5 Historical Tours to Take You Back in Time

Jun 23, 2015

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Want to squeeze some culture into your travels this summer? TPG Contributor Lane Nieset recommends five fascinating historical tours that will immerse you in their destinations’ storied pasts — as well as a few cocktails. (As you read on, remember that tours like these are often categorized as travel purchases by the Chase Sapphire Preferred, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard and the Citi Premier Card.)

Stroll through Vienna’s First District, stopping at landmarks like St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Photo courtesy of Miroslav Petrasko / Flickr.

1. Walking Tour through Vienna’s First District

On Context’s Introduction to the 1st District tour, travelers will learn that the Austrian capital was founded by the Celts, later inhabited by the Romans and ruled by the Babenbergs and Habsburgs, and eventually occupied by the Nazis during World War II. Context charges $90 per person for this three-hour walking tour of Vienna’s historic center, which starts with a visit to Vienna’s oldest church (the Romanesque Ruprechtskirche), pauses at Ringstrasse landmarks and the restored 18thcentury palaces of the Freyung square, then stops for tortes at a Viennese café while discussing the city’s most famous musicians and authors.

Fly into Vienna International Airport (VIE) — and see how to snag a budget trip to Vienna in our reader success story, European Vacation for Under $300. Also see Destination of the Week: Vienna, 5 Inspiring Spots for an International Easter and Europe’s Best Christmas Markets for more on what to see here year-round.

Faneuil Hall in Boston
Urban AdvenTour’s Tour de Boston Bicycle Tour shows off landmarks like Faneuil Hall. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

2. Bike Tour through Boston

Boston’s 2.5-mile Freedom Trail is peppered with historic landmarks like the Paul Revere House and Faneuil Hall — home of America’s first town meeting — and Urban AdvenTours Tour de Boston Bicycle Tour shows them off as you cruise along the Charles River to the Charlestown Navy Yard, then past Rose Kennedy Greenway park into the heart of the North End, Boston’s oldest residential community dating back to 1630s. You’ll cover a lot of ground but at a leisurely pace, so no need to be in Tour de France shape for this kind of trip. The 2.5-hour guided ride costs $55 per person and includes bike rentals and helmets.

Fly into Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) — and check out Destination of the Week: Boston, as well as TPG’s answer to Should I Fly JetBlue or Delta out of Boston and his review of the Four Seasons Boston.

Coba Riviera Maya
The Pre-Columbian Maya civilization of Cobá in Riviera Maya. Photo courtesy of Alejandro C / Flickr.

3. Peek into the History of the Maya Culture in Riviera Maya

Rated one of Six Great Summer Destinations for Families, Riviera Maya is not only a great summer spot for snorkeling and swimming with whale sharks — the region is also rich in Mayan culture, which dates back to the third century. On Alltournative’s Cultural Mayaville tour, you’ll start at the sprawling Pre-Columbian Mayan settlement of Cobá, home to the tallest pyramid in the Yucatan Peninsula, the Nohoch Muul. You’ll then head to a Mayan village that’s still inhabited today by the Laguna Chabela people, and a local family will show you their techniques for making tortillas over a cast-iron griddle. Then it’s off to a cenote (freshwater sinkhole) in Esmeralda, believed by the ancient Mayans to be an entrance to the underworld. This half-day tour costs $129 for adults and $99 for children.

Fly into Cancun International Airport (CUN) — and check out my post 9 Ways To Do Riviera Maya from Cancun to Tulum for more activities in the region. Also, see Destination of the Week: Cancun & The Riviera Maya, An Unofficial Foodie Guide to Playa del Carmen, 4 Coastal Hotspots in Mexico to Visit in 2015 and Best Value Destinations for 2015.

Dohány Street Synagogue
The Dohány Street Synagogue in Budapest’s Synagogue Triangle. Photo courtesy of Huzaifa Das / Flickr.

4. Jewish Heritage Tour of Budapest

Budapest — one of our Best Value Destinations for 2015 — is home to one of the largest Jewish populations in Eastern Europe today, but the city is also full of monuments to its Jews who died in WWII; many are buried in the Martyrs’ Cemetery and honored at the Raoul Wallenberg Memorial Park. On Absolute Tours’ Jewish Heritage Grand Tour, travelers learn about the history and present culture of the Jewish Quarter, which features Europe’s largest synagogue (Dohány Street Synagogue) and the Heroes’ Temple memorial, which honors Jewish soldiers. The tour lasts about four hours and costs €41 (about $45) per person.

Fly into Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport (BUD) — and check out Destination of the Week: Budapest. See the comments in TPG’s Help Me Plan My Long Weekend in Budapest, read a Quick Update from Budapest, and check out TPG’s reviews of the Four Seasons Gresham Palace Budapest and Le Meridien Budapest. For other tour ideas in the city, check out TPG’s Segway Tour in Budapest.

Discover the birth of New Orleans' cocktail culture in the French Quarter. Photo courtesy of Tujague's Restaurant.
Discover the birth of New Orleans’ cocktail culture in the French Quarter. Photo courtesy of Tujague’s Restaurant on Facebook.

5. New Orleans Cocktail Tour in the French Quarter

During Viator’s cocktail history tour, local guide Doctor Gumbo pours out his knowledge of the Big Easy’s liquor-steeped past at landmarks like the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum and the 200-year-old Napoleon House restaurant, as well as SoBou, a one-time icehouse that supplied the city’s bars. While you stroll, you’ll keep cool in the summer heat and humidity by sipping Southern classics like the Sazerac, French 75 and Ginger Mint Julep before ending at Tujague’s, founder of the Grasshopper Cocktail and the second-oldest restaurant in New Orleans, dating back to 1856. This tour lasts three hours and costs about $65 per person.

Fly into Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY). Check out Destination of the Week: New Orleans and the comments in Help Me Plan My Last Minute Trip to New Orleans and see TPG’s reviews of Commander’s Palace, Johnny’s Po-Boys and Arnaud’s Restaurant and The Ritz Carlton, New Orleans.

Where are you hoping to go to soak up some history this summer?

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