At Secret City Trails, giving travelers the inside scoop

Before leaving on vacation, who doesn’t love to get advice about a couple of hidden gems known only by locals? That’s the idea behind Amsterdam’s Secret City Trails, a company founded by Wendy van Leeuwen and Kristina Palovicova.

How does it work? Whether you’re headed to Barcelona, Bratislava, or Bordeaux (or half a dozen other destinations), you get a series of clues via your smartphone that help you discover spots that even many residents haven’t discovered.

We talked to the WeWork Metropool members and how their passion for travel has helped them build a successful business.

Tell us a little bit about yourselves and how you got started.
KP: We met three years ago when we both worked for Nike. Wow, three years ago! We quickly became friends, bonding over really liking to travel and our desire to embark on an entrepreneurial adventure.

We started to play with the idea of creating immersive travel experiences. We started a “wine walk,” teaming up with eight bars in Amsterdam. We made a map that you could use to go on a self-guided adventure, getting a glass of wine at each place.

WVL: But we wanted to take people to places we loved and connect them through cryptic clues, rather than taking them to just a series of places with a nicely designed map.

KP: We started developing an experience where you have to solve riddles on your phone so that you get to know the city while you discover local places.

Why the name Secret City Trails?
WVL: We played with other names, like “Riddletown” or “Secret City Games.” Even though we think Secret City Trails is a long name, it helps us explain quickly what it’s all about.

What’s some of the feedback you get from travelers?
KP: People were always telling us they wanted to know more stories about the city.

Along with the clues, we offer stories about the place you just left and recommendations about restaurants or bars we love going to ourselves.

WVL: We have a mix of locals and visitors who play our trails. In Amsterdam, it’s almost 50-50. When we have locals play a trail, they find places they never knew existed. We really pride ourselves on that!

What tours would you like to add in the future?
KP: We actually just created a wine trail. For cracking the clues you get to sample good wine! And we also created a trail through a museum. It’s a fun way to learn about the museum’s exhibitions. Educational trails are something we want to explore as well, to make learning more playful.

WVL: We’d love to expand to Berlin and Madrid. Our approach so far has been us traveling to places to build new trails. To make it more scaleable, we are working with others to be “trailbuilders.” We are going to test it out in Italy.

KP: And in Holland we want to expand beyond Amsterdam. There are so many other cute cities in the country.

What are the best things about being a member at WeWork Metropool?WVL: Recently we made our own Secret City Trails inside the WeWork building. Now we offer it for free to new members. It’s so great to have a team want to support us so much, and to meet new people on every floor.

KP: And we spend lots of weekends there. The 4th floor of Metropool has become our extended living room!

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