View of city street as a pedestrian
Worldwide

The world’s most walkable cities

How to get around easily is any traveller’s first concern when they land in a new city, and when the answer is simply ‘by walking’, you can engage in the full sensory experience of your surroundings from the get-go. Navigating transport systems takes some time, so it’s liberating to be able to simply follow your feet. Riverside walkways, pedestrian shopping streets and green spaces for a breath of fresh air make these cities ideal for exploring on foot

Marrakech medina

Marrakech

Walking is just about the only option in Marrakech’s bustling Medina – the central old town and souk, where sensory overload stops you in your tracks. Floor-to-ceiling displays of lanterns dazzle alongside mounds of spices, and slippers and satchels are piled high in the many leather shops – while the main square, Jemaa el-Fnaa, heaves with musicians, snake charmers and insistent henna artists come nightfall. Take a taxi or a horse-drawn carriage for any trip further afield, such as to the intricately decorated Bahia Palace or the Jardin Majorelle (30 minutes on foot from the Medina, if you do want to walk).

Stay at Mandarin Oriental, Marrakech where your seemingly removed, tranquil surroundings are within easy reach of the heart of the city.

An avenue in New York

New York City

It’s a cliché that most cities in the US are more friendly for cars than pedestrians. But NYC bucks the trend – and was ranked the most walkable city in the US in 2020 by Walk Score, an organisation that advocates for urban walkability. In much of Manhattan, at least, it’s almost impossible to get lost on the numbered street grid (among the notable exceptions are the delights of the West Village, where it’s easy to get disoriented but still a pleasure to visit on foot). The famous subway system also makes it simple to break up a series of long walks with a quick change of neighbourhood scenery. And, while walking a few blocks can be deceptively far, there’s always plenty to see – from the characterful pizza parlours of Little Italy to Art Deco masterpieces such as the Chrysler Building and the Rockefeller Plaza. The pedestrianisation of Times Square in 2014 added another reason to you to swap your yellow cab for sneakers.

Stay at Mandarin Oriental, New York, overlooking Central Park. It’s the perfect place from which to take a long walk down the length of Manhattan island.

A waterside promenade in Guangzhou

Guangzhou

This wonderfully sprawling Chinese city, on the Pearl River northwest of Hong Kong, has one of the highest levels of walking in the world. That’s not least thanks to the city’s redevelopment of the riverbanks, where six pathways were connected to create an ecological corridor that links tourist attractions and local venues via a whopping 60 miles of greenways. Then there are several historical walking tours to get stuck into: take a stroll around Baomo Garden, filled with koi ponds and ancient structures, or hit the pedestrianised Beijing Road, which is lined with shops and street food stands.

Stay at Mandarin Oriental, Guangzhou in the upscale, creative district of Tianhe, to walk its diverse, stimulating shopping streets or wander in the South China Botanical Garden.

Paris Plages

Paris

You can walk from one side of central Paris to the other in two hours, and approaching the city on foot is the best way to take in the living museum that is the French capital. From the shaded benches of the Places des Vosges to the designer shops of the Champs-Élysées and the shopping arcades lining the rue de Rivoli, it’s all on an easily navigable grid. The ongoing Paris piétons project is leading to the redesign of several city squares, and the Place de la République was transformed from a roundabout back into a square in 2013. Meanwhile, Paris Plages sees a temporary urban beach on the Seine appear each year.

Stay at Mandarin Oriental, Paris close to the pleasures of Tuileries Garden and the grand square of Place Vendôme.

Camden Canal in London

London

When you’re relying on the network of fast Tube trains shooting beneath street level, it’s easy to forget that central London is surprisingly walkable. Starting from Big Ben, you can stroll all along the South Bank, past buskers, street food trucks and the London Eye, to Tower Bridge and Shakespeare’s Globe – all without leaving the riverside. Then there are the canals of Camden and Hackney, and the great parks of Hampstead Heath and Richmond, all reserved for travellers on foot.

Stay at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London, is, as its name suggests, right on the edge of Hyde Park: one of the capital’s ultimate green walk destinations, while also being close to the best shops and major museums of central London.

Hong Kong harbour

Hong Kong

Amble through the Central district, where charming 19th-century buildings are dwarfed by dazzling skyscrapers, or stroll along the historic harbour to Kowloon – where the colourful back streets will lead you to some of Hong Kong’s most vibrant food, crafts and flower markets – and you won’t be surprised to learn that Hong Kong was ranked as one of the world’s most walkable cities in 2020. The study, by the US-based Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, looked in detail at more than 1,000 cities. As in many cities, the Covid-19 pandemic is thought to have accelerated a move away from the habitual use of public transport and towards traversing Hong Kong on foot. Here, the habit has stuck. The city’s residents take an average of 7,000 steps a day – the highest level in the world.

Stay at Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong overlooking Victoria Harbour.

 

Forget the cab and take a walk instead

The best year-round London walks

You can’t beat the experience of seeing London on foot. Here are the city walks that are worth a wander at any time of year