The World’s Most Walkable Tourist Cities
Some people love a whirlwind trip: From the airport to the Sagrada Familia, hop a bus to Park Guell, power-walk through La Rambla, and that’s Barcelona, folks. But for others, the magic of the experience is in the spaces between those sanctioned moments of awe. It’s the gitano band playing in the Gothic Quarter at dusk; the smell of fresh-baked bread wafting from the bakery windows on Carrer del Baluart; the clubbers nursing churros y chocolate at 8 a.m.
That’s why travelers who really wants to soak up the culture, the mood, and essence of a place will explore it on foot. With that in mind, here are walking guides to four of the most beautiful destinations in the world—every step saturated with color, flavor, and that certain je ne sais quoi.
Known for its unparalleled Renaissance art and architecture, Florence can seem overwhelming. But truthfully, you can hit most of the major attractions with a few well-chosen walks.
Where to Stay
What to See
In the Centro Storico, you can start in the Piazza del Duomo which sits right in the center. There, you’ll see the Florence Cathedral, the Florence Baptistery, and the Opera del Duomo museum, to name a few. Once you’ve taken in the Piazza, just a few blocks away is the Casa Museo di Dante (which is, logically, the museum in the home where Dante lived).
A few blocks further will take you to Via dei Gondi, home to several museums, including the famed Uffizi Gallery. Masterpieces by Giotto, Titian, Botticelli, Rembrandt, and da Vinci make the Uffizi a must. (Insider tip: The lines here are absurd, especially on weekends, mornings, and Tuesdays, so book your tickets aheadand skip the wait.)
As a counterbalance to the tourist-packed Centro Storico, get off the beaten path by walking to the Piazzale Michelangelo and San Miniato. From Oltrarno past the Bardini Museum, walk to the door of San Niccolò in piazza Giuseppe Poggi. It’s a bit of an uphill climb, so starting in the early morning is recommended. But you’ll walk up many steps behind this door, pass a fountain, and at the top, you’ll see an unparalleled view of Florence. (The reproduction of Michelangelo’s David there is pretty cool, too.) When you come back down, take a left down the steps toward the piazza. You’ll run into the Giardino Rose Garden, which makes for a perfect cap to a morning of sightseeing.
What to Eat
Near the Uffizi at the end of the piazza is the Rivoire Cafe, famed for their hot chocolate. It’s a wonderful spot for a quick snack. On your way back from the Rose Garden, you’ll pass Fuori Porta. Stop here for a glass of wine, a cheese plate, or a full dinner al fresco of their famed crostoni (giant crostini covered with a variety of delicious toppings).
New York, New York
Where the U.S. is concerned, New York is as pedestrian-friendly as it gets: Street food galore, a bar (or three) on every block, and a new gallery or museum around every unexplored corner. You could live here a hundred years and never eat at the same place twice. But if you’re sightseeing on foot, what’s the best use of your time (and calf muscles)?
Where To Stay
Astor On The Park sits at Central Park West, making it an ideal starting point for these adventures. Rather than slog through crowded city streets, you can stroll through the shaded paths of Central Park to get to every spot on our list.
What To See
Just across the park at 106th Street and Fifth Avenue you’ll find a hidden gem called The Conservatory Garden. It’s open year-round, but the landscaping in spring and summer create an especially breathtaking utopia. Benches line the garden’s quiet, shady groves, unbeatable for a bit of reading. A tulip-bedecked fountain found inside a topiary labyrinth makes the perfect centerpiece for an afternoon picnic.
Walk down Fifth Avenue to 84th Street, and you’ll arrive at The Metropolitan Museum—an essential stop for any art lover, with two million square feet and over 20 buildings packed with art and artifacts spanning the Ancient Near East to contemporary American. If you’re visiting between May and November, don’t miss the rooftop garden’s annual contemporary installation. Get a beverage at one of the two bars, and take in the overwhelming view of New York City. If you can see only one thing at The Met, the rooftop should be a top contender.
What To Eat
Across the street from the Museum of Natural History (worth a stop for science buffs), Isabella’s at 77th and Columbus is an elegant spot serving inventive Mediterranean food, and just a three-minute walk from the park. For a hip, casual brunch or a coffee en route to The Met, try Bluestone Lane at 90th Street and Fifth Avenue. Nestled inside a church right beside The Guggenheim Museum, the Australian cafe serves classics like avocado smash, banana bread, and a killer latte.
The Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, The Champs-Elysees: While absolutely stunning, a seasoned traveler has been around the arrondissement a time or two. So, why not explore the Paris of the artist? Montmartre.
Where To Stay
The Mercure Paris Montmartre Sacré Coeur hotel is located smack in the center of bohemian Montmartre, which you may remember from a film or two—Amelie, Midnight In Paris, An American In Paris, just for starters. The Mercure is also a central hub from which to visit the residences and haunts of some of Montmartre’s many virtuosos.
What To See
The Basilica Sacré Coeur for which the hotel is named sits atop Montmartre, and contains one of the largest mosaics in the world, called “Christ in Majesty.” The top of the Basilica is one of the most spectacular vistas in Europe. If the sky is clear, you can see for 20 miles.
From the Basilica, wend your way to Place du Tertre. Keep left to rue Poulbot, and you’ll run into Espace Dalí—the Salvador Dalí museum. This space features an unparalleled collection of the surrealist artist’s paintings, sketches, sculptures, and art books.
In the heart of Montmartre, you’ll find the Musee Montmartre. Built in the oldest house in Montmartre, the museum is worth seeing simply for its pedigree. It served as home and/or studio to creatives like Auguste Renoir, composer Erik Satie and writer Leon Bloy. The museum pays tribute to the area with paintings, letters, and photography from Montmartre’s golden age.
Where To Eat
Le Bouclard, a quick jaunt from Moulin Rouge, is a cozy, quiet spot that almost gives the impression of being a private space. The restaurant serves comfort food elevated to an art form, and the 1920s vibe will make you feel like you could just see Hemingway scribbling away in the corner, or Duchamp sketching away at any moment. For a classic French patisserie, visit Crêperie Broceliande, just a five-minute walk from the Basilica. The cozy spot has been lauded for having “the best crepes in Montmartre.” It tends to fill up in advance, so reservations are recommended.
Anyone from Sydney will tell you it’s the only city in Australia that matters. Anyone from Australia who isn’t from Sydney will tell you Sydney is all glitter, no substance. While many Australian cities have both rich history and diverse culture to offer, it’s equally inaccurate to suggest Sydney of being a place for luxury shopping and nothing else.
Where To Stay
The Darling Hotel in Pyrmont is one of the best boutique hotels in the country. Every room in the five-star hotel and spa features exclusively Egyptian cotton sheets, and the hotel itself is in an ideal location to dive deep into the maritime history Sydney has to offer.
What To See
The Pyrmont Bridge, built in 1857, was one of the first electric swing bridges in the world. It closed to car traffic and now carries both the monorail and pedestrian walkways to Darling Harbour. Walking the bridge puts you directly on top of a National Engineering Landmark, and positions you to see the Australian National Maritime Museum, brimming with historic vessels.
Here, just above Kent and Argyle, stop in at Observatory Hill Park. The sandstone observatory was built in 1858, and Sydneysiders used it to keep time, while astronomers camped out here to observe and record the heavens. The gardens are open every day, and they provide an incomparable view of Darling Harbour and the Walsh Bay wharves.
Right next to the bridge, you’ll find The Rocks, an area potentially even more historic than Pyrmont itself. This was the first area that the convicts shipped over from abroad really settled. Every building and street has a story to tell. The Garrison (or Holy Trinity) Church on Lower Fort Street was NSW’s first military church. You can still see military flags waving from the structure. At the corner of Windmill and Lower Fort is the Hero of Waterloo hotel. Designed by a stonemason, the structure evokes the mariner’s life and has inspired many tales involving smugglers and privateers, shanghaied sailors, and the occasional hidden trapdoor.
Where To Eat
If you’ve spent your day immersed in the rough-and-tumble history of some of Australia’s earliest settlers, you might be ready for a dose of luxury. Sokyo, one of the area’s best sushi restaurants, can be found in The Star Casino, attached to The Darling hotel. Chef Chase Kojima is known for his innovative takes on classic sushi and sashimi, and the in-house DJ makes for a refreshing change from the sights and sounds of The Rocks.
For a totally different flavor (pun intended) without straying far, visit Gelato Messina. Thanks to an intensive focus on traditional methods and ingredients, Gelato Messina has been named literally the best gelato in Australia. Since Messina is also in The Star Casino, you can savor your dessert and still have time for a little flutter before you call it a night.