Whenever I travel to any new city, first thing I do after checking in is to frantically figure out my way around town, the use of public transport if any, and how do I buy and use the oyster/subway cards or on what side of the street do I catch the bus on. But I am always utterly delighted when I discover that I just need my own two feet.
So, I just want to say a big thank you to some of the world’s walkable cities -I am pleased to meet you, and appreciate you for the fact that you allow me to explore your beauty all on my own. I love getting lost on your cobblestone streets and quaint bazaars. I love watching the street performers and stop by to listen to them singing or playing funky music on the guitar. I appreciate the quiet privacy I get even when sitting on a busy street bench, enjoying my Gelato and people watching (Something I can never do in Delhi).
Walkable towns and cities offer so much more in terms of sightseeing, something a bus or train ride can never lay claim to. But I have to warn you that not all cities are well suited to pedestrians (I’m looking at you, Los Angeles), and offering my utmost respect for those people that prefer to get around on foot (I’m looking at you New Yorkers).
I’m amazed at just how many miles I walk by the end of my trip (always forget to turn on the app on my phone) and the excitement of exploring a new city always trumps the exhaustion of a long day on my feet.
While I may not do enough justice by listing out all those cities here, there are some of the few here I have had the opportunity to explore on foot and are just fantastic to walk around.
This one literally takes the cake. I am amazed at how much walking I can do in NYC even if I do not want to do all of the touristy things. I always look at Google maps and the subway app before I venture out and work out exactly where my must-sees are, in relation to each other. I feel grouping things geographically is by far the best way to maximize my time and minimise unnecessary walking. Using the subway does get you pretty close to most of the sights, such as Highline and Brooklyn Bridge, but exploring all of New York City takes more than a subway ride. Around Central Park, Times Square, the Empire State Building, and Rockefeller Center it is much easier to walk the blocks exploring this frantic city as you go by.
Consistently ranked as one of the country’s most walkable cities, Philadelphia is ripe with colorful neighborhoods, great buildings, and cultural sites to explore. Seemingly a world away from Philadelphia’s colonial sites, the South Philly section has a rich history of its own. Cheese, chocolate, spice, and olive oil stands are plentiful at the famous outdoor market, which is open daily and is America’s largest.
Smaller when compared to New York City, Boston has its own charm coupled with elegant neighbourhoods, historic streets, and American landmarks from the Back Bay to Beacon Hill and the Freedom Trail. Newbury Street known for its trendy shopping, Copley Square for its beautiful open square and the Boston Public Library and Trinity Church give a cool vibe to this city. The Boston Public Garden one of the loveliest green spaces in the city also has one of the most photographed statues — the Make Way for Ducklings sculpture. The North End is a captivating, lively quarter, with its many Italian restaurants and picturesque streets that transport you back in time.
One of the best features of Washington, D.C., is its walkability. Not only are many of its major sites and attractions grouped together on the National Mall, but the city is a series of true neighborhoods knitted together, easily traversed by foot. Whether it’s historic or cultural, food- or monument-centric, watching the cherry blossoms in full bloom or taking a tour of the memorials by moonlight, DC has many things to offer its tourists.
Vancouver is popularly known as the ‘walker’s paradise’, all thanks to the pedestrian way finding maps that encourage a person to walk through the city. Among the most famous walks, False Creek to Granville Island takes the front position where we would stop by and shop at the Public Market for locally grown fresh produce. Downtown Vancouver, Gastown, Stanley Park and the Buchart Gardens which is an easily reachable place from the downtown Vancouver adds to the list.
Probably the originator of the “getting lost” in Europe mentality, (which I have yet to feel) Venice is the ideal place to explore on foot. Of course, a gondola ride along the canals is a wonderful treat; however, the true magic can be found in the streets along the canals. Walking on the Rialto square and around St Mark’s square, you will experience the locals going about their daily business shadowed by the city’s historic structures.
London is one of the most foot-friendly cities in the world and one of my favourite too. Its bridges and the London Eye (on a clear sunny day) provide some of the best views in London. Central London has most of the landmark locations which are closer to each other. The City Visitor Trail also known as “the Square Mile” a guided walk maps a route through the heart of the City, taking you past a range of famous attractions on a stroll through the historic heart of the capital to see St Paul’s Cathedral, Guildhall, the Bank of England, Mansion House, the Monument, the Tower of London and Tower Bridge – along with a host of City churches, like the famous St Mary-le-Bow.
Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Amsterdam’s flat, compact, and lively streets make the city an ideal place to explore on foot. In fact, walking may be the best way to appreciate gorgeous 17th-century canals, leafy parks, and former industrial docklands.
With clean, wide sidewalks, and interesting sights along the way, Shanghai has lots to offer for a fun walk. The Yu Garden is the number one tourist attraction in Shanghai, and the only example of a Classic Chinese garden left in the city from the dynastic period of Chinese history. The added advantage is that it borders the Yuyuan Tourist Mart, where one can browse through a wide selection of touristy trinkets and test out bargaining skills. There are two parts of Shanghai, worth visiting –one a scenic/cultural part of Shanghai in the French Concession, and the second covers a famous temple and Shanghai’s art district through a more local route.
The 6km trail from Bondi to Coogee is perhaps the most famous coastal hiking trail in Sydney, New South Wales and perhaps even Australia. Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach walk treats visitors to some of Australia’s best beaches and most impressive ocean views. Not only tourists but even the local Sydney-siders come to Sydney’s east coast every day to enjoy Australia’s best beaches, stunning ocean views and lots of parks, cafes and restaurants on the way.
New Delhi, India
If you have ever been to Delhi, you will notice that it is a huge maze, and to manoeuvre it can be a task—especially if you are new to the city. The best way to soak in the rich culture of Old Delhi is to take some guided tours that are a combination of walks and cycle rickshaws rides, as you absorb the street vibe , the historical sites, and bazaars, and experience the various culinary treats and street foods. Although there are many heritage monuments dotted around the city, the Heritage Walk is an excellent way to connect the historical dots, since the guided walks are themed. That way, you learn what one monument has to do with another, as it was intended all those years ago.
Another interesting tour is the Cycle Tour where a group of 8-10 participants is accompanied by a friendly tour guide in bright orange, who will maintain a nice pace as you pedal through Old or New Delhi.
While you will definitely enjoy most of the ‘walking tours’ in some of these places, do note that you need to take heed of the following steps before you do so.
- Walking tours usually involve long distances with each excursion lasting around two to three hours. While you’re possibly used to walking around your hometown, it is advisable to check out the general terrain of the city where you’re going. I have seen many a person who is part of a group tour getting excruciatingly tired after a few miles of walking that the entire group feels the strain.
- Condition your body and build adequate stamina so you can enjoy exploring your vacation destination. Wear proper footwear and break in your trekking shoes by wearing them regularly for a few weeks in advance.
- One of the prerequisites of enjoying a walking tour is keeping up energy levels and hydration. Eat a filling breakfast to fuel your body for the trek and bring bottles of fluids.
Exploring a city or town on foot is one of the most exciting ways to get a closer view of its inherent charm. Not only do you get an immersive experience of its attractions and people, but you’ll understand it better than any conventional excursions. Guided walks and city tours are available just about everywhere; to find them, do an Internet search, consult a good guidebook or contact the local tourist office.
PC: Visitphiladelphia;Planetware; Touropia;Sydneywalks;Spinmonkey
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