Looking for the best walking cities in the world? This is a list of the most walkable cities you can find on the globe.
If you’re serious about discovering the heart and soul of a city, lace up your walking shoes and go exploring on foot. It’s truly the best way to experience a new place. It allows you to get a proper feel for the city and those who live there. As a pedestrian you better absorb the varied sights, smells, and even tastes the destination has to offer.
Whether you choose to sign up for a free walking tour or you toss away the itinerary and freely wander, you’re sure to have the best experience discovering a new city on foot.
Some global cities are more flâneur-friendly than others.
Here’s a rundown of the most walkable cities in the world from my firsthand experience, including the buzzing New York Downtown, the enchanting and eye-opening streets of Marrakech Old Town and the romantic Florence, Italy.
- Definition of Walkable Cities
- Best Walking Cities in Europe
- Best Walking Cities in the Middle East
- Best Walking Cities in Australia
- Best Walking Cities in South America
- Best Walking Cities in Asia
- Best Walking Cities in North America
- Best Walking Cities in Africa
- Flânerie vs Tourism
- Frequently Asked Questions About the Most Walkable Cities in the World
- A Final Word on the Most Walkable Cities
Walking is not only one of the oldest modes of transportation but also one of the most intimate ways to experience a city. As the world becomes more urbanized, the significance of creating walkable cities becomes even more pronounced.
Definition of Walkable Cities
A “walkable city” refers to an urban area where residents and tourists can easily navigate most, if not all, of their daily needs on foot. In such cities, the infrastructure prioritizes pedestrians, ensuring safety, comfort, and convenience. This could mean pedestrian-only zones, wide and well-maintained sidewalks, easy-to-understand signage, frequent crosswalks, and more.
Walkability also takes into account factors like density, accessibility, connectivity, and the quality of the walking experience, considering aspects such as aesthetics, noise levels, and green spaces.
Importance and Benefits of Walkability for Travelers and Locals
For travelers, walkable cities offer the chance to immerse themselves more deeply into the locale. Each step provides an opportunity to discover hidden gems, from quaint cafes to historic landmarks, often missed when relying on faster modes of transportation. It facilitates spontaneous encounters and authentic interactions, enriching the overall travel experience.
For locals, the benefits are manifold. Walkable cities often equate to healthier cities—both environmentally and physically. Reduced vehicle emissions lead to cleaner air, and the act of walking itself promotes physical health.
Walkability also supports local businesses by increasing foot traffic, fosters a sense of community as neighbors engage more frequently, and generally enhances the quality of life by reducing the stress and expenses associated with vehicular transport.
As we embark on this exploration of the world’s most walkable cities, keep in mind that these urban areas have not only prioritized the pedestrian experience but have also reaped the myriad rewards of doing so. It’s a celebration of places where our feet can lead the way.
Best Walking Cities in Europe
Europe is a hugely varied continent which boasts endless iconic monuments, local history, varied languages, widely differing weather patterns and plenty of guilty pleasures along the way.
Here are the best cities to explore on foot while you’re there:
Paris is admittedly a huge city, but it’s also a legendary place that is easy to explore on foot if you have a few days to spare.
Why not soak up the artisan markets, the cafes and the traditional boulangeries? Or visit renowned tourist sites such as the Notre Dame, the Sacre Coeur and the Champs d’Elysee as you gape at the effortless beautiful French. Or stroll along the Seine for a real taste of Parisienne life.
If the weather is on your side, consider enjoying a picnic in one of the many gardens around the city.
Free Walking Tours in Paris
There are many! We love Discover Walks for their fun and friendly service.
Amsterdam is a great city to explore on foot (or by bicycle). Explore the winding canals and bike lanes, soak up the culture and perhaps even try some of the best cookies in the world.
The city is safe, the people are friendly, most speak English and best of all, most tourist attractions are located really close to each other. All of this makes it one of the best walking cities to explore if you’re a newbie traveller, nervous about getting lost or worried about safety. Don’t miss Anne Frank’s House, the Red Light District and the Dutch East India Company HQ!
Free Walking Tours in Amsterdam
New Europe Tours are our top choice as they cover the city’s top attractions for free, with options to delve deeper if you want.
Home of Oktoberfest and a real cultural hub, Munich is a fantastic walking city for those who fancy a taste of real Bavarian life.
Start your day in the historical centre and wind your way around the city, stopping off at Peterskirche, the Chinese Tower and the English Gardens on the way. Just a word of warning – expect to see naked guys sunbathing in some parts of the English gardens. If you brave this and the lederhosen, make sure you treat yourself to a beer on buzzing Schwabing’s Leopold Straße.
Free Walking Tours in Munich
Discover the best bits of the Bavarian capital with Strawberry Tours.
Helsinki isn’t just the capital of Finland. It’s also a gem in the Scandinavian world, beautifully walkable and a perfect place to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights.
Start at pastel-coloured Market Square and make your way over Pohjoisesplanadi towards the white cathedral Tuomoikirkko and onwards! Don’t miss the surprisingly beautiful man-made Hietaranta Beach.
Free Walking Tours in Helsinki
GuruWalk offers some fun and informal tours around the city that will show you everything, rain or shine!
With its tiny cobblestone streets, Insta-perfect architecture and endless hidden gems, Florence is a city you could comfortably wander for months without getting bored. History-rich, it’s hard to find a place in the city that doesn’t absolutely ooze culture.
Make sure you pay a visit to Florence’s most famous landmark Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore and walk along the Arno River to the fascinating Ponte Vecchio. Head south to experience treats from Gelateria La Sorbettiera and sit with the locals in the park nearby.
Free Walking Tours in Florence
If you’re looking for an unforgettable and unique tour, use FreeTour.
Best Walking Cities in the Middle East
Jerusalem is a magic city. One of the oldest in the world, you can find pedestrian friendly winding alleys around the Old City and the neighbourhoods of Nahalat Shiva, Yemin Moshe and Nachlaot that simply beg to be explored. Make the effort and you will be rewarded with a truly authentic experience of places like the Western Wall, City of David National Park, and the Jewish Quarter.
Just make sure you pack some decent walking shoes- the roads here are largely unpaved. Although relatively safe during the day, it’s best to avoid exploring at night as many people get lost.
Free Walking Tours in Jerusalem
For an eye-opening tour led by a local, try the walking tours run by Cititatis.
Best Walking Cities in Australia
Australian cities are astonishingly impressive, combining world-famous sights, modern city life and ooze the arts. Not to be missed!
Here are the best cities to explore on foot in Australia:
There’s nothing like a stroll along the Sydney waterfront to make you feel like you’re well and truly in Oz. It’s perfect for a warm sunny day when the sun is sparkling on the water and the sky feels open and immense.
Take in the stunning Sydney Harbour and Opera House, pop into one of the many nearby shops and restaurants and maybe even spot some wildlife along the way. If you fancy getting further out of the city, make your way to the Manly to Spit Bridge coastal walk to see some absolutely stunning beaches and bays.
Free Walking Tours in Sydney
The informative and fun city tours offered by I’m Free happen whatever the weather.
Melbourne boasts everything that makes a city beautiful. Victorian architecture, towering skyscrapers, luscious gardens, and hip neighbourhoods combine here to give you one of the best walking experiences in the world. Make sure you check out the Yarra river, the Botanic Gardens, and the hip CBD neighbour for a taste of music, culture, bars and unique shops.
Free Walking Tours in Melbourne
Buddy Free Walking Tours show you the city through the eyes of a knowledgeable local.
Best Walking Cities in South America
Ruins of ancient civilisations, towering cities and warm-hearted locals await when you explore South American cities on foot. There’s always something new to discover, new foods to try and new friends to make.
Here are the some of my favorites:
If you’re a fan of colonial history and you don’t mind exploring an ‘edgy’ city, Medellin is a great place to explore. Slip on those walking shoes and explore places as diverse as the historic industrial centre, the lively Parque Lleras and the brilliant Peatonal Carabobo. Almost everywhere you go you’ll find music, snack bars, activities, and culture. Just watch out for the pickpockets.
Free Walking Tours in Medellin
If it’s stories and urban legends you’re after, give Real City Tours a try.
2. Buenos Aires
Nicknamed “The Paris of South America”, Buenos Aires is an enormous, vibrant city that never sleeps. Despite being so large, it’s surprisingly walkable and very common for the locals who are keen to break away from the heavy local traffic.
Walk up through places like La Boca, soaking up the culture, enjoying authentic tango performances, and exploring the incredible museums and cathedrals. It’s also worth exploring the local neighbourhoods while you’re here too- most include lush gardens or parks, varied architecture, and super-friendly locals.
Free Walking Tours in Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires Free Walks will show you tons of local hotspots.
Lima is another huge city with an urban centre that covers 310 square miles. Having said that, it’s worth exploring neighbourhood by neighbourhood so you can enjoy an authentic local experience that you’ll never forget.
If your time in the city is limited, make sure you don’t miss the Miraflores area and walk the Malecon, hang out in Kennedy Park or Parque Central and visit the pre-Incan ruins at Huaca Pucllana.
Free Walking Tours in Lima
The best walking tours are run by Ikan Milky Way Tours.
Best Walking Cities in Asia
Walking in Asia can be chaotic, nerve racking but most of all fun! Whether you’d prefer to see towering skyscrapers, traditional fish markets and temples, or explore bewitching alleys and back streets, Asia has it all.
Here are the best walking cities from the east:
Tokyo is a fun place to walk because there are so many uniquely Japanese things to be seen along the way. Whether you choose to visit Asakusa with its famous Asakusa Sensoji Temple and Nakamise shopping street or you prefer to explore the Tsukiji fish markets and
Hamarikyu gardens, you’ll find great places to walk and explore. If you get tired, just hop into a fun rickshaw for a ride.
Free Walking Tours in Tokyo
Tokyo Free Walking Tours offer friendly, flexible tours packed with character.
Seoul certainly deserves its reputation as the most walkable city in Asia, although you will need to be brave to walk here. The locals treat it like a competitive sport and won’t be happy if you don’t stick to ‘your side’ of the road. That being said, you have a ton of great places to explore here including the picturesque Bukchon Hanok Village with its traditional homes, Gyeongbokgung and the astonishing 1024 metre pedestrian walkway. There’s even an initiative here to get more people walking so expect to see more over the next few years!
Free Walking Tours in Seoul
Although there are 60 free tours to choose from, we love the Today’s Friend tours.
Although best known for heavy traffic and street vendors, Bangkok proves to be a great choice when it comes to walking. Yes, it can get too hot during the middle of the day. But during the morning and evening, there’s nothing better than walking along the tiny footpaths and it’s generally safe (although watch out for pickpockets). The best places to explore include backpacker’s haven Khao San road, the riverfront, Wat Arun Temple and Ratchawong.
Free Walking Tours in Bangkok
Get a taste of the local lifestyle with Bangkok Walking Tours.
Best Walking Cities in North America
For urban life, excitement, history, and unexpectedly beautiful natural highlights, be sure to explore North American cities on foot. You’ll enjoy a truly unforgettable experience.
Here are some of the best:
1. New York
New York deserves to be close to the top of this list in terms of walkability. Even if you have absolutely zero sense of direction and you get chronic blisters, you’ll love exploring the city that never sleeps. Walking is one of the best ways to get around New York and the numbered streets mean it’s close to impossible to get lost. Don’t miss sights include the iconic Brooklyn Bridge, Fifth Avenue, Chinatown, SoHo and the East Village. All in all, New York is one of the best cities to visit in the US. If you’re coming from Canada, it’s just a short bus ride away too!
Free Walking Tours in New York City
Although there are tons of free walking tours in NYC, the best is run by Free Tours By Foot.
Did you know that ‘The Walking City’ is just one of Boston’s nicknames? That’s because it has a compact centre: it’s just a mile from Boston Gardens to the main shopping street. It was right here that the American Revolution happened.
Don’t miss the Freedom Trail, a historic walk snaking nearly 3 miles through the city.
Free Walking Tours in Boston
Boston By Foot offers a range of interesting tours around the city.
If you’re lusting after the Canadian great outdoors yet want a true city feel, you need to add Vancouver to your bucket list. This place has been practically built for getting out into the great outdoors and there are several inner-city surprises that will make your jaw drop.
If you wind up in Stanley Park, enjoy Lost Lagoon and be sure to head to Granville Island.
Free Walking Tours in Vancouver
Tour Guys offer some awesome tours that will take you to all the city highlights.
4. Quebec City
Quebec City lies to the east of Canada but it’s a place that feels just like France. With European-style architecture, local bakeries, cafes, and a rich cultural scene, it’s a great place to kick back and enjoy the good life.
Summer is most definitely the best time to visit as temperatures can drop as low as -25°C in the winter months. When the sun shines, make sure you stroll through downtown, take a picnic lunch to the incredible Montmorency Falls and explore the beautiful trails that lie just outside the city.
Free Walking Tours in Quebec City
Choose A Free Tour of Quebec to be guided around the city by the lovely Samuel.
Best Walking Cities in Africa
From the towering Table Mountain in South Africa to the winding streets of Old Marrakech, you’ll find astonishing treats when you explore by walking.
Here are the highlights:
Marrakesh is chaotic, utterly enchanting, and perfect for those who adore colour, culture, and spice!
Visit the Medina (Old Town) to discover Jemaa el-Fna Square with its melting pot of street performers, fortune tellers, snake charmers and everything else you’d expect to find in Morocco.
Then visit the covered markets for an eye-popping array of Moroccan-delights. Just watch your valuables, the area can be a hotspot for pickpockets.
If you’re hungry for more, why not head into the modern city?
Free Walking Tours in Marrakesh
Marrakech by Locals offer the best hassle-free tour experience in the city.
2. Cape Town
Although Cape Town is one of the largest cities in South Africa, it feels compact and entirely European. Under the backdrop of Table Mountain, the entire city unrolls from hill to coast.
If you’re exploring on foot make sure you visit Company’s Garden, Waterkant Street, enjoy the Fan Walk and end up in St. Andrews Square to see some of the highlights of what’s on offer.
You can also walk up to the cable station from the harbour if you want to experience the epic Table Mountain view.
Free Walking Tours in Cape Town
To see the best of Cape Town, join City Sightseeing for their brilliant tours.
Flânerie vs Tourism
A flâneur is someone who walks the city in order to experience it.
Wandering the urban cityscape, the flâneur might venture off to explore the hidden alleyways, corners and nooks of a city.
This type of leisurely meandering is called flânerie. This is walking without a destination in mind, simply taking in the sights and sounds. No shopping, no planning ahead, no strict timelines. Just observing.
Walking a major city is the best way to get to know it. You not only avoid traffic, but you see things you never would have gotten a chance to from the back seat of a taxi.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Most Walkable Cities in the World
Where is the most walkable city in the world?
The most walkable city in the world is New York City, known for its pedestrian-friendly infrastructure, safety, accessibility, and diverse sights. Other contenders include Paris, Melbourne, Tokyo, and Venice. Walkability scores consider infrastructure, safety, and attractions.
Which country has the best walkability?
The Netherlands is often recognized for its walkability, especially cities like Amsterdam. The country prioritizes pedestrians, cycling, and public transportation, leading to cities that are easy to navigate on foot. Other countries with high walkability scores include Denmark and Japan.
Is NYC the most walkable city?
New York City is considered one of the most walkable cities in the U.S., particularly Manhattan. Its grid layout, density, public transit, and diverse destinations make it pedestrian-friendly. However, globally, several cities compete for the title of “most walkable,” so NYC’s rank can vary based on criteria.
What are examples of walkable cities?
Examples of walkable cities include New York City (USA), Paris (France), Copenhagen (Denmark), Amsterdam (Netherlands), Melbourne (Australia), Kyoto (Japan), Venice (Italy), Barcelona (Spain), Portland (USA), and San Francisco (USA). These cities offer pedestrian-friendly environments and vibrant street life.
A Final Word on the Most Walkable Cities
Whatever your taste in travel, you’re sure to find a city in the world that is perfect to explore on foot.
Who knows what incredible things you might discover. The best travel happens when you open your heart and explore.
In my experience, there’s always so much more to a city than just the tourist traps and overpriced restaurants. If you truly want to immerse yourself in the culture of the city you’re in, slow down and try walking a mile in a local’s shoes. Hopefully these ideas help inspire you to mix things up on your next vacation.
Originally Published: May 11, 2020