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Planning, Posted by Amy, Travel Activities

How to See a City in 3 Hours

When you’re traveling it can feel overwhelming to see and do everything there is, especially if you don’t have a lot of time. Fortunately, there are two great ways to see a city quickly: walking tours and Segway tours.

I first discovered walking tours when I was in Sofia, Bulgaria for work and had only one morning I could slip away to sightsee. The Free Sofia Walking Tour was the #1 rated thing to do on TripAdvisor, it was only a few hours long, and it was FREE! I had to check this out.

The Alexander Nevski Church in Sofia, Bulgaria

It turns out that Sofia is a fascinating city with a very rich history and gorgeous architecture. I learned and saw so much in 3 hours, and I think part of me fell a little in love with Bulgaria because of it.

Walking Tours

Learning about Vlad the Impaler and the legend of Count Dracula from our tour guide in Bucharest, Romania
Most cities with some sort of downtown or historic district will offer a walking tour. Some of them are run by tour companies, whereas others are free, and run by groups of locals who are passionate about their city and volunteer to give the tours.

Why walking tours rock:

  • The guide knows A LOT about the city, and knowing the history of what you’re seeing makes it more interesting
  • The guide knows the coolest stuff to show you and usually has fun stories
  • It’s an efficient use of your time
  • You meet other travelers

If you are very short on time, as I often am, a walking tour can be a way to see everything you want in less than half a day. If you have more time to spend, a walking tour can be used as a starting point to figure out what you want to come back and see more thoroughly at a later time.

Free Tours

For free tours, you usually just show up at a designated location, and wait for the guide. The guide will do some sort of introduction, and then start the tour.

The Free Sofia tour is well organized, with a website and Facebook page where they post pictures of all the tour groups.

Free Sofia tour guide talking about religious harmony in Sofia
Learning about the ancient Roman ruins that have been preserved in Sofia from our tour guide

Even though the tour is free, the guides do appreciate tips, and I usually tip $10-$15.

Paid Tours

For cities that don’t have free walking tours, you can usually pay to join a guided tour. A google search for the city you are visiting and “walking tour” will turn up results, and from there you should be able to purchase a ticket online.

I prefer the free tours, not because of the money, but because the guides are so passionate about their city, and it makes me excited just to be there in that moment.

Segway Tours

Another great way to see a city is a Segway tour, which every major city will have.

We’ve all seen, and probably made fun of, a group of people on Segways. As it turns out, those people are having a blast!

I never really considered taking a Segway tour until a friend invited me along while in Barcelona. It was a great experience and it’s too bad I didn’t realize sooner how cool Segway tours are.

Learning from the guide during a Segway tour in Paris
Why Segway tours rock:

  • They can move about 12mph, allowing the group to see a larger area of a city than a walking tour
  • Like a walking tour, the guide will be knowledgable and enthusiastic about the city
  • Segways are fun to ride!

Segway tours can be a bit expensive, around $100 USD in Western Europe, but it’s an experience that stays with you. So don’t worry about being cool, because the dorks are having all the fun.

BONUS: When 2 people inevitably run into each other, you get to have a fun group argument about who was at fault. This one was in Barcelona.

Learning to Ride a Segway

All Segway tours start out with a lesson on how to ride them, and each person gets to practice with an instructor until they feel comfortable. It’s a new sensation, but you pick it up quickly and everyone in my tour groups was just fine.

My sister, getting a Segway lesson from the instructor

My family and I took a Segway tour together in Paris, and it was a wonderful, memorable experience for all of us. Except the part where my dad ran into me and it was TOTALLY not my fault. (Also his version of the story is slightly different.)
Family Segway ride through Paris. No Hands!

Whether you have only a few hours or a few days, consider taking a walking tour or a Segway tour to make the most of your time and learn some great things about your destination.

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