I’m sure I’ve admitted this before on this blog: I’m a bit of cheap skate at times. Don’t get me wrong, I really don’t mind paying the price for decent services/products etc., but whenever there is a bargain to be had, I’m having it! The words ‘sale’, ‘bargain’, ‘discount’ and (my favourite) ‘free’ are words that get me interested very quickly.
So when I saw a pamphlet in the hostel I was staying at in Paris that said ‘Free tour’, I was like ‘hell yeah!’. Sounds awesome!
The pamphlet was for SANDEMAN’s New Europe Tours. They do free tours as well as other priced tours in 18 cities across Europe, the Middle East and the US. Some cities include Amsterdam, Paris, Prague, Berlin, Barcelona, Brussels, Dublin, Edinburgh, Lisbon, London, New York, Munich and others.
The idea behind the free tours is that the tour guide needs to give you the best tour possible of the city. It is then up to you to decide how much you would like to tip them after the tour. So if they were really crap, you can just pull a sneaky and disappear before they bring the tour to an end and ask the dreaded question. Or if they were really good, you can give them the decent tip that they deserve. So if you are a little bit strapped for cash on your travels, you can get in a good priced tour (priced at whatever you want it to be).
The great thing about this tipping system is that the tour guides know that they need to give a decent tour, otherwise they aren’t going to be walking away with much dosh afterwards. So this results in really well informed, humorous and interesting tour guides. I did two New Europe Tours while in Europe, Paris and Berlin, and they both had awesome guides. I did another tour in Prague, only because we were late to join the New Europe Tour, and this tour guide wasn’t nearly as good as the other two.
The free tours cover all the highlights of the city, they are usually about two and a half hours of walking around and stopping here and there to hear all about the history and stories of the different spots. You will also get a twenty minute break in the middle to grab a cup of coffee, juice or ice cream (depending on what the weather is up to).
Paris New Europe Free Tour
On the Paris New Europe Tour our guide was called Otto, a very funny guy from the Netherlands (who really likes South Africans :)). Otto has been living in Paris for a while and knows the city inside out. Throughout the whole tour you could really feel his love for Paris and he shared this at every moment he got.
The tour covered the Notre Dame, view of the Eiffel Tower, Tuileries Gardens, Académie Française, Haussmann’s Paris, View of the Pont Alexandre III, Latin Quarter, Pont Neuf, View of the Champs-Elysees, View of the Arc de Triomphe, The Louvre, Palais Royal, and the surrounding highlights.
We heard all about Paris’ history, the life of a Parisian, the culture, the food and the social life.
It was raining for the majority of the tour and freezing cold, so during our break we dashed into a small Parisian coffee shop and ordered a cafe. Which I learnt was an espresso. A ‘normal’ coffee in France (and most of Europe) is a shot of espresso. Gives you a kick, just what we needed before carrying on with the rest of the tour.
Berlin New Europe Tour
I can’t remember the name of our tour guide in Berlin, but he was an American guy who is in love with Berlin, shouting that he lives in ‘the best city of the world’ many times during the tour. This tour guide knew his Berlin history VERY well, he could answer any questions and told the history in such an interesting way.
After this tour around Berlin I had so much respect for the city. I had never really known all about the history of Berlin so found it very interesting. The Berlin Wall and all the stories that go with it deeply touched me and I’m really glad that I had the opportunity to learn about it while being in the city. I think that I’ll keep this all for another post though.
The Berlin New Europe Tour covered Pariser Platz, The Brandenburg Gate, The Reichstag, The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, The Sit of Hitler’s Former Bunker, Luftwaffe HQ, The Berlin Wall (the spot where the only part of the wall still stands), The Former SS Headquarters, Checkpoint Charlie, The Old Royal Boulevard, Neue Wache, The TV Tower, and Museum Island.
During this tour it was about 38 degrees Celsius – I can honesty say I’ve never felt so hot in my life, and have never sweated so much in my life. Our tour guide made sure to stop in the shade as often as possible for when he needed to explain the different spots. We grabbed an ice cream during the break which was much needed!
So if you ever find yourself in a city that offers New Europe Free Tours make sure to join them. They usually do two tours every day – no matter what the weather. They also offer tours in Spanish. They are a great way to get to know the city when you first arrive, catch all the highlights then decide where to go explore further in your next few days.
The tour guides also offer great advice on the best places to go in the city that aren’t covered in the tour and give great tips on things like how to get around the city. After each tour they generally organise a spot to go have lunch where you are welcome to ask any of your questions.