How To: Have a Great Time in New Cities

by Shannon

I love traveling, and I’m a big history nerd, so going to new cities, I always try to find out as much as I can about them.

However, I’m also brutal with directions. Not quite as bad as I used to be, but still pretty bad. (When I first moved to Toronto, I insisted to be near the Eaton Centre, because it was the only Toronto landmark I was familiar with outside the CN Tower.)

I’ve found the best way to get acquainted with a new city, as well as learn some super cool shiz, is to do a walking tour when you first arrive. Better yet? Do a free one.

While many tourists get sucked into the Hop-On-Hop-Off tours, or pay for another style, I’ve consistently found that the free ones are awesome. The guides are, more often than not, young actors or history students, so they’re very knowledgeable and inclined to show you a good couple of hours. And, they work only for your tips, so it’s in their best interest to give you an awesome tour, since you only pay what you think they’re worth.

SANDEMANs New Europe tours are the ones I normally do. While some have certainly been better than others, I’ve never had a bad one. Even if you’re not in Europe, there are great ones throughout the States I’ve done as well.

So far, I’ve done these tours in the following cities:

  • London
  • Edinburgh
  • Dublin
  • Paris
  • New York (Greenwich Village and Central Park)
  • Boston
  • Amsterdam
  • Berlin
  • Washington

It’s awesome learning about the history of these places and interesting anecdotes, and by the end of the tour – which we usually try to do our first day there – we’re far more well-acquainted with how to get around, since you typically cover central areas and often backtrack a bit.

So, if you’re traveling to a new city, or even one you’ve been to before, I highly recommend taking a free tour and learning more about where you’re staying. Plus, on my Amsterdam tour, she gave us free cheese! So that’s cool too.

Not all those who wander are lost. They may just be trying to find that store that had the cool shoes and they could’ve sworn it was on this street. – J.R.R. Tolkien (mostly)