A Must for Local Flavor and Entertainment
With cars and public transport these days, many of us do not walk where we want to go – sometimes we do not walk the street we live on! Walking about a city (or the countryside) gives you a unique perspective and appreciation for the passing scenery than one does not get driving by. For this reason, whenever you can, take a guided walking tour or two on your vacation. It gives you whole new appreciation of your destination.
Why a walking tour?
Walking tour guides are local, well-informed, trained and are often licensed depending on local regulations. Sometimes they are even costumed for the full effect, especially on historical or ghost tours. Questions are entertained at some point during the tours for those that are curious. And the background stories are colorful, giving you little known but interesting facts you may not find easily elsewhere. All in all , the experience adds local flavor to your visit.
Be Prepared to get the Most Enjoyment
Be prepared with walking gear and for physical activity and the weather as some walks can be will over a mile long: comfortable shoes, layers of clothing,
Acropolis Museum in Athens
sunglasses and/or sun hat, raingear if necessary, water bottle, and camera. Some tours are known to go rain or shine, and older city areas may involve cobblestones and steep steps. Ask beforehand the guide’s proficiency in your language. Most will be offering English. There is nothing worse than not understanding what your guide is saying! Also find out the group size. Obviously, a small group of a dozen or less is preferable. Who wants to be at the back of a large crowd?
Another point to check with any tour is the inclusions. If you are visiting special attractions such as a museum as part of your guided walking tour, find out if the admission is free or do you have to pay an additional fee at the door. Where so you meet or are you to be fetched from your hotel, etc? What is the local custom for gratuities? The guide will be expecting a tip.
Themed Walking Tours
Visit any major city world-wide and you will be spoiled for walking tours. For this article, we will be touching on three themes you often find addressed: history, food, and ghosts (or vampires or voodoo, depending where you are). Let’s concentrate on a few North American and European cities you might visit on an ocean or river cruise, and those walking tours of only a few hours in length.
Caribbean: In Nassau, you can take a “Bites of Nassau” food and cultural walk that combines the best of food, culture and historical buildings on a 3+ hour tour. Eat conch fritters, rum cake and more – six tastings in all. The tour will accommodate food sensitivities provided advance notice is give. Currently $69 pp.
Traditional Irish Coddle with a glass of ale
Paris: From cheese to chocolate, with 8 stops in the Montmarte district where Picasso and Van Gogh once lived, this tour is 3+ hours and runs Tuesdays to Saturdays at $100€ per person. Bring your appetite!
Dublin: Not a culinary destination is your first thought, but for lots of fun- that’s Ireland. Hit The Irish Food Trail in Dublin for a great time. The tour is again about 3+ hours, visits many stops at a leisurely pace and you have tastings of food and wine at three venues. As beer and wine are involved, remember the legal drinking age of 18 in Ireland. Warning: great Irish music and frivolity may be involved.
These are a must for everyone, not just the history buffs, as what occurred in the past is resulted in the city (or country) where you visit today. Knowledge of that history enriches your experience.
Amsterdam: A more recent event, in terms of this city’s history, forms the basis of a WW2 and Holocaust walking tour. There are many such available and
Wax figure of Anne Frank in Amsterdam
you can even book a private or personalized tour, if you prefer. There’s much to see with numerous monuments and museums such as the National Holocaust Museum and Ann Frank House.
Edinburgh: There are many themed historical walks to choose from in this capital city of Scotland. You can even take an Outlander walking tour with references to the story of Jamie and Claire. Visit Tolbooth Jail, World’s End Tavern and more on this 2-hour tour.
Athens: Probably one of the more popular walking tours in Athens is that of the Acropolis. Depending on what other sites are visited, this can be a long one- up to five hours if you opt for the Acropolis, City Tour & Acropolis Museum.
Charlottetown: You may experience this small, quaint city on your Canada/New England cruise. Being the “birthplace of Confederation” of Canada, it is fitting it has walking tours given by the Fathers of Confederation and their wives enacted by a talented group of young people called the Confederation Players. They offer, besides tours of the historical city center, various vignettes including a re-enactment of a duel!
This is a personal favorite theme walk of the author. Part historical, part great acting on the part of the guide, these tours are entertaining and informative.
Mausoleums in New Orleans, perfect haunts for ghosts and vampires
Halifax: In an older city that suffered much devastation and loss of life due to the largest explosion of its time, Halifax, Nova Scotia is certain to have its fair share of ghosts and ghost stories. It is a port of call on the majority if not all, Canada/New England cruises; however, if you want to experience a ghost walk ensure you are in port in the evening hours. This tour is relatively inexpensive (currently C$15 per person) and covers a lot of ground.
New Orleans: Shivers! Voodoo, vampires and ghosts! Tour the French Quarter for two hours if you dare at $25 pp. This walk also includes a visit to a haunted tavern – just in case you need liquid fortification!
London: One of the supposedly most haunted cities in the world, admittedly a ghost walk has stiff competition with all the other attractions found here. But in case you have a free couple of hours at dusk, join Richard Jones, paranormal author extraordinaire, on his spine-tingling walk and talk through the ancient, forbidding streets. At £10 pp, it’s a bargain in a pricey city.
Our standard word of advice in visiting a new city is taking the hop-on, hop-off bus tours when available to quickly orientate you to an unfamiliar setting, and to give you ideas of what to see and do, but nothing beats a walking tour to really absorb the local atmosphere. Take time to indulge in this activity on your next destination vacation.