How to hire a tour guide for free?

hamburg free tour group photo

If there’s anything that surprised me, it’s how commonplace free walking tours are around European cities, to the point that the first thing I’d look out for when visiting a new city is their free walking tours. I’ve been to such tours when I was in Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Lisbon, Barcelona, Granada, Seville and many more.

hamburg free tour group photo

Most of the tour guides are doing this on a part-time basis, with a handful doing it as a full time job. The one thing they have in common is their love for their city. On the hour to 3-hour long tour, you’ll see the best of the city- the architecture, their iconic landmarks and learn about the history of the city straight from the horse’s mouth.

What I love most about these free walking tours is not the fact that they are free, but rather, the passion that these guides exude for their city. The personal touch of each tour guide is one of the attributes why such tours are so popular. You’re free to ask them for the best hunts for local food, the best hangouts at night, and what to watch out for in the city. These tours may sometimes veer off the tourist traps, like the alternative Berlin tour that I signed up for.

The main purpose of this alternative Berlin tour was not to see what every tourist would see. Rather, the guide brought us to small alleys where street artists unleash their creativity.

Berlin, Germany

At the end of the dead-end street sits a cafe that is as symbolic of art as you can ever imagine, with  chairs and tables made of recycled electronic gadgets.

Berlin, Germany

Berlin, Germany

Further on the tour, we were introduced to this hideout called YAAM Beach. It really isn’t a beach, but a plot of land filled with artificial sand and stalls selling cheap soul food. It was definitely something out of the expected!


If you’re wondering how these tour guides earn their keep since these tours are free, they actually work on a tips-only basis. The way I see it, as a traveller, you’ve got nothing to lose. You’re not obligated to pay exorbitant tour guide fees only to receive substandard services. You pay what they deserve.

Have not been on a tour and wondering how much you should pay as tips?
A reasonable tip can range from €5 to up to €20 per person.

Based on my experience, I prefer smaller free walking tours as the guides are a little more sincere in showing their cities around, to ensure travellers like us receive the best experience in their city. Some of the free tours around Europe include:

Click around and compare to see which suits your expectations best! From alternative tours to pub crawls, the variety is out there!

Have you heard of other cool tours around the world?


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15 Comment

  1. Lotte says: Reply

    Great post and I love your new blog design!

    1. mademoisellebel says: Reply

      Thanks Lotte! That means a lot! On that note, I really do appreciate any feedback on how I can improve the design/ layout! 🙂

  2. […] Sign up for free walking tours (Wondering how to hire a tour guide for free?) […]

  3. Well, it’s not really free! I would have to pay them for their time–after all, they are working! I love your images, very nice eye!

    1. Haha yes, eventually we will pay them as a token of appreciation. Thanks for the compliment Carol!

  4. This is such a great list – I love walking & bike tours, especially when they’re free! San Francisco has a great free walking tour company too, as does NYC, it really can make a difference in how you perceive a city by having a local shine some light on it! Definitely pinning this post for future use next time I’m in Europe.

    1. I haven’t tried bike tours but I will when I go to US someday! Glad this post is of use to you! 🙂 Happy travelling, Mimi!

  5. I always go on “pay what you want” tours when I travel abroad. I am a fan of Sandemans Tours.

    1. Me too! I tried Sandemans before but I found that not all their guides are locals so that could have compromised on my experience with them.

  6. Rebecca Morris says: Reply

    I think free tours like these will soon be as common and popular as regular paid tours – as you mention, it is a great way to get a real local perspective and stay in control of what it costs. I definitely recommend HostelCulture, they do really great free tours in a few cities in Europe I’ve been and I loved them. Thanks for the posts, always enjoyable reading.

    1. mademoisellebel says: Reply

      Hi Rebecca,

      Oh yes! I’ve been in touch with Hostel Culture. have free tours in almost every country now – I was surprised they actually have it in my hometown,
      Singapore, too! You can check it out!

  7. […] An Canadian Erasmus student did just that when we were in Hamburg during a free walking tour (How to hire a tour guide for free?), and that led to an eventful evening later that day, instead of one spent […]

  8. […] you don’t know already, Amsterdam holds free walking tours (Read: How To Hire A Tour Guide For Free). Look them up online! I highly recommend looking at Amsterdam through the eyes of a local rather […]

  9. Javier says: Reply

    Hi Isabel,
    We really like your post about free tour, it is such an amazing experience!

    We also are Malaga local guides (Andalusia, Spain) and we think Free Walking Tour is the most amazing way to know the city.

    In Málaga you can give an extra value to your readers giv with Explora Malaga Free Walking Tour, if you are going to visit Malaga we invite you to try our Free Tour!
    Kind regards Isabel

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