Culinary Secrets, Athens
Plaka’s warren of ancient streets, set below the Acropolis, is the belly of Athens, home to the city’s main markets and hundreds of restaurants. But it’s touristy.
This five and-a-half hour walking tour guides you to the unassuming joints that are worth eating at, dishing up thick, rich Greek yoghurt anointed with honey and walnuts at an old school dairy bar, coffees brewed in hot sand, the city’s best loukoumades sesame-seed doughnuts and a souvlaki made from a recipe brought by refugees from Constantinople.
Mojo Tours, Memphis
In the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll, it only seems appropriate to cruise around town in a bus, shaking a tambourine, while your guide belts out hits from Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash.
In between numbers on this 90-minute tour, you’ll learn about Memphis’s long musical history, what Elvis was like as a boy and visit sites such as Sun Studios, Stax Records and the Lorraine Motel, now the National Civil Rights Museum.
Street art, Manchester
Hayley Flynn’s two-hour walking tours of Manchester’s Northern Quarter aren’t about adding bold graffiti shots to your Instagram grid. Instead, she tracks the area’s transformation from abandoned ruin to hipster enclave using large-scale murals, poetry and installations found on the streets.
You’ll wind through the city’s highest density of protected buildings, see hidden railways and spot details such as the Thomas Street pineapple, that you may never otherwise have noticed.
This three-hour tour takes you to this southern Vietnamese city’s cherished street-food spots
Vintage Citroen tour, Ho Chi Minh City
This three-hour tour takes you to this southern Vietnamese city’s cherished street-food spots, but you won’t blend in with their patrons. Your transport for the evening is a bright red or yellow 2CV, a vintage convertible that will be grabbing all the attention on the road among the city’s hundreds of motorbikes. You’ll fill up on rice crackers topped with egg and shredded chicken and turmeric pancakes with prawns and coconut milk, then tour the city’s landmarks including Saigon Central Post Office and Ben Thanh Market.
Ghost tour, Melbourne
Lantern Tours has crammed the most gruesome stories of Melbourne’s most haunted spots into a 90-minute horror-filled walking tour. Starting at 8.30pm, it explores the city’s laneways, visiting sites such as the Princess Theatre, haunted by opera singer Federici who plunged to his death in front of a live audience in 1888, and Pink Alley, where you might feel the presence of little Alma, a 12 year-old who was murdered in the 1920s.
Underground booksellers, Johannesburg
Though the South African city has inspired key works of African literature, it’s not always been easy for Johannesburg residents to get their hands on a book. On this two and a half-hour walking tour, you’ll visit the renovated City Library, home to 1.5 million books, Joubert Street Market that houses around 50 sellers, and other influential bookshops, tracking the history of bookselling in the city from the first black-run library, through the days of censorship and book burning, to the modern era.
Street Voices, Copenhagen
The Danish capital is renowned for its dining scene, but these walking tours, run by social enterprise Street Voices, concentrate on exposing parts of Copenhagen’s society that don’t make the tourist brochures. The homeless guides have planned 90-minute routes around landmarks in neighbourhoods such as Norrebro, Christianshavn and South Harbour that tell their personal stories.
You’ll learn what life is like on the streets and what the challenges are for socially vulnerable people, all while giving back to the community.
Who Dunnit Murder Mystery Adventure, San Diego
At the end of the 19th century, San Diego’s historic quarter, the Gaslamp District, was home to bordellos, gambling halls and saloons, and had a suite of insalubrious tales to match. Over two hours, you’ll hear them as you tour sites such as the Horton Grand Theatre, Gaslamp Quarter Museum, and Old City Hall. But at the same time, you’ve got to solve the mystery of your mate buddy who’s been murdered. Scavenge for clues, crack the code and come out of it an (almost) qualified private detective.
Really gay history tour, Vancouver
If your ideal walking tour includes gay beer parlours, fruity ministers and ‘kiss ins’ this is the trip for you. Over three hours you’ll visit the sites that tell the story of Vancouver’s role in the queer liberation movement, from the courthouse where an infamous drag queen fought for gay rights, the chapel where the United Church of Canada ordained its first openly gay minister and the bookstore that fought to sell gay literature in the 1980s and was bombed as a result.
Middle Eastern food tour, Dubai
The immigrants that built modern Dubai brought their food cultures with them. This four-hour tour takes you away from the flashy hotels, deep into the backstreets of the Al Rigga neighbourhood, one of the city’s original districts, to find authentic Palestinian, Lebanese, Egyptian, Iraqi and Iranian restaurants. During 10 stops, you’ll try Iraqi wood-smoked fish, cardamom-scented Arabic coffee and Persian saffron-infused ice cream sundaes, whilst hearing stories of the communities behind the cuisines.
Moustache tour, Ljubljana
A century ago, three eccentric, moustachioed artists shaped the landscape and culture of Slovenia’s capital. This three and a half-hour cycling tour delves into the history of Ljubljana told through their art. You’ll visit the writer Ivan Canker’s favourite bar, walk through the living room of visionary architect Jože Plečnik and stop at the National Gallery to see the greatest works of the painter Rihard Jakopič. Plus there’s time to drop in at the International Centre of Graphic Arts and have a slice of cake.
Gnome hunting, Wroclaw
To understand this Polish city in depth, you’ve got to look for the gnomes. For two hours you’ll search for the more than 300 bronze, cheeky, foot-high statues throughout Wroclaw, each telling a story of the city’s daily life or history. The first appeared in 2001, marking the spot where the Orange Alternative anti-communist movement would meet in the 1980s. Today, they stand by bridges, outside the registry office or at the market square – as your tour guide fills in the backstories, the city will reveal itself.
Super Potato is the most famous game store in the world, but the Akihabara branch is touristy and thick of cigarette smoke (Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty)
Gamer’s tour, Tokyo
Super Potato is the most famous game store in the world, but the Akihabara branch is touristy and thick of cigarette smoke. The Ikebukuro branch is quieter and just one of the insider gaming spots you’ll visit on a day-long tour in the geeky paradise of Akihabara and Nanako districts. It swings by the cult Retro Game Camp, plays vintage games at Mikado and spots pro-gamers practising at Hirose Entertainment Yard.
Many Londoners don’t know about the capital’s Clissold Park, an oasis in North London where you can forage for ingredients such as wild rocket and garlic, watercress, black mulberries and even sweet chestnuts, depending on the season. They are missing out – during this three-hour tour an expert will teach you the secrets of identifying and picking edible ingredients, and show you how the natural world can flourish in even the most urban of environments.
Refugee voices, Berlin
Your feet are on the ground in Berlin, but this two-hour walking tour is about Syrian, as much as German history. Led by a refugee from Syria, it draws parallels between Europe in the 20th century and Syria in the 21st. At Platz des Volksaufstandes you’ll discover the link between violent repression of uprisings in the GDR and those in 1970s Syria; at the Gestapo Headquarters you’ll see ties between the SS terror and Bashar al-Assad’s regime, and at Checkpoint Charlie your guide will match stories of daring escapes with his own.