Write what you know.
|View of the old city, Jerusalem|
So what does that phrase really mean? IMO, it means that if you don't know it, and you want to write about it, do some research. Or even if you have been to your desired setting before but it's been years, you'll need to brush up on certain things. Check out this list:
Weather. Use local weather to influence your mood. If the scene was happy or romantic, the sun was shining or setting. For murder/mayhem - fog/sandstorm/rain, depending on your setting's climate.
Speech patterns. Check idioms and regional phrases - do people say 'some' instead of 'very?' How would someone from Australia say, "That's really cool" ? Authenticity will deepen the appeal of your writing.
Architecture. What's the typical home look like in your location? What makes it unique - high roofline, arched windows, cedar siding, big porches? Is there a widely known building/location you could write a scene around?
Local customs. Do people kiss each cheek when greeting each other? Do they kick off their shoes before entering a stranger's house? Maybe there's a favorite bumpersticker a lot of people from one area have. (Where I live, it's "Alaska Girls Kick A**" among others....) How could you work those customs into your writing?
Food. If the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, the same is true for a reader. Tell us everything about a meal - the scents, the flavors, the textures and colors - and we're right there with you. Everybody loves a good meal. Think: Under the Tuscan Sun. Mmmmmmm....if you can make it work with your plot, go for it.
Clothing. I hesitated to add this last bc seriously, nobody walks around naked even in fiction, but I think clothing is an important part of setting - especially if you write anything but contemporary. From Katniss to Scarlett O'Hara, what our characters wear says a lot about what's happening to them and when.
What have I missed? What do you add to make your setting addictive?