Once upon a time, most travelers who wished to see the world had few options for getting around beyond walking. These days, we have the ability to cross entire continents and oceans with very little effort and in a short period of time. While that certainly bodes well for the business traveler whose primary goal is to make it to a meeting in Bangladesh by Wednesday, the rest of us could benefit from slowing down our travels a bit.
To that end, one of the best ways to discover a new city is on foot. Wandering unfamiliar streets with no real plan in mind gives a visitor the ability to experience a city beyond the traditional tourist offerings. Of course, do your research beforehand to avoid areas of town that are potentially dangerous, and carry a smartphone with GPS or a good old-fashioned map to keep from getting lost. Then consider a stroll through one of these walkable cities around the globe for the ultimate travel experience.
No list of this type would be complete without a mention of the City of Light. Possibly the most walkable city in the world, Paris abounds with ideal areas to take a stroll. A great way to experience the city as a native does is to choose a particular neighborhood—the Latin Quarter, say, or along the Seine—and devote a day to hoofing it along the dedicated walking paths there. You may discover a fantastic bistro or boulangerie that would’ve never been on your radar otherwise, and you’ll undoubtedly meet some local characters to make your visit more memorable. Start brushing up on your French now!
Vancouver, British Columbia
The so-called “No Fun City” is exactly the opposite when experienced on foot by the intrepid traveler. Take a stroll along the scenic False Creek shoreline and score some great souvenirs in the shops there; or wander across the Stamp’s Landing footbridge, ending up at the renowned Science World Dome. The best time of year to visit Vancouver is in the summer and early fall, when you’ll have the best chances for great outdoor walking weather.
Melbourne and Sydney, Australia
If you’re going to travel all the way down under, you might as well hit both of these fantastic walking cities. In Sydney, take in breathtaking ocean views on a walk along the coastline in Mosman Bay or enjoy a quiet afternoon stroll among the shops and beaches in Manly. During your stay in Melbourne, wander along the two-mile path surrounding The Tan—a.k.a. the Royal Botanic Gardens—or enjoy a beachy stroll at the St. Kilda Foreshore.
As with all international travel, it’s crucial to take a few important precautions before you leave home. Leave a detailed itinerary with a friend or family member. Make two copies of your travel documents, including your passport and any plane or train tickets purchased in advance; stash one set in a hidden place among your luggage separate from the original copies and leave the other with that same trusted person back home. Finally, a walking tour carries with it a greater chance of injury than might otherwise be possible; consider purchasing international medical insurance to cover you in case you twist an ankle strolling on those cobblestone streets in Paris.
On your next international trip, embrace the idea of taking a slow meander through the streets of your chosen destination. Walking can be the ideal way to see the best a city has to offer and to experience what you may otherwise miss amid the hustle and bustle of the metropolis. Pack some comfortable walking shoes and get out there for a leisurely stroll.