If you were to plan a trip to Paris, landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame would probably be first on your itinerary. But have you really experienced the culture of a place until you’ve visited some lesser-known spots? The world is full of many unique individuals and communities, creating products and experiences that cannot be found anywhere else. A Jack the Ripper walking tour in London. A café in Naples where you receive a history lesson in coffee before being served amazing pasta, family style. A shop in Athens specializing in jewelry engraved with poetry. If you are visiting a new city or region and want a taste of what makes this place different, how do you find hidden gems such as a these?
Bimble is a two-year-old travel and lifestyle app, founded by Oxford University alumnae Julia Mallaby Rossler and Francesca Howland, which promotes small businesses around the world. Bimble enables its 130,000 users to share their favourite places while also discovering new cities and neighborhoods with the help of people who have lived there for years. The Wall Street Journal calls this app the “Spotify of Travel” because users are also able to create lists of locations (these lists typically have a theme, such as 7 Free Museums in London or My Favourite Eateries in Lisbon). Bimble also recently added an interactive map, which displays places nearby.
I had the chance to use Bimble’s many features during my recent trip to Athens. When I was putting together my itinerary, I was on the hunt for shops and restaurants; using Bimble I found Margarita Meitani and Little Kook. The former of these is a tiny store which sells jewelry engraved with poetry; selections rang from excerpts from classical plays to the works of modern Greek poets. Little Kook is a fairy-tale themed café decorated with Disney memorabilia, stuffed animals, flowers, porcelain figurines, and countless other knick-knacks to create a whimsical atmosphere for dining.
I also added some of my own discoveries to Bimble; highlights included the Old Tavern of Psara (you must try the saganaki while enjoying a gorgeous view from the steps of the Plaka stairs), the Jewish Museum (a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it establishment showcasing the rich history of the Jewish community in Greece), and the Frogs Guesthouse (three beautiful suites and an adorable café decorated with—you guessed it—frog toys and figurines). See my lists of Shopping in Athens and My Favorite Places to Eat in Athens for more stores and restaurants!
Of course, Bimble also has a way of filling up my head with more places than I will ever have the time to visit. A list of 7 cute places in London includes Circolo Popolare; this adorable Italian restaurant is decorated with flowers and fairy lights hanging from the ceiling and serves food that has been praised on several social media platforms. I had never heard of Dunino Den (a site of ancient Druid worship in St. Andrews) before seeing it on Bimble, but I hope to visit soon and learn more about Celtic folklore and faerie mythology. Although I have no idea when I will be able to go to the Netherlands, I have the perfect trip to Leiden planned with the help of the Long Weekend in Leiden guide to restaurants, museums, and nature.
It’s not as if every person who lives in Paris goes to the Eiffel tower ever day—if you want to know what life is really like in the city of lights, you will have to explore some of its hidden corners. There is a story behind every small business or independent entrepreneur, and nothing is a testament of the culture of a place like the work of the people who live there. When I travel, I enjoy visiting iconic landmarks and famous museums; however, I also hope to learn about the people and the things that bring them pride. Bimble is a doorway for travelers to find unique places around the world, promote these establishments, and share in the creative atmosphere they inspire.