When Jean-Jacques presented his city discovery app, Monument Tracker, I thought I’ve heard it all before. “It will guide you towards a monument.” Well, so will Google Maps. “It will describe the monument you are looking at.” I can use Wikipedia for that. “You can check in to places and earn points.” Didn’t Foursquare use to have that feature? In other words, I was sceptical. Yet, I decided to give it a try on my recent trips to Paris, London and Rome.
Tip: if available, start by downloading Monument Tracker for your local city, in order to get better acquainted with the app so you make the most of it while travelling.
Create a profile and advance from Beginner to Master
Monument Tracker allowed me to create an account within seconds by connecting via Facebook. Once I was logged in, the app tracked my route through each city, logged my check-ins and allowed me to share the itinerary, photos and tips directly with my Facebook friends.
When I started using the app, I was classed as Beginner and gained points by reading monument files, checking in to places, taking photos, recommending places, etc. I found this feature very addictive and was looking for every opportunity to gain points. Incidentally, although I was never in a city long enough to reach Master level, apparently “masters” can build walking itineraries for other users and sell them via the Monument Tracker platform.
View monuments either as a list, on a map or as part of an itinerary
Monument Tracker listed monuments according to my location, with the closest ones at the top of the list.
By clicking on a monument in the list, I was presented with a photo slideshow, history of the monument, its location on the map relative to my GPS position and options to either add it to the must-see list or to be guided towards it.
It was fun just browsing the list of monuments and then adding the ones I recognised to my must-see list. What distinguishes Monument Tracker from other apps is that it alerted me to nearby monuments I would normally miss as I did not add them to my must-see list – when I was close to a monument, the app vibrated and a pin on the map started flashing to invite me to click on it.
The map view could be overwhelming when I was in the city centre. Pins were sometimes too close together and I had to zoom in to see them individually.
However, a really useful feature were the filters, allowing me to only view my must-see selection or monuments with a specific architectural style.
Tip: check out the Historic Restaurants filter. I discovered Bouillon Chartier in Paris this way and loved it.
In all three cities – Paris, London and Rome – I started off by browsing through the list, then exploring what’s around me by looking at the map. But the bit I enjoyed the most was exploring the city using guided tours. For each city, there were several itineraries, some free and some at a cost (such as the ones including audio guides or human guides).
- London – At the heart of Royal, Religious and Politican Power
- Rome – The extravagances of the Baroque
- Paris – Paris along the Seine
Each tour lasted around 1½-2 hours, depending on how long I had lingered at each monument, listening to the audio guides, taking photos and checking in to earn points.
Tip: bring headphones with you as that will allow you to listen to descriptions of church interiors without disturbing other visitors.
Take on a challenge
As mentioned above, the first challenge was to advance my status, from Beginner to Master, which I thoroughly embraced. But Monument Tracker has taken the concept of gamification even further, including features such as:
- Treasure Hunt – I haven’t tried geocaching, but the idea of the game is to follow the clues around the city to earn points.
- Quizz – Having just finished a guided tour of Rome, I sat down for a coffee and had a go at answering one of the quizzes. It was a fun way of testing what I have learned from the tour.
- Photo Competition – Remember the 1950 Poster by Robert Doisneau called Le Baiser de l’Hotel de Ville? Find the exact same spot with Monument Tracker and try and recreate the scene! This was just one of the examples offered by the app.
Share with friends
As I logged in with my Facebook account, I was given the option to share my photos and tips with my Facebook friends (note: the app never automatically posted on my behalf). I was also given the choice of connecting via Twitter and sharing with my Twitter followers.
What I find particularly interesting is the upcoming feature (launching this summer) of being able to share my profile with a friend who has the same app, so if a friend is going to London they will automatically see the places I recommended.
- The comprehensiveness of monuments covered – there was always something to discover.
- User-friendly design.
- The fact I didn’t have to walk around holding the smartphone in my hand all the time but could leave it in the pocket and it would vibrate when I was close to a monument.
- The gamification element.
- It worked offline too, saving me the roaming charges.
I didn’t like
- I couldn’t zoom in when following a guided tour.
- Some labels were only in French.
- Application crashed a few times.
In a nutshell
This is a well-designed, feature-packed app that will change the way you explore a city. The gamification and the sharing aspects are something which make the app fun as well as informative.
Disclaimer: We were recompensed for our time in reviewing the app, but our review remains independent and unbiased.