The Top 10 Things To Do in Florence, Italy

The Top 10 Things To Do in Florence, Italy

Is there more magical and romantic piece on Earth than Tuscany? This part of Italy is definitely one of the places you need to visit. The capital of this Italian region is Florence. Famously dubbed as ” the Athens of Italy” because of its cultural and artistic importance to the country. The name, Florence, was given by Julius Ceasar and it means “the city of flowers”. This city is settled by the river Arno and spreads all the way to the Tyrrhenian sea. The heart of Tuscany, Firenza, is the city of wine, cheese, art and beautiful sunsets.

Remember the movie “Under the Tuscan Sun”? Since I first saw this movie, I started dreaming of Florence. I imagined it sunny, warm and friendly, with amazing tastes and aromas. “I eat a hot grape from the market, and the violet sweetness breaks open in my mouth. It even smells purple.” That Diane Lane’s famous line from the movie was on my mind when I was driving through Tuscany. It really smelled purple. When I visited this glorious city, I realized I’m living my dream and that Tuscany is all I was dreaming about.

There are so many things to do in Florence starting from visiting famous art galleries and famous royal palaces, till the amazing food and wines you are going to taste here. There are some moments that you need to feel during your stay in Florence, like listening to Italian language spoken by real Italians, watching people on the streets trying to learn how to live like them, watch the sunset on Piazzale Michelangelo and spending the evening with your friends by the Arno river under the Ponte Vecchio.

These are just some basic things to do and see in Tuscany, and if you love art, wine, and delicious food, Florence is one of the top places to visit in Europe and one the most important historical destinations in Europe.

The Top 10 Things To Do in Florence, Italy

The Top 10 Things To Do in Florence Italy

Galleria Degli Uffizi

One of the places you need to see in Florence is Galleria Degli Uffizi, one of oldest and the most prestigious art museums in the world. Besides Galleria Degli Uffizi, another important gallery and museum are Galleria dell’Accademia. If you are planning to visit one of these galleries, book your tickets in advance. Otherwise, you will be standing in the row for a long, long time, especially during the spring and summer season and on weekends. Florence is the best city in Europe when it comes to art and art galleries. Here you can see paintings and sculptures by Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Titian, Botticelli, Caravaggio, Goya, Rubens, Velázquez, Rembrandt, El Greco and the other great masters.

TIP: You can skip the line at the Uffizi if you purchase the ticket before hand so you don’t have to wait for long. There are so many things to see in Florence after all!

The Top 10 Things To Do in Florence Italy

Visit Piazza Della Signoria

If you are traveling as a part of a group or even when you are your own travel guide, the square is one of the first places you are going to visit. Piazza Della Signoria and the whole historical center of the city is under the protection of UNESCO. When you enter into the L-shaped square you will feel like you have entered into the museum. Where ever you look around you will see masterpieces of Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Francisco Goya, Diego Velazquez, Rembrandt, El Greco. On the Piazza del Signoria, around the Neptune’s fountain, there are numerous statues and pieces of art that together make the Loggia Dei Lanzi, adjoining the world famous Uffizi Gallery.

The main building in the square is Palazzo Vecchio. This palace was the home to Florentine rules and today it is the city hall. During the history, this building had changed its name many times – Palazzo del Popolo ( People’s Palace), Palazzo Dei Priori ( Prior’s Palace), Palazzo Ducale ( Duke’s Palace). Today’s name, Palazzo Vecchio was given after the Medici family moved to their new palace, Palazzo Pitti, by the river Arno.

While you are enjoying the surroundings and the beauty of Palazzo Vecchio, you think you are looking at the best of Florence. But your adventure is just starting. Take a moment and enjoy listening to Italian music, practice it and live the moment. This square is always full of people, walking and enjoying the scenery.

Enjoy Tuscan food and take a cooking class!

Italy is one of the best travel destinations in the world when it comes to food. There are so many different dishes you need to taste. There are numerous variations of pizza, pasta, and lasagna that every tourist need to try. The most famous dishes of this region are Schiacciata, Cantucci, Zuppa di Fagioli, Panzanella, gelato, Ribollita, Pappardelle with cinghiale sauce, Olive Oil, Bistecca Alla Fiorentina, Lampredotto and so on!

I have always dreamt of learning how to cook like real Italian woman. Is there a better way to do it than taking a cooking class at the Tuscan farm or household. If you decide to take this class, you will be learning from Italian grandmas, the world greatest chefs and using the ingredients that are coming from the local market or from the gardens of the farm. After all, spending some time learning how to cook, eating amazing food and meeting new people is the best way to spend a pleasant afternoon in Tuscany.

The Top 10 Things To Do in Florence Italy

Go to a local market

Going to a local market is the most amazing and fun thing you need to do during your travels. When you are planning your trip and thinking what to visit in Florence, do not forget to add Mercato Nuovo to your list. This market is also known as Loggia del’ Porcellino, because of a copy of a bronze wild boar by Pietro Tacca originally made in the sixteenth century. Why is this statue so important? Well, there is a popular tradition that rubbing the nose of it will bring you the fortune and you will come back to Florence. Another thing you need to do after rubbing the nose is to put a coin in the mouth of the boar and make a wish. If your coin tumbles through the grate whence the water flows, your wish will come true. The original of this statue you can find at Palazzo Pitti.

Besides doing this superstitious thing, here you can buy all sorts of goods, like clothing, shoes, jewelry, bags, food, fruit etc. This is the new market in the city and the old one, Mercato Vecchio, was located at today’s location of Piazza Della Republica.

The Top 10 Things To Do in Florence Italy

Visit Duomo Cathedral

Another thing you need to do or places to see in Florence is Duomo Cathedral. Florentine cathedral, Santa Maria del Fiore or simply, Duomo – an absolute architectural masterpiece. The name “Duomo” comes from Latin expression “Duomos Dei” which means “the house of God”. Santa Maria del Fiore is the fifth largest cathedral in Europe, with the length of 153 meters. The construction began in 1296, but considering that building of the dome was so complex and hard to build, the cathedral was finally finished 173 years later, in 1436.

Duomo is one of the greatest tourist attractions and one of the most amazing places to visit in Europe. The fact that you are standing in front of the 800 years old building takes your breath away. Just imagine the scene of its constructions and think for a moment that this building is here in front of you today.

The Top 10 Things To Do in Florence Italy

Take a walk along the Ponte Vecchio

When you think of Tuscany and what to see in Florence, the first place you think of is Ponto Vecchio. This bridge is one of the most photographed and one of the most picturesque places in Europe. The old bridge” was built in 1345, on the narrowest point of Arno river. If you decide to take a walk along this bridge you will have the opportunity to visit numerous shops here. It is considered that these shops were here since the bridge was constructed. The reason why so many shops are located here is very simple. If the shops were on the river, on “no man’s land”, the owners didn’t have to pay the taxes to the city and government. Today, here you can find shops owned by jewelers, art dealers, and souvenir sellers.

The Top 10 Things To Do in Florence Italy

Visit the Chianti region

If you are wondering what is the best place to visit in Italy to taste the best wine in the world, visit the world famous region in Tuscany, the Chianti. You have probably heard of Chianti wine. Well, this is the place where it is made. Spend a day or maybe a week on the Tuscan estate, in vineyards, picking grapes and making wine in a traditional way. At the end of the day, take a glass of Chianti wine and enjoy the sunset. This region of Tuscany is the perfect choice for a holiday and romantic destinations in Europe.

The Top 10 Things To Do in Florence Italy

Visit Palazzo Pitti

This enormous Renaissance palace is one of the best places to visit in Italy if you are history and art fun. The palace was designed by Filippo Brunelleschi or his student Luca Fancelli for the powerful and ambitious Florentine banker, Luca Pitti. He wanted to build a palace that will be more beautiful, bigger that the palace where lived the ruling family of Florence, the Medici family. He died in 1472 before the construction of the building was finished. In 1539, Medici family bought this palace. Since then, this palace was the residence of the Great Duke of Florence and Medici family.

This palace is located on the south side of the Arno river, near to Ponte Vecchio. Today, this is a huge art gallery that consists of 7 museums. There are 140 rooms open for visitors. Besides Uffizi Gallery and Galleria Della Accademia, here you can also see the masterpieces of the great artist like Titian, Raphael, and Rubens.

Go cycling and explore the city

Florence is not the big city. It plays an important part in the historic, artistic and cultural center of Italy, but the city is not that big itself. So, one of the best things to do in Florence, if you want to explore the city and see all these cute little streets is rent a bike! Renting bicycles in Florence is not that expensive and it is one of the best ways to explore the entire city, especially during spring and summer. This is also perhaps a cheaper alternative to travel around the area and see the best of the city on your own!

The Top 10 Things To Do in Florence Italy

Visit the Basilica di Santa Croce

The Basilica di Santa Croce (Basilica of the Holy Cross) is the principal Franciscan church in Florence and the biggest one in the world. This building is the pride of the city. Here are buried some of the most important Italians of all time, such as Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, composer Rossini.

This basilica is also known as the Temple of the Italian Glories (Tempio dell’Itale Glorie). Because of this, Basilica di Santa Croce is one of the most historically important and one of the best places to visit in Europe.

The Top 10 Things To Do in Florence Italy

Watch the sunset at Piazzale Michelangelo

For the end of the day spent in Florence, take a walk to Piazzale Michelangelo. On your way to this panorama point, you will enjoy the beautiful scenery full of Tuscan villas and vineyards. When you get to the Piazzale Michelangelo, you will be amazed. The view from here is one of the best in the world! You will see the whole city of Florence embraced by the red sky. If you are wondering what to see in Europe? This view is one of the things you need to! You will always remember that evening you spent watching the sunset and drinking wine with your friends.

Florence is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. There are so many things to do in Florence, art galleries and museums to visit and delicious dishes to taste. Millions of people come to Italy every year knowing exactly what they want to see in Italy. But what can you see in Florence? Well, this list consists of places to visit and things to do in this Italian city. These are just some of the amazing thing you can experience during your stay here. Florence is a perfect travel destination for a romantic or weekend getaway in Europe.

Things to do in Florence, Italy | Places to visit in Florence | Florence sightseeing | Trip to Florence | Visit Florence | Visit Italy | What to see in Italy | Romantic places in Europe | Where to go in Europe | Florence Italy Travel | Italy Tavel
Things to do in Florence, Italy | Places to visit in Florence | Florence sightseeing | Trip to Florence | Visit Florence | Visit Italy | What to see in Italy | Romantic places in Europe | Where to go in Europe | Florence Italy Travel | Italy Tavel
Things to do in Florence, Italy | Places to visit in Florence | Florence sightseeing | Trip to Florence | Visit Florence | Visit Italy | What to see in Italy | Romantic places in Europe | Where to go in Europe | Florence Italy Travel | Italy Tavel

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Top 10 Things To Do in Helsinki (Finland)

Top 10 Things To Do in Helsinki (Finland)

I’ve been living in Finland for the last decade and though I only lived in Helsinki for a total of five years, I’ve grown fond of the city’s laid-back lifestyle despite its high cost of living. I’ll try to provide as much useful information to you guys as I tackle some of my local tips on the things to do in Helsinki for first-time visitors!

Helsinki is better known as the “Daughter of the Baltic” is a young city filled with innovative young creatives who keeps on making Helsinki one of the most interesting places to live at. Also, this beautiful city ranks on the top as one of the world’s most favorable place to live due it is almost zero crime rate, peaceful surroundings, equality amongst men and women, great educational system, and of course, the world renown healthcare system. Of course, all these wonderful things applies to Finland as a country and not just Helsinki.

However, this post aims to give visitors a great overview of what to expect and the cool things to do in Helsinki. I’ll concentrate on places which the locals would also enjoy going to and not just the main touristic places which every single other blog post already have (but I’ll include them in here, as well).

Nonetheless, there are also tons of other places to visit in Finland and quite a few are easily accessible from the capital and can be done on a day trip from Helsinki! There are also different sort of tours in Helsinki you can partake to see more of the city in short amount of time. Check out some acitivities in Helsinki you’d be interested at!

Top 10 Things To Do in Helsinki, Finland

1. Go for a relaxing time at Helsinki’s oldest public Sauna!

If you are planning to visit Helsinki or Finland for that matter, then I am assuming that you have heard about the importance of Sauna in the Finnish culture. But truly, what is a sauna? Basically, it is a room with a sauna stone (with stones on top) either heated by electricity or wood and you heat the whole room up by throwing water on the hot stone thus creating hot steam.

Sauna claims to have many health benefits and it is one of the foundations that stabilizes the Finnish culture. For instance, a family gathers weekly to enjoy the sauna either in their homes or they gather in their summer cottages whereas they have a sauna by the lake. It is a custom that is well loved by the Finns which has been carried on through out history. In fact, in Finland alone you’ll find over two million saunas all over the country, that is almost one sauna per three citizens!

This brings us back as to why you should try out sauna if you ever plan a trip to Helsinki. You see, when Finns started moving down south to Helsinki, public sauna became in demand because of the hustle and buzzle of the city that keeps its citizens with almost no time to visit their cottages for some sauna time.

Public saunas in Helsinki became the hub for the locals to rejuvenate and keep the custom going. The first one to be opened is located in the Kallio neighborhood and it is called Kotiharju Sauna, it has been in operation since 1928!

If you’re interested in trying out this one,  here are few other sauna places to visit in Helsinki:

Note: These public saunas in Helsinki are located not far from the heart of the city.

2. Go for a Hike at Nuuksio National Park – A Day Trip Close to Nature

This national park is not exactly in Helsinki but in Espoo, a city and municipality just outside of the capital city. If you’re keen on hiking and nature, then a day trip from Helsinki to Nuuksio is certainly your kind of thing!

About one hour away from the heart of Helsinki, you’ll leave the busy city and enter Nuuksio National Park‘s splendor as you inhale the freshest air and expect a more relaxed environment in the care of mother nature. Apart from all that, you’ll also witness some of the finest Finnish sceneries, forest, lakes, and all that shebang.

If you come in Autumn and granted that Finland had a good summer, you’re in for a good surprise as wild berries and mushrooms are in full bloom at this time of the year. Just make sure that you don’t put anything in your mouth unless you know exactly what wild goodies you have or there’s a tour guide to tell you what’s good or not. There are poisonous berries and mushrooms in Finland so watch out!

3. Enjoy the chill vibes at Kallio neighborhood

If you’re keen on doing anything cool and hip, then Kallio is your ‘hood. This Helsinki neighborhood is the hub for students, artists, and musicians so you can just tell by that that Kallio is indeed the equivalent of the Jewish Quarter of Budapest where all things weird and awesome happen.

For the young locals, Kallio neighborhood is the place to be because all the cool parties happen there and not to mention, cheap-ish rent (Helsinki, in general, is expensive y’all! Rents are never cheap). However, what is it for travelers and the tourists? Well, if you like beer and drinking in a vibrant atmosphere then I suggest bar hopping in Kallio!

If you’re not a drinker, don’t fret, there are also tons of fusion restaurants to visit and as well parks to hang out. You’ll find tons of locals just chilling around during the summer so it is certainly the best time to visit Helsinki to see what the cool kids are up to.

How to get to Kallio? Take tram number 3 and it will take you from the city center to Kallio.

TIP: If you take tram 3, take a round trip with it as it will take you to all hyped neighborhoods in Helsinki (Töölö, Punavuori, Kamppi, and Kallio). The locals call it the scenic tram ride because it literally takes you to all Helsinki points of interests.

4. Go for a day trip to Porvoo!

Colorful wooden houses, nature, and history – all the things you’ll witness if you visit Porvoo. About one hour away from the city center, you’ll find yourself on a day trip from Helsinki to the old medieval town that once existed in Finland.

Porvoo is the second oldest city in the country and is one of the main attractions in Finland you must visit. It served as the trading center back in the days but nowadays it is a functioning city that adapted with modernity while retaining its historical vibes.

If you visit in summer, you’ll find all sorts of things to do in Porvoo such as visiting live exhibitions, sampling local handmade crafts, visiting cute cafes, and try out some of its local restaurants.

To travel from Helsinki to Porvoo is fairly easy, there’s a bus line that runs frequently all day and you can catch the bus to Porvoo from Kamppi (city center) and it will take you between 50 minutes to 1.5 hours to get there and will cost you between 11.50-17USD for a one-way ticket.

READ
Top 18 Places to Visit in Finland (From South to North, West to East!)

5. Feel the local culture vibes at Korjaamo

A total culture hub filled with everything artistic, Korjaamo is for all sorts of people who appreciate culture and arts mixed together. If you’re interested in involving yourself in theater, music, and fine arts – Korjaamo is without a doubt something you’ll enjoy.

In summer time, there are numerous free programs you can attend to and you can also visit its galleries that have different exhibitions all-year round. Apart from that, there’s also a nice cafe and bar you can check out!

6. Visit Helsinki’s beautiful market halls and sample local delicacies

If you’re interested in local cuisine and want to taste some of Finland’s local delicacies, visiting some of Helsinki’s market halls are not only a treat for the eyes because of its marvelous architectural design but also for its wide range of epic dishes and ingredients you can find in some of its stalls.

There are several market halls to visit in Helsinki but the best one I can recommend is Hakaniemen Kauppahalli which is located at the heart of the neighborhood in its market square. In summer time, there are tons of happening around these market halls and you’ll find outdoor stalls selling traditional Finnish summer foods such as fried vendace and salmon soup.

In winter, however, you’ll find tons of different seasonal dishes inside the market halls you can sample. That said, the market place is not open for long so you must visit during lunch time at best so you won’t miss out on some of the lunch places!

READ
20 Different Traditional Finnish Food You Must Try in Finland

7. Check what’s the jazz over at Teurastamo in Kalasatama

Kalasatama is a great place to visit in Helsinki to start with, it is located beside Sörnäinen and in there you’ll find Teurastamo, an old slaughter house turned into a conventional cultural hub where you can just either chill out with a pint of beer or eat your way out.

In summer time, they often have parties in the area and it is notable for its laid-back jazz festival which invites everyone to witness and enjoy. Apart from that, the growing food culture in Helsinki is strong in Teurastamo so be sure to sample some of the restaurants in the area!

8. Party at Kaiku and Kuudes Linja for some good music and beers

Located in Kallio neighborhood, Kaiku in Helsinki is an underground club where the cool kids of Helsinki release their inner Danny Zuko and break the dancefloor when the beat hits the right spot. They often play techno music (the good kind) so it really warms up your groove!

Kuudes Linja, on the other hand, has rather similar vibes as Kaiku only they play different sorts of music from electronica to anything you can think of. I think they even played Barbie Girl by Aqua once I was there and it was pretty legit cool.

9. Have a korvapuusti and coffee at Cafe Regatta

A very small cafe, almost unnoticeable if you passed by it, standing cozily by the lake overlooking the vast nature of Helsinki’s Sibelius Park in Taka-Töölö comes Cafe Regatta – famous for its cinnamon buns and laid-back atmosphere, this tiny cafe is certainly one of Helsinki point interest you must not miss!

One tip I could give you is to hit two birds with one stone (not literal) and buy a package of Makkara or Finnish sausage with you and grill it on the open fire they have ate Cafe Regatta which anyone can use as long as you make sure you clean after yourself! This is also one thing to do in Helsinki most locals do themselves (me included).

So, korvapuusti, makkara and coffee and that almost equates to a proper Finnish experience sans the beer and sauna.

10. Tuomiokirkko (The big white church)

Ah, the big white church. It has a name you know, it is called Tuomiokirkko but most people refer to it as the big white church.

Tuomion Kirkko, or Helsinki Cathedral, is one of Helsinki’s point of interest as it is usually the face of every guide book you’ll find about Finland. It is a Lutheran church and is famous for its astonishing architecture and it certainly takes your breath away once you witness it for yourself.

It is free to go inside the church but I would suggest that you dress appropriately and perhaps don’t snap too many photos inside but knock yourself out taking tons of selfies from the outside. Respect, you know, it is a church after all.

Visiting Tuomiokirkko will not take long, so visit this if you’re on your way to Suomenlinna as the market square, where the boat departs to the sea fortress, is not far along.

Planning to visit Helsinki? Let me help you!

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Things To Do in Japan: Tokyo Like a Local

Things To Do in Japan: Tokyo Like a Local

For the new generation of experiential travelers, seeing a city through the eyes of a local is the ideal. Having spent time in Korea as an expat, I am all too familiar with the tourist experience vs. the expat experience. We never dined with the tourists. We never visited the landmarks alongside droves of snap-happy visitors, guided by a map. And we certainly never paid hiked-up tourist prices. That said, knowing the language, the road less traveled and a city’s tourist traps is a priceless wealth of knowledge that only comes with time spent getting to know the area and from making mistakes. And whilst you’ll not transform into a local overnight, here are some top tips for experiencing Tokyo like a local.

RELATED: Places to Visit in Japan in Winter

tokyo like a local

Eat and Drink Like A Local

Eating like a local isn’t as difficult as it sounds. The Japanese nation is proud of its food heritage and it’s widely celebrated across the city, far outweighing the number of western establishments. Go big and book into a restaurant devoid of English on the menu. Not only will you know it’s the real deal, but also that the flavors haven’t been messed with for the benefit of tourists’ palates. Also, keep an eye out for establishments packed to the rafters with locals – this is always a good sign of quality, and you can take it as a given that the cuisine is as authentic as it comes. A favorite local dish to try is shabu-shabu (sukiyaki), a boiling broth that’s set at the center of the table in which diners dip beef and vegetables, before slurping up the remaining liquid in the form of rich, broth-soaked noodles. Top tip – try everything. You may not know what it is that’s going into your dish, but consider it the only way to find out.

tokyo like a local

Sightsee Like a Local – Therefore, Don’t!

Okay, so the main reason you have come to Tokyo is probably to sightsee, so if you’re going to do it, do it with some tact. Avoid tourist-heavy landmarks like Tokyo Sky tree and Tokyo Tower. Instead, head to the likes of the Tokyo Government Building where the views far eclipse those of the former and admission is free. Tokyo is brimming with rural refuges, where each park doubles up as a place to sit down, relax and watch the world pass by. People watching – an activity in itself – is complemented by the pace of city life in Tokyo. Avoid the masses by booking onto exclusive happenings. The opportunity to hang out with sumo wrestlers and go behind the scenes at the stables in which they learn to grapple is a once in a lifetime opportunity. This exclusive and private day out is offered by Palace Hotel Tokyo, which just so happens to be one of the best hotels in Tokyo, and will not only allow you to experience life as a local but to see how these local celebrities live on a day to day basis as they vigorously train. At the end of it all, if you’re ever feeling overwhelmed by tourists, take some time to wander the residential neighborhoods.

As far as accommodation in Tokyo, there are plenty of areas in the neighborhood you can stay at. Just make sure to do your research!

tokyo like a local

Dress Like A Local

When in Rome, dress like a local. As an expat in Korea, I often found myself clad in vibrant colors with nonsensical English plastered across my chest. I may have felt odd, but I no longer stood out like a sore thumb. In fact, my students even thought I had fashion sense. Get the Tokyo look when in the city and find yourself in step with this impeccably dressed nation. Harajuku fashion is known the world over as being some of the most outlandish, colorful and mismatched there is (just some of the weird things you’ll encounter in Tokyo). Don’t let my description put you off because nailing the Harajuku look is like a badge of honor that should be worn with pride. The boutique shops in the neighborhood are where you’ll find the coolest threads – so revolutionary that the high street stores are the ones playing catch up.

tokyo like a local

Get in Touch with A Local

If in doubt, get in touch with a local before landing on Asian soil. And in the tech-savvy, social media-enthused, internet-loving world we live in today, it couldn’t be easier. Forums, apps, Facebook groups and even language exchanges – the list of ways to communicate across the many ponds that stand between your home country and Japan is endless. They’ll take you by the hand and show you what it is to be a true local in Tokyo.

Plan a day trip outside Tokyo!

Apart from Tokyo, there are also a lot of other places to visit in Japan and the next popular place to visit is a city called Kyoto. You can take the fast train that will take you to Kyoto from Tokyo in 3 hours making it an optimum place to visit for the day! If you’re interested on planning a day trip to Kyoto, make sure to plan ahead your itinerary.

tokyo like a local | asia travel destination | things to do in tokyo | tokyo japan travel bucket list | what to do in tokyo japan | expat living in japan
tokyo like a local | asia travel destination | things to do in tokyo | tokyo japan travel bucket list | what to do in tokyo japan | expat living in japan
tokyo like a local | asia travel destination | things to do in tokyo | tokyo japan travel bucket list | what to do in tokyo japan | expat living in japan

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  • Have you visited Tokyo like a local before? What’s your experience?
  • If not, would you like to visit Tokyo someday?
  • I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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