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9 of the World’s Most Walkable Cities

City planners and home buyers alike are drawn to pedestrian-friendly cities, thanks to shorter commutes, increased leisure time, cultural treasures, and even improved health

Metropolitan living was made for pedestrians. The world’s most livable cities seem to invite  walking. (In the Old World, of course, they were.) “Modernization” and the rise of the automobile put an end to that until the mid-20th century, when city planners realized that razing entire neighborhoods and business districts had made cities unlivable. They had turned their backs on their rivers, harbors, waterways, parks, street life and—walking.

The 21st century’s most livable cities have revived their streets and waterfronts. The “best” residential neighborhoods have sidewalk cafés for brunching, lunching, and people-watching. They’re close to great shops and services and public transit. That can mean a walk in the park, a day at the museum, a night at the opera, or an afternoon at the big game. For work life, a “walkable city” means a shorter commute. Scientists insist that walking cities boost their residents’ mental and physical well-being, creativity, and civic engagement. Here we feature nine elegant homes just steps from the city’s wonders. Walk right in.

Vienna’s cultural attractions and historic landmarks are best explored by foot. The city’s vast pedestrian zones include Stadtpark and Prater parks and promenades along the Danube Canal, made famous by Johann Strauss’s beautiful Blue Danube waltz.

The City of Music, the UNESCO World Heritage city of Vienna is also one of Europe’s top pedestrian-friendly cities. According to Sophie Karoly of Avantgarde Properties, the exclusive Affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate in Vienna, “50 percent of the metropolitan area is dedicated to green space: There are many parks, including the Stadtpark and the Prater, and vast pedestrian car-free areas in the historic Innere Stadt city center.”

This regal circa-1900 mansion designed by notable Austrian architect Ernst von Gotthilf is in the prestigious 13th district of Hietzing, home to Schönbrunn Palace, once the summer residence of the Habsburgs.

The Donaukanal, or Danube Canal, once a branch of the River Danube, runs from the Döbling district to Simmering, and provides a scenic backdrop to the city’s historic sites, including the Hofburg Imperial Palace. Sophie Karoly also notes, “Thanks to the city’s excellent transportation system, pedestrians can ‘cheat’ to get to the city’s outer districts to reach the magnificent Schönbrunn palace and gardens, the Wienerwald (Vienna woods), and the vineyards of Vienna’s noble 18th and 19th districts.”

The Mall, a ceremonial route in London’s Westminster, beginning at Admiralty Arch and ending at Buckingham Palace, is one of the city’s grandest public promenades. The word “mall,” lent its name to the modern shopping mall, originally designed as pedestrian-zoned store-lined streets.

London wants to be the world’s most walkable city, according to an ambitious plan by the London Assembly. Supported by Public Health England, its plan would add an extra million daily walking trips by 2024. The city will increase its network of pedestrian-friendly streets and add new infrastructure, better signage, maps, and more pedestrian crossings.

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, home to Chelsea Physic Garden and its beautiful parks and riverside walks is the backdrop to this elegant double-fronted artist’s studio house, which features a lateral floor plan, first-floor studio drawing room with 25-foot ceilings, and a leafy, southwest-facing garden.

The city’s historic neighborhoods are best seen by foot. Pedestrians can also stroll for miles along the banks of the River Thames and the city’s vast green spaces, including Royal Hyde Park, Regent’s Park, Greenwich Park, and Hampstead Heath. According to the Greater London Authority, “research has shown that if every Londoner walked or cycled for 20 minutes a day, it would save the NHS £1.7 billion in treatment costs over the next 25 years.”

The cosmopolitan city of Sydney has a spectacular harbor-front location in addition to all the benefits of contemporary urban living—world-class cultural institutions, including the famous Sydney Opera House, excellent sports and recreation, shopping and entertainment, and dynamic international cuisine.

Sydney is Australia’s most walkable city according to Walk Score, a website that ranks the largest 3,000 cities in the US, Canada, and Australia according to its “walkability index.” The Emerald City is committed to improving its accessibility with the nation’s first rapid transit system, ongoing projects to improve pedestrian access by the local government and a statewide long-term plan for mass transit under the jurisdiction of the New South Wales government. “The natural topography of Sydney makes it a very walkable city,” says Ken Jacobs, Managing Director of Ken Jacobs, the exclusive Christie’s International Real Estate Affiliate in the region.

Crowning the iconic ANZ Tower in the heart of Sydney’s Central Business District, steps from Hyde Park, the Boyd Residence—Australia’s finest penthouse—encompasses 25,833 square feet of living space over three levels with showstopping views of the city skyline, Sydney Harbour, and the world-famous opera house.

The city’s world-famous opera house, international dining options, cosmopolitan shopping, and exciting nightlife allow culture to coexist with the city’s vigorous and dynamic lifestyle.

The natural topography of Sydney makes it a very walkable city

A year-round festival calendar, extensive open space, waterfront recreation (including surfing and sailing), and a strong sporting culture provide plenty of opportunities for active entertainment. Mr. Jacobs adds, “Tourists to Sydney invariably start at the icons of Sydney Harbour, the opera house and bridge. From there the city fans out through the historic and scenic Rocks area, the CBD, and the tranquil escape of the Royal Botanic Gardens to the Domain and Art Gallery of New South Wales. To the west from Circular Quay is Darling Harbour which is a thriving entertainment, restaurant, and convention precinct.”

Dubbed “the Athens of the North” by the luminaries of the Scottish Enlightenment, Scotland’s historic capital city is a celebration of natural beauty, great architecture, high culture, art and literature, philosophy, and science. Each August, the city hosts the world’s largest arts festival, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Edinburgh is a thoroughly modern city that honors its great past. Dubbed the Athens of the North during the Scottish Enlightenment, the city is still a hotbed of arts, culture, and science. The city boasts multiple world-class research centers, one of the Britain’s leading universities, magnificent architecture, vibrant nightlife, café culture, and four Michelin-starred restaurants. It is also host to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the world’s largest arts festival.

Chester Street is a beautifully restored period townhouse in Edinburgh’s historic West End, a quiet village-like enclave built in 1825 to allow the wealthy residents of nearby Coates Crescent and Melville Street to shop locally. Today, walkers can take one of three unique “sound tours” to discover the area’s rich history and culture.

The narrow cobblestone streets of the medieval Old Town and the masterfully planned Georgian New Town—the largest Georgian development in the world (according to Edinburgh World Heritage)—were, of course, built for walking, and despite modernizations the streets retain their pedestrian feel. Though hilly, the city is a walker’s paradise with its open markets, extensive green space, and the beautiful riverside Water of Leith Walkway (a designated conservation trust) that winds through the heart of the city.

The world’s most romantic city, Paris’s Neoclassical streetscape and its architectural treasures make it a walker’s paradise.

The public spaces of Paris—its parks, sidewalk cafés, restaurants, and grand boulevards—have been the most fashionable places to see and be seen for centuries. Even in the modern age of the skyscraper, the city’s emphasis on urbanism has allowed Paris to retain its unique allure.

Parisians benefit from large avenues and sidewalks to enjoy the city’s architecture, fine boutiques, and shops.

Says Marie-Hélène Lundgreen of Daniel Féau Conseil Immobilier, Christie’s International Real Estate’s exclusive Affiliate in Paris, says, “Paris is a very walkable city, especially along the banks of the Seine, you can cross the bridges and walk around the monuments, such as the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, which are often surrounded by greenery. The mayor of Paris has also closed some roads to vehicular traffic, especially those close to the Seine.”

Situated on the fourth floor of a 19th-century building in the city’s prestigious Golden Triangle, within walking distance of the Trocadero Gardens and the River Seine, this luxurious, meticulously renovated apartment features a terrace with a view of the Eiffel Tower.

The pedestrian rezoning around the city’s famous landmarks, including Notre Dame Cathedral, and plans to limit traffic in the first four arrondissements one Sunday a month, as part of the “Paris Breathes” initiative, will ensure the French Capital retains its stature as one of the world’s most walkable cities well into the 21st century. Marie-Hélène Lundgreen also notes, “Parisians benefit from large avenues and sidewalks to enjoy the city’s architecture, fine boutiques, and shops. The pedestrian-zoned streets also allow easy access throughout central Paris and among its famous neighborhoods, such as Le Marais, the Triangle d’Or (8th arrondissement), and the quartier Saint-Germain-des-Prés, without taking a car or public transport.”

America’s most visited national park, the National Mall in Washington, DC, is a two-mile stretch of open parkland, extending from the Lincoln Memorial on the west end to the United States Capitol on the east end.

Unlike most major cities, Washington, DC, has strict height restrictions in order to maintain the prominence of the United States Capitol and the White House. Due to this policy, the city feels unexpectedly uncrowded, especially for pedestrians. The city’s historic and cultural heart is the National Mall, a two-mile stretch of open parkland extending from the United States Capitol to the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, and from the White House to the Jefferson Memorial. The Mall is flanked by tree-lined paths, allowing car-free access to the city’s famous landmarks and the world-class museums of the Smithsonian.

This former consulate, transformed into an elegant family home, is on a quiet tree-lined street in Washington, DC’s Embassy Row district, a 30-minute walk to Rock Creek Park and the Smithsonian’s National Zoo.

DC’s leafy neighborhoods, broad avenues and promenades, and efficient Metrorail public transit system all encourage foot traffic. And with each neighborhood enjoying its own centralized retail and dining core, entertainment and necessities are never more than a short stroll away. Recently instituted citywide bike– and car-sharing networks also help make Washington, DC, one of the easiest cities to live in without owning a car.

New York City is a quintessential urban landscape, yet within it lies Central Park, an 850-acre oasis of natural parkland, woods, and meadows, walking trails, a running and cycling track, sports and recreation areas, and even a zoo.

New York consistently ranks as the most walkable city in the United States and one of the most pedestrian-friendly cities in the world, according to the Walk Score rankings. Pedestrian rezoning and commercial regeneration occurring along the Hudson and East Rivers and in neighborhoods across Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the outer boroughs create an ever-changing kaleidoscope of urban life.

High atop the storied River House in Sutton Place, just a few blocks from the world-class shopping and dining of Fifth and Madison avenues, this majestic 17-room duplex residence features expansive outdoor space from two south-facing terraces and panoramic views over the East River and into Midtown Manhattan.

Designer and artisan boutiques, sidewalk pizzerias, world-class restaurants, and street musicians all contribute to make New York such a compelling place to get around on foot. One of the city’s main thoroughfares is Fifth Avenue, which leads from Washington Square Park in the South to Harlem in the north. Along the way are the upscale shops and restaurants of Midtown and Museum Mile, home to some of the world’s finest arts institutions, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim. With 58 miles of paths in Central Park alone, the most populous city in the country provides ample opportunity for nature walks, grassy strolls, and quiet contemplation.

Long Beach combines the laid-back atmosphere of a Southern California beach town with an active downtown core, dynamic nightlife, and direct access to Los Angeles via light rail.

Long Beach captures the essence of a beachside resort town with its mild year-round weather, fine dining, boutique shopping, waterfront marina, and active club scene. The long stretch of sand that extends from the city’s convention center to the beachfront neighborhood of Belmont Shore makes Long Beach an ideal homebase for those who want to live by the sea.

This sophisticated 1950s beach home, redesigned in 2014, is situated on highly coveted Treasure Island, between Alamitos Bay and Naples Canal, close to Long Beach’s extensive network of walking trails.

City efforts to further pedestrian- and bike-friendly development have led to more than 60 miles of bike trails, an award-winning green lane project to help integrate bicycle and vehicular traffic, and a master plan by the City of Long Beach Development Services to make the already walkable downtown core even more inviting to pedestrians.

The cultural, economic, and financial center of South Florida, the city of Miami is a dazzling urban hub with a dramatic oceanfront setting on the southeast coast of the Florida Panhandle.

Sunny Miami’s fashionable neighborhoods are increasingly walkable. The Design District, Brickell, Wynwood, Little Havana, South Beach, Miami Beach, and downtown Miami are rich urban centers with trendy shops and restaurants, engaging art galleries, and a wide range of options for getting active.

Located on Miami’s coveted Brickell Key, a tiny island in Biscayne Bay just east of downtown Miami, this magnificent contemporary penthouse features three entertaining terraces offering unparalleled views of the city skyline and the Atlantic Ocean.

The city’s Underline plan to develop a 10-mile “linear park, urban trail, and canvas for art” promises to extend Miami’s reputation for forward-thinking art and design projects, and extensive plans are underway to develop stronger bikeshare and pedestrian networks allowing car-free access across the city.