One of the greatest ways to enjoy travel is also one of the most budget friendly. Ditch the guidebook and planned itinerary, and simply hit the streets. Exploring a new city on foot is great exercise and can help you find your own hidden European gems, away from the crowded “must-sees.” But we’ll be honest – wandering aimlessly as a pedestrian is safer in some cities than in others. Below you’ll find a selection of European hotspots that are easy, safe, and fun to explore on foot.
The Icelandic capital is so small, you can easily hit its major attractions in a single day’s walking tour. You might start your morning with a brisk walk along the seaside, stopping for a photo op at the skeletal Sun Voyager sculpture. At the end of the waterfront promenade, you’ll find the delightfully modern Harpa Concert Hall, and just beyond lies the old harbor. Take a swing up Laugavegur, Reykjavik’s main shopping street and perhaps pop into a gallery or two before paying a visit to the towering Hallgrimskirkja church. Most importantly, Reykjavik is a very safe city to walk around with a low crime rate and a few downtown streets closed to car traffic.
Florence is truly a city lost in time. The former Renaissance powerhouse has a “zona traffico limitato” (ZTL) in place to keep cars from diminishing the city’s Tuscan charms. Rules for driving in Florence are extremely strict – cameras photograph every license plate that enters the ZTL and steep fines are issued to unauthorized drivers. The result: you can safely walk to all the major sights, from the Ponte Vecchio and its gold merchants to Brunelleschi’s incomparable Duomo, from the stunning copy of Michelangelo’s David in Piazza Signoria to the real deal in the Galleria dell’Accademia.
While only a few streets in Prague are closed to vehicle traffic, the Czech capital’s small size makes it ideal to explore on foot. Seriously, don’t even think about hailing a taxi here. Between the dishonest drivers and the short distances between major sights, you’ll never get your money’s worth from a cab in Prague. If you prefer to walk in pedestrian-only areas, stick to Charles Bridge and the Old Town Square, taking time of course to watch the famed Astrological Clock chime.
The capital of Slovenia only started to make it onto tourists’ radar within the last decade or so, thanks to the mayor’s efforts to make the city more travel-friendly. In the past few years, parks and plazas all over the city center have been renovated and made pedestrian-only. Now you can stroll the café-lined streets bordering the Ljubljanica River without competing for street space. Tour the Town Hall, take the funicular rail up to the town’s medieval castle, or grab a gelato and watch the street performers in front of the iconic pink Franciscan church.
The Balkans are full of cities with pedestrian-only historic centers. Mostar, Bosnia; Kotor, Montenegro; Dubrovnik, Croatia – take your pick. Our top choice, however, has to be Split, just a few hours up the Dalmatian coast from the more famous Dubrovnik. Instead of ancient city walls, this popular cruise stop has Diocletian’s Palace. Don’t let the name fool you, though. This pedestrian only Roman site isn’t a palace so much as it is the living heart of a centuries-old city. Climb up the cathedral bell tower for panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and sea, snap a selfie with costumed Roman guards at the Golden Gate, or grab a table at one of the many great bars, cafes, and restaurants to people watch.