Europe’s Best Free Walking Tours
If you’re a traveler on a budget, you’ll know all about the rise of free walking tours. While not strictly free – because you should really tip your dedicated guide – they offer an amazing way to see a new city through the eyes of an informed local: all at the fraction of the price of a regular tour!
Free walking tours in Europe
Ljubljana is perfectly set up as a walking town, with pedestrianized streets and lots of interesting attractions within walking distance. This is one to explore on foot. A walking tour will offer insight into the city’s past, present, and future that you may not have noticed.
If you take one walking tour: The Classic Free Tours from The Ljubljana Free Tour are all run by experienced guides. They’ll walk you through the town with their own stories and experiences.
How to get there by train: Ljubljana is at the heart of the Slovenian rail network. There are several trains throughout the country to neighboring destinations such as Vienna and Budapest.
Porto is a vibrant city set high on the banks of the Rio Douro. This is great for views, but it can take its toll on your legs if you take a wrong turn and end up off track. This is why a walking tour about a specific district is a great option. The tour guide will ensure you don’t venture off the path, highlight some of the best views of the river, and add historical context to this dynamic city.
If you take one walking tour: The Historical Walking Tour by City Lovers Tours is run by young, insightful guides. It’s the perfect introduction to the city.
How to get there by train: Porto is easily accessible by train from Lisbon with several daily connections. There are also regular trains to north-western Spain.
Berlin is a massive, sprawling city that can easily overwhelm a new visitor. Fortunately, there are dozens of free walking tours that come to the rescue. Most Berlin walking tours will give you an overview of one specific face of the city, be it historical, artistic, or drinking-centered.
If you take one walking tour: The Original Free Berlin Tour by Original Berlin Tours is the perfect introduction to the city’s historical highlights.
How to get there by train: Berlin is a major rail hub with trains running throughout Germany. There are also regular long distance and overnight trains to several international destinations.
Krakow has a reputation as a nightlife capital of Europe. But it also has loads of interesting attractions and historically significant sights, which are all worth seeing in daylight hours. Fortunately, there are several companies that offer comprehensive free walking tours of the old town, as well as paid pub crawls later in the evening.
If you take one walking tour: Free Walking Tour runs several tours throughout the country. The Krakow tours are comprehensive and insightful.
How to get there by train: Krakow has good train connections to the rest of Poland. There are also direct international trains from Prague, Budapest, and Vienna.
Bratislava’s Old Town is ideal for exploring on foot. A walking tour will give you insight into the city’s common attractions and less obvious sights. The Slovakian capital also has a somewhat somber history. A good tour will take you to the Jewish World War II memorial, where you can reflect the city’s troubled past.
If you take one tour: Be Free Tours offer a comprehensive 2.5-hour walking tour through the city that ticks off most sights.
How to get there by train: There are several trains to and from Bratislava, including dozens of regional lines and international connections from Vienna, Berlin, Prague, and Budapest.
Free Walking Tours FAQs
1. Are these tours really free? What’s the catch?
Most free walking tours in Europe are exactly that – walking tours without a fixed price, which offer participants an overview of the city. Most guides will subtly or not-so-subtly mention throughout the tour that they are doing this on a voluntary basis, and that tipping is the right thing to do.
2. How much do I tip?
This is entirely up to you. Some guides will attempt to put a price on the tour by suggesting that similar tours would cost a certain amount of euros. But really, you should go with your gut and tip what you can afford and what you think the experience was worth.
3. But how do the tour companies make money?
Get ready for the upsells. Most free walking tour companies use the free tours as a sales pitch for other fixed-price tours that they offer. There’s no obligation to go on these if you’re not interested, but if you’ve found an insightful guide, it may be useful to follow him or her on a paid tour.
The guide might coincidentally stop at a coffee shop or restaurant on the way. There’s a good chance that this coffee shop or restaurant is in cahoots with the tour company. If you suspect the prices are elevated or the venue inauthentic, then you don’t have to spend your money there.
4. How do I find good free walking tours in other cities?
Walking tour companies often visit hostels to encourage new participants to join in, but the best way to track down good ones is to turn to the web. Look for reviews of walking tours on sites like TripAdvisor to get honest opinions.
If you’re busy planning a rail trip around Europe, be sure to consider free walking tours in the cities that you visit. They’re a cost effective way to fill a day. They’ll also provide context to the sights and attractions that you may otherwise have walked right past.