Without doubt the best way to get to know a city is to get out and explore it. We all know this in theory, but in taking a bus or in particular a subway from A to B you can miss out on some of the local gems and quirks that give a city its vibe and culture.
Walking holidays are more often associated with hillside hikes and scenic vistas but getting around a city on foot is a great way to explore and get some exercise at the same time. The trick with this is to find a city that’s big enough to have plenty to do, but small enough for you to navigate and get a sense of during your stay. Here are ten for you to take a stroll around...
The Georgian architecture and friendly vibe of Dublin can’t be beaten and the best way to discover this to put on your walking shoes, pack your brolly and head out for the day. Most of the city’s main historical attractions and museums are located in walking distance of each other while the coastal suburbs such as Howth and Dalkey provide incredible seaside hill walks where you can take in the view of Dublin Bay. And when you’re tired out from walking, visit one of the many great pubs, or locals as they’re known for a pint of the black stuff to quench your thirst.
Book a homestay in Dublin.
Image courtesy of Paul.
Barcelona is renowned for its dramatic architecture and the city very much has a distinctive feeling in each or its neighbourhoods or barrios. Start walking from the Park Guell in the north of the city and gradually make your way down through the district of Gracià, out into the boulevards of Passeig de Gracià and the main squares of the city, then keep heading through the Gothic Quarter until you hit the sea. The standard of well-priced and delicious food on offer in this city is really top notch to start in the morning and use your walking route a way to sample some of the cities many great cafes, bars, gelaterias and everything in between.
Book a homestay in Barcelona.
Image courtesy of John Henderson.
If you like hills, you will love Seattle. The West Coast city is a very manageable size to get around by foot and has a couple of great markets for you to stop in on your travels. Head towards Pike Place Market near the harbour to start your day and get to know the Downtown region. Like many U.S. cities, Seattle is based on a grid-system so even for newcomers it should be relatively easy to get around.
Book a homestay in Seattle.
Another hilly hotspot, Edinburgh’s cobbled historic streets have a real sense of character to them and an old world field. City breaks can of course be taken all year-round (or more accurately, whenever you get the chance!) but there is a particularly great vibe around this city during winter. Grab a hot coffee to go in the morning to warm you up and finish your self-styled walking tour with a hot toddy in one of the city’s many great bars.
Book a homestay in Edinburgh.
Image courtesy of David McSpadden.
One of the biggest tourist destinations in the world, Paris is probably the city most idealised and associated with being explored on foot. One of the great things about Paris (and really there are so many) the variety of independent, local shops that exist around the city. Everything from croissants to books, antiques and sportswear can be bought from an expert. Start from the Seine and snake your way north or south to discover these local gems and whatever you do, don’t forget to make it your business to stop off in your local boulangerie or patisserie to get the breads and pastries that make this city so famous.
Book a homestay in Paris.
The most commonly-known image of Prague is that of its cobbled streets of the old town and this is of course a stunning place to start your discovery of this compact city. If you have the time however you should definitely head into the Nové Mesto, or new town to get a feel for the more modern side of the city. It may not have the quaintness of the old town’s cobbled streets and famous clock tower but it gives you a more authentic look at Czech life. The restaurants in this region are often more interesting and reasonably-priced than those in the tourist areas around the old town. Try Lemon Leaf for a pad thai or U Sudu for drinks.
Book a homestay in Prague.
Everyone knows that the Dutch love their bikes and if you’re looking for a fast way to pack in as much as you can for your time in Amsterdam, a bike tour is definitely the way to go. If you’d rather take things at a slower pace though, the flat streets of Amsterdam are ideal for walking and allow you to soak up a lot more than you would whizzing past on a bike. Follow the banks of the canals and make sure to bring your camera to take in the sights. Start at the Albert Cuyp Markt in the morning and criss-cross along the canals to take the city.
Book a homestay in Amsterdam.
Image courtesy of la citta vita.
While other German cities such as Berlin and Hamburg have a distinctively modern feel, Munich is very much old world. From the stunning Bavarian architecture, the pedestrianised centre or the gently-moving trams, there’s something very relaxing about this city. Provided you don’t come in peak season for Oktoberfest, Munich is pretty easy to get around by foot. Start at Karlsplatz and make you way around the town before ending the day with a drink in the Augustiner Bruastuben on Landsbergerstrasse.
Book a homestay in Munich.
While several of the cities in this list feature broad, brightly-lit boulevards for you to explore, the opposite is true of Marrakech. This small city, with its narrow, winding laneways can only really be discovered on foot. The souks, or markets are the most frequently recommended spot for you to wander around and you definitely should but if you’re in any way interested in history, then Marrakech is a city you will love. The Ben Youssef Medersa is a must see, and if you’re able to take the heat, the Marjorelle Gardens are a must-see.
Book a homestay in Marrakech.
Often overlooking in favour of the Portuguese capital Lisbon, Porto is a small city that packs a punch, in particular if you’re a food lover. The most obvious local produce to sample is the famous port wine but the seafood and fresh fruit and vegetables are of a brilliant quality. Stroll along the romantic Rua das Flores and head to the Praça do Infante Dom Henrique where the food market sells the local speciality, tripe.
Book a homestay in Porto
Cover image courtesy of Giuseppe Milo.