If there’s anything that surprised me, it’s how commonplace free walking tours are around European cities, to the point that the first thing I’d look out for when visiting a new city is their free walking tours. I’ve been to such tours when I was in Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Lisbon, Barcelona, Granada, Seville and many more.
Most of the tour guides are doing this on a part-time basis, with a handful doing it as a full time job. The one thing they have in common is their love for their city. On the hour to 3-hour long tour, you’ll see the best of the city- the architecture, their iconic landmarks and learn about the history of the city straight from the horse’s mouth.
What I love most about these free walking tours is not the fact that they are free, but rather, the passion that these guides exude for their city. The personal touch of each tour guide is one of the attributes why such tours are so popular.
You’re free to ask them for the best hunts for local food, the best hangouts at night, and what to watch out for in the city. These tours may sometimes veer off the tourist traps, like the alternative Berlin tour that I signed up for.
The main purpose of this alternative Berlin tour was not to see what every tourist would see. Rather, the guide brought us to small alleys where street artists unleash their creativity.
At the end of the dead-end street sits a cafe that is as symbolic of art as you can ever imagine, with chairs and tables made of recycled electronic gadgets.
Further on the tour, we were introduced to this hideout called YAAM Beach. It really isn’t a beach, but a plot of land filled with artificial sand and stalls selling cheap soul food. It was definitely something out of the expected!
If you’re wondering how these tour guides earn their keep since these tours are free, they actually work on a tips-only basis. The way I see it, as a traveller, you’ve got nothing to lose. You’re not obligated to pay exorbitant tour guide fees only to receive substandard services. You pay what they deserve.
Have not been on a tour and wondering how much you should pay as tips?
A reasonable tip can range from €5 to up to €20 per person.
Based on my experience, I prefer smaller free walking tours as the guides are a little more sincere in showing their cities around, to ensure travellers like us receive the best experience in their city. Some of the free tours around Europe include:
- Lisbon, Portugal – Chill-Out Tour
- Barcelona, Spain – Runner Bean
- Prague, Czech Republic – Prague Extravaganza
- Hamburg, Germany – Robin and the tour guides, Alternative Free Hamburg tour
- Berlin, Germany – Alternative Berlin Tour, Original Berlin Free Tours, Free Tours by Foot
- Munich, Germany – Like A Local
- Frankfurt, Germany – Free Alternative Tour
- Budapest, Hungary – Alternative Tour
- Brussels, Belgium – Bravo Discovery
Click around and compare to see which suits your expectations best! From alternative tours to pub crawls, the variety is out there!
Have you heard of other cool tours around the world?