There’s nothing like exploring a city on foot for getting a real feel of the place.
It’s by far the best way to discover hidden gems, interact with locals and have as authentic a travel experience as possible. And all the while helping the environment.
But how can you know if a destination is truly walkable? There’s a lot more to consider than just scale, including what there might be to look at along the way and whether there are public transport options and cycle lanes should your feet get weary.
To help you find the perfect cities for a car-free holiday, Booking.com, has delved into the endorsements of millions of travellers.
In no particular final order, here then are the booking platform’s best places to start pounding the pavement.
Perth isn’t just appealing for pristine beaches and bright blue skies, it’s also home to a creative cultural scene. Take your pick from all sorts of restaurants and bars as you stroll the city’s easygoing streets or relax to the sound of wind whistling through the gum trees in lush urban parkland. If you want a helping hand to point out the significant historical or secret gems, popular walking tour company, Two Feat and a Heartbeat, was set up by two young locals.
In terms of sights to see en route, wandering through Munich’s pedestrian-friendly city centre you’ll find pretty Bavarian scenes at every turn. Of all the delights to stumble upon, the English Garden is a highlight. One of Europe’s biggest parks, it contains idyllic lakes, historic follies, beer gardens and even a Japanese teahouse. Beyond this urban oasis, it’s easy to while away hours window shopping and enjoying the ornate public buildings and the Frauenkirche cathedral.
A city to lose yourself in for days, Kyoto is a fascinating blend of ancient history and modern hustle bustle. It was the imperial capital of Japan for more than 1,000 years and is known for its temples, tea ceremony and flower arranging traditions. But it’s also a thriving, forward-thinking metropolis. The city’s many sights are relatively spread out so you’ll need to catch public transport in between but the best way to explore each area is on foot. A particularly interesting walk is around the Kiyomizu-dera temple, where shrines and stalls selling snacks make up a lively hub of activity.
Helsinki often scores highly in global rankings of most livable cities and has been heralded for its dedication to creating walkable neighbourhoods and a car-free population. It’s also famed for forward-thinking Scandi design, so feast your eyes as you go on cutting-edge aesthetics, blending seamlessly with Finnish heritage.
Sauntering through Bordeaux you’ll be able to sense its laid-back but graceful mood. Glorious neoclassical buildings line pedestrianised boulevards and fountain-filled squares. Of the latter, Place de la Bourse is probably the most spectacular with its ‘miroir d’eau’, the largest reflecting pool in the world, giving it a dreamlike appearance. As well as being great for walking, it is also very bike-friendly and has an impressive public transport system, so getting around is a breeze.
Fortified by fine wines and some Tuscan Pappa al Pomodoro, you’ll be ready for the sensory treats that come from walking around Florence. Many of the enchanting cobbled streets are too narrow for cars and much of the centre is open to pedestrians only, so it’s easily navigable. And on foot also happens to be the best way to experience Italian life, from sipping on an espresso al fresco or enjoying dappled sunlight in the magical Boboli Gardens, to crossing the Ponte Vecchio – the only bridge the retreating German army left standing during the Second World War.
Laid out in a grid formation and with streets numbered, there’s little chance of getting lost in New York however far you wander. Make your way through Manhattan on foot discovering the hugely varied neighbourhoods, from SoHo to Little Italy, and of course Central Park. The majority of residents don’t own cars and the city is incredibly walkable – Booking.com guests endorsed New York extremely highly for city walks – and even Times Square is pedestrian-only. But should you need it, you can always hop on the subway.
Vancouver has frequently topped polls not just as the most livable but also the most walkable city in Canada. Facing the sea and overlooked by the North Shore Mountains, it’s a splendid-looking place too. The combination of stunning natural surroundings with a flourishing cultural offering make it a pleasure to explore on foot, highly endorsed by Booking.com guests for walks. A few particularly good walking spots include the promenade along the False Creek shoreline to Granville Island and the walk through Ambleside Park.
If you can handle a few hills, San Francisco is prime walking territory. Not just thanks to its sunny Northern Californian climate. The city’s personality is best absorbed by wandering around its eclectic neighbourhoods, looking out for colourful houses and characters. You can also walk the 1.7 miles of the Golden Gate Bridge (or just to the first tower and back again) or step down to Pier 39 for fresh crab or an ice-cream.
The capital of Uruguay is surprisingly walkable for such a big city. With a distinctively beachy vibe, it’s hard not to absorb its relaxed attitude with lazy strolls along the Rambla (esplanade) at sunset. The many leafy plazas and grand colonial architecture will no doubt catch your eye, a charming mélange of colonial, Art Deco and ‘70s concrete towers. The Old Town, Ciudad Vieja, is especially captivating – weave between historic buildings with crumbling facades serenaded by street musicians before tucking in to some Uruguayan cuisine from a street vendor.