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9 of the World’s Most Walkable Cities

Shorter commutes, increased leisure time, cultural enrichment, and improved health are compelling city planners and home buyers alike to embrace pedestrian-friendly cities

Metropolitan living was made for pedestrians. The world’s most livable cities seem to invite walking. “Modernization” and the rise of the automobile nearly 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 pedestrian-friendly 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.

Venice, “La Serenissima” (the Most Serene), is a city unlike any other. The magnificent medieval Centro Storico is divided into six districts, known as sestieres, comprising 118 islets separated by canals and linked by over 400 bridges. The Floating City is also Europe’s largest pedestrian-only urban space.

A thousand words have been written about Venice”

Ca’ del Glicine, “House of the Wisteria” is a spacious, elegant apartment in a quiet enclave of the Cannaregio, Venice’s second-largest sestiere. Built in the 1920s, this beautifully restored Venetian hideaway includes six bedrooms, nine bathrooms, an entrance hall, and a splendid living room that opens to a wisteria-clad, south-facing terrace with views of the Basilica dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo.

“A thousand words have been written about Venice,” says Arnaldo Fusello, General Manager of Dimora Italia Real Estate, “but Le Corbusier gives the most interesting definition by calling it the ‘city of future’ in terms of the livability features of the past applied to modern times.

“The city is walkable throughout, and its magic consists in the labyrinth of calli and campielli—typical narrow streets—where you can get lost and yet always make new discoveries.” Whether you’re searching for an architectural treasure or an everyday scene, Fusello says: “The Venetians are proud of their past but always welcoming and willing to give directions to the ‘flaneurs’ who leisurely wander this timeless city.”

The world’s most romantic city, Paris: Its 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.

This exceptional duplex on the top two floors of a fine, early 20th-century Haussmannian building with a 24/7 concierge offers 3,750 square feet of sumptuous living space with five bedrooms. The prime location on Avenue Montaigne, the most luxurious street in Paris, offers an invitation to stroll among such luxury boutiques as Dior, Chanel, and Gucci.

“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,” says Marie-Hélène Lundgreen, Director of Belles demeures de France.

“The Mayor wants to give priority to pedestrians and bicycles in a context of respect for the environment. For example, we have the Quai de Seine, which is now entirely pedestrianized, the Champs-Élysées is pedestrianized every first Sunday of the month and major thoroughfares such as the Rue de Rivoli, which links the famous Marais district to the chic 8th arrondissement, has become cyclable and pedestrianized.

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 is one of the most pedestrian-friendly cities in the world. According to Walk Score®, a website that ranks an address according to its “walkability index,” the Big Apple scored 87 out of 100, making it the second most walkable city in the United States (just behind San Francisco). Pedestrian rezoning and commercial regeneration along the Hudson and East Rivers and in neighborhoods across Manhattan and the Outer Boroughs create an ever-changing kaleidoscope of urban life.

This elegant, three-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bathroom residence is one of just five units in The Wren, a highly sought-after development on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. The home has been fitted with the highest quality fixtures and finishes, including a chef’s kitchen with Wolf and Sub-Zero appliances and sumptuous bathrooms with custom vanities and radiant heated floors. Building amenities include a lobby, roof deck, bike room, and car park.

Designer and artisan boutiques, sidewalk pizzerias, world-class restaurants, and a vibrant, eclectic street life help make New York 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.

The James F. D. Lanier House is a magnificent Beaux-Arts mansion at 123 East 35th Street, between Park and Lexington Avenues in the historic Manhattan neighborhood of Murray Hill. Standing 33 feet wide, 75 feet deep, and 66 feet tall, with 11,638 square feet of palatial living space across eight levels, the Gilded Age mansion is one of the city's largest—and grandest—single-family homes.

Manhattan is very dense but at the same time very small and very walkable,” says Edward Joseph, Associate Broker at Christie’s International Real Estate Group. “Top to bottom Manhattan is only about 13.4 miles and only 2.3 miles in width, so conceivably one could easily walk the length and width of Manhattan in one day. Murray Hill is one of my favorite areas due to its central location, it’s an easy walk to Times Square and the Broadway Theater District. Heading south, walk over to Gramercy Park, Chelsea, and Greenwich Village.”

One of the world’s unique urban landscapes, Amsterdam’s Canal Ring was built in the 1600s to extend the medieval city center. There are 165 canals in all, spanning 60 miles. The district is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and includes the Museumplein (home of the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, Stedelijk Museum and Concertgebouw), the National Monument on Dam Square, and the Anne Frank House.

Amsterdam, the Dutch capital is actually one of the earliest examples of urban planning. The 17th-century Canal Ring is a system of intersecting waterways surrounding the old city around Dam Square. The canals, bridges, and gabled burgher houses have remained largely untouched since the Dutch Golden Age, when the city was an international seaport and center of world trade. The Grachtengordel, as the canal grid is known locally, won UNESCO World Heritage site status for its unique urban planning, innovative engineering, and water management.

This sleek, 3,282-square-foot apartment is in one of the most exclusive addresses in Amsterdam, Dam3 designed by Dutch architect Cees Dam. The penthouse occupies the entire ninth floor of the building, which is located on historic Dam Square, the heart of Amsterdam. The residence is opposite the Royal Palace of Amsterdam and adjacent to le Bijenkorf department store.

Cycling is very much a way of life in the capital and across the Netherlands. “There are many more bicycles than there are cars here,” says Leslie de Ruiter, Managing Partner of Residence 365 B.V. However, it is a walkable city, and for many reasons: Residents can quickly get from one side of Amsterdam to the other by foot. It is eco-friendly, and many streets are car-free. It has a relatively compact city center with 200 restaurants, boutique stores, and department stores, including le Bijenkorf [Holland’s answer to Harrods and Bergdorf Goodman].”

Prague is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Historic landmarks, such as Wenceslas Square, Hradcany Castle, St Vitus Cathedral, Charles Bridge, and Prague Castle are best explored by foot. The city’s vast pedestrian zones include Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

“Prague’s major attractions can be seen within a day,” says Prokop Svoboda, Owner of Svoboda & Williams. “There is no need for a hop-on hop-off bus as most of the city’s cultural attractions are accessible only by foot, offering an opportunity to really feel the atmosphere of the centuries-old buildings, churches, monasteries, gardens, and castles. More than 50 percent of the Czech capital is covered by urban greenery, including beautiful parks such as the Royal Garden at Prague Castle, which add to the unique atmosphere.”

This third-floor residence has a prime location in Prague's Old Town, a short walk from the Vltava Embankment and the city's finest restaurants. The apartment is elegantly styled and furnished throughout and offers 2,120 square feet of living space with three bedrooms and two-and-a-half bathrooms.

Svoboda says: “If you get tired of walking, trams are the easiest and fastest way to explore the city. They run on time and, usually, you don’t need to wait more than five minutes for one. Prague’s public transport, in general, is efficient and easy to navigate; the metro, trams, and buses connect the historic center to the wider city.”

Named the "Best Big City" nationwide by Condé Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards 2021, Chicago is an exemplar of the City Beautiful concept. In 1909, The Burnham Plan, named after its principal author, architect, and city planner Daniel H. Burnham, sought to triumphantly reimagine the city after the Great Fire of 1871. The plan is considered the most influential document in American city planning history.

Chicago is the fourth most walkable city in the United States, according to Walk Score®. To determine its pedestrian-friendly score of 77, the real estate company calculated the number of walking paths in the Windy City as well as the population and local amenities, among other factors.

Chicago’s urban zoning success stems from a visionary Progressive Era proposal that laid out plans for the future of the city: the Plan of Chicago, co-written by two of that era’s leading architects and city planners, Daniel Burnham and Edward H. Bennett.

This contemporary penthouse is in Chicago’s trendy Fulton Market neighborhood. Situated on the top two floors of 1327 West Washington Street, formerly the Jewel Tea Co. Warehouse, the residence offers 4,600 square feet of living space with four bedrooms and three bathrooms, and an 800-square-foot penthouse deck with a stunning panorama of the Chicago skyline.

“Pedestrians in Chicago still benefit from Daniel Burnham’s 1909 Plan, which laid out the city in a system of interconnected streets, boulevards, and parks, and made the lakefront accessible to everyone,” says Rick Sobin, Vice President of Brokerage Services, @properties | Christie’s International Real Estate. “The result is that you not only have a downtown that’s walkable, but you have all of these wonderful neighborhoods that you can explore on foot, and one leads to the next. You can discover so much culture and so much history in one afternoon, and our great public transportation system always provides a backup plan if you want to give your feet a rest.”

The Maltese archipelago, in the central Mediterranean Sea, is just 58 miles south of Sicily. Malta’s capital, Valletta, is the smallest in the EU. Founded in 1566, its streets’ grid-like design let the sea breeze provide respite from the dry summer heat.

Valletta, offers a wealth of fascinating destinations including history, art, culture, and dining spots, all within walking distance, due to its compact size.”

The archipelago of Malta may be one of the smallest countries on the globe, but it’s big on attractions: a champagne climate, spectacular landscapes, dramatic coastlines, and historic architecture—including temples that predate both the Pyramids of Giza and Stonehenge.

“Our cherished capital, Valletta, offers a wealth of fascinating destinations including history, art, culture, and dining spots, all within walking distance, due to its compact size,” says Miguel Bonello, Director of Oyster Christie’s International Real Estate Malta.

“Dubbed an ‘open-air museum,’ Valletta has been under UNESCO World Heritage protection since 1980 and was named European Capital of Culture in 2018. As the smallest city in the EU, the opulent Baroque city packs a big cultural punch, with an abundance of history and culture.

This five-story 18th-century townhouse in the Maltese capital was sensitively renovated for luxurious contemporary living. The central courtyard offers a panoramic vista of the city rooftops and churches. Cultural attractions, shops and restaurants are all just steps away.

“If art is your passion, wander through the pedestrian haven and visit St. John’s Co-Cathedral to witness two of Caravaggio’s most famous paintings, including The Beheading of St John the Baptist (1608), or one of the many art museums and galleries including Valletta Contemporary or MICAS (Malta International Contemporary Art Space).

“Discover the hustle and bustle of a city with characteristic charm. The city offers a glimpse into the past, with grand architecture and narrow streets, which were built for walking.”

The National Historic Landmark District, the hub of downtown Savannah, is the largest historic district in the United States. With 22 genteel park squares and cobblestone streets shaded by Spanish moss-draped oaks, it’s a walker’s paradise.

The Forest City, Savannah is one of the most beautiful urban landscapes in the United States. Its central hub, the National Historic Landmark District is the largest historic district in the nation.

“Savannah is incredibly pedestrian-friendly and features an innovative urban plan anchored by a stunning network of public squares and parks,” says Staci Donegan, Associate Broker at Seabolt Real Estate. “It’s an ideal city to explore on foot, with world-class restaurants, boutiques, and green spaces nestled within the National Historic Landmark District.”

This freestanding townhouse is in the heart of Savannah’s National Historic Landmark District, steps from Forsyth Park and the Downtown Design District. The residence was built in 1913 and restored in the contemporary style. The gated front courtyard, three-story atrium, and walled brick courtyard at the rear, and a roof deck are among the elegant outdoor spaces.

Cobblestones and Spanish moss, historic districts, and 22 park-like public squares distinguish Savannah, Georgia. This beautiful coastal city’s antebellum charms, historic architecture, and raffish nightlife were made famous by John Berendt’s 1994 best seller, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (and the 1997 film by Clint Eastwood).

Several new pedestrian zones in the Thai capital include Bangkok's Green Mile raised walkway; Chongnonsi Canal Park; and the Maharaj Tunnel, an underground route to the Grand Palace complex.

The political, economic, cultural, culinary, and spiritual capital of Thailand, Bangkok attracts more than 22 million visitors each year. Prior to the pandemic, Bangkok was the top destination for global travelers according to Mastercard’s Global Destination Cities Index (Paris and London were ranked No. 2 and 3, respectively, both with over 19 million visitors). This dynamic, commercial hub is a city of contrasts: bustling streetscapes, dazzling skyscrapers, glittering Buddhist temples, and the majestic Chao Phraya River—the River of Kings—which offers respite from the urban bustle.

Tim Skevington, Managing Director of Richmont’s Thailand, says, “Bangkok is not a city many people would associate as being walkable, especially in the heat of the summer or at the height of the rainy season; however, that is fast-changing and the city is in the process of opening several new parks and cross-town walkways which are already making travel on foot much easier, and more enjoyable.”

Sky Residence at The Ritz Carlton Residences Bangkok, a three-story penthouse in Thailand’s tallest building, MahaNakhon, offers a bird’s-eye view of the city skyline, Lumpini Park, the Chao Phraya River, and the Gulf of Thailand.

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration is committed to improving pedestrian safety and reducing traffic congestion through a citywide urban renewal program. “Benjakitti Park Phase 3, on the site that used to house Thailand’s Tobacco Monopoly and covering an area of more than 100 acres, opened last December and includes a 2 km [1.24-mile] walkway and a network of pathways at ground level,” says Skevington. “Bangkok’s Green Mile raised walkway extending from Benjakitti Park to the famous Lumpini Park, Bangkok’s equivalent of Manhattan’s Central Park or London’s Hyde Park, has also recently been extensively upgraded to cater to early evening walkers and joggers enjoying the city’s skyline views. Chongnonsi Canal Park, right in the middle of the CBD and opened this year, is further testament to Bangkok’s commitment to becoming an increasingly walkable city.”