Hire a London Walks Guide
'He who travels without a guide needs 200 years for a 2 day journey' Rumi
It's very simple really – these people are the best there are at what they do.
 
020 7624 3978                                    london@walks.com
 
First, the hard-nosed bit...
 
Which is by way of saying, yes, it's the Age of the Internet. So why not cut out the 'middleman'? Why not go directly to the guide?
 
Two very good reasons. 1) It's not any cheaper to do so. It doesn't cost any more to do it through London Walks – and you get so much more!
 
2) The "fit" between the guide and the group is hugely important. You've got to get that "fit" right if you want satisfied, loyal customers. Bottom line – bottom line indeedwe're going to get you the best possible guide for your group because it's in our interest to do so! 
 
The guides' interest is a different cup of tea. If they've hung out their shingle on the great Internet Highway it's in their interest to say "yes" to every single bit of work that comes their way. Even if they're not right in terms of the guide-group "fit".  Or indeed in terms of the walk that you, the customer, want. If it's an area or a subject they're not particularly au fait with they'll "swot it up".
 
And when either or both of those things happen – well, it's obvious, isn't it? Chances are what you'll get is going to be pretty mediocre. Instead of brilliant. And that's not to take anything at all away from either the group or the guide. It's just that the "fit" – the chemistry – isn't right.
 
This stuff matters precisely because you're paying with your most most precious life-stuff: your time. So, yes, let's elaborate.
 
It goes without saying that guides aren't robots. They have a huge range of abilities and interests and expertise and personality characteristics and voice strength and sense of humour, etc. etc. etc. Some guides are brilliant with kids; others are hopeless with kids. Some guides are serious and scholarly and earnest. Others have a lighter touch, are fun (and funny). Guides' energy levels vary. Their voice strength and power varies. As does the pleasingness of their voice and their ability to play it like a fine musical instrument.
 
And just as guides vary so do groups. Some groups want that much lighter touch, someone who's a lot of fun. Others want some seriously scholarly oomph. You book a walk for a group of students you want someone who's damn good with students. And so on.
 
And that's the hard-nosed reason – the intelligent, discerning, thought-through-it reason – why you come to London Walks rather than take your chances on the Lucky Dip of hiring a guide directly because of a "cosmetic'd up" website.
 
We get the group-guide "fit" right. Get it right because it's in our interest to do so.
 
 
  Second, the Holy Trinity... 
   
The Guides. London. And You – Visitors.
 
Start with the guides. London Walks Guides – the best guides in London. Karen, for example. Karen, who comes trailing clouds of glory. Including the ultimate accolade: The World's Greatest Guide. Not exaggerating. Travel & Leisure, the bible of this industry, did a big story earlier this year on The World's Greatest Guides. Bears repeating: The World's Greatest Guides. Talk about many are called, few are chosen territory! Few indeed. There'll be a couple of million tour guides right around the world. Travel & Leisure hand picked 15 of them. London Walks' Karen was one of the 15. The only one of the 15 who was from England.
 
Or Tom. Awarded an MBE by Her Majesty for services to this industry, he's a barrister, a former Chairman of the Guild of Guides, Chief Examiner for the prestigeous Blue Badge course, etc. etc. And, of course, a London Walks guide.
 
Or Donald, this country's most distinguished crime historian, the author of the definitive book on Jack the Ripper, the chief consultant for every major film and television treatment of the Ripper, "internationally recognised as the leading authority on Jack the Ripper", etc.
 
Or Fiona, the distinguished Intertidal Archaeologist and the world's foremost expert on the London Thames foreshore.
 
Or London Walks guides Judy and Kim and Mary and Brian and Fiona and others who have won the coveted Guide of the Year and other top awards.
 
Or gifted – and successful – actors Nick and Angela and Shaughan. (We're talking good parts on the big screen, in the West End, for the Royal Shakespeare Company, the BBC, the National Theatre, etc.) And who betwixt and between are London Walks guides – not because they need to, but because they enjoy it.
 
Now as for London... Well, it almost goes without saying, cities don't come any more complicated than this one. Or fascinating. Or deeply pleasurable once you get to the point where you can begin to "read" the place. London takes time. And savvy. Think of Chesterton's apothegm: "Paris is an explanation, London is a riddle." Or Pierre Maillaud's: "London specialises in hiding the best of itself."
 
And You? Someone who doesn't live here, a visitor? Ok if I proffer up a piece of advice? Don't Go Cheap On Yourself. If you want to get the most out of your visit – make the best possible use of your time – get a London Walks guide – a world class guide – to show you around. "London Walks makes the new familiar and the familiar new." That showing you around – that guiding – comes in several sizes and shapes.
 
1) There's of course the regularly scheduled, just-turn-up, "public" London Walks we operate.
 
2) There are Private Walks – we do them all the time for office and school and student groups. (And indeed for individuals and couples and small groups of friends.)
 
And 3) there's the third approach – the approach that doesn't start with a given walking tour – public or private – in mind. It starts with a much broader canvas, a much more open remit: you and London and a star guide.
 
The "third approach" is tailored. And because it's tailored there are any number of possibilities. Everything from starting the day with a sit down with your guide at the little Italian place near Leicester Square that does the best coffee in London and while you're rocket fuelling having him (or her) talk you through, give you a crash course in, what it is about this place that sets it apart, how to get a handle on it, etc. etc. I – David – often actually diagramme it on a napkin: "you want to understand London, its history, how it got to where and what it is today a pretty good way to start is to think of a squiggle, four dots and a circle".  And then I proceed to put those six marks on that napkin – and make sense of them.
 
And after that sit down – it could be in the lobby of your hotel, it could be in the best pub in your neighbourhood, wherever – well, out in to London we go. And the possibilities – given the astonishing richness of London and the resources and expertise and contacts and connections the 75 or so London Walks guides represent – are almost infinite.  Everything from a really detailed look at narrowed-right-down subject or field or neighburhood to a kind of Tapas London experience (a bit of this a bit of that in order to scoop up as wide a series of impressions and glimpses and tastes as can be done in the time available).
 
London Walks does it better.
 
A Final, Personal Illustration...
 
Different city, same incontrovertible principle.
 
Venice. Last summer. There for a week. On Day 5 we hired a local guide. She was so good – we got so much out of it – we booked "a return engagement" for the next day, Day 6. Different part of Venice of course – different museums, etc. – but otherwise the same modus operandi.
 
Only regret is that we didn't get hooked up with her earlier on our visit.
 
She took us to parts of Venice that we never would have found off our own bat. Showed us things that we never would have seen – let alone understood – without her incomparable knowledge of her city. And her unerring feel for the place.
 
She made absolutely invaluable recommendations. "You want to go out from the centre, the best island to visit is... it's not well known, it's unspoiled, it's Venetians' Venice."
 
Or: "no, not that restaurant [one near our hotel] – it's a tourist trap, etc. etc. Try [here she named a little trattoria] – it's only a couple of back alleyways and a canal from your hotel and it's better in every way – prices, service, what they serve – it's for locals, it's not a tourist trap". She even recommended a dish!
 
She just knew.
 
Where to go. What to look for. What was going on on any given day.
 
If I were going to put it in one word that word would be flavours. She just brought them out. Bright bursts of flavour.  History as flavour. Local customs as flavour. The way Venetians live as flavour. The most wonderful tiny little details. Everything from the old wells in the street to how you tell that they've got a new baby girl (or boy)  in a Venetian house.
 
Bottom line: food and shelter come first of course. But of all the other things we did that week in Venice – of all the other "spend" items – the only one that was inispensable was that Venetian guide. In terms of what we got from it it was far and away the best of the many "spends" we made. And in fact, bearing in mind the money we saved by acting on her recommendations – and incidentally, the next time we're back in Venice we'll be acting on the hotel recommendation she made "for when you return, which of course you will" – it was a sensational bargain.
 
And just to refine that "only regret" – that we didn't get hooked up with her earlier on our visit – I think, for us at any rate, Day 2 would have been ideal. Let's rephrase that: will be ideal (thinking ahead here). Day 2 because Day 1 we want to just have a newbie's wander, just try to get a bit of a feel for where we are – a feel for the place that's unmediated. A bit of acclimatisation, a bit of testing ourselves, of sussing out – all by my (or our) lonesome. Yeah, okay, so what if we're seeing it with our Londoners' eyes. Let's just get them that little bit acclimatised. And then Day 2 – a couple of adjustments having been made – Bring. On. That. Local. Guide. Because we're ready to go!
 
Give us a call. 020 7624 3978. Or email us: london@walks.com
 
*But if any of you are going to Venice and want to engage the services of that brilliant local guide, well, get in touch and we'll put you in touch.