8 Alternative City Tours

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Travel company Dharma has just launched a brand new Emily in Paris themed tour of the French capital, meaning that fans can experience the bright and shiny version of the city that is depicted in the Netflix series in a neatly curated five-day package. While this kind of experience might not be for everyone, there’s a whole spectrum of unusual city tours available across the world, from the historic and the gastronomic to the weird yet wonderful…

Paris by Emily, Paris

Paris shopfront

If you’ve ever fantasised about stepping into Lily Collins’ exquisite shoes while watching Emily in Paris, then this themed tour is for you. Over five days, you’ll enjoy a très chic itinerary, which will see you staying in a traditional hotel in the leafy surrounds of the charming 5th arrondissement—where the character of Emily supposedly lives. You’ll enjoy rooftop cocktails, bistro dinners, shopping sprees and masterclasses, including one that teaches you how to flirt à la Sylvie, and another on how to bake the perfect croissant!

From £2,950pp

Culinary Backstreets, Various Locations

If you’re one of those travellers who plans your day around where you’re going to eat, then Culinary Backstreets can help you find some of the most authentic delicacies in a number of cities across the world, from Queens to New Orleans. This international tour company actually began as a food blog in Istanbul, before the creators decided to take their insider recommendations to the streets. Day tours will see you explore the backstreets of Naples, Lisbon’s port and Athens’ markets, or you can opt for multi-day trips, which include accommodation and all meals.

From around £110pp

The Worst Tours, Porto


Don’t let the name put you off! This tour, organised by three architects, is named as such because it takes visitors away from the city centre and the tourist traps and shows them an authentic side of the city—and plenty of hidden gems. Over three to four hours, a tour guide will take you to the less frequented parts of Porto, some of which have suffered because of the country’s social and economic issues and are now rundown or boarded up. These walking tours also encourage discussions about austerity and gentrification, giving visitors a more in-depth insight beyond the pretty attractions.

Tours are free, but tips are encouraged

Context Tours, Various Locations

Context Tours offers tourists private or group tours with incredibly knowledgeable guides, many of which have achieved Masters degrees and PhDs in their fields — for example, you might explore Michelangelo’s Florence with an actual artist or art historian! These tours are aimed at those who really want to dig deeper into a destination and come away with a wealth of information and new knowledge.

From £17pp

Dwarves & Communism Tour, Wrocław

Dwarves of Wroclaw

If you keep your eyes peeled in this postcardworthy Polish city, you’ll start to spot a few pint-sized residents… You might find the bronze dwarves of Wrocław withdrawing money from a tiny bank, sunbathing in the park, or doing a spot of gardening. While these figures really are adorable, they represent a serious part of the city’s history. In the 80s, the anti-communism group the Orange Alternative used to protest the oppressive Soviet regime using the symbol of the dwarf in an almost absurdist way. With this tour, you can find out more about life in the city during this time, the work of the Orange Alternative, and—of course—see plenty of these mischievous statues, of which there’s thought to be hundreds!

Free, but tips are encouraged

Pragulic Tours, Prague


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Prague tour company Pragulic makes use of some of its most streetwise residents while helping to tackle one of city’s biggest social issues. Each tour guide has experienced homelessness, so you’ll see the city from their perspective rather than just the typical tourist traps. The tours go into detail about Prague’s underworld, so are not necessarily for everyone, but if you really want to challenge yourself, then you can embark on a 24-hour street experience with one of the guides.

From around £9pp

SpyGuide, Washington DC & New York City

Capitol Hill

The political nuclei of Washington DC and New York have long been associated with espionage, and you can learn more about their mysterious pasts from ex-intelligence officers with one of these intriguing tours. In Washington DC, you can explore the spy hotspots of Embassy Row, Capitol Hill, Georgetown and Arlington National Cemetery, where you’ll find the graves of John F Kennedy and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Meanwhile, in lower Manhattan, you can uncover the secrets of Wall Street…

From $35pp

LaDalat & 2CV Tour, Ho Chi Minh City


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The petite Citroen 2CV was built in the first half of the 20th century for efficiency and affordability (one of its requirements was that it had to ‘be comfortable enough to carry a basket of eggs in a plowed field without breaking one’), however its distinct look is now admired all over the world. You can take an evening tour of Ho Chi Minh City’s best street food spots from the comfort of one of these retro, open-topped models, stopping off for local treats including sugarcane juice, banh trang nuong (Vietnamese pizza), and banh xeo (rice pancakes).

From around £55pp