By Charis Atlas Heelan
There are cities where cars reign supreme, others where a bicycle or public transportation will suffice, and a select few that remain a paradise for two feet. By design or purely by accident, each of these 10 cities beckons you to wander its boulevards, paths, and parks.
Grab your most comfortable pair of shoes, and check out these 10 most walkable cities around the world.
In many parts of Florence, cars either aren’t allowed or can’t fit. Though the cobblestone streets may not be ideal for breaking in that new pair of Gucci stilettos, you can only really discover the soul of this historical city by foot. As you stroll along the banks of the Arno River and get lost in the narrow streets, don’t forget to look up for random frescoes, incredible architecture, and hidden cafes.
Where to Walk: Take in all six of Florence’s main bridges by walking along the Centro Historico side of the Arno. Pass the Ponte delle Grazie, Ponte Santa Trinita, Ponte alla Carraia and the famed Ponte Vecchio; walk through the Boboli Gardens and up to Forte Belvedere and Piazzale Michelangelo for breathtaking views; and promenade up the pedestrian zone of Via Calzaiuoli to Piazza Signoria and on through the arched exterior corridors of the Uffizi.
Bring your best pair of sneakers for a few days of walking the Paris streets. You’ll be so overwhelmed by what you see — and taste on those requisite pastry stops — that you’ll forget all about your aching feet.
Where to Walk: It’s almost easier to highlight where not to walk, as you can find beauty and authentic experiences throughout the city. You may choose to start by strolling through the Latin Quarter, crossing the Petit Pont from Île de la Cité and Notre Dame over to the Left Bank, turning off Rue Saint-Jacques to take more intimate cobblestone side streets around Saint-Germain, through the Sorbonne University and St. Michel area to end up at the Luxembourg Gardens.
Another favorite walk is from Sacré-Coeur Basilica through Montmatre, with its weekend artists’ market and produce market on the streets below, winding your way around to Pigalle. The streets around Le Marais, Place des Vosges, and the Bastille are full of boutiques and cafes, plus small museums and hidden treasures.
Don’t forget to walk along the Seine River, starting at the Tuileries gardens behind the Louvre, walking along the Right Bank, detouring slightly to take in the Champs-Élysees and Place de la Concorde then back to the riverfront. Pass palaces, gardens, and monumental buildings until you reach Pont de L’Alma, where you cross over to the Left Bank. Continue on in westerly direction, ending at the Eiffel Tower.
There is something so alluring and inviting about this hillside town on the Adriatic coastline, where the cobblestones streets are best explored on foot. The entire old town of Dubrovnik is UNESCO World Heritage-listed so you may spend hours covering a relatively short distance, constantly stopping to admire the architecture, the views, and the ambience.
Where to Walk: Walk the city’s ramparts and medieval walls from the Pile Gate to Ploce Gate, taking in the main pedestrian thoroughfare (the Stradun), the Onofrio’s Fountains, monasteries, Sponza Palace, the Old Harbor, and Revelin Fortress. From the Harbor, you can walk to Banje Beach along the promenade. Head further along the coast in an easterly direction for fantastic views of the city and Lokrum Island. Take the quick ferry to Lokrum Island and spend a few hours discovering the beaches, the monastery, and scenic botanic gardens.
New York City, New York
All those women wearing designer suits with running shoes reminds you that New York City is a place where the best — and often fastest — mode of transportation is your own two legs. The streets are numbered so there’s little chance of getting lost. Expect to cover about 20 north-south city blocks per mile.
Where to Walk: Rather than set a route from A to B, discover entire neighborhoods on foot. Start at the southern tip of Manhattan around Battery Park and make you way through the Financial District, along the Hudson River to the West Village, Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen, and the Upper West Side up to Harlem. If your feet are up for it, repeat the route in reverse along the East side.
Don’t forget to walk through Central Park, Fifth Avenue, Chinatown, fashionable SoHo, and the East Village. For a break from the skyscrapers, try a peaceful walk around the Cloisters and Fort Tryon Park starting from 190th Street.
Vancouver, British Columbia
Whether you’re into walking or hiking, you won’t be disappointed in Vancouver, a city that seems to have been designed with exercise in mind.
Where to Walk: Take the picturesque False Creek shoreline promenade over to Granville Island to explore the shops, cafes, and Public Market. From here, stroll through Sea Village, the city’s unique houseboat community; cross the Stamp’s Landing footbridge beneath the Cambie Street Bridge; and end at the ScienceWorld dome. The 1 ½ -mile walk through Ambleside Park is a combination of water, coastal mountain views, sculptures, duck ponds, and Lions Gate Bridge, or stroll along Marine Drive for a selection of shops and restaurants.
A six-mile walk around Stanley Park lets you experience breathtaking views, inner city beaches, public art, lighthouses, and other city landmarks as you make your way around the peninsula shore.
With a largely pedestrian-friendly city center, the charm of ornamental public buildings, and expansive parks, Munich lets you experience Bavarian city life.
Where to Walk: Stroll on a sunny day through the English Garden (beware of nude sunbathers!) and end with a beer at the Chinese Tower. Window shop as you make your way from the Kaufinger Straße pedestrian mall through the Marienplatz to gaze at the Frauenkirche cathedral and the Glockenspiel mechanical clock. Continue on to the exclusive Maximilian Straße with its designer shops.
Starting from the Alte and Neue Pinakothek art museums, walk a few blocks east and north through the University district and into Schwabing’s Leopold Straße, the major thoroughfare lined with sidewalk bars, restaurants, and cafes.
Steeped in history but still possessing a cutting-edge contemporary feel, Edinburgh is compact enough to discover on foot. Its heart may be in the medieval Old Town, but it’s worth venturing to the Georgian New Town to see its modern architecture.
Where to Walk: Follow in the footsteps of kings and queens along the Royal Mile, which stretches from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace and is lined with traditional pubs, cool cafes, bars and bistros. Stroll along the cobblestone streets of the medieval Old Town, take a five-mile journey from Edinburgh City Centre, through historic Dean Village, the Gallery of Modern Art, the Water of Leith walkway, and Stockbridge.
End at the Botanic Gardens, or venture a little out of town to St. Margaret’s Loch and ascend 823 feet to the summit of an extinct volcano to reach Arthur’s Seat for a bird’s-eye view of Edinburgh.
A history lesson at every intersection, a magnificent harbor, and pedestrian-friendly streets make Boston a great city for walking.
Where to Walk: Follow in the footsteps of the patriots (the 18th-century ones, as opposed to the NFL variety) on the 2½-mile Freedom Trail. For a walk with a view, try Harborwalk, a public walkway along the waterfront that stretches from Chelsea Creek to the Neponset River, through East Boston, Charlestown, North End, Downtown, South Boston, and Dorchester. Along the way, you’ll find plenty of public art, parks, and cafes in case you need a break.
From the city to the parklands and the bayside to the leafy suburbs, Melbourne combines exercise with cultural or culinary pursuits.
Where to Walk: Walking around “The Tan” (Royal Botanic Gardens) is a Melbourne institution, where you’ll share the two-mile path surrounding the gardens and hugging the Yarra River with professional athletes, ladies who lunch, and nature lovers. The arcades and laneways of Melbourne’s CBD offer glimpses of classic Victorian architecture, hole-in-the-wall eateries, and boutiques.
Hit the beach of the St. Kilda Foreshore, where walking tracks extend from Port Melbourne to Elwood and beyond. Stroll along the curved bay to gaze at windsurfers, fairy penguins, and topless sunbathers, along with markets, parks and waterfront eateries.
With great weather for most of the year, you could easily cover inner Sydney on foot most of the time and then rely on public transportation for the hard bits (like crossing over from the Eastern Suburbs to the North Shore).
Where to Walk: Head from the Rocks on the city center fringe through Circular Quay to the Royal Botanic Gardens and The Domain, taking in historic architecture and sights like the famed Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge.
From Bondi Beach to Bronte, a two-mile stroll will take you along the cliffs that hug the Pacific Ocean. Stop to enjoy some people-watching at some of Sydney’s beautiful-people beaches like Tamarama or along the one-mile stretch of foreshore at Manly Beach. Swing by Oxford Street and walk from Woollahra, through Paddington, and on to Darlinghurst. Watch the streetscape and the types of people change along one of the city’s major fashion and entertainment thoroughfares.