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Copenhagen has won so many awards for its eco-credentials over the years that it is becoming almost boring. However, with its extensive cycling infrastructure and the option to swim in pristine harbor waters right in the center of town, it’s difficult not to be impressed. Queen Louise’s Bridge is the busiest cycling route in the West, with an estimated 35,000 cyclists during rush hour. Green in Denmark equals cool and hip. Look out for local ethical fashion designers Ecoture by Lund and Barbara i Gongini.
Facing the Pacific Ocean and a step away from the wild mountains of British Columbia, Vancouver has a natural advantage in the green city stakes. Its use of renewable energies and hydropower means it has super clean air. Also, unlike many North American cities, Vancouver actively promotes urban living, meaning its central neighborhoods are buzzing with life, with hip bars and restaurants. And then there are the 200 parks where you can breathe Vancouver’s fresh air to your heart’s content. The 400-hectare mammoth is Stanley Park, occupying its very own island with a West Coast rainforest, beaches, and the Seawall.
With its hundreds of cyclists and open spaces among the canals, it’s no surprise that Amsterdam is classified as one of the world’s greenest cities. Visit the regenerated former industrial area of Amsterdam Noord to relax by the waterfront areas or explore the rural landscapes. Noord has become a creative hub with galleries, restaurants, and quirky shops in former factories and hangars. Explore the cutting-edge EYE Film Museum and its terraced café, or the Tolhuistuin, a former toll house with a live music venue, a restaurant, and cinema.
Spread across a 14-island archipelago, Stockholm’s green credentials are well-known. Join the locals in their commute to work and explore the islands by ferry, or rent a kayak for a more active afternoon. Stockholm has built up a reputation for innovative restaurants using fresh, local ingredients. The Swedes’ passion for these has resulted in several iconic market halls. The most worth seeing are are Östermalms Saluhall located in the Östermalm district, Hötorgshallen in the Norrmalm district, and Söderhallarna located on Södermalm.
More often associated with gleaming skyscrapers, Singapore is Asia’s greenest city. As a small, dense, and resourceless island, it has found ways to economize usage. For locals, rooftop gardens are a way of life. The 340-meter-long SkyPark on top of the Marina Bay Sands complex, with its dramatic infinity pool, is the most famous. While the awe-inspiring Supertree structures (up to 50m tall) in the Gardens by the Bay, have come to symbolize Singapore’s eco-commitment. The city also created its own equivalent of New York’s High Line – a 24-kilometer stretch of parkland along old railway tracks.
Portland is consistently rated the greenest city in the USA. The Oregon capital is known for its friendly and relaxed vibe. So pack your outdoor gear to blend in and deal with the frequent drizzle. Forest Park, on the western hills of the city, overlooks Willamette River. It contains over 70 miles of trails. Hire a bike to discover Portland’s eight bridges. The most interesting are Steel Bridge, a unique double-decker vertical lift bridge, and Hawthorne Bridge, the USA’s oldest operating lift bridge. After all that activity, it’s best to relax in one of Portland’s many microbreweries to enjoy a local brew.
Tiny Reykjavik with its 115,000 inhabitants has led the way in renewable energy. All of its hot water, heating, and electricity come from hydropower and geothermal resources. This means you can enjoy hot springs, heated outdoor pools, as well as the clean air. For the truly brave, there is Nauthólsvík geothermal beach, which consists of a lagoon with large sea walls, where the meeting of cold sea and hot geothermal water results in higher temperatures. Locals enjoy the swimming, even in the winter, warming up in the steam baths and hot tubs, but at its coldest the temperature can fall close to zero.
With its numerous nature reserves, miles of dramatic coastline, and an efficient public transport system, Cape Town is considered Africa’s greenest city. Take the cable car up and, if you’re feeling brave, abseil down Table Mountain before heading to peaceful Oudekraal Beach, still inside Table Mountain National Park. For a beautiful beach with a difference, explore the aptly named Boulders Beach, which is home to 2,000 endangered African Penguins. Groot Constantia, the oldest wine producing estate in South Africa, about 20 minutes outside of Cape Town, provides a good antidote to all that nature.
Curitiba is recognized as the most livable Brazilian city. Since the 70s, long before it became fashionable, the council promoted green policies, often through controversial tax cuts and subsidies. The result has been the creation of 30 parks and urban forests. Meanwhile, a total of 1.5 million trees have been planted to date by local residents along highways. Use the Bus Rapid Transit system, a Curitiba invention, to explore the parks and memorials to the city’s multicultural background, including the German Woods and the Polish Memorial.
San Francisco is making huge strides to become one of the USA’s greenest cities. As the home of the Sierra Club, one of the first environmental grassroots movements in the country and the birthplace of the ‘eat local’ trend in the U.S., the city has strong credentials. It all started with the creation of the Golden Gate Park in the 1860s. Today, the park’s grounds contain the de Young Museum, the Academy of Sciences, the botanical and tea gardens, and a herd of bison.