When your feet hit 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 crowds go right. You can make personal discoveries and observations that will render a permanent place in your heart.
Here are my 10 favorite walkable 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 I walk everywhere. Paris is an ideal city to explore on foot. Walk along the banks of the Seine, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and pass ancient and iconic monuments. Wander from Ile Saint Louis past sites, such as Sainte Chapelle and the Cathedral of Notre Dame, all the way to the Eiffel Tower. The unique bridges crossing the Seine are the perfect place to watch the daily life of Parisians.
Paris is full of fantastic neighborhoods to discover on foot. Embrace the notion of being a French flaneur, “someone who wanders aimlessly and observes life.” The best areas to “flaneur” are Saint Germain des Prés, Montmartre, and the Marais. With all this walking, it is advisable to savor that extra croissant or the perfect millefeuille at the pâtisserie shop on the corner.
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 for the main square — Market (Markt) Square — and climb 366 steps to the top of the medieval Belfry. The panoramic views from the top of the bell tower are breathtaking.
Continue exploring the center of Bruges. Discover cobbled streets lined with colorful stepped gable façades and pass over bridges that cross the canal. Soak up the laid-back ambiance of willow trees drooping over the water, horse-drawn carriages clip-clopping along narrow streets, and the ever-present scent of hot waffles to devour. Rest your feet and take a boat cruise along the picturesque canals and pause for a local beer at one of the many cafés.
Be sure to stop at the Quai of the Rosary (Rozenhoedkaai), one of the most picture-perfect spots in Bruges. All that walking? Surely indulging in some artisanal Belgian chocolate is a just reward!
3. Lisbon, Portugal
Lisbon is a fabulous city for walking but, be forewarned. Lisbon is built on seven hills overlooking the Tagus River. Meandering through this capital city is a must but it is recommended to intersperse your walking with trams. The stunning historical yellow trams and funiculars can take you quickly to the hilltops.
The best neighborhood to explore on foot is Lisbon’s oldest district, Alfama. A labyrinth of cobbled streets, tiny plazas, unique boutiques, and steep stairways characterize this part of the city. Stop to enjoy a sunset at the fabulous viewpoint Miradouro de Santa Luzia looking out over Lisbon’s red-tiled rooftops, multiple bell towers, and the Tagus River.
As you wander in the evening, keep your ears open for the melancholy strains of fado — ancient Portuguese folk music — emanating from behind closed doors. Save some walking energy for exploring the Bairro Alto and Chiado neighborhoods, and the São Jorge Castle. All that walking? There are delicious egg custard tarts (pastéis de nata) awaiting you!
4. Seville, Spain
Charming Seville gets you at every turn. Wandering past orange trees, strolling amidst a tangle of tiny medieval streets, counting church spires, and admiring store windows full of flamenco dresses makes Seville the perfect walking city. Climb the Giralda Tower for panoramic views — including the bull ring — marvel at the enormous cathedral, and don’t miss dillydallying in the ancient Jewish district.
Walk through a UNESCO Heritage Site, the Real Alcázar, which is both a palace and a fortification. One of the best examples of Mudéjar architecture in Spain, the tile work and archways will leave you speechless. The birthplace of flamenco, try heading to the Triana district on the far side of the Guadalquivir River to watch the seductive dancing. In Seville, stopping for tapas is the perfect opportunity to refuel.
5. Venice, Italy
It goes without saying that you’re going to 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. Wander over a multitude of romantic, arched bridges and linger long enough to watch the activity on the canal. Stroll past magnificent architecture and get lost in a labyrinth of tiny streets.
You’ll marvel at the ease of finding an off-the-beaten-path Venetian neighborhood where cats are lazing and children are kicking a soccer ball in a tree-lined plaza. Piazza San Marco is a must; along with the Rialto Bridge and the Galleria dell’Accademia. Just remember: In Venice, an exquisite gelato awaits the walker. In fact, there’s gelato at every turn — perfect to replenish the curious traveler.
6. Prague, Czech Republic
Prague, also known as “The City of 500 Spires,” is an enchanting town to explore on foot. The main square in Prague, Old Time Square, is lined with beautiful façades and is the ultimate place to people watch! From here, most of Prague’s landmarks are within a 30-minute walk. Stroll past the 600-year-old Astronomical Clock, through the Jewish quarter, and along cobbled streets that wind and turn. Keep your eyes open for fascinating street art installations such as Hanging Man in Prague by the provocative sculptor David Černy.
Cross the Vltava River on the magnificent Charles Bridge lined with eye-catching statues and filled with entertainers. Walk up the hill to Prague Castle — a UNESCO World Heritage Site part of the largest castle complex in the world. Don’t miss the John Lennon graffiti wall. Wander to your heart’s content in delightful Prague.
7. Córdoba, Spain
In the spring, Córdoba is full of magnificent flower-laden patios. There is, after all, the yearly Patio or Courtyard Competition. Bring your walking shoes as Córdobans open the exquisite courtyards of their homes to the public. Wander through Córdoba, connecting with the people and enjoying a festival that began in 1918.
Córdoba 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 ancient Jewish quarter. No trip to Córdoba is complete without visiting the Mezquita, an enormous cathedral built in the middle of an ancient mosque. Striped archway after archway and golden mosaics leave an unforgettable impression. Wander the day away in Córdoba. In fact, embrace the slow-paced Andalusian lifestyle and spend a few days.
8. Verona, Italy
Verona, Italy, is an absolutely perfect city to stroll. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is a maze of cobbled streets lined with intriguing façades, angel statues at every turn, a Roman amphitheater, and ancient bridges that span the Adige River.
Known as the setting for Shakespeare’s tragic love story Romeo and Juliet, visitors flock to see Juliet’s house. The romantic in you might want to garner a quick peek at Juliet’s balcony. But save the bulk of your time to stroll, wander, and soak up the laid-back vibe of Verona. It’s an explorer’s paradise with unexpected gems at every turn.
9. Strasbourg, France
Charming Strasbourg delights its visitors with its lazy meandering canals, quaint building façades with German influence, and the magnificent Strasbourg Cathedral. Let the cobbled streets lead you to uncover authentic medieval Strasbourg. Don’t miss the area called Petite France, where half-timbered houses line the canals and flower-laden balconies add to the picture-perfect scene. The entire center island of Strasbourg is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it’s no wonder.
Pro Tip: If you happen to be in Europe in the month of December, Strasbourg holds the most amazing Christmas market.
10. Florence, Italy
No list of walkable cities in Europe would be complete without mentioning Florence. When your feet hit the streets of Florence, the discoveries are endless. The top sites in Florence are all easily accessed on foot. Don’t miss the unforgettable Duomo, the Ponte Vecchio, the Palazzo Vecchio, and the Accademia Gallery where you will find Michelangelo’s 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 feel for a European city. There are serpentine cobbled streets, gorgeous façades, enticing cafés, and always an unexpected experience that could never have been predicted. Those are often the most memorable travel souvenirs. Pack your walking shoes, get out early before the heat, and see what you discover!