The 10 best city walking tours

1 INSIDER TOURS BERLIN

"The best way to experience a city is through its history, yet with an understanding of its future." So goes the mantra of the crew at Insider Tour Berlin who carefully select their guides to deliver in-depth, unscripted tours on a variety of topics covering Berlin's dynamic history and culture. It's the guides that really set this outfit apart; a mix of academics, history buffs, opera directors or adventurers, they deliver an encyclopaedic level of knowledge with humour and genuine panache. The four-hour Famous Insider Walk covering everything from the fall of the Berlin Wall to Hitler's bunker and the Reichstag parliament building is a must. See insidertour.com 

2 CHICAGO ARCHITECTURE TOURS

Chicago's architecture is among the most revered in America and for good reason. Since most of the downtown area was obliterated in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the city underwent a radical redesign involving some of the most innovative architects in the world. Chicago Architecture Foundation offers more than 85 tours covering every conceivable facet of this history but some of the best include the Art Deco and Historic Skyscrapers tours and the Chicago Masterworks, a riveting overview of the city's most iconic buildings from the 1870s to the present. The 90-minute River Cruise Tour taking in more than 50 buildings from the water is another favourite.  See architecture.org 

3 FRYING PAN ADVENTURES, DUBAI

Experience the "other side" to Dubai with a stroll through some of its ancient neighbourhoods stretching back to the 1980s. Seriously though, this is a great way to investigate the back streets and alleys with a culture far removed from the rampant consumerism, indoor ski slopes and mega hotels. While introducing you to local vendors and chefs, self-confessed "food nerd" guides will show you the best places to sample anything from Palestinian falafels to spicy Indian samosas and the tastiest delicacies in town. See fryingpanadventures.com 

4 GRAFFITIMUNDO, BUENOS AIRES

Along with the likes of Berlin, Mexico City and London, Buenos Aires is home to some of the world's most remarkable street art. Much of it is entrenched in the turbulent political history that saw many a disenfranchised youth wield a defiant spray can in the name of creative activism. It's the sheer scale and intricacy of many of the murals that will blow you away; some artists even experimented with unusual materials such as asphaltic paint and petrol enabling them to create pieces on a scale that beggars belief. The passionate team at Graffitimundo will guide you around a selection of the best, shedding light on the stories behind the murals before winding up at a bar-come-studio run by practising street artists. See graffitimundo.com 

5 UNDERGROUND PORTLAND

A guilty pleasure if ever there was one, this tour describes itself as "A treat for lovers of all things sinister – crime, scandal and controversial characters –  a no-holds-barred excursion into the worst Portland has to offer". After roaming the streets for the earlier portion of the tour, you'll then take a subterranean detour beneath the historic Merchant Hotel, an area that was once home to the "Portland Shanghai Tunnels" connecting the Old Town and Chinatown to the central downtown area. Built to unite a network of bars and hotels with the waterfront of the Willamette River, they were used to transport goods quickly and efficiently but some claim they were also used for the more nefarious purpose of Shanghaiing. See portlandwalkingtours.com 

6 GLASGOW MUSIC CITY TOURS

Ever yearned to explore the ins and outs of Glasgow's flourishing music scene? Me neither, but a few minutes into this tour and you'll be a convert. Led by music fanatics, music writers, and local guys and gals thoroughly entrenched in the city's cultural landscape, you'll learn of the best place to see gigs, buy records (yes, some people still like to) and hear intriguing tales of musical folklore. There are two main tours to choose from; the iconic Merchant City and East End Music Venues and Glasgow's Music Mile. Alternatively, you can tailor-make your own bespoke group tour to suit whatever sounds soothe a savage beast. See glasgowmusiccitytours.com

7 SPADE & PALACIO, MONTREAL

After meeting at guiding classes, diehard Montrealers Danny and Anne-Marie bonded over their shared love of their city and the desire to share it with others. Three years later they set up Spade & Palacio, a tour outfit that has since garnered a reputation as one of the finest in town. The philosophy here is simple; groups are kept intimate – no more than 10 – and the tours showcase lesser known parts of the city while championing young entrepreneurs, artists and innovators. Tours include the Montreal Mural Tour, Beyond the Bike Lanes and Beyond the Market, where you'll discover hidden charcuteries, local craft brewers and more. See spadeandpalacio.com 

8 DELHI FOOD WALK

For travellers, deciding where to eat in a city like Delhi can be a nervy, Imodium-clutching experience, with danger lurking behind every bubbling vat of spiced dhal. But authentic Indian cuisine is some of the finest in the world and to skip on sampling local dishes in favour of chicken and chips back at the hotel is simply criminal. Enter Urban Adventures who will guide you on a three-hour excursion around some of the most genuine, thriving culinary haunts in the city. Mingling with market traders, food vendors and restaurateurs, you'll scoff your way through anything from shawarmas and dumplings to homemade ice-cream and even fruit beer. A microwave Vindaloo will never look the same again. See urbanadventures.com 

9 WINES OF VENICE 

Team up with a local sommelier to explore some of the hidden haunts of Veneto wine while learning about its importance within Italian culture. As you're whisked around several off the beaten track enotecas  – that's wine bars to you and me – your ridiculously knowledgeable guide will fill you in on the history of Veneto wine while encouraging you to sample several varietals a world away from the overpriced paint stripper you'll likely find at nearby tourist trap restaurants. The trip also includes local appetisers, from cured meats to wonderfully potent cheeses and more. See contexttravel.com 

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10 URBAN DESIGN AND CULTURE, COPENHAGEN

Born out of a mission statement in 2005 to steer away from eye-glazing shuffles around sterile museums and monuments, CPH: Cool (shame about the name) aims to showcase the best of Copenhagen through a mix of design, culture and shopping extravaganzas. There are 10 tours ranging from design and beer to revamped neighbourhoods and architectural curiosities.  The CPH: North tour for example gives a detailed insight into the Norrebro neighbourhood, a melting pot of immigrants and hipsters that was a hub of factories and cheap apartment blocks in the 1960s and has since become one of the slickest parts of town. See cphcool.dk 

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