|If you’re already been on the perfect cruise or are put-off by holiday tours where you’re up at the crack of dawn, bundled into a bus and given a few paltry minutes at each “must see” attraction just to take a few token pictures, why not consider just staying in the one place and walk?|
You’ll have more time to immerse yourself in the city, even sleep in if you wanted to, and be able to really explore and enjoy those attractions you’ve always read and heard about…you may even discover some amazing things about the city that not even the travel books or websites know about!
And the bonus is that it’s environmentally friendly, and the exercise you’ll get from it (not to mention the money you would save) means you could indulge in a few more of the city’s delicacies!
Here are a few cities - Vancouver, Paris, Venice, Budapest, Barcelona, Hong Kong, New York, Prague and Marrekesh – with pedestrian friendly infrastructure, and perfect for a leisurely (or if you choose – hectic) walking holiday!
You’ll have to bring an umbrella, but the coastal seaport city of Vancouver is a great place to visit and walk.
It’s been planned with pedestrians in mind and has a great public transportation system.
The city is also compact, where things are built up, rather than out, so there is plenty of space for visitors to roam.
Check out Granville Island with its food market, galleries and theatres; Stanley Park – a national historic site, with its natural, cultural and historical landmarks; the second largest Chinatown in North America (after San Franscisco); and wander around the national historic site of Gastown (pictured), with its cobbled streets and unique architecture.
Yes, yes, Paris again.
But it has to be mentioned because it’s a great place to walk around and see the sights, as some of the cobblestone side streets and lanes are blocked off to traffic.
There is also more to Paris than the Champs-Elysees, Arc de Triomphe and Eiffel Tower.
There are walkways along the Seine River, tree lined avenues, bridges to cross, side walk cafes to visit and the wonderful aroma of baking from the patisseries to savour.
And be sure to take a walk along the 4.7km Promenade plantee (picture), an elevated linear tree lined walkway built on the old Vincennes Railway line, with shops, tunnels and lush greenery along the way.
Venice is made up of 122 Islands, connected by 40 bridges - famous ones are the Rialto Bridge which spans the Grand Canal and the Bridge of Sighs, originally used to transport prisoners to prsion, with the centre of the city being St Mark’s Square…and there’s not a car in sight!
Travel is purely by foot, “hailing” a gondola, catching a vaporetti (water bus) or train.
Take in the spectacular views of the Venetian islands from the Bell Tower and there are churches, bridges, markets and palaces from the 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th centuries all for your viewing and walking pleasure.
Oh, and of course the obligatory side walk café should you need some refreshments!
Did you know that the Hungarian capital is bisected by the Danube River, with “Buda” on the west bank and “Pest” on the east?
Fancy a bit of Roman, Turkish, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Classicist, Art Nouveau and Bauhaus architecture all in the one place?
Castle Hill, located in Buda is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which has the 700 year old Matthias Church, the Royal Palace and homes from the Middle Ages.
Make sure you also visit Vaci St, a designated pedestrian precinct, and also Obuda, the oldest district in Budapest, which offers Roman ruins, monuments and museums.
And as they have more thermal springs than any other capital city in the world, you can sight see to your heart’s content, and then take a relaxing dip in a Turkish bath (pictured) dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries.
Barcelona is situated between the sea and the mountains, and is the perfect city for walking because the tree-lined main street – La Rambla - that cuts through the city is reserved for foot traffic only!
Car traffic is restricted to 2 narrow one-way roads on either side of La Rambla, and the larger roads skirt the periphery.
There are restaurants, shops and street performers to occupy your time whilst you walk, and many of Barcelona’s sites are within a short walking distance away, such as the Gothic Quarter (historic quarter), where you can visit the places where Picasso and Miro grew up, Catalan Gothic architecture and historic plazas.
And for football fans, need we mention the Barcelona Football Stadium?!
Hong Kong, China
This city is compact. It’s busy, it’s bustling and it’s full of traffic!
But luckily for all the people who live there and who visit the city, it’s well organised.
There are cross walks, traffic lights and wide pedestrian sidewalks, which make life in Hong Kong easier than you think.
Hong Kong also has a fantastic public transport system, so if you’re tired of being jostled along the sidewalks, just catch the bus, ferry or subway.
You can get it all here – bright neon signed shops, restaurants, temples and markets.
And if you need to get out of the city altogether, but not the island itself, in less than an hour from the city (you can take the tram) follow the Dragon’s Back Trail (pictured) - named because the ridge is thought to resemble the spine of a dragon.
The trail is part of the 50km Hong Kong hiking trail – which will give you fresh air, bamboo groves, lush woodland, spectacular views and a visit to old seaside towns.
New York, USA
When you think New York, you probably think ‘hectic’.
But actually its subway system, well organised pedestrian crossings and logically numbered streets make getting around the city pretty easy.
Stroll, eat, jog and sight see at Central Park, go up the Empire State Building and of course Times Square, with its Broadway Theatres which, coincidentally, is a pedestrian only area.
And take a stroll along the High Line (inspired by the Promenade plantee in Paris), which used to be an old freight line.
It is a 1.6km elevated walkway or greenway along the West Side, and features permanent video installations, star gazing evenings, artwork, mini forests, and is fully wheel chair accessible.
Prague, Czech Republic
The capital of the Czech Republic is built on 9 hills, with the Vltava River flowing through the heart of it.
You won’t have to walk far along the maze of cobbled lanes and hidden courtyards to experience the architectural styles that make up the city – from Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque, Renaissance, Art Nouveau, Classicist, Cubist, all the way to Functionalist.
There are ancient chapels, gardens, cafes and old-fashioned bars to be explored and experienced on foot, and the historic centre of Prague is on UNESCO’s World Heritage list – including Prague Castle from the 9th Century, the Lesser Quarter and the Old Town, including the city’s oldest bridge, Charles Bridge.
If you’re looking for a quiet, calm walk, this place may not be the place for you.
It’s crowded, it’s hot and it’s dusty.
Having said that, you will have a wonderful time walking and possibly getting lost in the labyrinthine alleyways of the crowded Medina, which is a UNESCO World heritage site.
To get your initial bearings, start in Djema El Fna, Marrakesh’s main square – which used to be the site of public executions around AD 1050 (its name translates to ‘assembly of the dead’).
Get distracted all day by snake charmers, palaces, mountains of spices, story tellers, food stalls, fortune tellers, street performers, the obligatory carpet and of course the witch doctors (who come out at night).
Most of Marrakesh’s monuments are within the Medina ramparts (19km circuit), but if you want more, make sure you also head out to the Koutoubia Mosque with its 70m high minaret and the 16th century Saadian Tombs.
So get those boots on and enjoy!