One guest who wanted to see my city's Chinese neighborhood was rather bitterly disappointed upon seeing it. "But it's just like any other neighborhood, only the convenience stores have Chinese signs in the windows!"

Pointing out that they also sell red envelopes wasn't much of a consolation.

An old story from my dad is of observing a couple while dining at the Cliff House(SF attraction looking out over the Pacific Ocean). The lady was asked what she thought of the ocean and she replied, "I'm very disappointed. I thought it would be bigger!"

It is a funny article, but this line puts things in perspective:

> Out of the million or so Japanese tourists that visit Paris each year, about 12 will fall prey to Paris syndrome.

It could be the tip of a trend. For every one person suffering the full Paris Syndrome psychosis, there are probably a thousand Japanese departing Charles de Gaulle thinking to themselves "What a horrible dump, thank god we are leaving." -- Paris Syndrome-lite?

“12 Japanese tourists let down by Paris visit each year” doesn’t quite have the same oomph.

That’s .001%. Why is anyone even talking about it?

My European colleagues were distraught about DC and the White House in general. They couldn’t believe how small it was compared to European Palaces for Monarchs, ex rulers, etc.

They didn’t understand when I said it was probably the point. We fought against a British monarch, why would we build massive palaces for our non-monarch president? They said look all the power is in Congress their buildings are much bigger.

The common contrasting explanation is that DC is projecting power by limiting how ostentatious it is, but nevertheless restricting other buildings from being tall.

While the Capitol dome theory is a myth, the maximum height[1] allowed for building is set by law. It was due to safety concerns about then very new skyscrapers, but at the same time, the limit has persisted long after.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Height_of_Buildings_Act_of_191...

Maybe if they built something a little less ostentatious(and adopted similar policies throughout their lives), the monarchs could have occupied the grand palaces for more than 100 years before losing their heads. I'm thinking specifically about Versailles

DC and Texas maybe, but at least for me as a tourist in NYC it was pretty much as expected, after watching so many movies filmed there

Was there a heat-map in the article for Paris that I am missing? I don't see it...

Here's the link to the one on Flickr:


The red spot on the bottom left is Palace of Versailles(specifically the cross-shaped Grand Canal in red and the surrounding gardens)

Awesome thank you!

I once wound up in the suburbs as a tourist. Not what I was expecting at all.

Well, it really depends on which suburbs it was.

I think it was the northern outer wards? I don’t remember the number, but all the police I saw were armored and heavily armed.

The most police I've ever saw was when I working in the middle of Paris, close to the Champs-Élysées, the presidential palace and a few ministry, in 2015 (so just after a terrorist attack). They were cops everywhere.

For the actual direct link to the 100+ maps go to Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/walkingsf/sets/721576242091586...

Am I the only one who felt like they were in the photo round of trivia night looking at the unlabeled heat maps?

I was trying to guess which cities were in North America and which ones weren't.

This was particularly cool when Eric Fischer first put these up on Flickr because smartphones were fairly new and it was such a great example of teasing interesting data/visualization from data that people were recording essentially incidentally.

Google Flu Trends was also a hot topic around the same time although that turned out to be a lot less effective than it initially appeared.

For London it's fascinating to see the highest density of local photography mostly east, with a particular hotspot in Hackney. It seems to support the stereotype of it being a more creative area.

I'm sure a dataset more recent than 2010 would amplify this further.

I would not call it creative these days, because I don’t find those hipster beards, soul-crushingly loud factory-feeling restaurants and bars, and new shinny unaffordable residential developments designed by anti-natalists (hence no space for families) creative at all.

It should be purple on the map if the data is more recent.

"Anti-natalists"? That's a real weird flex. Surely it isn't that areas that aim to bring in the young and the creative are taking into account that kids cost money nobody's got.

The issue is not the money, it's the 'stuff'. If they built decent residential areas where families could live, family homes would be more affordable. If they built more daycare facilities, daycare would be more affordable. Etc. etc.

In London in particular, it is hard, if not impossible, to find a consistently decent area that would appear safe to bring up kids in within cycling commute of the City. There does not seem to be any objective reason for that, so it seems to be a policy decision.

If they built decent residential areas where families could live, DINKs and other childless folks would move there first. Families are and are permanently expensive in post-industrial society to the point where they're nearly a luxury if you want to also live in an urban (read: trendy, young, creative) area because space, and therefore anything that depends on space, is at a premium.

Make no mistake: this sucks. But it isn't "anti-natalism". It's om-nom-nom capitalism. The fix is deeper than whether or not planners like families with kids or not: it's a rethinking of how we allocate resources. And that's a hard conversation to have.

> If they built decent residential areas where families could live, DINKs and other childless folks would move there first

I am not sure. If I want to live without a child, I would probably not spend money on a second bedroom. I would prefer the space below my building to be a gym rather than a daycare. I will care more about good bars than good schools and parks.

> Families are and are permanently expensive in post-industrial society

There is also a chicken and egg problem: the fact that new developments target childless people is one of the reasons raising a child is expensive. It might actually be one of the biggest reason in London considering how much people are spending on housing.

> I am not sure. If I want to live without a child, I would probably not spend money on a second bedroom.

I would. I've rented 2BRs my entire adult life. I needed an office--that room's for work (even if that work is my side projects or whatever), the rest of the house is for living. We bought a 3BR and collapsed a wall to make it a 2BR. One bedroom and one (very large) office.

> There is also a chicken and egg problem: the fact that new developments target childless people is one of the reasons raising a child is expensive.

New developments mostly target people with disposable income. That rules out most families.

I am, to be clear, in favor of subsidies and policies to encourage urban families; I think having kids in neighborhoods is a good thing for the neighborhood as a whole. But you're ascribing intent where none seems to exist.

It’s always fun to quantify this.

I can say that for certain I avoid the tourist things in my home city and my current adopted home city. I cannot remember the last time i was near them, actually.

But why? Tourist sights are tourist sites for a reason. The Tower of London is swarming with tourist, but its still genuinely fascinating. If only for Henry VIII's armoured codpiece.

Tourist sights are tourist sites for a reason.

I think there is more than a reason. Some are legitimately full of history or interest, like the Tower of London. Some might only appeal to a niche group of people whether you're a local or just visiting (As a fan of the Blues Brothers, I had to stop by the honorable Richard J. Daley Plaza in Chicago just to see where they got that Picasso). Some just have good marketing that the locals are in a better position to see through.

Depends on the site.

In my native city: Times Square is to be avoided at all costs; the Met is worth going to.

Probably because tourists are generally awful to be around.

But as a local, you can visit off-season/off-hours and avoid the worst of it.

I disagree in general. I mean some are, but when I travel and am coming back via Heathrow, I quite often sit myself near a group of first-time visitors on the Tube, just because its interesting to evesdrop on their impressions. Typical American family looking through the window at the surburban streets: "Look at those houses, they are so small". Seeing through other people's eyes can be fascinating.

Not in my experience. We get people from all over the world travelling to National Parks, and whether they are hardcore outdoors-folk exploring the back country, or a bus full of older Japanese camera-wielding tourists, they are almost universally friendly, interested in the area, and have stories to tell of their own lives and homes.

I grew up in Assisi, Italy, and lived there until ~2008.

Assisi was home to St.Francis, one of the most popular saints in Christianity, and it's a tiny village (5,000 residents) with >1.3M people visiting it every year, mostly for religious reasons.

Growing up there was really a unique experience in that regard, especially when tourism is such an important share of the local economy.

I met so many people from abroad, and befriended so many, over the years, and at the same time I almost took it for granted.

I think my mind benefited from this great influx of foreigners.

I am looking at the version of this that has an interactive map of the US (https://labs.mapbox.com/labs/twitter-gnip/locals/) and zooming in to my current location of New Orleans: https://labs.mapbox.com/labs/twitter-gnip/locals/#13/29.9802...

And holy shit I really did do a favor for my friend when I went down to the French Quarter, met up with her, and took her to City Park instead of another day of scheduled tourist activities; there are no red dots up there.

Sculpture Garden ftw, also CDM took over the morning call stand for now so you don’t even have to leave there for beignets

It’s not you couldn’t get beignets when it was Morning Call!

But yeah the sculpture garden is awesome, I love going there and sitting in the quiet little grove around *A Battle: For The Resistance Fighters”. Or chilling on a shady bench with the laptop getting shit done. You could probably see it on a modern version of this map.

I feel like this is applicable on a smaller scale than tourist/locals as well. I have lived in the same place in the same city for 7 years now and I have almost never been to any of the good bars/restaurants close to me. I'm always surprised when friends who live other places in the city recommend me places that I've walked past a hundred times in my neighborhood but never went into, and vice versa. I wonder why it is like that. I don't have a good answer myself.

When you're at home, do you go out to eat often? If so, how do you choose where to go? I'm sure the answer lies in one of these questions.

I lived in Amsterdam for 5 years but I never saw the Anne Frank House, because I thought I could always go there later.

I lived across the street from the Charles Dickens Museum in London for years. Never once went as "it'll always be there later". Still haven't been.

Any theory about why there is a local photo for every street in College Point, Queens? It's about 3 o'clock in the NY map here: https://flic.kr/p/87P99x.

There are a couple of places here that I know as more than a visitor, and in those cases, the residents' maps are quite interesting - for example, what is it about College Point, New York, that makes it stand out?

As far as I know as an NYC native... nothing? I was wondering about that too, must be some kind of sampling artifact. Maybe there's something we don't know about, but the neighborhood has more coverage than the whole rest of Queens (besides Shea). It's probably data from one guy who lives in College Point and happens to post a ton of pictures.

Good point - maybe the amateur neighborhood historian, or possibly a group who are documenting the state of things as part of a dispute with City Hall?

+1 for calling it Shea, not Citi Field.

Local resident: the library, the MacDonalds with the fastest drive through, the nice park with the ducks, except the sidewalk by the trees is always slimy with duck poop.

Of course in suburban areas that's about it 99% of the time.

High time locals started to know their city better than tourists.

It says "The red dots indicate photographs taken by tourists, while the blue dots show images taken by local residents" but what is the orange?

Yellow is can't be determined (because they haven't taken a picture anywhere for over a month).


When it could've been taken by either a local or a tourist, undetermined.

Terrible site UI. It hijacks the back/forward buttons to navigate through other content you haven't visited on that site.

If you are ever in SF and visit the Exploratorium, Eric’s work on these maps is shown there as well.

This post is a cautionary tale of why Legends are important.

Philadelphia Resident: The art museum.

Philadelphia Tourist: The Rocky steps.

Well, photographed. Perception is a cognitive function that's not so easily measured as this...

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