I have a confession: I had only taken one walking tour until this year.
And the only reason I did that one is because it was offered free with my hotel stay in Istanbul.
I always encourage my travel clients to take some sort of walking tour in the city they are visiting.
It’s a great way to get the layout of a destination.
And to learn about the city — its history and culture.
Yes — I finally took my own advice.
And my conclusion: I give awesome advice.
What’s so grand about a walking tour?
As I mentioned walking tours (versus being on a bus) are a fabulous way to learn your way around a city.
You get the lay of the land so to speak — seeing where some of the city’s main landmarks and tourist attractions are.
And you’ll probably learn a bit about the city such as the history, culture and its people.
You may also hear some amusing stories or legends.
Or you may get to eat and drink the local foods and beverages.
One of the best things about walking tours is that there are so many different tours to fit different interests.
Let’s dive into this more.
Basic or general tours
Sometimes these may be called highlight tours.
These tours are great introductions to a city.
You may learn some history.
But you may also find out about some local legends.
Or learn about the best place to hear local music or the best restaurants to eat the local specialty.
These are wonderful tours for those who may not have one particular interest and simply want an overview of the city.
For the foodies out there a food tour can be the perfect way to discover more about a city.
Sometimes these walking tours will include visiting the local food markets.
It may even include a cooking class.
You’ll learn about what foods are grown nearby and what the local specialties are.
Often these tours will take you to places to eat some of these local dishes.
In countries like Spain where tapas (small appetizers) are popular, you may go from tapas bar to tapas bar and try different tapas dishes, learning about what’s in them and why this tapa or that tapa is the best.
Some food tours may hone in on desserts.
I read a recent blog from a fellow female travel blogger about a chocolate tour she took in Brussels, Belgium.
So whatever food or foods you like, you can probably find a tour.
Adult beverage tours
Beer. Wine. Whiskey. Gin.
Pick your favorite adult beverage and you may very well find a walking tour to go along with it.
Beer tours are popular in places like Belgium and Germany where you can go into beer cafes or beer gardens and try the local brew.
While I’m more a fan of visiting actual vineyards for wine tours, there are towns in Italy where you can walk from shop to shop as the wineries will have little outlets in the town.
Montepulciano in Tuscany comes to mind for a tour like this.
You can take walking tours to taste Scottish whisky in Glasgow or Edinburgh and discover the history of these cities as well as the whisky.
And there are the famous pub crawl tours in cities like Dublin where you learn about the history of the Irish pub and even the particular pub you are visiting.
Some of these pubs have been around for a while so there are loads of stories.
These walking tours are a wonderful way to find out about the city and have a little fun.
If a city is known for a certain type of music — and you’re a music aficianado — then this might be the perfect walking tour for you.
Now there are a couple cities that immediately pop into my mind: Dublin for traditional Irish music and Lisbon for fadó music.
Typically these tours are going to take you into pubs or bars where this music is played.
And you’ll get a history lesson on how this type of music started and what it all means.
You may even learn about some of the unique instruments.
It’s definitely a cool way to get to know a city and more about one of the cultural elements of that destination.
I’ll admit that I’m a big fan of history so if I can get a tour that teaches me about the history of a place then I’m all ears.
These are excellent tours for digging into a city’s past so you can better understand its present.
You may even find tours that delve into one particular time in history such as a French Revolution tour in Paris or a World War II tour in Munich or Prague.
Walking tours that take in the past are fascinating, though not for everyone.
But for the history buffs out there, I’d highly recommend taking one.
These are all the rage right now.
I saw ghost tours going on in Edinburgh, York and London.
This walking tour is for you if you love to hear about spooky myths and legends.
You may get some history lessons in these tours although it may be a bit fuzzy on what’s actually true.
But these are a kick for those who like local folklore — and scary folklore at that.
And whether it’s true or not — well it just doesn’t matter.
Other factors to think about
There are things to consider when choosing a walking tour.
Be sure you can do quite a bit of walking as these tours can cover a lot of ground.
What time of day do you want to take a tour?
Often food tours that visit the markets will go earlier in the day while a ghost tour will be in the evening.
Are you okay walking if the weather is less than ideal?
Because most of the tours will happen rain or shine.
So if you don’t fancy getting a bit wet then maybe this isn’t the right kind of tour for you.
How long of a tour do you want to take?
Most walking tours aren’t longer than 3 hours with many being in the 2 to 2 1/2 hour range.
However some can be longer.
Be sure to check the length of the tour against the time you have in that city as you may not want to use all your time on that one tour.
Are you ready to try a city walking tour?
I’m glad I finally did.
And I can’t wait to take another one.
Walking around a city with an experienced guide is the best way to get to know a place.