Private City Tours Offering A More Local Experience
As it becomes more and more popular to travel like a local, seeking out the true heart of the cities that you visit, an abundance of alternative tours are springing up to rival the more traditional sightseeing outings. Ran predominantly by freelancers, volunteers and enthusiastic locals, these tours are designed to show you the hidden areas of cities that aren’t usually stumbled upon by tourists. Whilst anyone can grab a guidebook and tick off the main sights of a city on their own, this new breed of tours are designed to introduce you to places that you may otherwise never discover.
The Beauty Of Being Private
The beauty of private city tours is that you aren’t being led around by part of a big corporation that has a primary aim of making as much money as possible. City tours are often dull and full of historical facts that you could find out yourself on the internet, or slightly naff and painstakingly themed; attempting to make money at every opportunity with high ticket prices and by thrusting merchandise in your face. Private tours are likely to be run by passionate individuals who are more concerned with sharing their favourite corners of their city than with making profits.
Take Marteinn Briem, who has been running a popular free walking tour of Reykjavik since 2014. Building upon his knowledge gained from a BA in Icelandic history, Marteinn details a comprehensive, interesting and thought-provoking history of both Iceland and Reykjavik, whilst weaving in tales of Icelandic mythology, the local music scene, the recent bank crash and his personal recommendations for enjoying the city. Rather than citing expensive ticket prices, Marteinn only gains money from tips given at the end of his tour, relying on his guests enjoying themselves during their time spent with him.
Or Hayley Flynn, who runs award-winning Manchester blog, Skyliner and offers a series of alternative field trips for visitors to the northern British city. Hayley’s blog specialises in seeking out the most interesting hidden features of Manchester’s architecture, particularly focusing on looking up and discovering the city’s rooftops. She offers a series of scheduled and bespoke city tours that seek out the most unusual architecture, history and art in the city, taking you down alleyways and inside buildings that you would otherwise have walked straight past.
Alternatively, if you’d like the expertise of a local but would prefer to explore on your own, look for local bloggers who have curated in depth guides to their cities that you can follow yourself. Mary Scherpe’s popular and comprehensive Stil in Berlin blog offers a variety of guides detailing the best places to eat, drink, shop and visit in Berlin, but it is her personalised map that is the most useful in planning your own city tour. Complete with pins of her favourite places in and around the city, her map helps you to plan your own visit, but with a locals touch.
All of these individuals, and many more like them across the globe, are self-employed freelancers who are passionate about the city that they live in and wish to share its secrets with visitors. Exploring a new city accompanied by someone who knows and loves it well is a great way to get acquainted and to get your bearings whilst discovering features that the guidebooks don’t tell you.
A quick Google search of your chosen destination will help you to discover any local private tours available, or, alternatively, head to Tours by Locals and select your destination to find a list of the tours that are on offer. If you’re struggling to find something of interest in your chosen destination, try researching local bloggers who may offer tours on the side, or might be willing to show you around for a small fee.
The key here is that you want to stumble upon the smallest tours possible, and that’s sure to involve a good amount of digging around and researching, but you will be rewarded with a unique insight into a new and exciting destination.
Check out: Tours By Locals for private tours and searching of guides for lots of locations.
Emma Lavelle is a UK based writer and photographer and has her own blog Field and Nest.