Seeing a city the old-fashioned way – one step at a time – is the ultimate green way to get to know a world destination at a slow pace. But let’s face it, most travellers are wary of visiting and exploring a strange city, where in most cases only the exploits of pickpockets, shady characters and opportunists are printed in the media, tweeted or wailed about on Facebook.
And it’s a pity really. Cities have tales of live, stories rich with history, a plethora of cultural influences, highlights, lowlights, buildings that would be master orators if they could speak, characters that could turn Stephen King green with envy and smells that could navigate the blind to gastronomical bliss.
It would be naïve to think cities are devoid of the criminally minded or those that simply wish to better their lives in a place shining with prospects, yet chance keeps stonewalling them.
But this blog is not about discussing socio-economic issues or weighing up levels of appropriate guilt. It’s about the importance of making cities walkable; to introduce visitors to the heartbeats of a country – New York, Barcelona, Zurich, Copenhagen, Sydney, Budapest, Cape Town… the list goes on. These cities have taken back their streets and offer walking tours for visitors to show off their core, their beautiful noises, their hidden gems on street level, and reveal the pulse that really makes a city tick, all in the safety of a group of walkers with a knowledgeable guide.
And it’s for everyone:
- The solo traveller out to find themselves, can explore the inner city within the safety of a group – and hopefully discover something about the world.
- Young families can create precious memories with their children and spent quality time together on a slow-paced walking tour.
- Sophisticated travellers and those keeping their weight in check can get their exercise in while learning useful facts to share at the next cocktail party in a swanky hotel lobby.
- Young people hell bent on bragging about a holiday fling on Facebook should find like-minded people on a walking tour.
- Walking is exercise and outdoors, so if you’re not brave enough to bungee jump, at least you’ll be able to boast about “walking that city”.
There are a few exceptions though:
- Walking tours are fun, and guides share titbits of information. Don’t expect to be educated about the full history of a city or country after one walking tour. And if you happen to be a walking encyclopaedia, good for you, but skip the tour if you’re on a mission to impress walkers (read holidaymakers) and guides with your abundant knowledge.
- If you’re dragged along on a walking tour but are more interested in the content of your phone, then rather wait for your mates at the endpoint. Much like it’s annoying when a phone rings during a movie show or performance, it’s rude to have your nose stuck in your cellphone on a walking tour.