Last Updated on 31st December 2019 by Sophie Nadeau
If you give yourself just one reason to visit Europe, make it the sheer number of cities that are eminently easy to stroll around. Forget hard to navigate metro systems and lose yourself in the kinds of towns and cities that are best seen on your own two feet. From medieval and historic historic fortifications to charming timber-framed towns, here’s your ultimate guide to the best of walkable cities in Europe you must put on your bucket list this year…
Though the Île de France region (i.e. where Paris is located) has one of the largest populations of anywhere in Europe, the city of Paris itself is fairly compact, with many major monuments in close proximity with one another. In fact, the City of Love has one of the highest concentrations of attractions and major sights per square kilometre of any city in the world.
If you’re looking to explore the best of Paris on foot, then be sure to pick one area at a time to explore in order to make the most of your time. For example, Montmartre can easily be explored over the course of an afternoon, while if you’re looking to see the attractions of the Latin Quarter, Île de la Cité, and Le Marais, set aside an entire day so as to be able to see them in their entirety.
Read now: Best free walking tours in Paris
Book now: Montmartre 2-Hour Walking Tour
As the capital city of Catalonia, it’s sure that Barcelona has no shortage of things to see and do. Home to beaches, a wonderful foodie scene (did anyone say tapas?), and of course, the Art Nouveau architecture of Gaudi, Barcelona is a must-see on any venture through Europe.
Once in the city, many of the main touristic districts and eminently walkable, with a personal favourite being that of the Gothic Quarter. So-called thanks to its abundance of Roman ruins, the Barcelona area is characterised by its wealth of narrow cobbled lanes, and smattering of small (but easy to visit) museums.
Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Cool, chic, and ever so different from pretty much every city in the Netherlands, Rotterdam is a must-visit for architecture buffs and foodie lovers alike. Full of futuristic and ever so modern buildings, the city was badly bombed during the Second World War, leaving behind little asides from the Middle Ages church of Grote of Sint-Laurenskerk.
Today, Rotterdam offers up much by way of attractions to visitors, including one of the largest covered market halls in Europe, the chance to discover the city’s many hidden gems, and of course, the opportunity to snap photos of all of the striking architecture. Best explored over the course of a long weekend, you won’t want to miss out on the culture and museum scene.
Book now: Rotterdam Walking Tour and Harbor Cruise
Though perhaps not at the top of everyone’s Europe bucket list, Cologne (or Köln as it is so-called in German) is a city I had the pleasure of visiting earlier this year and soon grew to love much more than I had first expected. Presided over by its oversized Gothic Dom (Cathedral), the rest of the city is home to a myriad of foodie experiences and makes for the perfect base from which to explore the surrounding area.
Best-visited at Christmas time when a series of co-current and themed Christmas markets are held across the city (including an angel themed winter wonderland), not to mention that the city is illuminated with thousands of twinkling lights, Cologne is easy to explore on foot. In order to see all of the city’s major attractions at a leisurely pace (including the ever so Instagrammable Fish Market), you’ll need one to two days.
Read more: The best of Cologne Christmas Markets
Alohomora! If I were to apparate to just one walkable city in the UK, it would be Oxford. Home to one of the most famous universities in the world, the city has also served as the backdrop and inspiration for many a famous movie and literary creation, including the Harry Potter series and Alice in Wonderland.
Characterised by its buttery stone buildings, higgeldy piggeldy pubs, and ease of access as a day trip from London, there is perhaps no city in the UK that is quite as easy to explore via foot as Oxford. Once in the city, be sure not to miss out on highlights such as the Radcliffe Camera (known as Rad Cam locally) and the renowned Ashmolean Museum.
Read more: A Harry Potter Lover’s Guide to Oxford
Book now: Oxford: University and City Walking Tour
Characterised by its slate grey stones and presided over by a castle constructed on the remains of a once active volcano, Edinburgh is easily one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. And if you don’t mind walking up a hill (or two), then the city is pleasant to explore on foot on account of the sheer number of beautiful buildings and quirky hidden gems to be spied.
For the absolute best views of the city, be sure to head to Edinburgh Castle. From there, make your way along the Royal Mile (a route that’s so-designated since it’s roughly a mile long and links Edinburgh Castle with Holyrood Palace, the official residence of the Royal Family in Scotland), and soak up the sights and sounds of Scotland’s capital city.
Situated in Eastern Europe, Prague is the ultimate dream destination if you want the perfect weekend break with friends, or perhaps even a romantic getaway. There are several historic areas of the Czech Republic capital city that you’ll enjoy exploring on foot, including the Old Town (where the great astronomical clock is to be found) and Prague Castle, a UNESCO listed site boasting over a millennia worth of history.
Aside from the beautiful blend of Renaissance meets Gothic architecture, lending the city to be a photography lover’s paradise, top highlights of Prague include the iconic 14th-century Charles Bridge, St Vitus Cathedral, and a handful of museums that are among the best of Europe. And if you’re a veggie there’s further good news as Prague is easily one of the best vegan cities in Europe!
Read now: Where to find the best view in Prague
Pretty, historic, and off the beaten tourist track: Pavia isn’t at the top of everyone’s European bucket list, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t add it to yours! Located in Northern Italy, the sleepy town boasts a Duomo that Da Vanci had a hand in designing, as well as one of the most beautiful Renaissance buildings in Europe, the Certosa di Pavia, just a short train ride away.
The capital of the Emerald Isle more than deserves its place on the list thanks to the compact nature of the city, not to mention that Dublin is fairly flat and all of the main attractions can be found within easy walking distance of one another. Easy to explore over the course of a long weekend, just be sure to pack some easy to walk in shoes as you’re sure to cover a lot of ground!
For those not familiar with Dublin, top highlights include meandering your way through the Temple Bar district (an area famed for its number of historic pubs and drinking establishments), sampling the famed local Guinness at the Guinness Storehouse, and checking out Dublin Castle.
Read now: A free & self-guided Dublin walking tour
Much less famous than its nearby neighbour, Bruges, but just as charming, the quaint Belgium city of Ghent is well worth a visit on any jaunt through Europe, particularly given that the city is easy to walk around and you won’t have to figure out any tram timetables or which direction bus to take!
Easy to explore over the course of a few days, the city is home to a plethora of hidden gems, as well as some pretty famous canals (though, unlike in Bruges, these aren’t UNESCO world heritage listed). We particularly loved a bar where you had to exchange your shoe for the loan of a glass and the story behind ‘the little nose war’.
Book now: Ghent: Guided Walking Tour in English