One of the greatest things about Europe is the history of the entire continent. And a reason that I find myself continuously revisiting this vast continent. Whether I’m visiting a city for the first time, or third time, I always learn something new. Something that pieces together the puzzle of what happened in WWII, why the Romans were so great, or how big grand churches got built. And the best way to learn about history? The free way. I always try to take advantage of each city’s unique walking tour. So far I’ve participated in quite a few… and here are the best free walking tours in Europe ranked.
Walking Tours in Europe Ranked from Best to Worst
Before setting off on a free walking tour… there are a few things you should know. First, it’s customary to tip. Although a few tours do not allow tips, most encourage them. Expect a speech at the beginning of your tour on why it’s customary to leave a tip at the end. Second, make sure to check the website ahead of time. Some companies require a booking to participate in the tour. Lastly, if you receive a printed map of restaurants/bars OR a coupon code… this is usually a sort of scam. The companies that are “recommended” get a kickback for the tour guide recommending them. I always pull the guide aside at the end and ask for a local’s recommendations. (Then I make sure to avoid all restaurants that are recommended on the printed map/given coupon code).
Also, please note that each tour is unique to the guide leading it. While I may have had an excellent experience, you could very well get a different guide who isn’t as good. Or who may be better! This list is just to give you a general idea of how well each tour is operated.
1. Budapest, Hungary
Tour: Free Walking Tours
Pro: Aside from learning lots of great history, you also receive tons of useful recommendations. Where to eat, where to hang out, where to try the local food. The list goes on!
Con: Okay, I am having a hard time with this one because I don’t think there was a con! I mean it was raining… that was a con. But does the tour company control the weather? No.
For more on Budapest…
2. Vilnius, Lithuania
Pro: You see and learn tons of fascinating history about Vilnius. It’s the perfect mix of walking and talking as you move your way through the city. Plus you’re shown many hidden gems in the city that I don’t think I would’ve found on my own.
Con: There wasn’t a con! I thoroughly enjoyed this tour wholeheartedly!
For more on Vilnius…
3. Athens, Greece
Tour: Athens Free Tour
Pro: The perfect mixture of walking and standing. You see tons of sites, learn loads of history, and have fun along the way!
Con: The group was rather large although this is hardly the company’s fault! They do their jobs well which makes people want to show up.
For more on Athens…
4. Kraków, Poland
Pro: You receive an informative and interesting history lesson that hits the highlights of Kraków, without dragging on.
Con: A lot of standing still.
For more on Kraków…
5. Tallinn, Estonia
Pro: A tour with a sense of humor. Tallinn hasn’t always been the biggest and best city, but this tour proves it, in a funny, self-deprecating way.
Con: They only run one tour/day so it can be incredibly crowded.
For more on Tallinn…
6. Brașov, Romania
Tour: Walkabout Free Tour
Pro: The town of Brașov is a quaint and walkable place. On this tour, Walkabout does a great job of taking you a bit outside of the city to get a whole picture of what Brașov was like back when the Hungarians invaded. Plus they keep the tour to about two hours, plenty of time to see and learn!
Con: There’s only one tour put on per day.
For more on Brașov…
7. Madrid, Spain
Tour: OgoTours; Madrid Free Walking Tour Old Town
Pro: A unique tour in the way that food and wine were weaved in. I’ve never been on a walking tour so heavily focused on food and drink, which I very much enjoyed! We even had 10 minutes to spend at Mercado de San Miguel.
Con: If you don’t care as much about food and drink/recommendations perhaps a different tour is for you.
8. Granada, Spain
Tour: Walk in Granada; Essential Granada
Pro: Granada has such a fascinating history that it was fun to learn about and easy to follow along! Plus great recommendations were given throughout the tour.
Con: The streets of Granada are very narrow so at points, it was incredibly crowded and hard to keep up.
For more on Granada…
9. Edinburgh, Scotland
Pro: Gives you a feel for a big part of the city, not just tourist spots.
Con: The break was a bit long (something all SANDEMANs tours do). I would have preferred for a quick, short bathroom break and to get on with the tour in order to finish quicker.
For more on Edinburgh…
10. Vienna, Austria
Tour: Good Vienna Tours
Pro: Our guide was very knowledgeable about Vienna’s history and modern-day. We also stopped for a bite to eat at a delicious buffet restaurant.
Con: We stopped for lunch… again, I am not personally a fan of this concept. I would rather make a quick break for the bathroom and continue on the tour so that it can be finished in a timely manner.
For more on Vienna…
11. Riga, Latvia
Pro: Knowledgable guide passionate about the history of old town Riga.
Con: This was my first “old town” tour (typically I do the generic city tour), and it wasn’t personally for me. There’s little walking around and not much to see. However, I liked the company so next time I’d try out a different type of tour.
For more on Riga…
12. Bucharest, Romania
Tour: Walkabout Free Tour
Pro: The history of Bucharest itself, is interesting and fun to learn about.
Con: This tour lasted over three hours and there was hardly any walking involved. The tour consisted mostly of standing, plus we stopped at a coffee shop which the company gets a kickback from and the stop took up 20+ minutes.
For more on Bucharest…
13. Bath, England
Tour: Mayor’s Guides
Pro: Tour guides who are passionate and enthusiastic about the quaint town of Bath. Also, no tips allowed.
Con: Won’t give recommendations seeing as it could be “biased”.
For more on Bath…
14. Prague, Czech Republic
Pro: Prague is a beautiful city. So although I didn’t get all too much from the tour, at least I was walking through one of the most breathtaking cities in Europe.
Con: During this tour, you take a long, 30-minute lunch break altogether. I personally felt that this was a waste of time and would have preferred to continue on with the tour, and end earlier. Plus I don’t feel as though I saw a lot of Prague.
For more on Prague…
15. Bratislava, Slovakia
Tour: Be Free Tours
Pro: Given a lot of fun facts about Slovakian traditions, which was unique compared to the other tours that I have participated in.
Con: Bratislava is a small city; we spent a lot of time standing and little time walking.
For more on Bratislava…
16. Malaga, Spain
Tour: Free Tour
Pro: A great way to see Malaga on foot!
Con: Malaga has very narrow streets and it was hard to follow along with the guide while tons of people were around.
For more on Malaga…
17. Seville, Spain
Tour: Free Tour; Seville Monumental Free Tour
Pro: Being a monument tour, Seville has great sites and buildings to see and learn about.
Con: The tour felt a bit dragged out and seemed as though it could have been completed in two hours instead of three. Plus we were taken to a cafe to sit and order food (if you want, not required) which took up a big chunk of time.
For more on Seville…
18. York, England
Pro: This tour takes you places where you see amazing views of York. I was taken places I don’t think I would’ve found on my own.
Con: This tour was very, very long. It lasted over three hours (although online it says two).
For more on York…
19. Florence, Italy
Tour: Florence Free Tour
Pro: Very small group size, unfortunately, I think that this is because the tour is not run well.
Con: I did not get a feel for Florence at all. I was confused about this tour and couldn’t seem to figure out the history, etc.
For more on Florence…
Have you been on a walking tour in Europe? Sound off in the comments below!