Free Walking Tours

view of Tallin, Estonia in summer

Why didn’t I figure this out sooner?! Until recently, I had no idea how many free walking tours were available in so many amazing cities. What a perfect way to get acquainted with a new urban setting.

Treading around Tallinn

I first tried the concept in the city of Tallinn, Estonia during a cruise around the Baltic Sea. We had already decided to explore this compact capital on foot when we learned we could sign up for a free walking tour. It was organized by Yellow Free Tours, a company who runs both free and paid tours in a few different Baltic cities.

Our exploration of Tallinn took about two hours and was led by a lively university student with a cheeky sense of humour. She showed us around the major sights and monuments and helped us find hidden spots for the best views. She gave us a brief animated history lesson and shared her perspectives on the quirky character of the Estonian people. While following her lead, we made note of a few places to revisit on our own for further exploration. It worked out perfectly.

Canal-side strolls

When planning our trip to Italy this past summer, I found these free walking tours of Venice. They run twice a day, every day. Each guide gives a slightly different tour, so you could take more than one and still be well entertained every time. Venice is a place where having a local perspective can really make a difference to your experience. They can point you to interesting hidden alleys and corners that you never would have found on your own. But the same could be said for almost any city.

quiet street in Venice with golden stone buildings

quiet side street in Venice

Worldwide walks

I’ve rounded up a list of the best sites for finding free walking tours all over the world.

  • Founded in New York back in the 1990’s, the Global Greeters Network matches travellers with local volunteers who are keen to show off their city. The list of destinations covered now includes Asia, Europe, and South America in addition to the US and Canada.
  • Freetours.com advertises almost 300 tours in 80 countries
  • Free Tours by Foot will connect you free walks in Europe, the US, Canada and South America
  • Sandeman’s offers free walking tours in the bigger European cities
  • United Europe Free Tours – more European city tours

If you can’t find anything for your destination at the links above, just try searching free walking tours + the city name.

What’s the catch?

There really isn’t one that I’ve found, but there are a few caveats:

  • Many of the free tours are operated by companies that also sell other paid tours. The degree of up-selling varies, but in my experience so far, it’s been low key / low pressure.
  • Group sizes are often large, since everybody loves free. If you hate crowds or want a more personalized experience, consider paying for a small group or private tour.
  • Free tours won’t get you into museums or attractions that require entrance fees.
  • You should still tip your guide, but the amount is discretionary depending on how much you enjoyed the tour.

Keep on walking,

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