Best Audio Guide for the World's Top Cities

It’s September 1943. You watch nazis patrol Rome’s Jewish Ghetto — your neighborhood — as friends obey orders to bring all their gold to the temple. You cry out that this is a trap, that the nazis won't honor their promise to leave the Jews alone if they sacrifice 50 kilos of gold in 36 hours. And you will be proved right. 

With thrilling music and storytelling, Detour’s audio guide "The Ghetto: Jewish Resistance during Nazi Occupation,” whisks you around Rome with narrator Il Moretto, “the most wanted Jew in the city.” An actor playing Il Moretto, who was a real person, takes you on a mission to find his missing mother while nazis hunt you. This is a time when standing on a street corner could land you in a death camp. 

 The Great Synagogue of Rome, where the Jewish people brought all their gold in Il Moretto's true story. 

The Great Synagogue of Rome, where the Jewish people brought all their gold in Il Moretto's true story. 

This is the best audio guide I’ve ever listened to — and Detour is offering free access to their worldwide tours until September 4, 2017! 🚶Before this promotion started, I paid for the Rome package, which cost $25 for eight tours around Italy. Such great value and a fantastic option for solo travelers wanting to check out a city on their own time. (note: I’m not being sponsored to say any of this — I’m just a big fan!)

Features / Benefits

  • Awesome music increases the drama of the walking tours. 
  • Engaging narrators have a personal connection to the stories they’re telling (Ken Burns narrates the Brooklyn tour, for example).
  • Listen on your own or sync with friends. 
  • Go at your own pace. The tour takes an hour if you don’t lollygag — but I always do!
  • GPS knows where you are, so the narration comes in and out depending on your location trigger. While the guide provides good audio directions, there's also a map if you get lost (which I did a few times). 
  • Great value for money — private guide in your pocket!

A few quirks that could be improved

  • It’s difficult to start the guide unless you’re in the exact GPS location for that part of the tour — sometimes you just want to stand on the shady side of the street. 
  • The tours drained my iPhone battery (though maybe this is an issue with my phone?). Bring a back up charger. 
  • I wish they had a transcript of these audio guides. I often take notes on walking tours, but I’d love to be able to focus more on listening — and taking photos of cupcakes, etc — so a transcript referencing stats and anecdotes would be 🙌
 For hundreds of years, Rome's Jews were forced to live in a walled ghetto, which kept traditions, including culinary traditions, alive. Today, this neighborhood's Jewish bakery Boccione is famous for its sour cherry and ricotta cakes. Find them at Via del Portico d'Ottavia, 1 (no sign on the door).

For hundreds of years, Rome's Jews were forced to live in a walled ghetto, which kept traditions, including culinary traditions, alive. Today, this neighborhood's Jewish bakery Boccione is famous for its sour cherry and ricotta cakes. Find them at Via del Portico d'Ottavia, 1 (no sign on the door).

Not only have these audio tours helped me discover the history and beloved landmarks of Rome and London, Detour's narrators have also challenged my thinking and perspective. At one point, on the nazi occupation tour, I ended up on Tiber Island, where people came 2,000 years ago to pray to the Greek God of Health. There’s still a 450-year-old hospital here, Fatebenefratelli, which was a centre for the nazi resistance during World War II. ✌️

    Stolpersteine    (stubling blocks)  commemorate the lives of Holocaust victims. A German artist came up with the idea to place these brass plaques outside of the homes where Jewish people lived freely before being persecuted by the nazis. About 56,000 can be found in 22 European countries.

 Stolpersteine (stubling blocks) commemorate the lives of Holocaust victims. A German artist came up with the idea to place these brass plaques outside of the homes where Jewish people lived freely before being persecuted by the nazis. About 56,000 can be found in 22 European countries.

As part of the tour you have to go inside the hospital, pass reception, and go upstairs. This feels so awkward, but narrator Il Moretto whispers in your ear to play it cool, you belong here. And you’re thinking, “I can’t go in here. I don’t belong here.” And then you put yourself in Il Moretto’s shoes. He came here searching for his mother, while at the same time hiding from nazis who wanted to kill him. Suddenly, you feel insanely blessed and go inside the hospital, where you learn about the heroic doctors turned informants who communicated with Allied forces via radio in the basement. They also made up a disfiguring and contagious disease called Syndrome K to trick German soldiers into avoiding rooms that were really hiding healthy Jewish people. 

 Remains of a gate that walled in the Jewish Ghetto. The water fountain at the top of this page can be found just outside this gate post.

Remains of a gate that walled in the Jewish Ghetto. The water fountain at the top of this page can be found just outside this gate post.

This walking tour gave me chills, told me stories, and reminded me that no matter how bad the world gets, the pendulum swings back. I followed almost all of Detour’s Rome audio guides before heading back to London, where I started following them here (most recently the Shoreditch one — street art 🎨 🙌)

So…for free tours in the world’s top cities (16 as of this posting), download the Detour app. I cannot wait to try the walking tours in New York and Boston! 🇺🇸 Which city would you tour right now if you could?