Trace the footsteps of Charles Baudelaire’s Flâneur and take in the sights and sounds of cities from Paris to Havana on these walking tours
According to 19th century French poet Charles Baudelaire, wandering the city as a flâneur, or ‘stroller’, is an exercise in urban contemplation. More importantly, his powerfully prescient figure of the urban traveller allowed anyone to become a connoisseur of the street; only if they were keenly observant of their surroundings. It’s almost like going on a walking tour…
The Best of French Pastry
Where: Paris, France
What will I experience? Nobody makes pastry like the French, so get ready for a four-hour crash course on French gastronomy, history and culinary culture on this walking tour in Paris. You’ll get to savour up to 10 different French-style sweets, ranging from cookies, chocolates and pies to brioches, macarons and éclairs.
Robb tip: This tour will take place in the hipster Marais neighbourhood, where you’ll get the low-down on modern takes on traditional French pastry such as the Breton specialtiy, Kouign Amann, which has enjoyed a recent revival in bakeries and patisseries across the world.
The Prosecco Route
Where: Valdobbiadene, Italy
What will I experience? If you want to learn more about the provenance of the fine Italian bubbly Prosecco, you’re in luck. This Prosecco tour is the real McCoy: a three-hour long wine trail past vineyards, cellars and farmhouses in the crown jewel of the Prosecco-producing region of Conegliano Valdobbiadene.
This private tour kicks off from a village north of the Prosecco region of Treviso, San Pietro di Barbozza and will take you all the way to the town of Saccol. Along the way, the tour guide will regale you with tales of local Italian culture and lore.
Robb tip: Retrace the origins of Prosecco in this part of wine country and learn about historical institutions such as the Società Enologica Trevigiana (Trevisan Wine Society), whose 19th century research laid the foundations of modern-day Prosecco-making.
Kyoto Geisha Tour: Gion at Twilight
Where: Kyoto, Japan
What will I experience? Soak up the lost world of geishas in the historic Gion district at the heart of Kyoto, Japan.
The two-hour walk kicks off at Yasaka shrine from where you’ll make your way past historic shrines and temples in the city, including Ebisu shrine and the oldest Zen temple in the city, Kennin-ji Temple. Learn to spot the difference between a geisha and maiko (apprentice) as you weave through the quaint alleys of Miyagawa-cho.
Robb tip: Get ready to whip out your mobile phones and camera by Tatsumi Bridge – that’s where you’ll see postcard-perfect willow trees leaning over into the canal next to mini manicured gardens. There’ll also be plenty of time to admire the architecture of the ‘machiya’ or traditional Kyoto townhouse with its narrow façade.
EmptyMet Tour at The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Where: New York City, USA
What will I experience? This tour gets you private access to see the Met before it opens to the public. The 90-minute tour is led by the Met’s own art guides who will take you through 5,000 years of human history showcased in the museum’s permanent collection. You’ll be able to get up close with masterpieces from the Met’s treasure trove – including Antonio Canova’s Perseus with the Head of Medusa and Vincent van Gogh’s Wheat Field with Cypresses – without the usual crowds.
Robb tip: After the tour, you’ll still have access to the Met over the next three days to take in the rest of the exhibits you might have missed.
Snacks & Markets
Where: Bangkok, Thailand
What will I experience? Traverse the heart of bustling Bangkok all the way from the Flower Market to historic Chinatown, and experience the best of local life and culture. This three-kilometre walk takes you through seven markets – Ban Mo, The Old Siam, Phahurat, Sampaeng, Khlong Thom, Charoen Chai and Talad Mai – each with its own speciality ranging from snacks, flowers and silks to guns, fashion accessories and fabrics.
Robb tip: The walking tour doubles as a food tour and there’ll be various stops for food and snacks. Pick up a couple of traditional Thai sweets at Old Siam, one of Bangkok’s oldest shopping malls, or sample the best of Thai street food at Yaowarat where the tour ends.
Traverse the Tarmachan Ridge
Where: Edinburgh, Scotland
What will I experience? If you’re a lover of nature and panoramic views, sign up for this walking tour to Tarmachan Ridge, which is on Meall nan Tarmachan, a mountain (or as the Scots say, ‘munro’) that stands at 3,425 feet in the southern highlands of Scotland. Enjoy a customary nip of authentic Scottish whisky at the end of the five-hour walk after catching stunning views of the Scottish landscape – it’ll be nothing short of breath-taking.
Since this is an introductory-level hike, you’ll get to take in magnificent views of the highlands without scrambling on rough terrain. You’ll be guided by a true Scotsman into the heart of the Trossachs Valley and also climb Ben A’an, a hill that is accessible in all weather conditions.
Robb tip: You’ll get to sample plenty of Scottish foods. En route, enjoy a morning coffee at an artisanal bakery in the quaint village of Callander. After the trek, stop at an 18th-century highland pub nestled in the hills for a hearty meal and home-brewed ale around an open fire.
Street Art Walking Tour
Where: Valparaiso, Chile
What will I experience? There’s no better city to experience graffiti and street art in the southern Hemisphere than Valparaiso. Known as Chile’s capital of culture, this port city is famous for its cliffside cobbled pavements and bohemian vibes, as well as being the former home of Nobel prize-winning Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda.
The streets here are an open-air museum, filled with murals and graffiti, which first flourished in secret as an expression of protest against military dictator Augusto Pinochet in the 1970s. Whilst street art can be found all over Valparaiso, much of it is concentrated in the hilly neighbourhoods of Cerro Concepción, Cerro Alegre and Cerro Bellavista.
Robb tip: Don’t forget to visit the quirky La Sebastiana Museum, which was the former residence of Neruda. Named after its architect, Sebastián Collado, this five-storey property built like a toy house lets you have a peek into the life of the famed Chilean poet.
Old Havana Walking Tour
Where: Havana, Cuba
What will I experience? This walking tour of Habana Vieja, or Old Havana, is a sensory feast for lovers of 1950s halcyon days. As you walk the narrow cobblestone streets, you’ll get to see why Cuba, which was founded in the early 16th century by Spanish conquistador Pánfilo de Narváez, has one of the most unique architectural styles in the world that combines Moorish, Baroque, Neoclassical and Art Nouveau influences.
This tour will also lead you past some of the most historical sites of the city, including the famous Plaza de Armas, La Bodeguita del Medio, the Capitol, the Original Partagas Cigar Factory, the Museum of the Revolution, amongst others.
Robb tip: There’s a reason why Cuba has been nicknamed Ciudad de las Columnas, or the City of Columns: architectural columns can be found all over the 900 historic buildings surrounding the city’s five main plazas – Plaza de Armas, Plaza Vieja, Plaza de San Francisco, Plaza del Cristo, and Plaza de la Catedral.
Onsen Gastronomy: Oita & Kumamoto
Where: Kyushu, Japan
What will I experience? Walk Japan’s newest series of speciality tours focus on two quotidian activities, eating and bathing. The Onsen Gastronomy tour in Oita and neighbouring Kumamoto takes you to hot spring mecca, where you’ll get to dip in various clear, murky, fizzy and even pungent pools throughout the trip. Besides soaking in therapeutic thermal waters, you will get to enjoy local delicacies with ingredients sourced from the region.
This is still a walking tour, so in between steeping and stuffing yourself you’ll hike along a disused railway line to Oguni, explore a geo-park at Bungo-Ono, and visit the historic Taketa and upmarket Yufuin towns, travelling from one onsen to another.
Robb tip: Tattoos are still considered taboo at public onsens, even though perceptions on being inked have somewhat relaxed. You can always ask for private bathing facilities if prying eyes prove to be too intrusive.
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Bicentennial Tour: 200 Years of…
What will I experience? What better occasion to have a jaunt around your own neighbourhood than Singapore’s bicentennial? With 200 years of history, there are plenty of topics to explore in-depth by walking. Food is a perennial favourite, and if you’re not hungry there’s always the visual feast of architectural styles and heritage in the central civic districts. For something less conventional, the tour on law and order lets you hear personal anecdotes on gang warfare and race riots from a former detective.
Robb tip: Singapore’s multi-faceted history reaches back over 700 years, so if you want a comprehensive guide on our colonial and pre-colonial history there’s the three-part Bicentennial Special Tour (purchased as either a one-off or a package of three) that informs about Sir Stamford Raffles’ arrival and subsequent stay.