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Top 7 reasons to take a walking tour
Enrich your visit on foot to watch the city come alive.
After saving for airfare and accommodations, you may be on the fence about booking a walking tour at your destination. But even if you’ve strolled a city’s streets before, a tour guide can open your eyes to facets and little-known sights you might otherwise miss. Here’s why walking tours aren’t excessive — but essential entertainment.
1. Witness landmarks come to life.
A tour can breathe life into historic sites, weaving in stories about the who, what, where and why as you walk among crumbling buildings and faded paintings. Juicy tales of love lost and found, stories of death and rebirth, as well as amusing anecdotes about ancient goings-on can provide the cultural context to inspire the wonder and awe each monument deserves.
2. Prioritize sites to see.
You could spend months, if not years, exploring cities like Rome, London, Paris and Barcelona. An expertly curated tour itinerary can replace the need to spend hours poring over blogs and guidebooks to tick off the boxes on your list of must-dos. So you can worry less about what to see and spend more time actually seeing.
3. Make the most of your time.
Is there anything more painful than spending precious vacation hours in line? Many walking tours offer skip-the-line access, so you can see that one-of-a-kind museum, palace or grandiose church without wasting half your day waiting around.
Plus, walking tours are designed to help you take in a city on the most efficient routes. You’ll see more in less time — without sacrificing valuable minutes waiting for Google Maps to load or backtracking from one end of the city to the other. When you’re in a new destination, every second counts.
4. Understand the lay of the land.
The structure of a city is intimately linked to its history, industries and present-day personality. Walking tours can illuminate your understanding of how the streets and roads connect, where landmarks are in relationship to one another and why.
A tour earlier in your trip just might introduce you to areas you may not have discovered on your own. For instance, you can loop through the Père Lachaise on a walking tour of Paris to discover that its bewitching cobblestone streets and corner cafes are exactly where you want to return for a café au lait and bookstore stroll the next morning.
5. Eat and travel like a local.
A tour guide can point you toward their favorite restaurants and bars that lend insight into a city’s zeitgeist. Not only can local haunts offer more authenticity, but the booze and food are often cheaper than at better-known tourist traps.
You’ll also get insider tips on customs and cuisines you won’t find in your guidebook. Did you know that in Venice, you should never order pizza? Naples is the pizza place. Instead, try the cicchetti and baccalà mantecato — classic dishes cooked by Venetians for hundreds of years. We learned that from a walking tour guide!
6. Get educated answers on the spot.
Ever wonder how much ancient Romans had to pay to enter the Colosseum? Or why the Queen’s Guards wear those tall, fuzzy hats? A good walking tour guide indulges your wonder, making sure you don’t leave a site or city with questions — even those you hadn’t thought to ask.
7. Engage senses beyond the sights.
Today’s walking tours aren’t merely follow the leader. Many itineraries let you drink, taste, feel, hear and create along the way. Food-and-drink walking tours celebrate rich, authentic local flavors, some including cooking classes or cocktail demonstrations. Snacks and cool historical stuff? Sign us up!
We love taking walking tours in these cities
Chances are, one or two on your bucket list.
New York City
- Greet the Statue of Liberty and immerse yourself in the history of immigration at Ellis Island
- Get behind-the-scenes access on Broadway
- Visit the 9/11 Memorial Museum and pay your respects at the reflecting pools
- Stroll through the Vatican, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica
- Stand your ground in the Colosseum Arena — and tour its underground tunnels
- Take a day trip to Pompeii, Tuscany or the Amalfi Coast
- Wander through the Catacombs and enter the Capuchin Crypt
- Indulge in a food tour of gelato, pizza and other trattoria specialties
- Marvel at St. Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s Palace
- See the heart of its seafood industry at Rialto Fish Market
- Traverse the Bridge of Sighs over the Rio di Palazzo
- Give your feet a break with a gondola ride
- Lay eyes on Michelangelo’s David and see other world-famous art at the Uffizi Gallery
- Visit Brunelleschi’s Duomo at Florence’s key cathedral
- Take a day trip through Tuscany’s rolling vineyards
- Taste — and learn to make — locally sourced pasta, wine and gelato
- Explore Europe’s largest catacombs
- Get up close and personal with the Eiffel Tower, Montmartre and the Seine
- Stroll through the Latin Quarter, linger in Place Dauphine and traverse the Pont Neuf
- Look around the Louvre and see the Gothic Sainte-Chapelle
- Examine the Rosetta Stone on display at the British Museum
- Gain special access to the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey
- Watch the Changing of the Guard from key vantage points at Buckingham Palace
- Explore the nearly 1,000-year-old Tower of London
For most people, travel is a special occasion made possible when the stars of vacation days and careful budgeting align. Adding the rich, cultural immersion of a walking tour to your itinerary can leave you with memories you’ll carry long after you land back home — a souvenir like no other worth the cost of a ticket.
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