Stepping out to explore a new city puts you amid local culture and the natural pace of life. These seven cities are known for their walkability, and the chance to enjoy the splendor of sidewalk cafes, the charms of boutique shops, the elegance of grand architectural highlights. Take in the sights, sounds, and aromas that stretch across the globe with this list of some of the world’s most walkable cities.
The Old Quarter of Hanoi is one of the best places in the world to walk and explore. As one of the oldest sections of the capital city, the Old Quarter embodies the heritage of Vietnam with French colonial architecture lining the street and elements that display the historical Chinese occupation. Culture comes to life with cyclists peddling fresh flowers on the roadside or inside the Water Puppet Theater, where puppets share the country's traditional folktales.
With more than a millennium of vibrant life coursing through the Old Quarter, the best time to wander through the streets is early in the morning before the heat of the day sets in. Locals take to the walkways along the banks of Hoan Kiem Lake exercising, Dong Xuan Market fills with intense aromas of chili pepper and noodle soup, and the sunlight washes over the historic tiers of Bach Ma Temple and St. Joseph’s Cathedral.
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The beauty of Sydney, Australia, is legendary with iconic landmarks like the Harbour Bridge and Opera House towering over the glinting Pacific waters. Besides the golden sands of Bondi Beach and the 19th-century architecture of the Central Business District, Sydney has a charismatic pedestrian thoroughfare that winds along the waterfront. Warm and sunny days are common in the seaside city, and outdoor activities are a part of daily life. Strolling through the Royal Botanic Gardens amid aromatic ferns and around the dangling flying foxes provides excellent views with a hint of the British colonial history of the city.
The pathways lead easily to the Rocks, the oldest European settlement in Australia set overlooking the crashing waves of Sydney Harbour. A perfect wander around Sydney can take you from the boats and ferries along Circular Quay, around the Opera House, and across the Harbour Bridge. You can also wander along the waterfront between Manly to Spit Bridge, which takes you on a series of marked walkways with sensational views of picturesque beaches, dazzling bays, and charming cafes known mainly to locals.
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Images of Buenos Aires, Argentina often consist of tango, red wine, rowdy soccer games, and delicious steaks featured in the seductive ambiance of the city once referred to as the “Paris of South America.” The sophisticated architecture of the city evolved into a series of diverse neighborhoods each possessing their own culture displayed in the gorgeous theaters, fascinating opera houses, fantastic art galleries, and unique combination of French, Italian, and Spanish influences that all contribute to distinct personalities of each barrio. Walking through the different districts introduces you to the elegant tree-lined streets of Recoleta, home to the lavish cemetery where Eva Peron is buried, while the cafes and restaurants of Palermo are known for people watching.
Artists and dancers fill the streets of La Boca where colorful houses rise above the bustling sidewalks while the antique markets in San Telmo draw enthusiastic crowds. Whether window shopping at the boutiques lining Avenida Florida or sightseeing at the Plaza de Mayo in front of the rosy façade of the presidential mansion, Buenos Aires offers an authentic experience experienced on foot where you can discover the restaurants to the cafes, museums to the bookstores.
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Windhoek is the capital of Namibia and is a respite from the greater desert that shapes the expansive countryside. It also offers a touch of familiar “Western” ambiance in the form of Neo-baroque cathedral spires, German castles, and high-rises made from glass and steel punctuating the skyline. Amidst the distinctive atmosphere of the often-overlooked city is its unique pedestrian-friendly attitude with walkways leading past buildings with pastel-colored facades and picturesque houses of traditional German aesthetic.
You can wander through the shadow of Christuskirche, the German Lutheran church with the most recognizable features in the city and venture to the sophisticated ambiance of the luxury hotel and restaurant that fills the antique Heinitzburg Castle. The juxtaposition of the European features in the African nation adds to the allure of the city highlighted by the intersection of the main avenues of Independence and Fidel Castro beside the rare lush greenery of Zoo Park.
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The fascinating city of Marrakech in Morocco enchants, dazzles, and embraces you with an immersive experience for all your senses inside the thriving historic medina, within the labyrinthine alleyways of the souks, and among the winding lanes of the contemporary French colonial neighborhood of the Ville Nouvelle. The walkable city impresses visitors with the sonorous sounds of prayer deriving from the minarets and the storytellers sharing folktales in the bustling central space of Djemaa el Fna Square.
Vendors fill the plaza with the scent of roasting meats as rooftop cafes provide the enticing aromas of sweet mint tea. You can wander through the souk in search of brass lights adorned with colorful glass or uncover the rainbow hues and captivating aromas of exotic spices on display. Rug weavers, glitzy shoes, and the bewildering grandeur of the 16th-century El Badi Palace capture the complex history and culture of the city, while the serene ambiance of the Menara Gardens highlights the splendor best enjoyed with a stroll at your preferred pace.
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The marvelous city of Dubrovnik in Croatia instills a sense of awe in visitors when first setting eyes on the illustrious orange-rooftop tiles of Old Town and turquoise waters of the Adriatic Sea. When you walk through the city, the limestone streets and baroque architecture swiftly whisk you into an inspiring fairytale accentuated by narrow lanes, the azure sea, and the opulence of the ancient empires.
Not only can you walk in the shade cast by the homes weaved into the labyrinth of historic streets calling to mind the medieval world showcased in the Game of Thrones capital of Kings Landing, which was filmed in Dubrovnik, but you can also walk along the dramatic city walls with foundations dating back to the 9th century for spectacular views of the skyline and sublime shimmer of the surrounding waters. The Old Port has an idyllic ambiance with boats wading in the water and restaurants filling the air with the scent of calamari cooked on the grill with freshly squeezed lemon juice and salt. Walking through the city reveals fascinating history, jewel-like sands, the striking hills of Velia I Mala Petka, and the 16th-century Sponza Palace.
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As the former capital of the Incan Empire, Cusco in Peru remains a remarkable city reflecting the former prestige of the Incas and the Spanish situated high in the Andes Mountains. Once you acclimate to the elevation, the city’s architectural riches showcase historic temples and palaces, fortresses and churches set beneath the looming walls of the epic Sacsayhuaman ruins on the hilltop overlooking the valley.
The cobbled lanes and narrow stairways weaving through the different tiers of the city thriving with cosmopolitan allure. Art galleries, the central market, and the intermittent Andean woman feeding pet llamas add to the culture of boutique shops selling alpaca knit sweaters and the dramatic façade of the Cusco Cathedral towering over the Plaza de Armas. When you walk through Cusco, you wander through a remainder of Incan heritage mixed with the preserved Spanish colonial history from the temple ruins of Qorikancha to the restaurants serving traditional Andean cuisine on the fringes of the trendy neighborhood of San Blas.
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