A Review of Guided Walking Tours Around the World

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If you are visiting a city or destination for the first time, the likelihood is that you will want to get out and start exploring. Questions such as “Where to go first?” “Which neighborhoods are safe?” and “How to maximize our time in a city?” are likely to be going through your mind as you plan a visit to your chosen location. Guided walking tours are the best way to achieve this and we are happy to share some of our experiences taking such tours along with a few of our travel blogging friends who shared their opinions on the pros and cons of each type of tour.

In our minds, the best way to see any location is on foot because not only can you experience the main attractions, but you can also stumble across some hidden gems that perhaps you wouldn’t if you simply used public transportation (or drove your own car).

All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.

Do you agree with Friedrich Nietzsche’s comments above about walking? If so, keep reading because we want to share experiences of walking tours around the world.

What is a Walking Tour?

A walking tour will frequently have a designated start and end point, at least if you take the guided tour option. But are they all good value for money? That really depends on the type of tour that you take, how much you are willing to pay, and of course, the experiences encountered during the tour itself.

There are a couple of different types of walking tours that you can take around a city, regardless of the location. The ‘major’ global cities will generally offer a variety of all three tours that I am going to share with you, but others may be limited to just one or two. We have been fortunate to experience all three though this particular post focuses solely on the guided tour version.

Self-Guided Tour

The most obvious tour is one that you conduct yourselves, the self-guided tour. The key benefits of this is that there are no time constraints, more flexibility and it’s generally free.

walking tours around the world

A caveat here is that there are now self-guided walking tour apps available in many cities that connect to your phone’s GPS capability and provide information on landmarks you are walking by. There may be a cost associated with these types of apps. Alternatively, if you are an old-school traveler, perhaps you want to purchase a guidebook or map to give details on your proposed itinerary around a city.

new york city walking tours

Drawbacks of a self-guided tour are that you are limited to the amount of knowledge and information you will gain from the tour, in addition to potentially not knowing the types of neighborhoods you are walking around.

Free Guided Tour

A popular, relatively new attraction especially in Europe is the ‘free walking tour’ which is a great new philosophy that we personally love, having had some great experiences during our recent journey around some of Europe’s most historic cities.

guided walking tours around the world

The justification behind this is that your tour guide will provide you with an informative tour of their city and only when the tour has finished do you as the consumer get to determine how much value you place on the tour.

guided walking tours

It’s essentially a tip-based system. This inspires the guides to provide better tours because they ‘should’ be compensated accordingly.

Admission Based Guided Tour

The ‘old-school’ approach to guided tours may still be the most popular, where you purchase tickets ahead of time to take a tour led by an experienced guided (or so you hope). The problem with this type of tour is that you are simply hoping for a great experience, rather than the innovative tip-based system.

new york city guided walking tours

We recently experienced two such guided tours in New York City though we were fortunate to have these included in the New York Pass so didn’t have to pay the $35 per person charge. Costs can vary depending on the type and length of tour but this is by far the most common around the world.

Let’s take a look at some experiences taking guided walking tours around the world.

Amsterdam Walking Tour

Tour Company – Sandemans New Amsterdam Tours
Tour Cost – Free Guided Tour (Tip Based)

Visiting Amsterdam for the first time, a walking tour of the city is a great way to experience everything iconic about the Dutch capital. From watching the thousands of bicycles fly past you to the canals that weave in and out of the city, we felt extremely fortunate to take the free walking tour offered by Sandemans.

amsterdam walking tour

Sandemans is certainly becoming the market leader throughout Europe in offering these tip-based free tours. Their tour guides are an absolute credit, as their knowledge and energy ensure their tips are well-deserved. Our tour guide took us through the controversial Red Light District before experiencing some of the finest architecture around the city and of course, listening to a few stories about the ‘coffee shop’ industry in Amsterdam.

sandemans amsterdam walking tour

We strongly recommend this tour which finished at the iconic Anne Frank house and if you are fortunate enough to have Katjalisa as your tour guide, well you are in for a great experience!

Check out our post reviewing the ‘epic yet controversial’ Amsterdam walking tour.

Belgrade Walking Tour

Tour Company – Go2Serbia
Tour Cost – Approximately 20 Euro 

We didn’t realize how disoriented we were going to feel when we arrived in Belgrade: the Serbian Cyrillic alphabet rendered us practically helpless. We would have been entirely overwhelmed if it weren’t for our pre-arranged walking tour of the city highlights with Go2Serbia. A strategic military and political crossroads through the centuries, Belgrade’s past and present came alive.

guided walking tours around the world

Our personable guide, Demir, escorted us from the ancient fortress of Kalemegdan through the Bohemian neighborhood of Skalardija and back to the bustling city center. Along the way, we gained a new perspective on Belgrade and Serbia alike.

belgrade walking tour

This tour was part of a promotional package from the Belgrade Art Hotel, but a similar one would cost about 20 Euro.

Thanks to Betsy Wuebker from Passing Thru for sharing her experiences while visiting Belgrade.

Berlin Walking Tour

Tour Company – Insider Tour Berlin
Tour Cost – 12 Euros

Berlin, oh the wonderful and unique Berlin. Home to the infamous wall and full of history, Berlin was a city that certainly opened my eyes. The Third Reich walking tour exposed myself as a young 21-year-old to the atrocities that occurred in World War II along with the heroics of many people.

berlin walking tour

Starting at the Reichstag, now a meeting place for German parliament but previously set on fire back in 1933 under circumstances not entirely known, we snaked our way on a 3.5-hour walking tour through this glorious city.

reichstag in berlin germany

Taking in the history and many sites, which included the Jewish Memorial, the site of Hitler’s bunker, Topographie of Terrors and many more, we concluded our tour at the famous Checkpoint Charlie.

checkpoint charlie berlin

The information given by the tour guide and the stories told are what made this tour. I experienced this as part of my ‘finding myself’ group tour of Europe I did as a backpacker. Priced at only 12 Euros, this is well worth the admission fee!

Thanks to Lauren from The Traveller’s Guide By #ljojlo for sharing her experiences while visiting Berlin.

Boston Walking Tour

Tour Company – Free Tours By Foot
Tour Cost – Free Guided Tour (Tip Based) 

Free Tours By Foot is a historic journey into Boston’s past on a budget. While the center of this region is tiny, it’s packed with tales of war, protest and how America came to be. Joining one of these daily tours at 10:30 am sharp, we were led by our guide, dressed for the time period of the topic and guided around to the city’s most significant sites.

boston walking tour

Cruising past the site of the Boston Massacre, through the burial grounds of Samuel Adams and Paul Revere and to the Old State House, we learned more about America’s history than I ever remember learning in the history books.

boston walking tour

Our guide was entertaining and knowledgeable, we got some exercise and fresh air and left with a complimentary coupon for a discounted bowl of Chowda at a nearby restaurant too.

boston common

Although the tour is free, tips are appreciated!

Thanks to Shannon Ullman from Lives Abroad for sharing her experiences while visiting Boston.

Bratislava Walking Tour

Tour Company – Be Free Tours
Tour Cost – Free Guided Tour (Tip Based)

Cities like Bratislava in Eastern Europe are frequently under scrutiny because of the misrepresentations and stereotypes associated with movies such as Eurotrip. We headed to Slovakia for the first time a little apprehensive but ready to experience the real Bratislava.

bratislava walking tour

Thanks to our amazing free tour of the city, exploring the historic Old Town and experiencing a number of iconic attractions there, our opinion has certainly changed and we urge you to do the same.

bratislava walking tour

Check out our post reviewing the free walking tour in Bratislava and perhaps you will be inclined to change your opinion, rather than listening to the stories on Eurotrip and Hostel!

Brussels Walking Tour

Tour Company – Sandemans New Brussels Tours
Tour Cost – Free Guided Tour (Tip Based)

Brussels has come under a lot of scrutiny over the last few months due to the security alerts caused by the recent terrorist attacks in Paris. However, our recent visit to the Belgian capital should hopefully inspire you to explore this part of Europe.

brussels walking tour

We took an entertaining and informative free walking tour of Brussels, courtesy of Sandemans and learned a lot about what makes this such an attractive city for tourists and locals alike.

sandemans guided walking tours

From the best Belgian waffle spots to the gorgeous architecture in and around Grand Place in the heart of the city, we quickly realized that Brussels should be on your European itinerary rather than being concerned about the security risks.

best waffle shops in brussels

Check out our post reviewing the free walking tour in Brussels and why a trip to the Belgian capital should not be feared.

Bucharest Walking Tour

Tour Company – Walkabout Free Tours
Tour Cost – Free Guided Tour (Tip Based) 

Anytime I visit a new city I always check into free walking tours. And last year when I found myself in Romania’s capital city of Bucharest, I stumbled upon a tour with Walkabout free tours. We met in front of the clock in Unirii Square Park and the group was compact with around seven of us. Our guide was a local and very friendly and knowledgeable on Romania and specifically Bucharest’s history.

bucharest walking tour

From tales of Vlad the Impaler to its communist past we were taken through Bucharest’s city centre from the Palace of the Parliament to Stavropoleos Convent and around old town, ending in University Square. Our guide gave us tips on places to visit and bars and restaurants to drink and dine at. She had such passion for history, her country and pointed out everything from the large to the smallest of details.

bucharest parliament

The tour lasted approximately two hours and covered a lot, from the expected to the unforeseen treasures, and at its end, I gladly tipped her for sharing her amazing city with me.

Thanks to Stephanie Mayo from The World As I See It for sharing her experiences while visiting Bucharest.

New York Walking Tour

Tour Company – NewYorkTour1
Tour Cost – $35 (Free with New York Pass)

New York City is a myriad of adventures waiting to be uncovered. What better way to experience all of this than by taking a walking tour around one of many districts and neighborhoods in the Big Apple. NewYorkTour1 offer a variety of these tours including two that we recently experienced including a Broadway and Times Square tour, in addition to SoHo, Little Italy and Chinatown.

times square and broadway walking tour

Regardless of your preferences, New York City is a melting pot of cultures that are reflected throughout these tours. It is a great way to learn some hidden details from a local, in fact the two tours we took were actually led by Broadway theatre performers.

chinatown walking tour in new york city

Check out our post reviewing New York City walking tours and during your next visit to the ‘City That Never Sleeps’, maybe you will consider experiencing one or more of these!

Paris Walking Tour

Tour Company – Discover Walks
Tour Cost – Free Guided Tour (Tip Based)

We went on a Paris Night walking tour with Discover Walks, which is led by a local person who knows the city well. We were led be Eva, a young French woman who is passionate about her city.

paris walking tour

We started at the Louvre. Eva told us that Parisians do not like change at all and were horrified when the President of the time, François Mitterrand had the pyramids constructed in 1984. They found it an abomination that a modern construction would be juxtaposed with the history and heritage of the Louvre Museum.

We crossed the river Seine where the Eiffel Tower was illuminated, and where a beacon arcs across it during the evening. We were fortunate to be at the Eiffel Tower during the sparkle show. It really is a magical experience!

paris love locks

From the Pont des Arts Bridge where the controversial love locks are now being removed, we could also see the D’Orsay Museum and Notre-Dame. The people of Paris detest the love locks, claiming it started after a Sex and the City scene.

notre dame paris

We then went into the very vibrant 6th arrondissement of Saint-Germain des pres. Eva chatted the whole way about how they do have a good work-life balance in Paris, with the emphasis on life, not work.

This is a free tour though of course, tips are always welcome!

Thanks to Paula and Gordon from Contented Traveller for sharing their experiences exploring Paris.

Penang Walking Tour

Tour Company – George Town World Heritage Inc.
Tour Cost – 20 Ringgit (Less thank $5)

In Penang, Malaysia, the George Town World Heritage Inc. is the designated gatekeeper of historic George Town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. One of the ways they promote the town’s legacy is by offering affordable guided tours and walks to the public and to schools.

penang walking tour

The Traditional Trades Discovery Walk is a two-hour informative walk through the heart of multicultural George Town, focusing on traditional trades which are still very much alive today.

penang walking tour

This fascinating tour is offered every second Saturday of each month. The registration fee is 20-ringgit per person and limited to a maximum of 20 people. For history and culture buffs, it’s not-to-be-missed.

penang walking tour

Thanks to Vanessa Workman from The Island Drum for sharing her experiences while visiting Penang.

Prague Walking Tour

Tour Company – Sandemans New Prague Tours
Tour Cost – Free Guided Tour (Tip Based)

The walking tour I took in Prague stands out for being the only tour I’ve ever done while it was snowing. Not that this decreased the size of the group (well, it was free), or the enthusiasm of our wonderful guide, a local Prague student who was able to share her stories about growing up in the city. The snowy conditions meant the streets were quiet, apart from the very noisy snow ploughs that we occasionally passed, making it impossible to hear the guide.

prague walking tour

Yes, the group was a touch large and, yes, we got the sales pitch for the paying tours (we took the paying Castle Tower the next day), but we covered a lot of Prague, learnt a lot about the city, and discovered which places we wanted to return to for a more in-depth visit.

prague walking tour

Plus, by ourselves, we probably would have retreated to a snug café and not seen much at all!

Thanks to Shandos Cleaver from Travelnuity for sharing her experiences while visiting the beautiful city of Prague.

Rome Walking Tour

Tour Company – LivItaly
Tour Cost – 99 Euros

Imagine being transported back in time to when gladiators and beasts waged battle on the ground level of the Roman Colosseum. Today, you can tour the ancient wonder as a spectator (looking at the Colosseum floor from above) or as a participant (and visit the underground level). The latter is more interesting—especially if you have already done the regular tour—and the special tour is more fun when taken as part of a small group rather than a large tour.

guided walking tours in rome

I experienced that fun scenario with the Colosseum Underground & Ancient Rome tour with LivItaly. Our tour guide, Rachel, is a passionate lifetime student of history and all things Rome and her stories evoked vivid imagery of ancient times.

rome walking tour

The tour later proceeds to the 3rd level of the Colosseum (also not part of the regular tour) and then visits Palatine Hill, the Forum, and the historic center of Rome.

The standard cost is 99 Euros but students, teens, and children have discounted rates and (McCool Tip!) watch for Groupon deals.

Thanks to Charles McCool from McCool Travel for sharing his experiences while visiting Rome.

Stockholm Walking Tour

Tour Company – Stockholm Free Tour
Tour Cost – Free Guided Tour (Tip Based)

Stockholm is one of the greatest cities in the world. It was voted the first European Green Capital in 2009 and has only become better since then.

stockholm walking tour

As always, make sure that the Stockholm free walking tour is first on your agenda, so you know what to do for the rest of your stay. There are two tours to take, one exploring the “new” (300-year-old) town at 10 AM (10:30 in winter), and the second in Old Town (Gamla Stan) at 1 PM. They both start outside the Gamla Stan station.

gamla stan stockholm

Anastasia, one of the tour guides, does a great job leading the tour and giving the history and facts about the city.

Thanks to Skye Class from Skye Travels for sharing his experiences exploring Stockholm.

Warsaw Walking Tour

Tour Company – FreeWalkingTour.com
Tour Cost – Free Guided Tour (Tip Based)

The FreeWalkingTour.com tour around Warsaw’s Old City provided a great insight into the history of Poland. Be sure to join the right tour group as there is no shortage of tours starting at Sigismund’s column in the heart of the old city.

warsaw guided walking tour

My highlight of the World Heritage Site was the Royal Castle, which was rebuilt as was much of the area after the World War II destruction. The building is massive, and while you only get a glimpse of the building on the tour it really helped me understand the magnitude of destruction the Poles went through.

warsaw walking tour

While the tour was free, I happily tipped 5 Euros with the guide giving us so much information and even getting us engaged by testing us on things she mentioned at various sites (we were horrible).

Thanks to Jub Bryant from Tiki Touring Kiwi for sharing his experiences while visiting Warsaw.

Summary

Guided walking tours are definitely a great way to experience a new city, especially if you only plan on staying there for a short time. Not only do you get to explore the top landmarks and attractions there but you frequently are shown a few hidden gems along the way, perhaps your tour guides favorite spot to dine or enjoy a relaxing drink before taking time to explore the rest of the city outside of the tour.

We would like to thank all of our friends for collaborating together and sharing this awesome collection of walking tours around the world. We hope you have picked up a little information here for a future visit to your favorite city and we certainly look forward to taking more of these tours.

weekend wanderlust


13 COMMENTS

  1. Great article! I’ve taken about half of these myself, and now I’m really looking forward to taking the other half. I’m particularly interested in the Brussels one, since I was there for two weeks but only got one short tour in. This one looks a lot better. And to hell with the media, CIA or anyone else trying to scare me away from that great city.

  2. This is a great topic to cover in a blog post. Thank you. We did one of the free walking tours on a recent trip to Cordoba, Spain. It provided a great overview of the historic Jewish Quarter. I will look for them in other cities as well. We will soon be doing a Context Travel walking tour in Edinburgh. These can be pricey, but the guides are masters or Ph.D level experts in their fields, i.e. history, architecture, art history, archaeology. Many years ago we did two in Rome with Context’s predecessor company, Scala Reale, and they were really excellent. These are usually private or limited to small groups.

  3. I gotta bookmark this, there’s so many walking tours you reviewed here. I love walking tours because you get to learn some stuff about the place you’re visiting while seeing it in person. I just did a walking tour in Hong Kong that I put on the linkup, and one in Tokyo that was fantastic.

  4. Really interesting and helpful post thanks.
    We have taken quite a few of the free walking tours on our current trip. They have been a really good way to get our bearings and get insider knowledge without breaking the bank. We particularly enjoyed our free walking tours in Seattle and Santiago.
    My only bug bear with free tours is that some of them are just too big. I prefer the tours where you have to register or limit numbers as otherwise a portion of your tour is spent waiting for people to catch up or people talking over the guide. I found that tours we did with the New York pass were particularly guilty of this, although our brilliant highlights of midtown tour was only a small group.

    Although I think it is important to submit reviews of tours so we can assist others in making informed decisions to maximise their stay, I understand that some companies will then penalise guides who receive less than 5 stars on TA which obviously impacts on how reliable reviews are. I look to blogs and other sources for reviews when considering tours especially free ones. I also learnt that a lot of the free companies expect the guides to “buy” their slots so the people that slink off without tipping are not only very rude but could actually be causing the guide to be out of pocket.

  5. Wow! What a great collection of city tours! For Warsaw, I’d also recommend the Orange Umbrella Free Walking Tour…and they do an awesome Warsaw Eats paid tout too. I’m not always a fan of group tours, but I’d be willing to give some of these options a try. Thanks!

  6. Great round up of some really good walking tours! They were always one of the first things we would check for when arriving in a new city in Europe and were almost never disappointed! #weekendwanderlust

  7. Nice!We have always been great fans of walking tours as they really give you a great insight into a new town or city. Amzing how many you did!Thanks fro sharing and the inspiration!

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