Walking is the best way for a tourist to get a true taste of a city. On foot, people can experience the atmosphere and sights of a metropolis in a way that they never could if they were looking through a taxi or bus window. The problem is: not all cities are easy to navigate while walking. Sometimes, wide, busy streets or a lack of proper sidewalks or promenades can make getting around on foot a chore (or, worse, a dangerous undertaking). Luckily, many cities are ideal for navigating on foot. They have great sidewalks, safe crosswalks and even large pedestrian-only sections.
Where are these walkers’ paradises?
Venice is a car-free city. Local people usually simply take to the streets of this historic place on foot, just like they have for hundreds of years. The major sights of Venice – the Grand Canal, Saint Mark’s Square, and the famous Rialto Market – are all reachable by foot. The city’s gondolas draw camera-toting tourists, but more-modern water taxis make it easy to reach different areas of the city without having to hike the whole way. And the back streets of Venice, with their narrow lanes, old buildings, and shophouses, offer the quintessential Italian experience.
Barcelona is not a pedestrian-only city, but it is a great place to walk. The gigantic La Rambla (sometimes referred to in the plural: Las Ramblas) is one of Europe’s great pedestrian streets. It is filled with shops, street vendors, sidewalk performance artists, and a colorful array of locals and tourists. The famous Gothic Barrio and the main square, the Plaza of Catalonia, are located adjacent to the pedestrian boulevard, making it easy for tourists to undertake a serious sightseeing expedition without having to rely on any form of transit other than their feet.
Hong Kong, one of East Asia’s most prominent cities, has always been a great place to travel. A melting pot of culture and cuisine, it is one of the world’s most global cities. It is also a great place to travel on foot. The sidewalks of Hong Kong are crowded, but the street crossings are very well organized. Wide sidewalks, boardwalks and even an escalator system to help people climb the steep parts of Hong Kong Island make it simple to enjoy this world-class city on foot. Walkers who want to explore any corner of the island won’t ever have to hire a taxi. A system of ferries, double decker buses and subway lines makes it possible to get virtually anywhere in the territory without even having to pay for a taxi or rental car.
Japan’s (and the world’s) most populous metropolis is a maze of tall buildings, highways, and residential neighborhoods. The sidewalks are often very crowded, but the flow of pedestrian traffic keeps moving quickly thanks to state of the art crossing signals and extra-wide sidewalks. Large city parks and cavernous shopping malls offer more places for pedestrians to explore. Since Tokyo is such a massive city, walking sometimes has to be supplemented by a trip on public transportation. Luckily, the subway, bus and tram system in Tokyo can bring anyone to any part of the city (even the most out-of-the-way neighborhood).
This West Coast city is a favorite destinations for tourists looking for a great urban destinations. Some of San Fran’s hills can be a bit intimidating for walkers, but a very good public transportation network (including the famous BART. the iconic cable cars, and a bus network) can make uphill trips a bit easier. Some of the city’s most famous neighborhoods: Downtown, Chinatown, the Wharf area, and Haight Ashbury are quite walkable, as are the Tenderloin area and even the famous Telegraph Hill. Many Bay Area visitors will tell you that you can’t experience the wonderful Pacific breezes and the awesome atmosphere of the Golder Gate City without traveling by foot.
New York is by far the best American city for pedestrians. A majority of the city’s people walk and use public transportation every day. The subway and bus system covers virtually every corner of the city, meaning that pedestrian sightseers are never more than a short stroll from a train station or bus stop. Of course the famous borough of Manhattan boasts crowded-but-wide sidewalks and a good system of street crossings (not to mention awesome green-spaces like Central Park). The city’s atmospheric neighborhoods are also best experience while on foot.
Any city can be walked, but these places are especially easy for pedestrian sightseers to traverse. The blend of useful sidewalks, pedestrian avenues, and great public transportation means that exploring on foot is always straightforward. A pedestrian-centered approach allows travelers to save their taxi money for other things, but it is also a great way to experience a city’s ambiance in a very personal and up-close way.