Even if you’ve visited a city a thousand times, there’s always something new to see. The beauty of a ‘free’ – or ‘pay as you feel’ – city tour, is that the guides behind them are almost always locals. They’ve got the knowledge to show you where the Parisians really go for their crusty warm baguettes, and they’ll tell you how to escape the crowds at the height of summer in Venice and see a calmer side to the city. The best bit of all? As the name suggests, you pay what you like, with the going rate usually coming in at less than a tenner.
Here are some of our favourites around the world.
Paris is beautiful…and expensive. There’s no two ways about it; nothing in the city of love comes cheap. Fortunately, a crack team of born and bred Parisians are on hand to show you the sights, minus the spending. The Paris Landmarks Tour is ideal if it’s your first time in the city. As the name suggests, you’ll take in all of the most iconic sights over the course of 90 minutes, including the Louvre, Arc de Triumph, Eiffel Tower and the Champs Elysées. Alternatively, the Hidden Gems and Secret Paris Tour delves a little deeper, taking you beyond the tourist traps and guide book recommendations to share the local haunts instead.
Let’s get one thing out there from the very beginning; the Venice Free Walking Tour DOES NOT visit St Mark’s Square. Why? Because this tour focuses on showing you how the locals live in Venice, from where they eat and drink, to where they seek solace from the summer crowds, and you’ll never catch a local amongst the throngs of St Mark’s. All Venice Free Walking Tour guides have degrees in subjects including art, history and architecture, plus they’re locals themselves, so you’re promised a brand new perspective on an ever-popular port. Don’t worry; tours take three hours, so you’ll have time to tick St Mark’s Square off your list later.
Freedam Tours may have only been founded in the last year, but it has garnered quite the reputation during such a short period and is now the top rated free walking tour in Amsterdam, according to Trip Advisor. Tales of the past and insights into the present are supplemented with the guide’s own personal anecdotes, to create a tour that is as entertaining as it is informative.
Did you know that 20,000 yellow fever victims were buried beneath Washington Square Park? Or that more than 20 people died during the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge? These macabre facts are some of those shared on a pay-what-you-wish Ghost Tour of Greenwich Village and the Brooklyn Bridge. If you prefer food to fear-fests, the Chinatown Food Tour will be right up your street. Unlike many New York food tours, this one won’t cost you more than $10-15 and that’s more than a fair price to pay for fresh roasted pork buns, Thai ice cream and steamed dumplings that are apparently the best in the city (no mean feat for a destination that’s home to over 10,000 eateries).
Rome wasn’t built in a day but a free city tour will show you some of the best bits in less than one. This Trip Advisor Hall of Famer has been delivering daily tours of the Eternal City and its landmarks since 2009, starting at the Spanish Steps and taking in Bernini’s Angels, Galleria, the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain and more. Follow your tour by embracing the best thing to come out of Italy since carbonara; aperitifs. Order a drink (usually around €7) and you’ll be invited to fill up a plate of nibbles to keep you going until dinner.
Look for the neon green ‘I’m free!’ t-shirt and you’ll find a guide poised to share Sydney’s story of a rise from convict colony to world culture capital. Another Trip Advisor Hall of Famer, the great thing about I’m Free tours is that they happen every single day, except Christmas Day, and there’s no need to book; simply turn up at the meeting point between Sydney Town Hall and St Andrew’s Cathedral 10 minutes before the 10.30am or 2pm start time. Highlights of the three-hour tour includes countless stops, including the Rocks District, Laneways and Sydney’s famous street art, the city’s intriguing underground tunnels and tons more. You’ll end at Circular Quay too, which is prime position for exploring the Harbour Bridge and Opera House in more depth.
Singapore’s Changi Airport is regularly lauded as the best in the world and they’ve come up with an ingenious way for you to spend your stopover. Transit passengers of the airport, who have more than 5.5 hours before their connecting flight, are invited to see the city for free on a choice of two open-top bus tours. The Heritage Tour visits some of the city’s most cultural districts, including Chinatown, Little India and Kampong Glam. Alternatively, the City Sights Tour focuses on a more modern Singapore and calls at The Esplanade, Marina Bay, Marina Bay Sands and Gardens by the Bay, amongst others.