My 10 favorite pedestrian cities in Europe
When your feet touch the cobbled streets of Europe, you are transported to a different century, a unique culture and an opportunity to feel the city. Walking, for the curious traveler, opens doors. You can turn left while the crowd goes right. You can make personal discoveries and observations that will make a permanent place in your heart.
Here are my 10 favorite pedestrian cities in Europe.
1. Paris, France
I’ll start with Paris as one of my favorite walkable cities in Europe since I live here and walk everywhere. Paris is an ideal city to explore on foot. Stroll along the banks of the Seine, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and pass by ancient and emblematic monuments. Stroll past sites on Ile Saint Louis, such as Sainte Chapelle and Notre Dame Cathedral, to the Eiffel Tower. The unique bridges crossing the Seine are the ideal place to observe the daily life of Parisians.
Paris is full of fantastic neighborhoods to explore on foot. Embracing the idea of being French stroller, “someone who wanders aimlessly and observes life.” The best areas for strolling are Saint Germain des Prés, Montmartre and the Swamp. With all that walking, it’s advisable to savor that extra croissant or the perfect millefeuille at the local patisserie.
2. Bruges, Belgium
Bruges is the ideal city for walking. The charming historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a delight at every turn. Head straight to the main square – the Market Square (Markt) – and climb 366 steps to the top of the medieval belfry. The panoramic views from the top of the bell tower are breathtaking.
Continue to explore the center of Bruges. Discover cobbled streets lined with colorful stepped gabled facades and pass over the bridges that cross the canal. Soak up the laid-back vibe of willow trees hanging over the water, horse-drawn carriages through the narrow streets, and the ever-present smell of hot waffles to devour. Rest your feet and take a boat cruise along the scenic canals and pause for a local beer at one of the many cafes.
Be sure to stop at the Quay of the Rosary (Rozenhoedkaai), one of the most picture-perfect spots in Bruges. All that on foot? Treating yourself to artisanal Belgian chocolate is surely a fair reward!
3. Lisbon, Portugal
Lisbon is a fabulous town for walking but be warned. Lisbon is built on seven hills overlooking the Tagus. Strolling in this capital is a must but it is recommended to intersperse your walk with trams. The stunning historic yellow trams and funiculars can take you quickly to the top of the hills.
The best area to explore on foot is Lisbon’s oldest neighborhood, Alfama. A maze of cobbled streets, tiny squares, unique shops and steep staircases characterize this part of town. Stop to enjoy a sunset at the fabulous Miradouro de Santa Luzia viewpoint overlooking Lisbon’s red-tiled rooftops, several bell towers, and the Tagus River.
As you stroll through the evening, keep your ears open for the soulful strains of fado – ancient Portuguese folk music – emanating from behind closed doors. Save energy to explore the neighborhoods of Bairro Alto and Chiado, as well as São Jorge Castle. All that on foot? Delicious egg custard tarts (pastéis de nata) are waiting for you!
4. Seville, Spain
Charming Seville gets you around every turn. Strolling along the orange groves, strolling through a tangle of small medieval streets, counting the spiers of churches and admiring shop windows full of flamenco dresses make Seville the ideal city for strolls. Climb the Giralda Tower for panoramic views – including the bullring – marvel at the enormous cathedral, and be sure to stroll through the old Jewish quarter.
Wander through a UNESCO heritage site, the Real Alcázar, which is both a palace and a fortification. One of the best examples of Mudejar architecture in Spain, the tiles and archways will leave you speechless. Birthplace of flamenco, try heading to the Triana district, across the Guadalquivir River, to witness seductive dancing. In Seville, stopping for tapas is the perfect opportunity to refuel.
5. Venice, Italy
It goes without saying that you will take a gondola ride in Venice and hop on a vaporetto to travel along the Grand Canal. The rest of the time, Venice is a city best explored on foot. Stroll over a multitude of romantic arched bridges and linger long enough to observe the activity on the canal. Walk past stunning architecture and get lost in a maze of tiny streets.
You’ll be amazed at how easy it is to find an off-the-beaten-path Venetian neighborhood where cats laze around and kids kick a soccer ball in a tree-lined square. Piazza San Marco is a must; with the Rialto Bridge and the Galleria dell’Accademia. Do not forget: in Venice, an exquisite ice cream awaits the walker. In fact, there’s gelato at every turn – perfect for replenishing the curious traveler.
6. Prague, Czech Republic
prague, also known as “The City of 500 Arrows”, is an enchanting city to explore on foot. Prague’s main square, Old Time Square, is lined with beautiful facades and is the perfect place for people watching! From here, most of Prague’s sights are within a 30-minute walk. Stroll past the 600-year-old Astronomical Clock, through the Jewish Quarter, and along the winding, winding cobbled streets. Keep your eyes peeled for fascinating street art installations such as Hanged in Prague by provocative sculptor David Černy.
Cross the Vltava River on the magnificent Charles Bridge lined with eye-catching statues and filled with artists. Climb the hill to Prague Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is part of the largest complex of castles in the world. Don’t miss the John Lennon graffiti wall. Wander at your leisure in the charming city of Prague.
7. Cordoba, Spain
In the spring, Cordoba is full of magnificent flower-filled patios. There is, after all, the annual Patio or Courtyard competition. Bring your walking shoes as the Córdobans open up the exquisite courtyards of their homes to the public. Walk around Cordoba, connect with people and enjoy a festival that started in 1918.
Cordoba is also a city full of UNESCO World Heritage sites. Explore the incredible complex of the Fortress of the Kings, the pedestrian Roman bridge and the old Jewish quarter. No trip to Cordoba is complete without visiting the Mezquita, an enormous cathedral built in the middle of an old mosque. Striped arches after arches and golden mosaics leave an unforgettable impression. Stroll all day in Cordoba. In fact, adopt the slow pace Andalusian lifestyle and spend a few days.
8. Verona, Italy
Verona, Italy, is an absolutely perfect city to stroll around. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is a maze of cobbled streets lined with intriguing facades, statues of angels at every turn, a Roman amphitheater and ancient bridges that span the Adige River.
Known as the setting of Shakespeare’s tragic love story Romeo and Juliet, visitors flock to see Juliette’s house. The romantic in you might want to take a peek at Juliet’s balcony. But save most of your time to stroll, stroll, and soak up Verona’s laid-back vibe. It’s an explorer’s paradise with unexpected gems at every turn.
Charming Strasbourg delights its visitors with its lazy winding canals, picturesque German-influenced building facades and the magnificent Strasbourg Cathedral. Let yourself be guided by the cobbled streets to discover the authentic medieval Strasbourg. Don’t miss the neighborhood called Petite France, where half-timbered houses line the canals and flower-decked balconies add to the picture-perfect scene. The whole of the central island of Strasbourg is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it’s no wonder.
Pro Tip: If you happen to be in Europe in December, Strasbourg organizes the most amazing Christmas markets.
10. Florence, Italy
No list of walkable cities in Europe would be complete without mentioning Florence. When your feet touch the streets of Florence, the discoveries are endless. Florence’s best sights are all within easy walking distance. Don’t miss the unforgettable Duomo, Ponte Vecchio, Palazzo Vecchio and the Accademia Gallery where you will find Michelangelo’s work. David sculpture. Florence, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, overflows with charm and art. Remember to pace yourself and soak up the slower paced Italian lifestyle.
Exploring on foot is one of the best ways to get a sense of a European city. There are winding cobbled streets, gorgeous facades, attractive cafes and always an unexpected experience that could never have been predicted. These are often the most memorable travel souvenirs. Prepare your walking shoes, go out early before the heat and see what you discover!