When you are coordinating a trip for seven people, you need to figure out how you are going to get everyone through the big sites, preferably as economically as possible. That is where Rick Steves came to the rescue. I had everyone in our group download the Rick Steve’s Audio Europe App. Using this app we had Rick Steve’s guide us through the Historic Paris, walk the Denon branch of the Louvre, understand impressionism in the Musee d’Orsay, and get the Pastel de Natas from the oldest bakery in Lisbon. And did I mention that all these audio tours were free?!?! Check out why I now actively recommend everyone who is going to Europe download this free app.
*Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links that allows me to earn a small commission at no cost to you. I only link to products I would or have used myself and all opinions expressed here are my own. You can read the full disclaimer here.
How I Discovered the Rick Steve’s Audio Europe App
Back in 2008, My husband and I were traveling to Europe together for the first time. We had few days in Paris, and at this point I was super into budget travel and reading guidebooks (this is pre discovering Travel Blogs). Of course, that line of research led me to Rick Steves and his website. To my surprise, I found on his website that you can download FREE Mp3s that are audio walking tours. Since this is pre-everyone having a cell phone in their pocket, we downloaded these MP3s onto our iPods, and then using them to explore a few key locations in Paris. (I remember being mad when we were in Paris and I discovered one of the MP3s I downloaded was corrupted so we couldn’t listen to that tour.) We found it so convenient and easy. When it came time to go back to Europe with our kids 13 years later, I immediately went to the Rick Steves website looking to see if they still had the free audio tours. Then I made an awesome discovery, not only were they still available, but there were also more and, in the time, they had developed an app making it easy for everyone.
How to Use the App
On any Android or Apple device you can download the “Rick Steves Audio Europe Travel App”. Once downloaded, go into “Find Tours & Interviews” for all the good content. The audio files are sorted by country, with the most popular cities (Paris, Rome, etc.) having their own section. Once in section of the Country/City of choice, you can browse the audio files. Titles with the walking man are walking tours. Those with the microphone are past podcast episodes. Click on the title you are interested in and hit download. You can download as many or as few as you wish. But anything you download will be added to your Playlist.
The Playlist feature lets you quickly get to the files you are most interested in when you are on the go. Once the file is downloaded, you do not need internet to access the audio tour, which is great if you want to save data charges. When you are doing an audio tour, there are three tabs. The first is the list of chapters, where you can listen to the tour. You can start at chapter 1 and follow the whole tour, or you can jump ahead to the chapters that interest you. The second tab is a map. Usually, the numbers of the chapters correspond to the numbers on the map. The last tab is the text! Didn’t hear something but don’t want to rewind and find out exactly what he said? Or want to look for something specific he said but don’t want to listen to the whole thing again? Then skim through the text to find it. I found myself referencing them again over and over.
With the apps downloaded on everyone’s phones, we made sure everyone had headphones with them, and then we were able to get “guided” tours through some of the biggest sites without paying for a guide. (For my son he used his Bluetooth headphones, my husband used his Bose Noise Canceling Headphones, and I used my Sports JBuds. My daughter had wired headphones but choose to use the earbuds she got off the plane).
Why I Love the App
- Rick Steves does a great job of explaining everything and sprinkling in jokes. He never drones on and keeps it moving. His explanation was always engaging. It worked for all the ages in our group.
- The app is super easy and intuitive to use. Obviously, the Gen Z’s of the group caught on quickly. But even the technology challenged Boomers were able to figure it out and could listen and move along with it.
- He covers all the major sites that you might want to see in Europe. Using the app, we were able to get a guided tour of the Louvre and Musee d’Orsay. We did walking tours of Historic Paris, Lisbon and The Heart of Rome.
- Did I mention it’s FREE!!! Do you know how much guided tours for a group of 6 cost? This let us learn so much in all where we went without having to spend so much money.
What Tours We Used
We actually used the following tours:
- Historic Paris
- The Louvre
- The Orsay Museum
- Versailles Palace
- Lisbon City Walk
- Rome – Heart of Rome
- Rome – Jewish Ghetto
- Rome – Pantheon
Things to Look Out For
As with every app there are a few things to look out for and this one is no exception.
- You have to download the files, there is no streaming option. You can’t listen until the file is fully downloaded. It would be better if the file was downloaded before you get to the location.
- My kids were disappointed to find out that just because the audio file is 1.5 hours, we are not there for 1.5 hours. My son wanted to listen, and then move with the instructions as if he were one with them and not pause it at all. However, many in the group wanted to take some time, see things to the side, etc. Sometimes you don’t walk as fast as Rick Steves (either I’m really slow or he’s a speed walker) so you’ll need to do a lot of pausing. Set expectations with the group accordingly.
- This is a free audio tour, so it does not go as deep as you may like. For the Louvre, it only covered one wing and the highlights. For my crew of tweens who were there because they had to be, it was perfect. For my art loving stepfather, it was not deep enough. If you feel you want a real in-depth look at a specific place, you may want to either purchase an audio guide from the location or go on a tour with a guide.
I am a history geek and in my top Gallup Strengths, I consistently have Learner. So it’s no surprise that I would love a free app that gives me history and context right at the moment. I love that it can be done on your time, and you aren’t tied to a timed guided tour. And it lets you go at your own pace, lets you and your family see things when you want, stop for breaks, and then keep going. Or continue the next day! When we were in Rome, we did a mix of both the audio walking tours, and getting a tour guide for some of the places we wanted more in-depth knowledge, and it was perfect. For most people school age and up, this is the perfect level of engaging information to help you learn about what you are visiting, but when you want to. If you are going with your kids or teens, I definitely recommend downloading this app and having it available for all!
If you want guided tours, which I recommend for locations where you want more in-depth information, checkout the options available on GetYourGuide
* Starred Photos taken by Atma Photography