While Context prides itself on bringing travelers off the beaten path, we also understand the historical and cultural significance that makes some monuments irresistible when visiting a city. From Beijing to Berlin, from Rome to Istanbul, we’ve pooled our collective local knowledge to put together definitive guides on how to tour some of the top sites around the globe. With tips on the best times to visit, reading lists, and more these handy little guides will help you plan in advance to save time and get the richest experience possible during your trip.
Beijing - How to Tour the Forbidden City The more than 8 million visitors annually, the Forbidden City is Beijing's most touristed site. Top tip: Avoid weekend and holiday visits, particularly October 1-3 (China’s National Day is Oct. 1), when the Forbidden City is at its most crowded as visitors also flock from China’s countryside to take in the site.
Berlin - How to Tour the Berlin Wall Built in 1961, the Berlin Wall has in some way defined the city since its creation. Berlin is filled with signs and symbol of what remains and what was replaced as East and West reunited after the fall of the wall. Top tip: Contrary to what you might think, the Berlin Wall did not cut the city in half. Instead, it surrounded the western part of the city, which, at the time, was divided up between the American, British and French, who had helped to liberate Berlin at the end of World War II. The eastern side was controlled by the USSR, whose forces had been instrumental in defeating the Nazis.
Rome - How to Tour the Colosseum and Ancient Rome The Colosseum and the surrounding archeological areas of the Palatine Hill and Roman Forum make up the ancient heart of the city and vividly illustrate the history and power of the ancient Roman republic (and then, empire). Top tip: The Colosseum, Forum and Palatine Hill have a seasonal opening schedule. Please keep this in mind when scheduling a visit in the winter (late October through April). From April to August, opening hours are 9AM – 7:30PM. For winter months, sites begin to close around 5PM, with the ticket office closing one hour before the closure.
London - How to Tour the Tower of London Both a fortress and a place of execution, the Tower of London is one of the most popular sites for visitors to London. Top tip: Try and visit at the beginning or end of the day to minimize crowds and to get into the Chapel of St Peter Ad Vincula, which can only be visited in the first or last hour if not on a Yeoman Warder tour.
Rome - How to Tour the Vatican Museums and St. Peter's Basilica 13th century pope Nicholas III was the first to establish the Vatican as his official residence and while visiting the space keep in mind that it was never designed to be a museum, yet it's one of the most-highly trafficked museums in the world! Top tip: Our docents recommend reading "The Pope’s Elephant" by Silvio Bedini before your visit to get a better understanding of the papacy during the Renaissance.
Istanbul - How to Tour Topkapi Palace Serving as the main residence to the Ottoman Sultans for approximately 400 years (1465-1856), the palace is today part of Istanbul’s UNESCO World Heritage site. The palace doubles as a museum, which holds vast collections, from arms and weapons to European, Japanese and Chinese porcelain; silverware to sultan portraits and caftans; plus significant Muslim sacred relics. Top tip: Don't miss the Audience Chamber, also known as the House of Petitions (Arzhane), which holds a number of relics of the Prophet Mohammed. Be sure to dress appropriately, as visitors to the Sacred Relics Department wearing shorts, mini-skirts, tank tops, or strapless clothing will be denied admission.
Paris - How to Tour the Louvre With nearly 35,000 objects on display at any given time and over 8 million visitors annually, the Louvre can be an overwhelming place and deciding how to approach the world’s most visited museum is often a daunting task for first-time visitors. Top tip: The best time to go to the Louvre is when it is open late: Wednesdays and Fridays until 9:45 p.m. In the evenings the museum is much less crowded and noisy. By going later in the day rather than first thing in the morning, visitors don’t spend as much time and energy jostling for space in front of the masterpieces and will have more time to linger over their favorite works.