City walks are one of the best ways to get acquainted with a new city. Whether you get a map and follow a trail yourself or join a random walking tour for a few hours, you’re likely to get more out of it than simply hopping from one tourist spot to another.
My favourite stories about Edinburgh came from a 3-hour walking tour given by a guide named Liam. He told us bizarre stories about torture and death, spitting spots and hanging zones with such panache that I remember all the stories even 8 years later. The only catch with guided walking tours is that you leave a large chunk of the experience to the expertise of the guide. If he/she is funny and engaging, you won’t realise how much you’re actually walking. We once got a soft-spoken, straight facts kind of guide in Antwerp. Even though he was narrating stories about a water spirit that kidnaps children (or some such thing), most of us were looking into our phones. The guide’s voice didn’t carry so if he had any punchlines, we missed them.
The first time I visited Brussels, Akshay and I decided to do the Comic Walk. The city map has a special tour marking the famous graffiti spots in the city – from Asterix and Obelix to Tintin. We walked for eight hours, stopping to sample Belgian beers along the way. The map took us to quiet neighbourhoods with no tourist attractions, ramshackle private parks, and at one point, just when we were convinced we were lost, we stumbled onto a small cafe that served the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had. In 2012 I did a similar walk in Delft – the Vermeer Walk. Map in one hand and notebook in another, I walked all across Delft, learnt about Vermeer’s life and how his legacy has become part of the charming little town. I did it at my own pace, and took my time to marvel at the fact that my house at the time was four doors down from the place of Vermeer’s birth!
There are a number of other walks in Delft. Explore the history of the royal family or Delft Blue, or even the canals with any of these walks. You can find detailed information on each of these in the Survival Guide written for TU Delta. This one’s called Surviving The Walks – and you can read it here.
Remember to check weather.com and choose a day with some sunshine, or at least no rain. If you’re going to be out and about on your feet, you’d rather not be struggling to keep up an umbrella.
And wear comfortable shoes. If your feet get corns and blisters, even the best stories about Scotland’s pubic triangle won’t keep your mind off the pain!