36 Hours in Koreatown, Los Angeles
As the most densely packed part of Los Angeles, Koreatown is also one of the city's most strollable, with Art Deco buildings, palm-lined streets and East-meets-West restaurants. Video: New York Times
It's not always love at first sight when you're travelling. Some of the destinations that end up being all-time favourites won't necessarily impress you straight away.
Maybe they'll seem boring on that first visit. Or dangerous. Or lacking in character. The reality is that some cities are just better at hiding their charms than others, refusing to reveal them to casual visitors, forcing you to take another look if you really want to appreciate what they have to offer.
Once you get to know these places, you'll love them. But that first visit? Prepare to be unimpressed.
Los Angeles, USA
From the window of the plane on that first approach, LA looks like a horrific urban sprawl, a true concrete jungle (although low-set, so maybe concrete scrubland). It's ugly. So you go to Hollywood, because that makes sense, but it's all rundown and charmless. You try to get to the beach, but there's no public transport and cabs are rare. LA, on that first visit, is a frustrating, confusing place. It's only after a few return trips that you discover Santa Monica, and Los Feliz, and the revitalised Downtown area, and the Sunset Strip, and realise that there's plenty about this city to love.
See also: The secret to having a good time in LA
Roller skating at Venice Beach, Los Angeles. Photo: Alamy
If you really enjoy gigantic resorts and flashy extravagance, endless shopping malls and big business, then maybe you'll have fun in Dubai the first time around. If, however, you like good, affordable Middle Eastern food, and boutique art galleries, and little drinking holes populated by a fun expat crowd, and being able to walk places, then it will take at least two or three stopovers in this booming megalopolis to discover its true charms.
See also: Why Dubai is worth a visit
The Palm Jumeirah in Dubai. Photo: iStock
The obvious thing to do in Bangkok is to book a cheap hotel somewhere near Khao San Road and go live the dodgy backpacker dream. Only, it's kind of a nightmare, and the heat of the Thai capital, coupled with all of the scammers giving naïve travellers their best shot, will render your first visit to the city an unenjoyable one. It's only after spending a little longer exploring, checking out the street food hubs, finding little back-alley restaurants or fancy rooftop bars, and learning to deal with the scammers, that you'll begin to love Bangkok.
See also: 20 reasons to visit Bangkok
Bangkok's weekend Vespa market near Chatuchak. Photo: iStock
If you're hoping for the dream version of Italy, the fantasy that's contained in the canals of Venice and on the beaches of the Amalfi Coast, then you'll be disappointed by Naples. This is no one's fantasy. It's grimy, it's a little dangerous, and the attractions are nowhere near as obvious as they are in other parts of the country. Naples does, however, have a rough charm and a lived-in vitality that will slowly become apparent to anyone willing to give the city a second chance.
Typical neighborhood in Naples. Photo: iStock
Moscow is the epitome of the big, bad city, all grey skies and towering Brutalist architecture, crowded streets and unsmiling faces. It takes a while to adjust to Moscow, to get accustomed to its ways and its rhythms – a few days isn't enough. Once you begin to get it, however, the romance of the Russian capital becomes clear. This is a city of writers and artists, dancers and philosophers, and it suddenly seems so full of culture instead of so devoid of charm.
Moscow, Russia. Photo: iStock
Most people spend plenty of time during their first visit to Jakarta wondering what possessed them to book their first visit to Jakarta. None of the things that make Indonesia great seem to be here: no beautiful beaches, no smiling Balinese, no backpacker bars or good times. Just traffic; so much traffic. Just hustle and bustle and pollution and cars. But Jakarta can be fun if you give it a chance. It can be enjoyable if you know where to go. Just try to stay off the roads.
Dutch colonial facades of Jakarta. Photo: iStock
When you arrive in South America excited for the romance of Buenos Aires, the edginess of Lima, the sex appeal of Rio de Janeiro, and the otherworldliness of La Paz, of course you're going to be disappointed with Santiago. The Chilean capital is just a city, devoid of big attractions, a little shabby and plain. But there's fun to be had here. There are great restaurants in the Lastarria neighbourhood, great bars in Bellavista, shopping in Vitacura, plus access to wineries, ski resorts, and the coastal fun of Valparaiso. It's worth revisiting.
See also: 20 reasons to visit Santiago
Santiago, Chile. Photo: iStock
Toronto is another city that suffers by comparison to its neighbours. When you're being held up against the likes of Montreal and Quebec City, of Vancouver and even Calgary – not to mention all of the amazing natural attractions in Canada that exist outside the urban hubs – it's easy for people to be disappointed. But Toronto will gradually charm you. It'll allow you to discover its multicultural neighbourhoods, its outdoor lifestyle (in the summer at least), its friendly locals and its great music scene. But only if you give it a second chance.
Toronto, Canada. Photo: iStock
Which cities did you dislike the first time you visited? Did they eventually grow on you? Or did you promise never to go back?
See also: Why you should always go back
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