I love the culture of walking tours in Europe. For the longest time, I believed that I was too cool for a guided tour, but sometimes you need someone telling you what you’re looking at. Of course, it get that much more exciting with tit bits of juicy information thrown in and the details of the trip find a permanent place in your memory. It sure is a great way to entertain friends with when you get back home and narrate stories about your trip.
My first experience with a free walking tour was in Rome when my friends and I went to the Roman Forum. Our guide was so good that we booked with her to go the Vatican City as well, and thank god we did! She was so friendly, warm, and full of information. That is what I love about the guides. They really seem to love their jobs. In the many walking tours I have been to since, I have never come across a guide who didn’t seem passionate about their city. Each one was better than the other.
Viraj and I have developed a system on our trips. The first day is dedicated to the walking tours where we get an overview about the city. Like in Barcelona, the morning was spent in Gothic Town learning about the history of the city while the afternoon was spent learning about Gaudi and his work around the city. We spent the next two days visiting the places we liked the most on the tour.
Since I love walking tours so much, I thought it would be great to catalogue some of the best walking tours I have been to. This post is aimed to be a resource of sorts for anyone who is travelling and would like to go on one of the walking tours. I have been fortunate to have some fellow travelers and bloggers share their experiences as well.
Before we get to the tours, there are a few things that you must keep in mind… general etiquette if you must!
- Although it is not important to book your spots online, I recommend that you do book your spots earlier. If anything, it will make sure that you reach the right place at the right time.
- Most of the walking tours start from a central place in the city which is easy to get to. So find out which is the most popular piazza in your city and head there. More than often, you will see a bunch of tour operators out there with the guides either wearing bright jackets or holding bright umbrellas. It would be hard to miss that!
- The walking tours, as they are ‘free’, none of the entries to museums or any other place of interest are covered. The guides will take you there and talk about it, and then you can decide whether you want to spend your money at the place or not.
Audience Behaviour – It’s pretty simple. Don’t ruin the tour for you and the people around you. Listen to what your guide has to say first before bombarding them with your questions. The guides are always super friendly and love questions. Just wait until they have finished talking and then you can always approach them to ask your questions. Also, do not be a show off. No one likes a show off.
Tipping – It is important to remember that the guides survive on tips. Hence, tip appropriately for their hard work. Viraj and I always tip about 10 euros per person, or 15 between us. If it is a longer walk, then you must tip accordingly. The worst thing you can do is to walk away halfway. That is most disrespectful to the guide.
Finally, lets get to those tours!
Paris, France – CultureFish! Tours
‘Paris is always a good idea’ said Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina, and how true that is! When I went to Paris, I wanted to experience the famous Parisian romance the way it is projected in the movies and books. I wanted to walk the streets, sip wine sitting in the gardens below the Eiffel Tower and even have espresso and croissant in a café. Lucky for me, Paris did not disappoint. The best way to connect with the city is on foot, and what better place to feel the romance of the city than in Montmartre – The center of the artist’s quarters. Our two hours with Culturefish! tours brought Montmartre alive! Walking through the streets, you are actually walking through the paintings of famous artists like Utrillo and peeking into what all the famous artist’s lives had been. How can it not get exciting to see which pub Picasso used to hang out at, or the apartment where Van Gogh lived, or the places where the who’s – who of the art world studied, worked and partied?
The thing that sets Culturefish! tours apart from the other tours is that while on the tour, they also talk about Parisian culture. People make a city, and understanding the people gives you a well rounded experience of a city. I thoroughly enjoyed the tour with Culturefish! tours and I highly recommend it when you visit Paris.
Viraj and I went for the Montemartre tour. Culturefish! also has a tour that takes you through the center of the city, called ‘The Heart of Paris’. You could do these two tours on the first day that you visit Paris and be well acquainted with the city in one day.
London, United Kingdom – Sandeman’s New London Tours
‘In 2.5 hours we saw the major sights like Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and St. James’s Park. We also had front row seats to the changing of the guard ceremony. I had no idea that this would be part of the tour. I was so impressed! Our tour guide knew exactly where to take us and at what time the guards would pass by. There were only a few tourists around and it felt like such an exclusive event. This tour exceeded my expectations and speaks to the experiences a walking tour can offer.’
By Danielle Des from The Thought Card
Amsterdam, Netherlands – Eating Amsterdam Food Tours
‘My favorite walking tour I’ve been on was in Amsterdam and it was their Walking Food Tour! They served so many delicious and culturally diverse plates that are unique to Amsterdam, while also giving information on the city’s rich history. There was also a surprise boat tour and we got to eat Amsterdam’s famous cheeses and bar food while cruising down the canals. I have written more about the tour here. The tour did sponsor the post, but it is my real life favorite tour I’ve ever been on!’
By Ashliegh from The Darling Daily
Prague, Czech Republic – Sandeman’s New Prague Tours
“Prague is a city that’s best seen by foot and thankfully has an amazing free walking tour that takes you through all the main sites of the city– from the Astronomical Clock to the Charles Bridge. Its the perfect tour if you are short on time but really want to see all Prague has to offer! The tour guides are amazing and work on tips so if you enjoyed the tour be sure to let them know through a donation.”
by Kassie from The Fly Away Life
Barcelona, Spain – Travel Bound Walking Tours
We joined the Travel Bound Walking Tours in Barcelona to take a guided walk through the Gothic Quarter of the city. This was our first morning in Barcelona and worked really well for us as it gave us a good orientation of the city. We met at the famous Travel Bar and soon after we were off exploring the the beauty of the Gothic Town and learning about Barcelona’s history. The present day Barcelona is beautifully intertwined with the historical Gothic Town which makes walking the narrow streets of this area so exciting. In the two hours of our tour, we covered the Gothic Quarter, saw Roman remains, walked around Picasso’s museum, saw some amazing street art, walked down La Rambla and ended near Columbus’s famous statue. We also got to see one of the shooting locations for Vicky Christina Barcelona, one of Viraj and my favourite movies. We were so excited after our trip to Barcelona that we watched the movie again once we got back home!
Madrid, Spain – Sademan’s New Madrid
The walking tour in Madrid was perhaps one of the best tours that we have been to so far. The entire credit for this goes to our amazing tour guide. Unfortunately I do not remember her name. Never have we come across a guide who had been so passionate. Viraj and I had just a day in Madrid and with our amazing guide, we believed we had seen everything and learnt everything we could about Madrid. Along with the ‘everything-we’ve-got-to-see-in-Madrid’ spots, we saw ‘the oldest restaurant in the world’, the restaurant where Ernst Hemingway did NOT drink in, the restaurant where the ‘Spanish version of the Robin Hood’ hid his booty. Sademan’s Tours have a reputation of having the best walking tours, and the one in Madrid did not disappoint.
PS – Our guide told us how the tapas originated in the most engaging way, and till date, whenever I have to tell that story, I tell it exactly like how she did.
These are just a few of the walking tours that are operated around Europe. Have you been to a walking tour that you have loved? This post is waiting for your contribution and comments.
This post is open for contributions (and revisions) from the walking tours that you have been to. If you would like to contribute, head to the Contact Me page or feel free to drop me a mail at email@example.com. Looking forward to hearing from you!