When you’re on a budget, one of the ways to enjoy the city you’re visiting is to do a free walking tour that takes you round the major sites, giving you a little background on each one. There are many ways to do this but my starting point is always the local tourism website or tourist office. I recently did just that when I spent a weekend in Bath for a family birthday celebration. We printed off the walking tour guide from Bath.co.uk (then click on City Trail). There are even little bronze plaques set into the pavement to mark out the route. Here’s a sample of the route we took;
1. Bath Abbey
There’s been a church on this site for a thousand years, and England’s first King was crowned here. The carvings on the front of the Abbey show the dream of Bishop Oliver King who had it built . Angels climbed up and down a ladder to heaven in his vision, but the only way the stonemasons could distinguish between them was to make the downwardly mobile ones do it head-first.
3. The Roman Baths
Britain’s only hot springs are right here. The Museum is well worth a visit, with modern audio-visual interactive displays, and you can walk right round the original Roman Baths, which are in an astonishingly good state of repair. The plumbing here is 2000 years old and still works; just as well, seeing as parts might be a problem.
4. The Pump Room
The Pump Room was built in 1706 as a sort of rendezvous for the sick. Bath’s doctors specialised in certain diseases – those of the rich. Spend five minutes inside the Pump Room listening to the live salon music and sipping a cup of water pumped up from the spring. Imagine Vichy spring water, with a whiff of fresh grass cuttings, and an aftertaste of elderflower. Well, it tastes nothing like that. It’s vile. They took it for analysis once and the verdict from the laboratory was, ‘This horse is pregnant’.
It was an entertaining tour, took us an hour or so and didn’t cost us a penny.
In Bristol, you can find about free walking tours on the Visit Bristol website here and they’ve gone to the trouble of making several audio walking tours that you can download onto your MP3 player. I’ve listened to them all and I especially enjoyed the Bristol Quayside adventure which has a Pirate theme and is great for families, and the Slave Trade Trail which starts at the Georgian House, once owned by a wealthy Bristol Merchant who made his fortune from his Caribbean plantation, worked by slaves.
Berlin is also a destination that is well known for it’s free walking tours. I didn’t take one myself, but I gather the guides are generally excellent, although you can’t call them truly free as there is an expectation that you will give a tip of â‚¬5-10 per person. Karen wrote about her free Berlin walking tour here. If you go the the Brandenberg gate, you won’t miss the signs indicating a tour about to start.
So if you’d enjoy a walking tour, take a little time to check out the local tourism websites and see what they have to offer – you may be pleasantly surprised.
If your home town or a city you’ve visited offers free printable or audio tours, or offers genuinely free guided tours, do leave a comment and let us all know.
Photos by Heatheronhertravels