I love to travel, and since my mid-30s, I’ve also loved to run. I find both passions help expand my horizons, push my comfort zone, and keep me nimble — mentally and physically. Without fail, if I’m headed to a new destination, I pack running clothes, charge up my Garmin, and wear my favorite sneakers on the plane.
Sometimes the weather or my schedule forces me to hit the hotel treadmill (aka the deadmill), but I far prefer running outside. It helps me get to know a new spot all the better, see it with a fresh perspective, and make some terrific memories while I get my workout in.
Here are nine of my favorite places to run around the world:
1. Boston, Massachusetts
The Boston Marathon is like the Superbowl for distance runners, and I’ve been fortunate to qualify for and run it once. From the moment you queue up in Boston Common to catch your bus to Hopkinton, you know you’re in for something special. The 26.2-mile route weaves runners in and out of historic New England towns, through Wellesley College and its famous “Scream Tunnel,” past Fenway Park, and finally to the heart of Back Bay for a finish on Boylston Street. Everyone who’s run the course has their own Boston story. The city will always be special to me.
2. Budapest, Hungary
I visited Hungary’s capital in the winter, and it was downright frosty. I’ll never forget blazing down Andrássy Avenue, past weary youngsters headed home from the clubs, and older couples headed out to buy their morning bread. I spotted the homes where classical composers Zoltán Kodály and Franz Liszt once lived and worked, and ended up at the impressive Heroes’ Square — a set of imposing bronze statues depicting kings and other important Hungarian leaders. From there, I entered Budapest’s City Park with its museums and Vajdahunyad Castle. Also in the park were the city’s famed Széchenyi Baths, where I returned later in the day for a post-run soak!
3. Istanbul, Turkey
Straddling two continents, Istanbul is an incredible mix of culture and history that truly feels like a global crossroads. The Romans, Byzantines, and eventually the Ottomans ruled this area for centuries, and remnants of each empire can be seen throughout the city. I loved running right along the Bosphorus, Istanbul’s beautiful strait that separates Europe and Asia. Hearing the haunting, gorgeous mid-morning call to prayer as I jogged along was an experience I’ll keep stashed away forever.
4. New Orleans, Louisiana
With its heat and humidity, running in the Big Easy can be anything but. However, if you can hack it, New Orleans pays you back and then some. One of my favorite routes is along the streetcar line up St. Charles Avenue. It gets you out of the congested French Quarter and into the city’s more residential areas. You’ll be shaded by enormous live oaks and run by some of America’s most beautiful homes. City Park — with its dedicated running paths, expansive green space, and Café du Monde location — is also terrific; especially if you need a sugary post-run pick-me-up!
5. New York City, New York
Anytime I head to New York, I pack at least one running outfit. I usually stay in Manhattan and make a beeline straight for Central Park, the perfect place to get those miles in. Once, when I was training for a marathon, I planned an early-morning 9-mile route that included a full loop. But I didn’t check to see if anything else was going on in the park that day. When I arrived and began my run, I kept getting passed by people with race numbers. It dawned on me that a half-marathon was also taking place! Not wanting to be mistaken for a bandit, I changed up my route and headed further into the park. It was an experience I wasn’t expecting, but one that still makes me chuckle.
6. London, England
Last holiday season, my family took a quick break to London, staying at a lovely hotel near King’s Cross. I adore the city, having been there many times. But this location ended up having a perfect running route. A quick jog past the British Library, University College London, and historic town homes landed me in Regents Park. Thankfully, the winter weather wasn’t bitter but quite mild. I was delighted to run through the beautifully manicured gardens, past the cricket fields, and of course, to admire all the avian residents of Boating Lake. I truly felt like a local and have never loved London more.
7. Rhine River, Germany
I love to keep up my fitness, especially when I travel. And I certainly got the chance during an incredible Rhine River Christmas Market cruise with Viking River Cruises. We stopped in half a dozen markets and I certainly had more than my fair share of sausages, sweets, and gluhwein. More mornings than not during the sail, I woke up early to pound the pavement on the top deck. And on one of those mornings, we slowly sailed a section of the Upper Middle Rhine Valley, crammed with castles and fortresses situated along both banks. As I went lap after lap, I was flabbergasted by both the beauty and history of this stretch of the river. It was a run I won’t soon forget.
8. Puerto Ayora, Ecuador
My visit to the Galapagos Islands was full of pinch-me moments. While we decided to stay land-based in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz, we took daily snorkeling trips and couldn’t believe the gorgeous water and equally gorgeous creatures who lived in and around it. From schools of colorful tangs, flocks of blue-footed boobies, and of course the giant tortoises, nature’s beauty was evident everywhere you looked.
Running on the island was also incredible. I followed its only highway toward the highlands, jogging through several small villages. Several times during the 7-mile jaunt, I could spot tortoises looking like slowly advancing tanks off in the distance. It was hot and muggy, so by the time I got to town, I was famished. I happened upon a small market and fortunately had a few coins on me. I bought and wolfed down a tiny red banana. I swear it’s one of the best things I’ve ever eaten.
9. Split, Croatia
Split is a stunner of a city, with its heart set inside a Roman emperor’s summer home. Diocletian’s Palace is still a showcase, famed for its preserved columns, cathedral, and bell tower. While I loved running down the old town’s cobblestone streets straight to the Adriatic, Marjan was an incredible place to run. The locals call the expansive park Split’s “Green Lung,” and it’s a fitting moniker. The peninsula — just west of the city center — is hilly, forested, and offers stunning sea views. A 5-mile perimeter run will also take you by several ancient chapels.
There’s nothing like a run to really acquaint you with a city, no matter where you are in the world. If you treat it as a kind of self-guided tour and not punishment, you’re bound to be both delighted and surprised. The perspective you get from running a spot — being truly on the ground — is something special.