Political decision-makers need to consider the various challenges and opportunities that climate change can bring, and they must take decisions under high uncertainty to achieve resilient cities. Here, we synthesise the push and pull approaches reported in the literature and employed in practice to achieve sustainable and resilient cities. First, we present a literature review which identified the major research fields on transition theories, frameworks and methods that underpin this concept. We analyse the conditions for change, identify enablers or triggers for change at governance level for transitioning a city towards sustainability and resilience. We discuss the theories, frameworks and methods which can be used to address the urban climate change challenge at city level. Second, we present an empirical approach based on stakeholder participation that we conducted to detect the conditions for change. We report on the design and implementation of stakeholder exercises that helped us detecting the conditions for changes. Third, we combine the information obtained from these stakeholder exercises with that extracted from the literature in order to provide a fuller picture on how stimulate the transition and transformation to achieve sustainable and resilient cities. Based on our literature review and empirical approach, we formulate an integrated conceptual model for transition that enables the design of adaptation (and mitigation) strategies that consider the triggers of change. Uniquely we identified 8 triggers of change, including authority and political leadership, learning from disasters, co-responsibility, increased public-private interface, social participation and the living lab approach to innovation. The proposed model can be applied to the whole city or to a certain sector of the city (e.g. energy). We demonstrate that triggers of change help to overcome planning and implementation barriers and move the socio-ecological and socio-technical systems of any city towards those of a resilient city. ; This work was supported by the European Community's Seventh Framework Programme: Grant Agreement No. 308497, Project RAMSES "Reconciling Adaptation, Mitigation and Sustainable Development for Cities", 2012–2017. In addition, this study has received partial funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement no. 653522 (RESIN−Climate Resilient Cities and Infrastructures project).