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7 Great Cities Around The World To Explore On Foot
There are three chief benefits to exploring by foot, when you travel. The first is the most obvious- it’s great for exercise. The second is that it’s cost-effective. The third, arguably most compelling benefit, is being able to connect with the locals and the culture directly and at your own pace.
You can access that ‘off the beaten path’ area that might be off limits to bikes, scooters, and vehicles. If you’re going to walk for an extended period, or if you’ll be accessing streets that are unpaved, forgo the flip-flops for more comfortable footwear. Your feet will thank you.
Here are 7 great cities to explore on foot.
1. San Francisco
California is typically thought of as a car state, but it’s fun to explore San Francisco on foot. Just be sure to pace yourself when going up those infamous hills.
Go for a walk along The Embarcadero, where you’ll see the Ferry Building, Coit Tower (just opposite), Fisherman’s Wharf, and plenty of restaurants and shops. This area tends to be a draw for tourists on hot days, so be aware of that.
Head to The Golden Gate Bridge, which has designated lanes for pedestrians, cyclists, and vehicles, so nobody is on top of each other. Once you arrive in Sausalito across the water, be sure to stay as close to the side of the road as you can to avoid cars.
Love climbing stairs? San Francisco is home to three mosaic tile installations: 16th Avenue, Hidden Garden, and Lincoln Park, which amount to hundreds of steps. Not only are they beautiful works of art, they afford great views once you’ve reached the top, especially at sunset.
Definitely plan to get a taxi back home afterwards…..your legs will insist on it.
This vibrant city is mostly flat and separated into 20 districts called arrondissements, which all have their own, unique personality. The Marais, for example, occupies the 3rd and the 4th arrondissements, and is known for being the gay district.
Generally, the closer you are to the islands at the center of Paris (Île de la Cité and the Île Saint-Louis) the more expensive the real estate is.
Enjoy a nice cup of coffee while you walk by the Seine in the morning, and you can cross from the Right Bank to the Left via the many footbridges. It’s possible to go down to the walkways beside the Seine; the closest you can possibly get to it without swimming.
When you’re tired, Paris is well serviced by taxis and has a pretty reliable Metro system with stations everywhere.
3. New York City
So long as you can count, you’ll find New York City’s grid layout easy to navigate. But it gets trickier in the other boroughs (looking at you in particular, Queens) so Google Maps will be your savior.
The city that never sleeps constantly has something going on, especially in the areas known to be densely populated like Times Square, Herald Square, and Union Square.
There’s art installations, street fairs, street performances, and far more than you can possibly fit in one visit. Whether it’s 100 degrees out or there’s a snowstorm, the action doesn’t stop.
There are walkways on either side of Manhattan, where you can enjoy views of the East River and the Hudson River.
Barcelona offers several environments that are great for walking, it’s just a question of how much you want to be challenged.
Looking to be by shops? Las Ramblas is the city’s shopping artery. Like the beach? Head over to the boardwalk which runs along the Mediterranean. Like hills and history? You can walk up Montjuïc hill and see the castle of the same name.
If you’re looking for Barcelona’s answer to Central Park, Ciutadella Park is fantastic for walking, with its fountains, statues, and beautiful plants.
London manages to be of the 21st century, while still preserving its past, such as the imposing Tower of London and Big Ben, the clock tower next to the Houses of Parliament.
The South Bank is a great choice for those hoping to avoid tourists, and, as Condé Nast Traveler points out, “it is more atmospheric, spacious, and relaxed in the evening.”
London is also home to several green parks, including Regent’s Park, St. James Park, and the beautiful Hyde Park, with plenty of places to sit when you need a breather.
Amsterdam is the beating heart of The Netherlands, and is known for its liberal and tolerant attitude.
Bikes may be more popular than cars, so if you walk into a bike lane, even by accident, don’t be surprised if a cyclist angrily rings their bell at you. Pay attention to avoid collisions.
The main Red-Light District (you’ll find smaller ones in other cities like Utrecht) is infused with magic at night.
Stroll along the cobblestone streets, gaze at the canals, take in some live music, and dip into one of the cafés for a joint or some space cake. It’s best to have a companion with you if you’re trying these for the first time.
If you aren’t used to seeing scantily clad women in illuminated shop windows, you might be in for a shock. One of them might tap the glass to get your attention, and you’ll know she’s entertaining a client if her curtains are closed.
Rome is history in motion, with its old churches, statues, and piazzas teeming with tourists, especially in the summer.
Some top tourist sites include The Vatican (and its museum), The Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain (tourists throw in a coin for luck), The Spanish Steps, and the Borghese Gardens. Of this list, except for the Vatican Museum, you can absorb all of this rich history for free.
The Piazza Navona is one of the most famous squares in Rome, dating back to antiquity. It’s characterized by its elongated shape, a nod to its former function as a site for athletic competitions.