Nomad’s Travel Hacks #1 - Free Walking Tours

Have you heard about the Free Walking Tours in Europe?

Nomad team

Nomad team, Marketing Team

Aug 24 · 4 min read

Have you heard about the “Free Walking Tours” in Europe🙌🏼🗺?

Every week, the Nomad team will bring to you a “Travel Hack of the Week” that we love and that we think is super useful for travellers of all stripes and sizes.

This week, we’re gonna talk about Free Walking Tours.

Somehow, the idea of a free walking tour is still something we don’t usually hear about from our users, even though most major cities in the world (definitely all major cities in Europe) have them! These are really a great opportunity to explore a new city, a good way to figure out where all the cool spots and meet lots of new people!

But first, let’s start with the good stuff - why should you bother?

Summary - Why are free walking tours a useful hack?

  • They’re … I don’t know … FREE
  • Usually has some secret tips or local hacks that are useful to know
  • Usually covers all major attractions very briefly (in 1 afternoon or 1 morning), so that you know where to go but you haven’t fully explored them yet
  • They’ll show you essentials like bank, pharmacy, convenience stores
  • Get to know fun stuff like where to eat and drink besides the major attractions
  • Get to meet friendly locals (the guides) and maybe new friends (the tourists)
  • Best to do on Day 1 of your visit, so you can get oriented first and reduce the chances of getting lost on the rest of the trip
Orange Umbrella Free Tours
Orange Umbrella Free Tours

What exactly is a free walking tour all about?

It’s a 1.5 to 4-hour-long guided walking tour with a destination expert that is typically focused on a particular neighborhood or area of the city. The tour typically begins at a gathering place close to the primary location to be explored. The tour guide shares many stories and facts about the destination during the journey. They are true storytellers! 💫

Tours through historic districts are the most common, but there are also themed tours about street art, typical meals, local personalities, pubs, and so on.

Free walking tour London
Free walking tour London

Who will you meet on these tours and what will you see?

The biggest difference between these tours and typical paid tours, is that the people who are doing the guiding are 100% volunteers. It's mostly students, or locals who love history, art, tourism, their town or all of it together.

As a result, nothing can go wrong when "passion" and "knowledge" come together. Sure, these days it’s easy for you to research the basic info about most monuments on Google, Wikipedia, or Trip Advisor. But, when a local tells you about something, it’s always followed by a secret tip or even just an interesting hidden piece of knowledge about the place (say, a little-known historical event that happened there)

The other advantage of getting a knowledgeable local’s view about tourist attractions is they can often point out which ones are the “tourist traps” or not really worth your time, and suggest some alternative, off-the-beaten path ones as well. Or sometimes, it’s not that the attraction is a bad place to visit, but that it is overwhelming to decide where to visit (The Uffizi Gallery in Florence or the Louvre in Paris comes to mind). Local guides can easily tell you, for example, to skip the Mona Lisa in the Louvre (gigantic crowds, impossible to get a good photo) and go instead to the underrated pieces of the museum.

A free walking tour for the Warsaw Old Town, Poland
A free walking tour for the Warsaw Old Town, Poland

When is the best time to go on this type of tour?

The Tours adhere to a strict schedule - always on the same day, time, and location. You also need to pay attention to the group's language. Almost always there will be English and the local language, and sometimes some popular tourist languages too (such as Spanish).

You won’t need to do any major planning. Just go to the company's website the day before and make a reservation to receive the meeting point information. Then, simply arrive at the location 15 minutes before the scheduled time. 📍

Here’s an example of how such a tour is structured - this is for Basel in Switzerland

Basel Free Walking Tours schedule (source:  https://www.freewalk.ch/basel/ )
Basel Free Walking Tours schedule (source: https://www.freewalk.ch/basel/ )

OK, but is it really “free”?

Well… technically yes, but of course these tours aren’t completely free. It is always a good practice to tip the guide. Don’t forget that these are often student volunteers who are not earning a stable income, so giving a tip is a nice gesture for their time. It averages about 5 Euros per person (in Europe), but the idea is to give what you think they deserve, or what you can. We think some form of tipping is well worth the personalized, localized information you’ll get from locals who really love their city.

A guide from Sandemans’ New Europ City Guide
A guide from Sandemans’ New Europ City Guide

In Europe, you can find these tours on Sandemans. In countries outside Europe, just search on Google with “[city name] free walking tour” or go to the Freetour platform. Besides, you can also check out Guru-Walk. They’ve got tours for some of the most popular cities in Europe below.

P.S. While you’re exploring the city on a Free Walking Tour, don't forget to get some of Nomad's data plans! Affordable eSIMs in over 100 countries, you’ll get mobile data in 5 minutes at the tap of a button.  #getNomad

  • Rome
  • Barcelona
  • Florence
  • Vienna
  • Budapest
  • Istanbul
  • Berlin
  • London
  • Paris

Have fun on your trip and don’t forget to share this travel hack with your friends! (just use the easy buttons on the right).