One of the magical things about going on holiday is discovering a wonderful neighbourhood café, bar or restaurant with a unique ambience that, in your mind, will remain a treasured secret.
After all, who wants to be among the tourist crowds, when you could be hanging out with the in-crowd?
“Our editorial focus has always been on highlighting the most unique and inspiring spots, or places that are somehow different,” says Simon Harris, the CEO of Unlike City Guides.
“Our name’s derived from that. It comes from being unlike any other.”
The Unlike Guides currently cover 18 cities around the world with the usual suspects such as London, New York and Shanghai as well as more up and coming destinations like Cape Town, Sao Paulo and Copenhagen.
The plan is that more cities will be added, whenever and wherever they have enough users and locations that they can recommend. Next on the radar are Istanbul and Moscow.
However, it is not the cities but how the Unlike guides are making it easier to discover the underground and hidden gems that has attracted so much attention. Says Simon:
“We want to be as comprehensive as possible but we also want to sniff out those elusive, under-the-radar locations in each of our cities.”
Where some tourist guides are the work of a single author, or others are a list of places to see, the Unlike guides feels more like reading a glossy magazine where the local hipsters share their favourite spots.
How do they do it?
“We have a good network across our cities. New people are always getting in touch and saying they’d love to do a guide. We look to people from the creative sectors, people whose opinions we respect and feel that our community will benefit from the tips they are giving.”
A social network
Unlike is also taking tentative steps towards becoming a social network. You can make recommendations for other people to see and, likewise, you can follow other people to see the places they enjoy.
“There has been a lot of enthusiasm about our guides and the way we curate them, so we decided to open up and allow our community of users to get involved by recommending places that they think represent the coolest of their cities,” says Simon.
While people will be able to add any place they want, only the best places will be promoted by Unlike in the featured spots so an element of quality control will remain.
Gone are the days when you needed to carry a big paperback travel guide on your holidays. The Unlike Windows Phone app is a free download and makes for an ideal travel companion.
It can use your phone’s location to find recommendations around you, or you can select a particular city to see what’s hot.
Each city is then split into categories to make it easier to find a place for your needs: Nearby, Food, Shop, After Dark, Culture, Escapism and Hotel.
Once you’ve found a place of interest in the app, you can save it within the ‘me’ screen, which also acts as your social network hub.
Perhaps, my favourite of the app’s features is the global feed, which is a constantly updated list of the recommendations from every user around the world.
Even as a long time resident of London, the Unlike Guides is a reminder that there are always exciting places waiting to be discovered.
As Simon says:
“When people are visiting new cities they are always looking for insider tips on the best places to check, but it’s also an extremely useful resource for locals.”
image credit: yee tong