Cities face increasing risks due to climate change, and many cities are actively working towards increasing their climate resilience. Climate change-induced risks and interventions to reduce these risks do not only impact urban risk management systems and infrastructures, but also people’s daily lives. In order to build public support for climate adaptation and resilience-building and stimulate collaboration between authorities and citizens, it is necessary that adaptation and resilience-building are locally meaningful. Thus, interventions should be rooted in citizens’ concerns and aspirations for their city. Urban policymakers and researchers have started the search for better citizen participation in adaptation. However, tools to connect the relatively strategic and long-term notions of adaptation to a gradually changing climate held by planners and scientists with how citizens experience today’s climate and weather remain elusive. This paper investigates the use of ‘narratives of change’ as an approach to elicit perceptions of past, present and future weather, water, and climate, and how these relate to citizens’ desired futures. We tested this by eliciting and comparing narratives of change from authorities and from citizens in the Dutch city of Dordrecht. Our analysis of the process showed that historical events, embedded in local memory and identity, have a surprisingly strong impact on how climate change is perceived and acted upon today. This contributes to an awareness and sense of urgency of some climate risks (e.g. flood risks). However, it also shifts attention away from other risks (e.g. intensified heat stress). The analysis highlighted commonalities, like shared concerns about climate change and desires to collaborate, but also differences in how climate change, impacts, and action are conceptualized. There are possibilities for collaboration and mutual learning, as well as areas of potential disagreement and conflict. We conclude that narratives are a useful tool to better connect the governance of climate adaptation with peoples’ daily experience of climate risks and climate resilience, thereby potentially increasing public support for and participation in resilience-building.