Eight Small Cities that are Great for Walking

Seeing a city by foot is a great to orientate yourself and to start to understand the overall vibe of its character.

With a little exploration, you might just find yourself at the doorstep of a great hidden café, spectacular vista, or the newest restaurant waiting for its Michelin star. Here are eight smaller cities that are great for walking, regardless of sunny skies or rain clouds.

You’ll find a mix of cities that have charming and compact town centers, as well as cities that are otherwise spread out, but have one or more excellent neighborhoods where those on foot are able to soak up a far better ambiance than those only driving through.

If you can think of a great one that we’ve left off, please let us know in the comments below the article.

Lille, France

Lille France
Offering Parisian-style charm on a far smaller scale, the city of Lille is mostly known by travelers for its massive international railway hub. Just away from the high-speed rails is a charming city centre with not one but two beautiful main squares, Place du Général-de-Gaulle and Place du Théâtre.

Stroll around the cafes and bookseller stalls before heading to the cobblestone streets of Vieux Lille, the old quarter.  One could easily spend an entire afternoon exploring the nearby la Citadelle, a site surrounding a set of former military fortifications.

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getting around in France

Queenstown, New Zealand

Queenstown, New Zealand
In a country that prides itself on outdoor tourism, it is no surprise that Queenstown takes top marks for offering a variety of easy to access trails. Start by taking the Skyline Gondola up above the city to enjoy the expansive views of the stunning landscape – and choose one of several trails back down.

No trip is complete with a wander along the shimmering blue waters of Lake Wakatipu. Start or finish your shoreline walk at Queenstown Gardens, in the direct center of town but a quiet refuge from locals and tourists.

>> Read our Queenstown travel guide
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Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Montreal Quebec
One of the most bustling cities in French speaking Quebec, Montreal might be cold much of the year but there are still some great places to spend time outdoors. The Vieux Port area is a good area for a relaxing stroll, whereas the more athletic visitor will want to head uphill to the hip, trendy neighborhood of Plateau-Mont-Royal.

Visitors of all abilities should make plenty of time for the Montreal Botanic Gardens, which includes one of the largest Chinese gardens outside of China.

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San Diego, California, United States

San Diego
Most tourists to San Diego will want to just linger near the bay, watching the boats drift in and out.  The colorful waterfront, called the Embarcadero, hosts the Seaport Village, offering shopping and dining. However, some great sites can also be found in town.

Balboa Park is the second oldest park in the United States and is full of grandiose architecture, extensive botanics, and a variety of museums.  Alternatively, the historic Gaslamp district has many Victorian-flavored buildings with loads of historical flair.

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Levanto, Italy

Levanto is a gateway city to the Cinque Terre, five popular fishing villages connected by a series of overcrowded coastal trails. Few realise that the masses can be avoided by staying put in Levanto, whose coastal trails are somewhat more rugged but empty, despite offering the same great views and dazzling sunsets.

Trails from town include both lower level routes next to the shore as well as higher-level paths in the peaks of the neighboring hills.

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Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom

Scotland’s capital is surrounded by so much green space that almost anywhere in town feels like you are on the verge of heading into the countryside. Edinburgh’s historic cobblestone streets offer easy access to several of the seven hills of the city, including both Arthur’s Seat – the highest point in the area – as well as Calton Hill, topped by the National Monument, a partial replica of the Parthenon in Athens.

Back down on level ground is the quaint and scenic Water of Leith, a walkway straddling an inner-city river, complete with miniature waterfalls.

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Macau, China

As the most densely populated region in the world, Macau might seem an unlikely candidate for a walker’s paradise. However, being squashed underneath the casino scene, this administrative region is home to the remnants of a tiny Portuguese enclave, the only one of its kind in Asia.

Streets are lined with skyscrapers layered with balconies, each covered potted plants and drying laundry. One can easily walk from the iconic Ruins of Saint Paul’s down to the A-Ma Temple, both favorites on the tourist itinerary, being sure to make stops for those tasty Portuguese egg tarts along the way.

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Basel, Switzerland

It would be enough just to wander and admire the terrific bridges crossing the Rhine just off Basel city center. Being a medieval city, it is extremely pedestrian friendly even though some tourists might find the steep and winding cobblestone streets to be a fitness challenge.

Journeying via bus and gondola to the Wasserfallen is a must-do, as this will give you access many of the 744 miles of walking trails that surround Basel.

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>> Read about what to eat in Switzerland

Read more about walking on your travels:

Additional photo credits:

Lille by SimonK on Flickr ,
Basel by Rich Childs on Flickr ,
Montreal by mtlp on Flickr,
San Diego by cooljuno411 on Flickr ,
Macau by Manogamo on Flickr

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