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Free Walking Tours in Paris: 3 tours for Cheapos

Posted in: Paris Sights

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Paris walking tour
A "Paris Walks" tour focused on the French Revolution. Photo: Wirewiping

By Bryan Pirolli in Paris—

When it comes to discovering Paris, walking is the only surefire way to really get to know the city. Boats and buses are wonderful ways to explore, but they limit you and prevent you from going at your own pace. Bikes are great, but zipping through traffic means that you should, perhaps, pay attention to the road.

Walking leaves the discovery to you, and one of the best ways to get your bearings is to tag along on a walking tour. Paris has no shortage of private tour guides, and all sorts of themed tours are available (including the French Revolution-themed walking tour offered by “Paris Walks”, shown in the photo above).

Luckily for Cheapos, there are several companies that offer free walking tours, in which the guides work solely for tips. (Although it may seem odd not to tip a waiter in Paris but to leave money for a tour guide, that’s how these tours work.)

Here are three companies that organize well-known free walking tours in Paris:

City Free Tours
Duration: 2 hours
Reserve in advance: Yes
Web site

City Free Tour has been offering a variety of two-hour tours in Paris since 2009. The knowledgeable English-speaking and expat guides cover the big sights like the Marais, Montmartre and Notre Dame. You’ll get acquainted with certain neighborhoods and you’ll have the expertise of your guide to point you on your way after the tour. Space is limited, so it’s best to secure a spot through advance reservations.

Sandemans New Paris
Duration: 3.5 hours
Reserve in advance: No
Web site

Sandemans New Paris has been running their famous 3.5-hour free tour just about every day since 2004. The guides are known for adding a lot of personality to their tours, combining entertainment with history and culture. The tour is a great overview of the entire city, starting at the fountain of Saint Michel and ending by the Champs-Elysées.

No reservations are required, just show up at the meeting spot at the appointed time. The tours are free and, again, guides work on tips, but the company also offers several inexpensive paid tours, including a Versailles tour and one of Paris’ only pub crawls. English and Spanish are available for all tours.

Discover Walks
Reservation needed: No
Web site

Still another company, Discover Walks, offers themed walks through Paris including a landmark tour and a Left Bank tour, all in English. They also offer a tour along the river that is ideal for lovers or those looking for love. Their array of native tour guides pride themselves on their local perspectives.

No reservations are needed unless you are coming with a group of eight or more. Just check the site for information, show up at the designated time and remember, again, that the guides work on tips.

Walking Tour Tips

Ask away: All of these tours offer great introductions to Paris’ biggest sights and most famous neighborhoods. You’ll get the layout of the land and, armed with plenty of information and know-how, you’ll be able to explore Paris like a local. In case anything doesn’t make sense, however, ask. The guides are there to answer questions and share information with you.

Dress comfortably: Remember to wear comfortable shoes and bring an umbrella. Tour guides expect you to stick with them, rain or shine, and stopping halfway through the guide’s speech on the French Revolution because your feet hurt is not appreciated.

Drink water: Also, make sure you hydrate, especially in the summer. Tours are usually not strenuous, but it can get hot in Paris, especially in the midday sun. Don’t be afraid to buy bottles of water for one euro from the men selling them out of buckets in the street. (Support the local economy, I say!)

Prepare for the sun: Finally, avoid burning by putting on some sunscreen and wearing sunglasses. There’s no real need to try to “fit in” by dressing fashionable when you’re on a tour. Be a tourist, be comfortable and worry about introducing your stilettos to the cobblestones later that night.

Your thoughts on walking tours in Paris

Have you tried any of Paris’ free tours? Do you know of any others? Share your thoughts and tips in our comments section.

About the author

Bryan Pirolli

About the author: With his college diploma fresh off the press, Bryan Pirolli headed for Paris and four years later he’s still there. A journalist and a tour guide, his main M.O. is pursuing a doctorate degree in communications at the Sorbonne Nouvelle. Bryan regularly travels on a budget, experiencing the best of European culture while still trying to make rent.  So far, so good. You can follow his adventures on his blog: www.bryanpirolli.com.

Leave a comment

5 Responses to “Free Walking Tours in Paris: 3 tours for Cheapos”

Walking tours are one of my favorite things to do anywhere. You really get alot of great information and they focus on a small area. Fun fun fun! Yes, Paris is for walking but then I find a lot of big cities are that way too. I will mark these down to enjoy one or more of them on my next trip.

Khandilee says:

Global greeters also has free local tours.

David says:

Hello everybody !

I’ve tried the companies mentioned above during my stay in Paris and I must say that sandeman was disapointing (only expat guides without the french touch expected when you visit Paris), Discover was average (nice local guide but poor accuracy on history), and Cityfree was mediocre (quite bored guide & poor english).

I would recommend a co-op walking tour company also working on the “pay as you wish” principle and which is just starting apparently. It was recommended by our hotel personnel and the guide was great: good english, witty and extremely knowledgeable.
http://www.citytiptop.com

Louis says:

Ew…that last comment seems a bit bitter.

I can’t say I’ve tried all the other mentioned companies, but I did try Sandemans and another company not mentioned here called http://www.culturefishtours.com . The first one was okay/good. It did feel a bit long and I was part of a very large group (over 40 people) with the guide spending a lot of time pitching the other (paid) tours and trying get us to buy them. This gave a bit of a “sales presentation” feel to some parts of the tour which I found to be a little annoying. (also found it weird to have our break at a McDs/Starbucks…) Besides that, the guide had entertaining stories to tell. The other company was really great, especially loved how they give you tips on how to behave to get along with the locals and how we were not pressured at all to tip(which made me want to tip even more!). I’m guessing they aren’t in this article because they may not have been around when it was written, from what I understood they’re only a couple years old. Keep up the good work Culturefish! :)

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