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The 5 most walkable cities in the world

Posted by: Kate Torgovnick May

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City planner Jeff Speck has a big idea for how America can be more economically resilient, more environmentally sustainable, and a whole lot healthier: make our cities more walkable,Jeff Speck: The walkable cityJeff Speck: The walkable city and the people in them less dependent on cars. In today’s talk, Speck takes a close look at suburban sprawl — and the many unexpected effects it’s had. “I believe that this American healthcare crisis we’ve all heard about is an urban design crisis, and that the design of our cities can be a cure,” he says.

Speck is the author of the book Walkable City, all about how thriving downtowns can transform both people and the environment. We asked him to pick some of the cities in the world he’s found the most delightful to explore on foot. He qualifies his picks saying, “These lists are silly and inevitably wrong, but here are the places that I’ve been to and that I’ve enjoyed walking around the most.”

  1. Venice, Italy. Proof that cities really are better without cars — also without (too many) tourists. To be avoided April through September.
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  2. Amsterdam, Netherlands. Yes, I’ve got a thing for canals — and bicycles. Much safer once you’ve learned how to avoid stepping into either.
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  3. Marrakech, Morocco. The one hitch to navigating this city’s bewildering medina is to know that, unlike almost everywhere else walkable, Arab urbanism includes dead ends — the result of families joining houses across streets.
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  4. Antigua, Guatemala. Along with San Miguel de Allende (and Marrakech), it is a triumph of the Courtyard House type, so each doorway reveals a hidden world. Trespassers delight.
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  5. Quebec City, Canada. In winter, it ties with New Orleans in summer. Proof that good urbanism begets walking whatever the weather.

This post originally ran on September 9, 2013. It was updated on October 14, as Speck’s talk appeared on TED.com.

Comments (32)

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  • commented on Sep 14 2013

    I am assuming this list refers to pleasure and not practicality — Marrakech is impossible to navigate! No street signs and nothing straight… I’ve never been lost so much in my life. It’s full of hidden gems worth stumbling upon, though.

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  • Katherine Ellington commented on Sep 10 2013

    I think walkable cities have distinct neighborhoods that can lure through streets and side streets for shopping, history and other unique experiences. As I move through the streets of Manhattan, I am amazed at what I didn’t notice on the first or second pass. Don’t forget to look up while you look around. We can share sightings of walkable places with the hashtag #TEDCityAct on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

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  • Marina Simanenkova commented on Sep 10 2013

    Saint Petersburg autumn time

  • commented on Sep 10 2013

    New Orleans, Louisiana is most definitely in that number. We are putting a even greater emphasis on being pedestrian friendly city.

  • commented on Sep 10 2013

    Reblogged this on It's Carlos, Not Robin.

  • Pawel Beringer commented on Sep 10 2013

    Granada – here’s why. If the Alhambra alone, a palace built under the arabic reign of Spain, a city in itself and a world cultural heritage, doesn’t cut it, the city center, where Muslims, Jews and Christians have lived together peacefully for centuries, offers beautiful historic architecture that’s often inaccessible by cars. The style changes with every quarter, and if you need a break, you can sit in one of the many bars and get acquainted with the concept of tapas – with every drink comes a free small dish of local cuisine.

  • S Kumar commented on Sep 10 2013

    visited INDIA ?

  • Sebastián Berdia commented on Sep 9 2013

    La Cumbrecita, Córdoba, Argentina is known as “Pedestrian Village”

  • commented on Sep 9 2013

    Wellington, NZ. Walks within five minutes of CBD, good coast, good harbour walking. Biased much?

  • Jon Wallis commented on Sep 9 2013

    Barcelona – the older parts (eg, the Barri Gothic) especially, but most parts are reachable on foot (although getting to Park Guell is rather a slog :-)

  • Anne Jordan commented on Sep 9 2013

    Melbourne, Victoria, Australia is a fabulous city walk

  • Geneviève Thain commented on Sep 9 2013

    Stonetown, Zanzibar, Tanzania

  • YongQi Cong commented on Sep 9 2013

    Prague is also a very nice city to explore on foot

  • emily leblanc commented on Sep 9 2013

    Ouro Preto, Brazil…a challenge as it is a very mountainous town, but seriously fun.

  • Daniela Carrillo commented on Sep 9 2013

    Bogotá, Colombia.

  • commented on Sep 9 2013

    Reblogged this on Charlie Slang.