Last Updated: 11/21/23 | November 21st, 2023
New York City has tons of walking tour companies. There are free tours, food tours, neighborhood tours, expensive private walking tours. New York has a walking tour for everyone’s needs and interests!
Personally, I love walking tours. I think they’re a wonderful way to see a city, get your bearings, and learn about where you are from a local expert. After all, why visit a place if you don’t want to learn about it?
To help you decide what tours to take while you’re exploring the Big Apple, I decided to sample a big chunk of the city’s historical walking tour companies in order to find the best ones. While it took a toll on my feet (I definitely got my steps in!), I learned a lot about NYC history!
Here’s a review of the best walking tours in New York City:
Best Overall Tour
Take Walks specializes in behind the scenes access that other tours don’t offer. Their Met tour is hours of educational fun and their Statue of Liberty and Ellis Islandtour as well as their Disney tour take you behind the scenes and give you insider access you won’t get anywhere else.
They are my FAVORITE tour company in the city. Any of their tours will be great!
Best Free Tour
Free Tours by Foot
These free tours are offered throughout the city by licensed guides. The company really shines in its diverse catalog — there’s a tour for everyone. They add a bit of quirky history to each tour and, since there’s no set script, each tour differs based on your guide. (My SoHo tour guide waxed poetic on gentrification.) Just make sure to sign up in advance and be sure to tip your guide at the end!
In addition to these two awesome tour companies, New York has over a dozen other insightful, educational, and delicious tours in the city. Here are my top suggestions:
1. Big Apple Greeter
Big Apple Greeter was founded in 1992 and connects visitors with local residents who show them around their neighborhood for a day. These aren’t professional guides, just locals showing you their favorite spots. I haven’t taken a tour with this company in many years, but the concept is still spot on and it’s something I highly recommend first-time visitors do.
After a pause due to COVID, Big Apple Greeter is back, but at the moment they ask you to fill out a visit request 4 weeks in advance. Currently, they are not accepting restorations within 10 days so make sure to book in advance! Meeting a greeter is free of charge and there is a no-tipping policy. However, please consider making a donation to help this service continue.
2. Explore the Real Brooklyn
Friend and fellow travel writer Dani Heinrich runs this off-the-beaten-path tour around Brooklyn. She’s a diehard Brooklynite and loves taking people around the city to show them there’s a lot more to NYC than just Manhattan. She has been leading these tours for over 4 years and will take you all over Brooklyn (so be prepared to walk). Tours last 4.5 hours.
Tours from $44 USD.
3. Central Park Conservancy Tour
Ever wanted to know about the flora and fauna of Central Park? Well, now you can. Several free tours highlight the various features of the park. Not only do you get to walk around the park on a beautiful day, but you learn about what you’re looking at too! There are tours that cover the main sights, family-friendly tours, tours that focus on statues and monuments, and more. The tours usually last 90 minutes. You can purchase tickets online in advance.
Tours from $25 USD.
4. The Village Alliance
The Village Alliance offers free self-guided walking tours of Greenwich Village. You can get the itineraries and maps on their website so you can learn about the history and social culture of the area. Tours cover everything from LGBTQ landmarks to the 1960s to important women in history. Their website also has tons of information on the bohemian art scene, food, and gentrification. Since tours are self-guided, they last as long as you want them to.
5. Big Onion Walking Tours
This is one of the biggest walking tour companies in New York. Using Ph.D. candidates as tour guides, this company runs about 50 tours on varying days each month. I took their Prohibition walking tour. I liked my guide, and she provided a lot of historical information, but much of it wasn’t directly related to Prohibition. While that was a personal bummer (I’m a sucker for anything Jazz Age!), I still really liked the tour and would recommend the company.
Tours from $30 USD ($20 for students and seniors).
6. Bowery Boys Walks
The Bowery Boys started off as a podcast back in 2007, focusing on the unique history of the Big Apple. Since then, they’ve branched out and created their own walking tours based on some of their most popular episodes and topics. They offer over a dozen distinct tours that cover specific areas around the city as well as different historical periods, such as their Gilded Age Mansions tour (which is super interesting!). Their tours last around two hours. Be sure to book in advance since there is limited space.
Tours from $40 USD.
7. Honorable Mention: Get Your Guide
Get Your Guide is a massive online platform for finding all kinds of fun activities, including walking tours, bike tours, and food tours. Whenever I visit Paris (or any city) I always check their app to see what new activities I can find. There is really something for every interest and budget, and booking is a breeze. I can’t recommend them enough!
Some suggested tours worth checking out are:
- Chinatown & Little Italy Food Tour
- MoMA Before Hours Guided Tour
- Speakeasy & Prohibition History Tour
In addition to your standard walking tours, food tours are another great way to explore and sample some of the city’s amazing cuisine. New York City has no shortage of amazing places to eat and there are food tours for every part of the city, focused on every type of cuisine imaginable.
Devour Tours is my go-to food tour company as they always have amazing itineraries and use expert local guides. In NYC, they currently have two epic tours on offer. Their Ultimate Greenwich Village tour lasts three hours and includes a filling 9 stops at a handful of family-run eateries around this iconic bohemian neighborhood.
Their Dumplings, Delis, & History tour explores the Lower East Side, including a visit to the oldest and most famous deli in the city!
Other suggested food tour companies to check out are:
No matter what company you tour with on this list, you’ll learn a lot, have fun, and discover parts of NYC with these walking tours you wouldn’t have found otherwise. Nothing can replace an insider’s tour of a city! Try a couple over the course of your visit. (Again, my favorite is Take Walks but any company on this list will be phenomenal!)
Get the In-Depth Budget Guide to New York City!
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Book Your Trip to New York City: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Use Skyscanner to find a cheap flight. They are my favorite search engine because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the biggest inventory and best deals. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.
If you’re looking for more places to stay, here my complete list of favorite hostels the city.
Additionally, if you’re wondering what part of town to stay in, here’s my neighborhood guide to NYC!
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
- Safety Wing (best for everyone)
- Insure My Trip (for those over 70)
- Medjet (for additional evacuation coverage)
Looking for the Best Companies to Save Money With?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use to save money when I’m on the road. They will save you money when you travel too.
Want More Information on New York City?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on New York City for even more planning tips!