Okay, I admit it: I am a city girl. I’ll take concrete and twinkling nighttime lights over too much greenery any day. But that does not mean that I don’t love walking. And here I mean walking; not strolling around Paris — although that is lovely — but walking as in striding steadily ahead, getting a little out of breath, and being unhindered by traffic lights or too many other pedestrians. However, I still want to be close to old and new architecture, please.
So, over the years, I have become an expert in searching out — and finding — some decent walks. I’ve even found hikes (although normal shoes such as sneakers will suffice) in close proximity to or even right within cities around the world.
Here I have collated some of my favorites for you to search out. They are not too strenuous, there’s not too much countryside, and a city is always within easy stepping distance.
1. Thames Path
The Thames Path in its entirety, following the River Thames from inception to estuary, is roughly 80 miles long. But, as this is about urban hiking trails, I only want to tell you about the stretch within London. I prefer to walk along the stretch starting at the O2 Arena, famous for James Bond’s The World is not Enough, past Greenwich and along the Southwark area. The area is known for Tate Modern, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, views across to St. Paul’s Cathedral, the London Eye, and Westminster.
It is just under an 8-mile walk, but flat and alongside the river, which makes for easy and fast walking. That said, there are so many distractions along the way that you should plan a whole day and stop for lunch and any odd sightseeing detours. As you near London, after the stretch between Greenwich and the Tower of London, the path turns into a veritable sightseeing walk.
There are many separate sections of the Thames Path, all of which can be taken bit by bit and joined up. It’s all connected by public transportation.
2. Coulée Verte René-Dumont
Paris is great for strolling, walking tours, and proper, longer hikes. Right behind the Opéra Bastille, an abandoned railway line sits above some lovely arches filled with shops, restaurants, and art galleries. Climb up and you will find the original High Line — the same one the New York High Line was modeled after. The Coulée Verte, also known as the Promenade Plantée, is a nearly 3-mile-long walk.
It is beautifully planted, as gorgeous in spring as in summer and fall. It takes you from Bastille all the way along an elevated path, between buildings, through tunnels, all the way to the suburb of Vincennes. From there, you can add another mile and head through the park to the Château de Vincennes, a medieval fortress where you can catch the Metro Line 1 back into the city center.
This is a gorgeous walk, very easy for all fitness levels, with Paris architecture delighting you along the way. You’ll see huge statues on the police department, typical rooftops, modern architecture, and old train stations popping up at intervals. In spring, don’t miss the Jardin de Reuilly-Paul-Pernin along the way, which in April is filled with dark-red blossoms.
3. Peak Circle Walk
Hong Kong is not only one of my favorite cities, but it is also home to one of my favorite urban walks. The Peak Circle Walk comes with some of the best views in the world, having the entirety of Hong Kong, its islands, and waterways laid out below you. The walk is a nice circular walk, but it has one severe disadvantage: It is a little short.
With only just over 2 miles, there is the temptation to walk around twice because it is so lovely. But then, you have all sorts of other fun things to do up on the peak — from the fun funicular ride up and down to viewpoints, shops, and restaurants. Maybe take a walk initially, have lunch, and then walk around again?
4. Cinta Costera 3
Panama City, Panama
This is another walk where the city skyline is the main draw. Panama City’s Cinta Costera 3 is a 4.3-mile circular walk along a busy beltway road. But it has parkland running alongside it and is popular with runners, bicyclists, families, and picnickers. Running in a near circle through the sea outside of Casco Viejo — the old town — you have the old harbor and the modern Panama skyline on one side with the open sea on the other.
But for urban walking enthusiasts, there is an added bonus because, if you start at the southern end of Casco Viejo, you have completed the breakwater walk. You then can continue along Cinta Costera 2 and Cinta Costera 1, all the way into the modern end of Panama City through beautiful parkland and the selfie-inducing Panama sign.
5. Bondi Coogee Beach
Now this is a truly stunning walk. Last time I walked along the Bondi to Coogee Walk, I even spotted a whale in the distance. Roughly 4 miles, this is a windy coastal path with a couple of manageable hills and tons of absolutely superb scenery.
Starting off at the iconic Bondi Beach, past the famous Icebergs swimming pool and Mark’s Park, walk down to the lovely little Tamarama Beach, complete with a little bistro and around the corner from Bronte Beach. Continue on past the rather scenic Waverly Cemetery overlooking the sea, past the picturesque Clovelly Beach, and around Gordon’s Bay to Coogee. From here, buses take you back to Bondi or into the city.
In October each year, the absolutely wonderful Sculpture by the Sea takes over the stretch between Bondi and Tamarama. You’ll find sculptures dotted along the path, in the cliffs, and on the beaches, making for a perfect outdoor gallery.
6. Margaret Island
Just past the imposing château-like parliament building in Budapest lies Margaret Island. It is the island most boat tours round before heading back to Budapest but few visitors ever set foot on — despite the Romans already having appreciated this secret garden within the city way back in history.
The island is connected to the mainland by a bridge at either end and you can walk down from the appropriately named Margaret Bridge (Margit Hid) to enjoy the dense greenery steps away from bustling Budapest. The 1.5-mile walk will take you about an hour. But chances are, it will take longer because there are many scenic spots to stop off and you’ll be tempted to sit on a bench overlooking the Danube. Don’t forget to bring a picnic!
7. Belgrade To Zemun
The lesser-known European capital of Belgrade offers not only a great place for a city break but also a hike along the Danube — from one capital to the former border town between empires, Zemun. Once on the border between the Ottoman and Austrian Empires, Zemun lies roughly 8 miles from the center of Belgrade.
The walk along the river path takes you past the museum of contemporary art, countless houseboats transformed into restaurants, and finally into the tiny, colorful town of Zemun. From here, buses take you back to Belgrade. Whether you want to walk out from Belgrade or take public transportation to Zemun and then head back, make sure to stop at one of the scenic restaurants in Zemun for lunch with views across the gentle Danube.