Guided walking tours around the world’s great cities offer a memorable way to broaden holiday horizons, mixing education and exercise. Guardian readers pick their favourites …
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Winning tip: Sarajevo Walking Tour, Bosnia
A free two-hour tour from Neno gave us an excellent insight into the siege of Sarajevo from the perspective of someone who lived through it, as well as information about the country’s complex history. We saw sights from restored Austro-Hungarian buildings to “Sarajevo roses” – scars on the pavement caused by shelling, since filled with red resin.
Moscow Greeters, Moscow
Moscow doesn’t have a reputation as the world’s friendliest city, and two days of decrypting Cyrillic doesn’t help, so it was great to take a relaxed afternoon tour away from the busy tourist spots. Our two friendly local guides (as many guides as guests!) took us to the Bulgakov museums and then to locations associated with Bulgakov’s novel The Master and Margarita … we finished with a stroll through Gorky Park. Our guides gave us a local’s perspective on Moscow, on politics and on contemporary Russian culture. And the cost of this tour, designed just for us? Free.
Stirling Walking Tours, Stirling
Entertaining tours of Stirling Old Town, with costumed guides. It’s an amazing mixture of drama, storytelling and comedy, delivered with humour. We loved the costume changes, which brought each chapter to life. It’s a great way to take in the sights of the Old Town. The tour costs £8 for adults and £4 for kids.
Abraham Tours, Hebron, Palestine
This full-day walking tour around Hebron is one of the most interesting tours I’ve ever been on. The city (in the West Bank of Palestine) has one of the most complicated histories in a complicated region. The dual-narrative tour has two tour guides: one Israeli and one Palestinian. They each take you around the parts of the city under their governments’ respective control. While the tour visits historical sites of religious significance (such as the Tomb of the Patriarchs and a small archaeological museum), the main focus is on the politics of the region. You also meet people who live in Hebron and who are more than happy to share their story and their political perspectives. The tour includes lunch with a Palestinian family and transport from Jerusalem. The cost is 290 NIS (about £52).
Bike Mike Tours, Copenhagen
A short break in Copenhagen was at risk of being derailed by the exchange rate; but it was rescued by discovering Mike’s tours. These happen frequently each day, are great fun, and ours cost €40. Over the course of three hours we learned so much about Copenhagen’s history and culture. We would never have covered so much ground on foot – about 12km – or felt so virtuous.
Discover Walks, Paris
We had visited Paris many times over the years, and thought we knew what’s where, and how to avoid the hordes. And then we found Discover Walks, where cool and clever locals take small groups around their back yards. There’s no fixed price for the tour – you pay what you think it’s worth. The guides speak great English, love quirky questions and gladly go off piste if you spot an enticing alley or courtyard. They made us feel like visiting friends, not tourists.
Exciting History, Nijmegen, the Netherlands
A most interesting guided city walk is one held in Nijmegen, in the east of the Netherlands, which boasts a huge and fascinating history, starting with the Romans, under whose rule it became the largest city in the country. Over the years, the city became the site of much conflict, up until the second world war, when the allied forces bombed it in error (mistaking it for a German city). The guided walk of the city’s historic areas, organised by the tourist office and led by retired professor Niek Muller, can be conducted in German, Dutch or English and lasts about 90 minutes. The city retains a spectacular medieval market square, located unusually for the Netherlands on a hill above the banks of the river Waal, as well as some interesting well-designed redevelopments to cope with modern life, including pedestrianised streets and good pubs and restaurants. The Tourist Office of Nijmegen organises the walking tours.
Peter’s Walking Tours, St Petersburg, Russia
We are veterans of walking tours in many cities, but have never had a better experience than we had with this company. We were lucky enough to get Peter himself to take us around, and he proved to be a most informative guide. He covered everything from Peter the Great to the fall of communism. He was considerate, too: it was freezing cold day and we made several stops so that we could get warm drinks.
Fox & Squirrel tours, London
A wonderful guided walking tour of one of London’s hidden gems: Brixton’s diverse and colourful food market. Led by a very knowledgable food writer, the tour takes in many food stops – stalls serving British cheeses, Italian gelato, delicious Ethiopian coffee and Caribbean delights. Large parts are covered, so are London weather friendly.
Alternative Ldn, London
Alt LDN gives you a behind-the-scenes walking tour of east London’s vibrant, creative and bizarre secret street-art world. Submerged in parts of the city you would never normally see, you are shown incredible art work that changes from day to day – down narrow alleyways, and above and below eye level. You pay whatever you think the tour is worth. Gary and his team of street artists bring an insider’s view to the often misunderstood world of spray paint and “street canvas”.