Take a walk on the spooky, clandestine, or even murderous side with these unusual city tours from Paris to Chernobyl.
If your idea of exploring a new city does not include following a guide with a red umbrella past the typical tourist attractions, then have a look at our 9 unusual city tours for your next trip. On these tours, you’ll set foot on nuclear wasteland, crawl down sewers and through tunnels, and maybe solve murder mysteries. In any case, you’ll experience new destinations in ways most tourists miss.
Twilight Tour Through the Tower of London
WHERE: London, UK
When darkness falls over one of England’s most famous sites, the Tower of London becomes eerily quiet apart from the voices of beefeaters who guide tours in the twilight hours of the winter months. Nearly 100 people still live inside the 1,000-year-old fortress, sharing every corner, cobblestone, and spiral staircase with tales of torture, executions, and hauntings. The Yeoman Wardens recount stories of the residents of the Bloody Tower, Anne Boleyn’s time here before she was beheaded, and imprisoned aristocrats. Some of the Tower residents actually believe in ghosts—what other explanation could there be for the persistent smell of saddle soap from long dead horses or flying objects in the bathroom of Beauchamp tower?
Blood, Guns, and Valentine’s Day Tour
WHERE: Chicago, Illinois
When you think about Chicago, Al Capone, the infamous gangster, inevitably springs to mind. The “Blood, Guns and Valentine’s Day Tour” will take you to the site of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre on February 14, 1929, when seven men were shot and killed on the orders of Al Capone. You’ll also explore gangland sites, murder scenes, and Chicago’s grisliest crime spots while getting a rundown of the history of organized crime in the city. Additionally, you’ll follow the footsteps of “Sausage King” Adolph Luetgert, who killed his wife Louise and dissolved her body in a vat of boiling potash in 1897. Dead men do tell tales.
WHERE: Chernobyl, Ukraine
What some might consider one of the biggest health hazards imaginable is for others an opportunity to get up close and personal with the world’s most famous nuclear energy disaster site.
Operators claim a visit is safe, however, it’s strictly forbidden to touch anything while there.
Since the day of the accident on April 26, 1986, Chernobyl has become an abandoned wasteland and the nearby city of Pripyat a has become a ghost town. Both are a real-life time capsule with rusted swimming pools, a giant Ferris wheel, and dust-covered toys in kindergarten classrooms. Although the area around Chernobyl is still filled with radiation hotspots, guided tours are increasingly popular. Participants are taken into the exclusion zone, a restricted space within 100 feet of the contaminated reactor #4, where the two catastrophic explosions. Operators claim a visit is safe, however, it’s strictly forbidden to touch anything while there.
Third Man Tour
WHERE: Vienna, Austria
More than 60 years after its (back then not well-received) premiere in 1948, the dark post-war film noir The Third Man has become a movie classic and for many the Vienna movie. Retrace the footsteps of Harry Lime, played by screen legend Orson Wells, as he descends into Vienna’s underworld after faking his own death.
With the help of pictures, modern projection and light technology, and music samples, the Third Man walking tour gives visitors a taste of the film’s seedy, seamy atmosphere and takes them to original filming locations in the Old Town and older parts of Vienna’s sewer system, the setting of the famous chase scene. The tour also visits the Third Man Museum, which houses movie posters, a 1936 screen projector, and the original zither on which the film’s haunting melody was played.
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Spies of Washington
WHERE: Washington, D.C.
It’s not only in House of Cards that Washington is the scene of international intrigue, espionage, and intelligence activity. On four different walking tours which cover the area from Capitol Hill to Georgetown, you’ll hear stories of double-agents and counterintelligence that were considered “hush-hush” for many years.
Led by retired Air Force intelligence agent Carol Bessette, participants also discover “spy sites” like clandestine meeting places, drop sites, and homes and offices of both spies and domestic intelligence forces. Plus, you’ll learn little-known spy stories featuring some of Washington’s most famous buildings like the White House and the J Edgar Hoover Building.
Tour Through the Sewers
WHERE: Paris, France
If you’re interested in engineering, public works, or history in Paris, and have already done the Eiffel Tower, then maybe a tour of the sewers might tempt you? Wastewater has been drained in the French capital since the early 13th century, and today’s network of more than 1,312 miles of tunnels is an outstanding engineering accomplishment. Via the subterranean Paris Sewer Museum, you’ll stroll through the dark, damp, and quiet tunnels while learning about the history and construction of the sewer system and the pressing issues of our time: water conservation and water security. This is also a great place to cool off during the hot summer months and a unique insight into the hidden functionings of a cosmopolitan city.
The Real Black Dahlia Tour
WHERE: Los Angeles, California
It has been 70 years since the naked, bisected body of Elizabeth Short, known in popular culture as the “Black Dahlia”, was found in a vacant lot in Los Angeles. The 1947 murder remains LA’s most famous unsolved crime, fascinating generations of novelists, journalists, musicians, filmmakers, hobby detectives, and cops. The tour retraces Short’s life in LA from mid-1946 to the time of her death through examination of the police investigation and news coverage. Participants are invited to share their murder theories during the onboard Q&A sections, and will also explore the social history of, and life as a single woman in, the city in the 1940’s. Murder suspects have included publisher Norman Chandler, physician George Hodel, and mobster Bugsy Siegel, but who is your person of interest?
Mario Kart Tours
WHERE: Tokyo, Japan
Were you glued to your Gameboy as a child, successfully navigating Mario and Luigi through the wide world of Nintendo? These days, you can swap the virtual for the real life in Tokyo and jump in a go-cart dressed as your favorite gaming icon. While riding through traffic-crammed metropolises is illegal in many other countries, go-carts in Japan are considered microcars and can be driven on public roads with a regular drivers license. Skid around Tokyo’s sights and streets and gain a new perspective at five inches off the tarmac and a breezy 40mph. Since 90% of the clientele are foreigners, there is a small chance of bumping into someone who knows you, but this is your once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to unleash your inner Princess Peach.
Ghost and Vampire Tour
WHERE: New Orleans, Louisiana
A walk through the legendary French Quarter at night will undoubtedly get your blood flowing. Hear historically accurate and haunting stories about vampires and creatures of the night while you wander through the darkened streets and visit Voodoo lounges. Learn about infamous characters like Madame LaLaurie, a Creole socialite and alleged serial killer, infamous for torturing and likely murdering her household slaves. Her mansion at 1140 Royal Street, also locally known as “the Haunted House”, is believed to be cursed. If you still haven’t got enough of the dead and undead after this tour, there are also walks through St Louis, New Orleans’ oldest active cemetery and final resting place of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau.