While zipping from landmark to monument via taxi, tram, and train might be a more efficient way of seeing a new city, there’s something to be said about exploring on foot at a more leisurely pace. Some destinations are more walkable than others though: here’s our guide to the world’s most pedestrian-friendly cities, from Vancouver and Vientiane to Buenos Aires and Boston.
Given that much traffic in Florence’s historic center is restricted to permit-bearing residents, buses, and taxis, it’s a city that begs to be explored on foot. Often compared to an open-air museum, the city is home to an abundance of historic sights, all within relatively easy walking distance of each other, from Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (perhaps Florence’s most famous landmark) to the historic Ponte Vecchio (the only bridge spared from German bombing during World War II), to Piazzale Michelangelo with its breathtaking views over the city and surrounding Tuscan countryside. Its plentiful cafes, bars, and restaurants offer respite for tired feet.
New York City is the most walkable city in the USA. Manhattan’s easily navigable numbered streets and city government plans such as the pedestrianized Times Square undoubtedly play a part in New York’s walkability stakes. Stroll down iconic Fifth Avenue or take a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge and into Clinton Hill to see its beautiful, historic brownstones. Central Park, with 843 acres to explore, is of course a must-see on any New York walking tour.
With its UNESCO World Heritage Site–listed Medina home to many of its most historical monuments, the must-see sights of Marrakech are easily explored by foot. The labyrinthine alleyways of Marrakech’s souks, a hodgepodge of rug weavers, brightly colored babouches, and exotic spices, may be bewildering, but they are a Marrakech must-see. A walk southward leads to sights like the Koutoubia Mosque, the ruins of the 16th century El Badi Palace, and the famous Jemaa El-Fnaa square, home to street entertainers, food stalls, and festivals. Get away from the hustle and bustle of the Medina at the peaceful Menara Gardens — a beautiful olive garden just west of the city.
It might take a few days of walking to see all Paris has to offer, but it’s certainly worth it to see The City of Lights at a slower pace. Take a riverside stroll along the Seine enjoying the magnificent Jardin des Tuileries and The Louvre before hopping over to Île de la Cité and Notre Dame. You may want to take a breather at one of the many bistros and bars in Paris’s lively Latin Quarter before heading on to its most iconic landmark, the Eiffel Tower, an hour’s walk away. Don’t miss out walking around Montmartre with its winding narrow streets, charming cafes and the beautiful Sacré-Cœur, it’s easily one of the most romantic neighborhoods in Paris.
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It might be Canada’s third largest city, but Vancouver is a walker’s paradise. In fact, thanks to pro-active transportation plans and its newly introduced pedestrian wayfinding maps, walking is strongly encouraged. One of the city’s most popular walks is the scenic promenade along False Creek to Granville Island, where walkers can stop by the Public Market for fresh, locally grown produce. With 1,000 acres to explore, Stanley Park — conveniently accessible from downtown Vancouver and boasting First Nation artwork, scenic viewpoints, and the beautiful Lost Lagoon — is one of North America’s best urban parks. Alternatively, a stroll across Lions Gate Bridge into North Vancouver treats walkers to breathtaking views of the city and the sea.
Often called the ‘Paris of South America,’ Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires, is known for its beautiful, European-style architecture, diverse neighborhoods, and lively cultural scene. A walk through the barrio of La Boca is a must for arts lovers which boasts highlights like Caminito, a little street of vibrantly painted houses enlivened by the talents of local artist Quinquela Martín, and the contemporary art gallery, Fundación Proa. Recoleta is representative of Buenos Aires’s more upscale neighborhoods and a walk through its beautiful streets and parks reveals sights like Cementerio de la Recoleta — the burial place of Eva Perón — and architect Eduardo Catalano’s mobile sculpture, Floralis Genérica.
The entire Old City district is a pedestrian-only zone so there’s really no excuse not to explore Dubrovnik on foot. Dubbed the ‘Pearl of the Adriatic,’ Dubrovnik’s Old City features a main thoroughfare, Stradun, from which many of the city’s sights — including its medieval walls, the beautiful Onofrio’s Fountain, the 16th century Sponza Palace, and its picturesque Old Port — are easily accessible. Even beyond its Old City limits, Dubrovnik is easily walkable, and visiting the Lapad Peninsula is a must. Walking its shoreline reveals local jewels like the stunning Copacabana Beach, and while a hike through the hills of Velika I Mala Petka may be more strenuous, its breathtaking views are certainly worth it.
Australia’s second biggest city, Melbourne, is a place of contrasts where historical Victorian architecture lies nestled amid glittering skyscrapers, and urban parklands meet the beautiful bay. Take in Yarra River views and verdant greenery while walking from Alexandra Gardens to the beautiful Royal Botanic Gardens. Alternatively hop over to Melbourne’s CBD, the historic arcades and laneways of which are home to hip boutiques, bars and cafes, and must-see sights like Old Melbourne Gaol. Venture to St. Kilda for beach fun and people watching and take the elevator up to Eureka Skydeck 88, the Southern Hemisphere’s highest viewing platform, for panoramic views of Melbourne.
Boston is home to many walks and trails that reveal the city’s rich history and culture. Discover Boston’s waterfront with the Harbor Walk: at over 40 miles long, it’s a route best explored in sections, but walkers undertaking it will see local landmarks like the Institute of Contemporary Art and the beautiful Christopher Columbus Park. The 2.5-mile-long Freedom Trail is more accessible and a delight for history buffs passing by sights like King’s Chapel and the Bunker Hill Monument. A side trip to Boston’s Beacon Hill historic neighborhood is also a must; here walkers will find Acorn Street, a pretty little cobblestone alley said to be the most photographed street in the country.
Nestled along a bend on the Mekong River, Laos’s capital city, Vientiane, is an intoxicating mix of French and Laotian cultures, and thanks to its laidback nature and tree-lined avenues it’s a beautiful city for walking. Start at Pha That Luang, a stunning golden Buddhist stupa and one of Laos’s most important national monuments. Walk down to Patuxay Monument: modeled on Paris’s Arc de Triomphe, it incorporates traditional Laotian motifs and a climb to the top offers beautiful views of the capital. From there, Sisaket Temple, another important Buddhist religious site, is just a leisurely walk away while a whole host of multicultural restaurants await weary feet.