The Best, Hidden Abroad Gem: Walking Tours
One of the best, hidden gems that I discovered while aboard was walking tours. Although I studied in Rome, I traveled a lot on the weekends and always wanted to get to know the city I visited even more. When a friend suggested we do a walking tour, I was appalled. I would never want to be marked as a tourist, walking with a big group of people to visit all of the popular sites. After some major convincing, we embarked on our first walking tour, and I fell in love. Although a bit touristy, the tours allowed us to explore a fair amount of the city, all of the famous attractions, and even some more local ones. It was also a great form of exercise.
My favorite tour company was Sandemans NewEurope Tours, as they provide virtually free tours – it is suggested that you tip your guide – in many different places in Europe. Although the tour is usually two and a half hours long, with a fifteen-minute break, you can stop at any point but in my opinion, it is totally worth the entire time. With these cities being so big and having so much to do, walking tours are a great way to see (almost) everything. Here are some of the places I toured, and what I saw. Enjoy!
Although cold and rainy, this tour was well worth trudging through the downpour. We visited the Red Light District, many churches, the Homomonument, the outside of the Anne Frank House, the world’s first stock exchange, Dutch art, the Jewish Quarter, the Royal Palace, and so much more. After the tour, my friends and I decided what monuments or places we wanted to spend more time, and the guide was able to not only provide us with a map but also point us in the right direction.
Berlin was one of my favorite places to do a walking tour because I do not know how we would have seen so much of the city otherwise. Although our tour was re-routed a bit – as Obama was visiting and many of the streets were blocked off – we saw, and learned about, the Brandenburg Gate, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, Checkpoint Charlie, the TV Tower, the book burning memorial, Humboldt University, and the site of Hitler’s bunk, which is – fun fact – now a parking lot. We liked the tour so much that we decided to do two other tours – which we had to pay for – with the NewEurope company. We did the Alternative City Tour where we saw local street art and learned about Berlin’s history with graffiti, and we also did a tour of the Sachsenhausen Memorial, which held about 200,000 prisoners during the Nazi reign.
Although we did not do an actual tour of Dublin, we went with the Dublin Tour Company on their Cliffs of Moher day trip. We traveled from Dublin to the medieval city of Galway and heard about many legends and stories and got to explore a castle. We then went to the Cliffs of Moher – pictured above – and absorbed the beautiful landscape for two hours while walking along the cliffs. Our last stop was at the “Baby Cliffs” which overlooks the Aran Islands and Connemara. Although it was an all-day trip, it was well worth it!
My last, but not least, walking tour with NewEuorpe was in Brussels. We visited the Grand Place, Town Hall, and the Maison du Roi. We visited Manneken Pis, or the peeing boy, who is famous in this beautiful city. The Monnaie Opera, St. Nicola’s Church, and the Mont des Arts were also must-sees. All in all, it was a great tour, which ended with a beautiful view of the entire town.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jolie Blair is a rising senior at Emory University from Sun Valley, Idaho. She is double majoring in Theater Studies and Public Health and has a passion for the arts, writing, and traveling. She studied abroad for the 2016 fall semester in Rome, Italy and had an experience of a lifetime, which she loves to share with those who want to listen (and even those who don’t like her 140lb Great Dane!).