Ljubljana Free Tour has an eye-catching name, but what’s the business behind it, and does it really work? We sent some questions to the group, who were kind enough to answer.
Look for the yellow umbrellas
How long has Ljubljana Free Tour been running?
Since 2009. It was a difficult start as hotels would not work with us due to their belief that if something is free, it can’t be very good. We have over the years gained an impeccable reputation for quality, and today most hotels recommend us to their guests and call us as soon as they run out of fliers. Today free tours run 365 days a year, no booking is required. The service is always available regardless of weather.
Where did you get the idea from?
The Free Tour concept began in Berlin, in 2007. We were there that year and took a free tour not knowing what to expect. We were absolutely shocked .. not by the free concept, but by the quality of tour. The tour was engaging, informative, funny, fluid and simply changed our whole perception of “tours”. The guide had to work hard to earn their tips and did a great job.
Who are your guides?
All guides are local guides with a valid Slovene guiding license, a must in Slovenia. They are all academics and for many guiding is their second job. Our team includes university and college lecturers, academic researchers, school teachers, special education specialists, a sociologist, a historian, an archaeologist and even a street performer. They are all highly knowledgeable yet entertaining, true professionals who are able to deliver quality tours in an entertaining and fun manner. With over 3,000 reviews on TripAdviser alone, it is easy to see the great job they do.
How do they get paid?
On free tours guides earn only the tips they receive from guests. This ensures they will always do their best to deliver a great tour. The better they do the more they can earn. The sound of happy tourists applauding our guides can be heard across town on a daily basis. Contrary to belief, even though they make money by tips, all their earnings are properly declared.
You also organize paid tours – how are these different?
The idea is simple. Guests come on morning free tours, are impressed by the quality of tour they receive, and opt for a paid tour in the afternoon. At present, the only regularly running paid tour we have is the Communist Tour, which runs several times a week in season. In this case tourists arrive at the meeting point and pay €12 to participate in the tour. We know that without our reputation, no one would come. Like our free tours, no prior booking is required. We have enough guides on site to split large numbers into smaller groups. And of course, like any agency, we also offer various private tours in 10 different languages – including Russian, Chinese and Japanese. Private tours are mostly paid in advance.
Aside from the usual sights of Ljubljana, what else do you cover?
Our Classic City free tours visit the main tour sights in the centre and Old Town. However, it’s the structure, content and stories we deliver that differentiates us from other tours in town. There is so much to tell and we believe tours must give added value compared to guidebooks. Tours should be informative and fun.
In addition to the Classic City, we also offer an “Old Town & Castle” Free Tour which run several times a week in season. This tour visits further sights in the Old Town (beyond those on the classic city tour) and continues with a walk up to Ljubljana Castle, where we tour the inner courtyard and some towers.
In addition to classic city tours, we also offer niche tours such as the Communist Tour, Jewish Heritage Tour, boat tours and custom made tours for guests with specific interests.
Do you have any special plans for the winter season?
We are always checking options for adding new tours and have several tours ready in the drawer. Many consider us the best in town and we prefer to concentrate on what we do best … Ljubljana walking tours.
Where can people learn more?
For more information our website would be a good place to start. Elsewhere, on TripAdvisor we’ve been ranked as #1 out of 155 tours in Ljubljana for about eight years in a row. We've even gained Hall of fame status for exceptional quality. I guess we can let over 3,000 reviews speak for themselves.
Anything else you’d like to say?
We believe what we do contributes greatly to the promotion of Ljubljana and Slovenia. Think of it, many of our participants are backpackers who would otherwise never go on a paid tour. Now, instead of simply wondering around town clueless or drinking away their afternoon, we take them on a historical trip of town, inject them with some local culture and infect them with a love for Ljubljana and the country as a whole. We make their visit better and they take that back home with them. It is wonderful promotion for Slovenia and assists in shaping the perception of the country abroad.