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Kaid Benfield’s Blog

Images from the world's 10 (or 11) most walkable cities

Kaid Benfield

Posted November 23, 2010

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  walkable Geneva (by: Carrie Cizauskas, creative commons license)

Frommer’s just came out with their list of the world’s ten most walkable cities.  Compact, urbane, mixed-use, resilient, every one of them.  For each city, I searched the creative commons pool for an image that I thought captured its walkability, and I am now delighted to present them to you. 

Before I do, though, I would be remiss if I didn’t add that we all probably have a candidate or three to add to that list.  That’s part of the fun of lists like this.  Me, I’m adding Geneva (photo above), which has all the key ingredients that Frommer’s picks have, plus one that most don’t:  an amazingly walkable scale, because of its somewhat smaller size.  On a clear day you can see Mont Blanc, too, and every day you can see Lake Geneva while you walk.  Not too shabby.

In the order presented by Frommer’s on Huffington Post:

  walkable Florence (by: Thomas Hawk, creative commons license) 


“Though the cobblestone streets may not be ideal for breaking in that new pair of Gucci stilettos, you can only really discover the soul of this historic city by foot.”

  St-Eustache, walkable Paris (c2010 FK Benfield) 


“It's almost easier to highlight where not to walk, as you can find beauty and authentic experiences throughout the city.”

  walkable Dubrovnik (by: Tambako the Jaguar) 


“The entire old town of Dubrovnik is UNESCO World Heritage-listed so you may spend hours covering a relatively short distance.”

  walking the High Line in NYC (by: John Weiss, creative commons license) 

New York:

“New York City is a place where the best -- and often fastest -- mode of transportation is your own two legs.”

  walkable Vancouver (by: Kenny Louie, creative commons license) 


“You won't be disappointed in Vancouver, a city that seems to have been designed with exercise in mind.”

  walkable Melbourne (by: Philip Bouchard, creative commons license) 


“Walking around 'The Tan' (Royal Botanic Gardens) is a Melbourne institution.”

  walkable Sydney (by: Amanda Slater, creative commons license) 


“Watch the streetscape and the types of people change along one of the city's major fashion and entertainment thoroughfares.”

  Quincy Market, walkable Boston (by: Tom Simpson, creative commons license) 


“A history lesson at every intersection, a magnificent harbor, and pedestrian-friendly streets make Boston a great city for walking.”

  walkable Munich (by: Hunter Desportes, creative commons license) 


“With a largely pedestrian-friendly city center, the charm of ornamental public buildings, and expansive parks, Munich lets you experience Bavarian city life.”

  walkable Edinburgh (by: vgm8383, creative commons license) 


“Steeped in history but still possessing a cutting-edge contemporary feel, Edinburgh is compact enough to discover on foot.”

The choices and the blurbs on each (significantly longer in the HuffPo post, with recommendations where to walk, along with Frommer's own images) are written more with the visitor in mind than the resident.  This is Frommer’s, after all.  But I’m reminded of Steve Mouzon’s “tourist test,” which holds that cities that have become popular vacation destinations were built as places to live first, and that people wanting to vacation somewhere is an indicator of a great place.  (See Steve’s comment on my joint post with Lee Epstein, written several months back about characteristics of resilient places that we like to visit.)

Any nominations from readers to add to Frommer’s list of most walkable cities?

Move your cursor over the images for credit information.

Kaid Benfield writes (almost) daily about community, development, and the environment.  For more posts, see his blog's home page

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Ken FirestoneNov 23 2010 10:42 AM

Washington, D.C., Chicago

Jason ClampetNov 23 2010 11:33 AM


Geneva's an excellent addition. I'd also throw in Barcelona and Copenhagen and note that small and mid-size towns (from Portland, ME to Arnhem, the Netherlands) support walkers really well.


Jon ReedsNov 24 2010 06:21 AM

What about Venice? Despite the canals it's surprisingly easy to walk around, better than Florence in some ways.

PaytonNov 25 2010 04:22 PM

I would hope that the "world's most walkable cities" would have been a little more geographically diverse. South American cities have been leading the way on bicycle, bus, and pedestrian facilities for a while, and no less than Holly Whyte wrote about Tokyo's streets: "Mile after mile, they are consistently more interesting than ours. In the Shinjuku district there are more streets to savor than in most U.S. cities put together, and for sheer sensory impact there is nothing to match its back alleys."

Erkin OzberkNov 26 2010 12:05 AM

I'd vote for Washington, DC. Lots of short blocks/intersections, wide sidewalks, street trees and public spaces.

Surprised to Dubrovnik on there, only because its beautiful UNESCO tourist core is surrounded by sprawling villa development. In Croatia, I would give a shout out to Zagreb, with it's tram-laden carfree core and alley/staircases marked as named streets on the map. Croatian cities aren't walkable for everyone though, but Frommer's isn't concerned with the very young or elderly inhabitants of the places on their list...

BrianNov 26 2010 04:14 AM

I too was hoping for geographic diversity.

This is such a Euro/Western centered list, like everything urban planning. Too bad.

I would definitely include Tokyo on this list.

DavidNov 27 2010 02:40 AM

Spain has been taking the urban planning world by storm lately, not just in terms of new light rail, subways, or plazas, but in the walkability of their cities.

Why are Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia, or Sevilla not on this list?

Also, @Brian has an excellent point. This listed is very Euro/Western dominant.

Where are Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Istanbul, and Tokyo?

Robert MolineNov 29 2010 02:54 PM

Terrific piece -- but I hoped San Francisco would be included. 815,000+ citizens living on 49 square miles giving a population density of 16.6+ thousand. Best way to see and experience this compact place is on foot. Residential neighborhoods, the downtown, the tourist landscapes, always the juxtaposition of water and land forms, with architecture are all worthy of study or simple aesthetic enjoyment. We can walk by ourselves or as part of one of the many walks led by City Guides docents. It's probably not an example of Mumford's ideal city but it comes close, in my view.

Kaid @ NRDCNov 29 2010 03:10 PM

Robert: must have been the hills. ;)

Although everyone has a point about geographic diversity, I think the most encouraging thing is that there are so many candidates of great urban places to draw from. We all have our favorites, and we all can make a case. Any selection of ten is going to end up being arbitrary. Maybe some research by NRDC's sustainability team is in order!

george@stlouisNov 29 2010 07:07 PM

Barcelona is a definite addition. London shouldn't be ruled out.

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