Self guided tours are ideal for travelers who prefer to wander at their own pace and to take the occasional detour. App tours are a fun idea as there's no extra baggage (books, maps, etc) to carry. These guides are suitable for first time visitors but would also be fun for a local to try too as there's so much information.
iPhone/iPod Touch AppWalki Talki's mp3 audio and pdf map packages are still available but they expanded into the travel app market as they feel it can offer "an easier and richer user experience". The tours are the same but with the app version downloads directly to your iPhone/iPod Touch with everything you need.
There's an interactive map, audio tracks, and an image for each stop.
Walki Talki London ReviewThe audio tracks are narrated by Ben Silburn with Fiona Dunn for "expert local knowledge" and they have a friendly banter. Audio levels vary between the stops and the speakers, although it does remain clear throughout.
There's an interactive map and although you can't pinch and zoom in very far, it does allow you to see the whole route.
You can select from any of the tracks but sadly you can't rewind while at a stop. So if you want to listen back you need to wait till it gets to the end of the track then start it again. This wound me up a few times as I missed information and just wanted to check the last line that was said.
The tour starts from outside Westminster tube station and my hackles were raised as I heard "London Metro" instead of London Underground or Tube. It's never 'London Metro' and the British narrators should have known better.
Be aware, the photos are not taken from the angle you'll see them on this tour but are high quality images.
On a positive note there is some excellent detailed information and lots of history.
- 1. Westminster Bridge & the Houses of Parliament
I learned that the Westminster Bridge paint is the exact same color as the benches in the House of Commons.
- 2. London Eye
Also includes info on the Dali Museum and the London Aquarium.
I started to notice the information may be out of date when they said the "London Eye is the tallest wheel in the world". It was when it was built in 1999, but the Singapore Flyer, built in 2008, currently has that honor.
- 3. South Bank Centre to Waterloo Bridge
Good recommendation to detour over to Somerset House (See Somerset House Free Guided Tour.)
- 4. The Royal National Theater & The River Thames
I don't think the National Theatre is 'royal'.
Mentions when a whale came up the river Thames in 2005, but it was actually in 2006.
- 5. OXO Tower to Blackfriars Bridge
- 6. Tate Modern Museum
The much smaller Bankside Gallery is discussed first and it would be easy to think they were talking about Tate Modern (note, no 'museum' in the title). This was another one of those examples when I would have liked to have been able to rewind just one or two sentences and not have to wait till the end of the track.
The Unilever Series Turbine Hall exhibitions at the Tate Modern have been extended till 2012 but the audio states, "continuing...till 2008", which again dates the track.
- 7. Millennium Bridge & St. Paul's Cathedral
There is lots of detail about the bridge but it's not made clear that it doesn't wobble anymore. (It did when opened for the millennium but was fixed immediately.)
I found it a little confusing when checking the map as it I couldn't see the bridge while listening to this track as the track name label covers it.
They say St. Paul's Cathedral "costs a fricking fortune to go in so we recommend you don't." Whoa there, it's a major London landmark! And you can see St Paul's Cathedral for free.
At the time of writing, it cost £12.50 to visit St. Paul's Cathedral and £17.50 for a 30 minute flight on the London Eye, another one of London's 'must see' attractions.
- 8. The Globe Theater
Excellent information about the building and the exhibition tour.
- 9. Cannon Street Rail Bridge to Golden Hinde
Discusses landmarks along this stretch including Vinopolis which has really gone up in price as they quote "from £11.50" but a tour is now from £19.50.
- 10. Southwark Cathedral
Mentioned the gardens were "recently" restored but that was back in 2001 so I became more concerned about the accuracy of the information.
I was also surprised to be informed I was passing where Bill Sykes murdered Nancy in Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist.
- 11. London Bridge & Great Fire Monument
(Odd intro - Sounds like an out-take clip needs to be removed here.)
Good info about London Bridge and the various rebuilds, and the history of the nursery rhyme "London Bridge is falling down..."
Be aware, The Monument is actually on the other side of the river.
- 12. HMS Belfast and City Hall
Good info about HMS Belfast.
Brief info on City Hall so would have been better to have an image of HMS Belfast here.
- 13. Tower Bridge
Lots of good info but didn't mention there's a charge to visit the upper walkways of the Tower Bridge exhibition.
- 14. Tower of London
I don't think you can "buy tickets at any tube station" and they focused on the ravens names, yet they have changed since the recording. And if the ravens were moved inside in 2006, they were all out against last time I visited.
This was the first iPhone walking tour I'd tried but I have tried many other iPhone apps. Although the area chosen would be my first choice - see South Bank Photo Tour - I don't feel this tour does justice to all the landmarks along the route. There is some excellent historical information but I was disappointed by the amount of out of date information which made me question any of the 'facts' I didn't already know. With some updating and more multimedia - links to official websites, opening times, etc - this could be a great app but it's not there now.
(Reviewed December 2009.)
Walki Talki Website: walki-talki.com
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with a complimentary iPhone walking tour for the purpose of reviewing those services. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our Ethics Policy.
If you like smartphone apps you may well be interested in my review of M8 Your Local Mate.