In the high-demand modern world, many people erroneously equate “fast” with “good.” This focus on speed keeps us zipping through the city and countryside alike at breakneck speeds, rarely slowing down long enough to enjoy the sound of a street performer strumming a guitar, the smells of freshly-baked bread wafting from a bakery, or the sight of neighbors smiling as they pass one another.
These sounds, smells, and sights need to be idealized frivolity — they are the realities of living in or visiting a walkable city. To search out the most walkable cities outside of the United States, we asked our trusted readers to vote on their favorites. The results will certainly help you plan your next laid-back, walkable trip.
1. Victoria, British Columbia, Canada (Winner)
A visit to Victoria, British Columbia, is not complete until a traveler has had a stroll through the city’s Inner Harbor. This waterfront area has beautiful views, exciting events, and several interesting landmarks. Walkers can take a break from their meandering to have tea at the Fairmont Empress or visit the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia.
As appealing as the city itself is, Victoria also has some excellent green spaces. Butchart Gardens is generally considered to be the best, especially its Rose Garden and Sunken Garden. Visit in the fall to see nearly 100,000 tulips or in the winter for cozy Christmas events and displays.
2. London, England
London traces its roots back to the era of Roman Britain – thousands of years before the invention of the SUV. Though cars are everywhere today, many visitors and locals often opt to use a combination of walking, public transit, and cycling to avoid getting caught in a frustrating gridlock.
Some of the best walks in London are strolls along the Thames, along a canal, or for a little culture, between the Tate Britain and the Tate Modern. If the bustle of the city streets grows tiring, walkers can escape to the green of London’s beautiful parks.
Walking can also be a perfect way to experience some of London’s interesting markets, fabulous restaurants, and unique bookstores.
3. Edinburgh, Scotland
Edinburgh earns a spot on the list of our readers’ favorite walkable cities because of its compact city center and the number of hidden gems, pubs, and restaurants that are accessible in a dense area. The Royal Mile is the most famous area to explore on foot.
One of the best choices for exploring Edinburgh on foot is taking a self-guided walking tour like the one TravelAwaits writer Samantha Priestley experienced. She recommends exploring the best stops like Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace, The Royal Botanic Gardens, and The National Museum of Scotland. This cross-section is an ideal introduction to one of Scotland’s great cities.
4. Paris, France
While Paris may be the “City of Love” for many people, it’s the “City of Walking” to others. It’s hard to know where to begin with a city that would take many lifetimes to fully explore, but the banks of the Seine have to be in the running. Another essential Paris experience is taking a stroll across the city’s many beautiful and historical bridges.
For a more curated experience, visitors may enjoy hunting down these romantic, hidden-away spots throughout the city or taking a themed walking tour. While there isn’t space to rattle off every good neighborhood in Paris to walk in, an arrondissement guide is a perfect resource to pick out which parts of the city suit your interests and preferences.
5. Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdam is legendary for its person-focused, rather than car-focused, streets. There’s no shortage of amazing things to do in Amsterdam, and you can walk or bike to just about all of them, depending on your level of mobility. Even the walking or cycling between each stop is a destination in itself, with views of canals, stunning architecture, and lively streets.
The Rijksmuseum, Anne Frank House, and Van Gogh Museum are popular stops for those interested in art. People who want to see the nightlife – or are just curious – can explore the Red Light District. Regardless of what brings you to Amsterdam, you will almost certainly enjoy the pedestrian-friendly streets of the city.
6. Venice, Italy
Venice is similar to Amsterdam in a few prominent ways: most notably the absence of cars and the presence of canals. Stray from Venice’s larger canals and you may find yourself lost in the labyrinthine side streets of the city – but don’t fear, because getting lost can be one of the best ways to see a new city.
If you’d prefer to know where you are, there is no shortage of world-famous landmarks to walk to in Venice. Places like St. Mark’s Square and Basilica, the Rialto Bridge and Market, and the Accademia Bridge cannot be missed. There are also subtler places to explore, like the Acqua Alta Book Shop and much more.
7. Florence, Italy
Florence is a gorgeous city associated with the Renaissance that has to be walked to be truly seen. Most people start around the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, one of the most famous churches in the world. Walkers will also enjoy a stroll through Repubblica Square or the Santo Spirito neighborhood.
For some natural beauty, walkers will enjoy visiting Boboli Gardens, an incredible, sprawling green area with intricate landscaping and integrated architecture, sculptures, and even an amphitheater. For reference, some compare Boboli Gardens to the gardens at Versailles in France. It’s hard to resist going for a walk in such a place.
8. Dublin, Ireland
Dublin is a magical city, and no other city in the world is quite like it. That said, knowing how to approach such a place can be daunting. Luckily, these guided walking tours will give you a chance to use your time efficiently. Whether you prefer the history of rebellions or delicious food, you’ll be able to find a tour to match your taste.
For a unique take on Dublin’s literary history, fans of James Joyce can take a “Bloomsday” walk in honor of the novel Ulysses – though some fans may find it easier to read a few pages with a pint of Guinness at one of Dublin’s many excellent pubs.
9. Rome, Italy
All roads lead to Rome, as the saying goes, and our trusted readers find those roads enjoyable to walk. While Rome is a modern cosmopolitan city full of great restaurants, cafés, and hotels, the Eternal City’s many ruins and historical sites make for fascinating walks.
It’s essentially impossible not to mention the Colosseum, the Pantheon, and the Forum when speaking of Rome’s historical sites, but other places like the Baths of Diocletian and the Circus Maximus are interesting areas for walking and learning. Visiting a lesser-known historical neighborhood like Trastevere can be another good way to explore.
10. Copenhagen, Denmark
The infrastructure alone makes Copenhagen a delight to walk (or bike), but the dense city center and good public transportation make getting around without a car a breeze. For a more dedicated walk, visitors may enjoy strolling through City Hall Square or taking a tour of Christiansborg Palace or Amalienborg Palace.
The Tivoli Gardens is an amusement park with seasonal offerings that are particularly pleasant during Christmas time. For a more classic, green-garden experience, enjoy King’s Garden at the foot of Rosenberg Castle.
11. Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona is the kind of city that is meant to be enjoyed on foot. For a taste of some eye-catching architecture, many walkers begin in the Gothic Quarter — the historic center of Barcelona and home of the Plaza del Pi, the medieval Jewish Quarter, and other notable landmarks.
On the topic of architecture, Park Güell is simply unmatched by any other place in the world. Its fantastical design will captivate any visitor and walking through the area is truly the only way to fully experience it.
12. Berlin, Germany
The first readers’ choice on this list in Germany, Berlin is one of the great capitals of the world. Its painful history throughout the 20th century has made for an inspiring story of reunification and given rise to a city that expresses itself through art and music. The Kreuzberg neighborhood is a great example of this balance.
Berlin’s Tiergarten is likely the city’s most famous — and for good reason. The enormous green space is home to the Berlin Zoo, various monuments, playgrounds, paths, and areas of relaxation. It’s the perfect place to chill out after a long day in one of Europe’s most vibrant cities.
13. Québec City, Quebec, Canada
Québec City is a rare place in North America. A confused traveler would be forgiven for thinking that they found themselves in Europe after a brief walk in this Canadian city. Naturally, Old Québec City – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – is one of the loveliest areas to walk through. Exploring this neighborhood is like crossing the Atlantic without the hefty price tag and long flight.
Battlefields Park offers a green refuge from the city, plus an extensive list of activities available. Just outside of the city, Parc de la Chute-Montmorency (Montmorency Falls Park) is a complete escape and an ideal day trip for those who prefer waterfalls to buildings.
14. Salzburg, Austria
Salzburg may be known best for its association with The Sound of Music, Mozart, and its UNESCO-listed historic city center, but on top of all that, it’s also a supremely walkable city. Those who enjoy a people-watching walk on a square can visit the Residenzplatz, while shoppers delight in a stroll along the Getreidegasse.
One of the great walkable draws of Salzburg is the Mirabell Palace and Gardens. While the palace itself is a magnificent historical structure that warrants a full visit, the surrounding gardens are a dream for walkers who enjoy the structure and design of a carefully manicured garden. Without mentioning any names, it gives the elaborate gardens of other European nations a run for their money.
15. Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
There’s a lot to see and do in Vancouver, but a popular approach to the city is to start in the dense, exciting downtown and move outward. Downtown Robson Street is called a “must-stroll” by the city’s tourism bureau, and the shoppers and diners who can be found there daily confirm this fact. If Robson Street is a “must-stroll,” then Granville Street is a “must-sip” (or “must-stumble”) for those who enjoy the nightlife.
For a different perspective, visit Queen Elizabeth Park – the highest point in the city at 125 meters (410 feet) above sea level. The views, art, activities, gardens, and conservatory are all worth the trip.
16. Vienna, Austria
While Vienna has a special charm during Christmas time, it’s a lovely city for a walk year-round. Like most walkable cities, it’s wise to try out the older central districts; in this case, that means the Inner Stadt and its opera house, cafés, restaurants, and museums. There are plenty of other neighborhoods worth walking in as well.
The crown jewel of Vienna’s park system is the Schönbrunn Palace Gardens. Located at the summer palace of the Habsburg rulers, the beautiful gardens are a feast for the eyes and are home to the city zoo, a maze, and other interesting features. A walk through the gardens – or any of Vienna’s parks – can be part of a perfect day.
Read more from our 2023 Best Of Travel Awards: