Everyone knows that a certain amount of planning has to go into travelling. Tickets, flights and hotels have to be organised to some extent or you risk spending an unforeseeable amount of time sleeping on airport chairs or park benches. But once you’ve arrived, what then? Does the planning stop? Well, no. Restaurants are hastily booked and the maps come out. The days then start to follow a pattern – figuring out what to see and do that day, and then (with a few wrong turns and the same amount of petty arguments) you get there, enjoy it, and before you know it, it’s off again to the next attraction on your painstakingly planned itinerary. It’s only natural, after all. We all want to make sure we see what we ‘must-see’ and eat where we ‘must-eat’…

Whatever the destination, a map, or travel app, should be your best friend – but every now and then it’s well worth taking that wrong turn, veering away from the city hotspots, and, quite simply, getting well and truly lost. Admittedly, some cities reveal their charm to the disorientated more willingly than others, so here are our pick of the best cities in the world to stow the map, for a little while at least, and let intuition be your guide…

Venice

In our opinion, it’s hard not to get lost in Venice, so you may as well embrace your bewilderment and begin exploring intuitively. And you’ll know if you’ve taken a wrong turn because the dead end will most likely be the edge of a canal…

Venice by JoeDuck

Venice by JoeDuck

So often in Venice the search for a recommended restaurant will lead you to find an even better one that no one’s written about – particularly, in our experience, in the Dorsoduro area of the city. Once away from the chaos that is St Mark’s Square, cross over the Rialto Bridge and let your feet take you where they may – the quality of Venetian masks, gloves and just about everything increases the farther you get from the touristy centre, making this one of the most sensible places to leave the map at home. Well, maybe keep it in your back pocket – just in case…

Barcelona

Whether it’s the narrow alleyways of the Barri Gòtic or the bustling La Rambla, Barcelona is one of the most exciting cities to take a wrong turn.

El Raval | Barcelona

Jardins de Rubió i Lluc, El Raval by Oh-Barcelona.com

Why not take a wander around the hill of Montjuïc, where there’s a whole host of green spots perfect for an alfresco picnic with breathtaking views of the harbour and the city. For a slightly less crowded museum visit, head to the Fundació Joan Miró and take in some of Catalonia’s most famous modern art. A walk around El Raval, too, will always turn up hidden gems, whether it be tiny independent boutiques, Art Deco cafes or Barcelona’s oldest church.

Zurich

Scratch beneath Zurich’s structured exterior and there’s a wealth of vibrant, diverse and completely unexpected treasures to be found – you just have to let go a little to find them…

Zurich by ND Strupler

Zurich by ND Strupler

Kreis 1 (the city centre) may boast the kind of cobbled pathways that make getting lost in a city a picturesque pastime, but finding yourself disorientated in one of the outer districts is arguably much more rewarding. A walk around Kreis 4, for example, will introduce you to the stunning Bäcker Park and the Kanzlei flea market, whilst art-lovers should explore Kreis 5 and its vast amount of galleries and boho boutiques. Zurich’s sensible reputation might make it seem like the place where plans should be made and kept, but trust us – this is one book that you shouldn’t judge by its rather shiny cover…

San Francisco

On first glace, given that it’s famous for really steep hills, getting lost in San Fransciso might sound like an absolute nightmare, but if you’re smart – it can be one of the most exciting ways to experience the city.

Chinatown | San Francisco by ~MVI~ (thesis stressed)

Chinatown | San Francisco by ~MVI~ (thesis stressed)

Driving around San Francisco, as any local will tell you, can be a nightmare if you don’t know it well. But all those one-way roads and hidden alleyways are no skin off the wanderer’s nose. Take a turn around The Outer Richmond, where you’ll stumble upon some seriously good Russian bakeries and restaurants, or, if you’re feeling adventurous, wander through the ultimate maze that is Chinatown – when it comes to getting lost here, you don’t really have a choice…

Words by Victoria Godden