When exploring a new city, it can be tempting to hop on the bus or local metro in order to see as many sites as possible in the time you have. But we at Frommer's think that some of the best vacations involve hitting the bricks and seeing a city at street level. And even in cities where walking may seem out of the question -- like London, where the massive sprawl may appear daunting to any visitor not in the know -- there are almost always opportunities for an excellent amble or two. Below, some of out editor's favorite cities in which to stroll.
Charleston: The Ultimate Southern Stroll
Charleston is renowned for its history and architecture, and seeing the city on foot is the best way to ensure you don't miss any of its quirky charm. Start your tour at The Market, where you'll see women effortlessly weaving sweetgrass into baskets, a centuries-old tradition that originated with West African slaves. The baskets are intricate and beautiful, and have become South Carolina's signature craft. The Market is brimming with artists touting photographs and paintings, jewelers peddling their crafts, and merchants selling pretty much everything.
Take a break and cool off with a drink at the rooftop bar of the Market Pavilion Hotel (tel. 877/440-2250; www.marketpavilion.com), a hip spot with expansive views of Charleston Harbor and downtown. At night, this is a total hotspot. Next, walk back through The Market toward King Street, Charleston's main shopping drag, where you'll find art galleries, antique shops, and boutiques, along with restaurants and bars.
When you've had your fill of shopping, veer off King Street at Broad Street, and enter the grand historic district. Once you cross Broad Street, you'll be in "South of Broad," one of Charleston's most prestigious and historic neighborhoods. Homes here date back to the Colonial and Civil War eras. The narrow streets are impeccably preserved, as are the houses and churches that line them. Note how many of the homes are built in the "single" style -- wide enough for only one room, but many rooms deep. While many tour guides decree that this shotgun-style of architecture was designed to avoid paying higher taxes to the British, it was actually designed to take advantage of cool breezes during sweltering Charleston summers.
Continue on to the Battery, officially called White Point Gardens, which is a park on the tip of the peninsula, between the Ashley and Cooper Rivers. From here, look out at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, and imagine that it is 1861 and you are hearing the first shots fired in the Civil War. As you walk along East Bay Street back toward the downtown area, watch for dolphins frolicking in the harbor. Wedged between extravagant antebellum mansions on one side and the Cooper River on the other side, this walk is a spectacular way to get a real feel for the city. Charleston is a city that lives and breathes its history, and strolling along any of its streets can feel like stepping back in time and reliving parts of U.S. history. -- Jennifer Polland
Crusing Through Cusco, Peru
On a recent hiking trip to Peru, I did some of my best walking not on remote trails in the great outdoors, but on paved streets in the town of Cusco. This former capital of the Inca empire is the country's popular (and fully modern) base camp for excursions to the ruins of Machu Picchu, and it is a perfect place to explore on foot.
Though Cusco technically spreads across a few miles, many of its main attractions are condensed around the small area surrounding the Plaza de Armas, the old town center. And though Cusco does have its share of hills, especially in the bohemian neighborhood of San Blas, these serve as perfect training for high-altitude Machu Picchu. Even steeper hills are worth exploring on the outskirts of town: getting to the Incan ruins of Sacsayhuamán on foot entails a 30-minute climb from the Plaza -- it's no cake walk, but if you make it, you'll be rewarded with gorgeous views of the town.
Perhaps the best thing about walking around Cusco is that it's a great way to soak in both Inca history and contemporary Peruvian culture. You can't help but stumble upon amazing Inca stonemasonry, which in many places is still integrated into the town's functioning walls. Against this town's cutting-edge restaurants, hotels, and markets, the ancient masonry can make for startling backdrops.-- Jennifer Reilly
Doing Dublin Right
Walking Dublin these days is like being a time traveler. Under the shadows of cranes and high rises you can find lots of wide avenues and shiny stores selling the latest gadgets, but you can also discover parts of town that haven't been modernized (yet) where you can wander down narrow lanes and pop into a classic pub when you need a break. One of the most popular (and crowded) streets is the Temple Bar, which gets louder, noisier, and more crowded from twilight until the wee hours. There's a happy medium in the late afternoon and early evening, when there are performers busking on the curbs and in the squares, traditional music leaking out of the (many) pubs. There are some shops open to poke around in, and sidewalk cafes where you can grab a coffee. But as night falls, it seems that everyone under 30 within a 1,000-mile radius heads to Temple Bar to party. I also wandered Temple Bar mid-morning Sunday, and found it quiet and beautiful, just waking up. O'Connell Street is Dublin's main drag, and it's a wide thoroughfare that fairly easily contains the crowds heading up and down it all day. It's lined with hotels, restaurants, and the main Post Office.
Better still, explore the side streets off O'Connell, particularly Henry Street, which is a bit old-school Dublin on the east side of O'Connell, and more Celtic Tiger on the western side; and wander down the streets off Henry, where vendors set up their stands with fresh vegetables, fish and other produce. You'll see a similar changing of the guard from pre-boom to gentrification on Capel Street, just north of the Liffey. In a block you'll see a generations-old pub, next to a Polish grocery, next to a gutted place that's going to be a trendy restaurant. Well into the 21st century is Grafton Street, a full-on pedestrian mall, lined with shops selling cellphones, boutiques, and restaurants. Once again head off to the side, and you'll find the last couple centuries pressing up against this one. Grafton Street takes you down to the small jewel that is St. Stephen's Green, a lovely park where you can rest your feet and look at the black-and-white magpies and the flowering bushes and trees in full bloom, and plan where you'll head next. -- Kathleen Warnock
Finding Your Way in Florence
Your eyes can glaze over at the end of a day spent looking at all there is to see in Florence. Even if the city permitted more vehicles on the streets of Centro Storico, it would be a crime to explore it on wheels.
With the exception of the Vatican, I can't think of a municipality more dense with treasures. And I can't think of a single place that has more art-with-a-lowercase-"a" awaiting notice. Not the famous street sculpture, like the gods in the Piazza della Signoria, but that marble cherub carved above a doorway; the fading fresco under glass on the side of a building; perverse grotesques on a porcelain tureen in a storefront display; gracefully wrought iron shop signs, window grates, even manhole covers; they're all worth a second look in this town, and you'd miss them traveling any way but on foot.
Then there's the Art-with-a-capital-"A." Concentrated like a vein of gold in a hunk of granite, one Renaissance masterwork follows another; from Michelangelo's David at the Accademia; to Brunelleschi's Duomo; to Botticelli's Spring and Birth of Venus at the Uffizi, you're never more than a 30-minute walk away from a masterpiece.
The genius amassed in the Basilica di Santa Croce is a microcosm of what's in store throughout town. Steps away from Michelangelo's grave lie the remains of Galileo, Dante, Machiavelli, all under one roof. From there, back out on the street, we could measure the distance in paces to the Piazza Signoria, the Palazzo Vecchio, the Ponte Vecchio.
Florence's compact size makes passaggiata there that much more special too. Given the fairly stable population of just 365,000 residents in Centro Storico, visitors can quickly gain a sense of the locals as they amble past the Duomo on their ritual nightly stroll. It's like time travel too, as ghosts of the past shuffle by -- like that boy with enormous brown eyes and a moptop of shiny black hair, straight out of a Filippo Lippi painting; or the young woman with ivory skin and a chiseled nose like Cosimo de'Medici's.
Remember, though, to bring walking shoes. Even though the distances are short, the cobblestone streets are tough on your feet -- a cruel irony, ladies, given the plenitude of beautiful shoes for sale. However much they tempt you, save them for the level streets and sidewalks back home. -- Maureen Clarke
Keeping Pace in London
People have been walking around London for more than a millennium, and its still one of the most pedestrian-friendly cities in the world. Many of its major tourism zones and neighborhoods are compact enough that you can easily get around on foot. And seeing a place on foot allows you to soak up the atmosphere of a city and interact with locals in a way that you just can't get when you're trapped inside a vehicle. It's certainly my favorite way of getting around London, and with the British pound valued at nearly double the U.S. dollar and London's expensive congestion pricing scheme for drivers, it's also the cheapest way to get around.
I love getting lost in the seemingly endless maze of London's small cobblestone streets and mews, or strolling through its parks and gardens. I often just pick a neighborhood, grab a quick ride on the Tube (www.tfl.gov.uk/tfl) to my selected starting point, and start hoofing it. Great neighborhoods to explore on foot include Bloomsbury, Chelsea, Mayfair, and Whitehall. And one of my favorite places for a park stroll is Kensington Gardens on a sunny, spring day.
If you prefer direction to aimless strolling (or want a different perspective on a neighborhood you might already be familiar with), you're also in luck: London has one of the best walking tour companies around. Whenever I'm in town, I always take one of the many guided walks offered by London Walks (www.walks.com). Tours cost £7 each (discounts are available for taking multiple walks) and cover many themes and locations, so it should be very easy to find something that fits your interest. The guides are marvelous and their evening walking tours are an especially wonderful -- and safe -- way to see the city after dark; our group had a lot of fun on the "Ghosts of the Old City" walk I took the last time I was in town.
Just some final words of advice before you hit the ground running: 1. If you decide to let your feet take you where they may, be sure to bring a map (even a tourist one will be useful), so you can find your way back to your hotel -- I wasn't kidding about the endless maze of often tiny streets; I got hopelessly lost around Covent Garden on my first visit to the city. 2. Forget style and stick to very comfortable walking shoes -- those cobblestones look great, but they're murder on high heels (or low ones, for that matter). 3. Look both ways before you leap off a curb -- I've seen many a North American nearly mowed over by a car in London because they looked the wrong way before crossing a street. 4. If an intersection has a subway (that's Brit speak for an underground walking tunnel), use it -- jaywalk at a major intersection and you might end up as roadkill. -- Naomi Kraus
New Orleans the Right Way
It's hard to find a better place to walk in the U.S. than in New Orleans. In the French Quarter, you can stand in the center of Jackson Square and walk upriver or downriver, then circle your way through the Quarter until you're back where you started. In that time, you'll have marveled at beautiful buildings, peaked through gateways, sipped a cool drink, gazed at street painters, and grooved to sounds emanating from everywhere, whether it be from a bar or a street musician. And because so many of these vibrant streets teem with activity, you can settle on one or two and still get a French Quarter experience.
You can also head uptown to the Garden District and stroll amidst the canopies of mighty oak trees, where gorgeous antebellum homes with decorative iron fences and lush gardens reside. Toward the river, more than 140 shops line Magazine Street. Inside the many 19th-century brick storefronts are antiques, art galleries, crafts, fashion boutiques, and vintage vinyl. Take a walk through Faubourg Marigny, across Esplandade from the French Quarter, with its funky bohemian mood; Frenchmen Street is the main drag here. Or stroll over to the Warehouse District, upriver a few blocks from the Quarter, and check out all the Julie Street galleries.
Wherever you choose to walk, a cornucopia of cultural delights unfolds with each step. Level streets makes for easy walking, and with so much to see, you'll find yourself walking for hours without needing a break. But you'll want to take one anyway, as sitting and watching the world go by is an experience in itself.
For more information on walking New Orleans, along with our personalized walking tours of the French Quarter and the Gardens district, pick up a copy of Frommer's New Orleans 2008 or read about it on Frommers.com. -- William Travis
Prowling through Paris
With its grand avenues and leafy parks, Paris is a perfect city for walking; its central neighborhoods are compact, safe and picturesque, making just about any outing an exercise in spotting well-known landmarks or happening upon idyllic street scenes. From the monumental sweep of the Champs-Elysées extending between austere Place de la Concorde and the Arc de Triomphe, to the elegant Jardin des Tuileries with its stately trees and beautiful statues, Paris seems tailor made for long walks to nowhere in particular. For new and returning visitors alike, Paris offers many a delight to be seen on its winding streets, be it a glimpse of a Roman-era wall or the entire medieval Village Saint Paul now woven snugly into the fabric of this lovely metropolis. Although the Marais, St-Germaine, and Montmartre neighborhoods are popular tourist treks, lesser known areas hold their own delights, be they rounding a corner on a chilly morning to be hit in the face by the aroma of pain au chocolat wafting out of a tiny patisserie, or happening upon a pocket of unexpected silence in one of the city's verdant parks. For suggestions on specific walking tours, please refer to Frommer's Paris 2008, Frommers.com's Paris section, Frommer's 24 Great Walks in Paris or check out Paris Walks at www.paris-walks.com. -- Marc Nadeau
Vive le Québec Promenade!
For old-world charm in the New World, it's hard to surpasse Old Québec. This 300-plus-year-old neighborhood of Québec City, the capital of the Canadian province of Québec, is compact, beautiful, and well-preserved -- perfect for walking. Just be sure to pack good shoes, as the cobblestone streets can make quick work of an ankle or two. The Hilton Québec (tel. 800/HILTONS or 418/647-2411; www.hiltonquebec.com) is a good base of operations outside the old city, as it's directly across the street from the fortress walls and near the Parliament, which is an essential stop on any walking tour. You'll then want to hit Place d'Armes, a former military parade ground that features a plaque honoring Québec's designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as there's a visitor information center there with maps.
A stroll along Terrasse Dufferin, a boardwalk that fronts the mighty St. Lawrence River, will give you a good overview of the city's Norman architecture, exemplified by the Château Frontenac (tel. 418/692-3861; www.fairmont.com/Frontenac), an old castellated hotel that offers tours of its 1893 interior. Sit outside at the hotel's Le Café de la Terrasse (tel. 418/691-3763) for brunch. After your meal, continue west on Dufferin to the Promenade des Gouverneurs, a path along the St. Lawrence cliffs. Or head east to the Lower Town. You can also ride the funicular, a glass-enclosed cable car that runs at a 45 degree angle down the bluff, from the Upper to Lower Town. At the bottom, you'll find rue du Petit-Champlain, allegedly the oldest street in North America, which is lined with cafes and shops. Finally, end at Place-Royale, the town square where Québec itself began, and the neighboring Eglise Notre-Dame-des-Victoires, where you can tour the church crypt. You'll find that at the end of a full day of magnificent sites, it's hard to come away from Old Québec without a certain je ne sais quoi. -- Emil J. Ross
Taking on Tokyo
For many of us, Tokyo is so vibrant and unusual that a simple stroll on its bustling streets is an exotic treat in itself. Depending on your personal interests, you can tailor a trip that explores a particular neighborhood or region of the city, which is too large to explore in its entirety on foot.
If you're hoping for a glimpse of the infamously distinctive look of Japanese youth subculture -- including those sporting the so-called Japanese Lolita fashion, or maybe just dressing up as their favorite band -- try strolling around Harajuku station in Shibuya on a Sunday afternoon. The young or young-at-heart should take note that the next generation of Japanese bands and up-and-coming vocalists often perform outside this station as well. You can then join the youthful crowds found shopping for trendy inexpensive clothing and accessories on Takeshita-dori; or get away from them by continuing your walk through Yoyogi Koen, a park that is less than a five-minute walk from the train station, to the Meiji Jingu Shrine (www.meijijingu.or.jp/english/), a spectacular Shinto shrine that dates from 1920.
Finish off your day with an only-in-Tokyo experience: dine in a yoshoku restaurant among the locals who come for the Western-style Japanese food: heavy on creams, steaks, and even various shapes of pasta. The omu rice, eggs served over ketchup and rice, may strike a pleasant and familiar chord with diners who have experienced loco moco in Hawaii: an egg and a burger patty with brown gravy over a heap of rice. -- Alexia Travaglini
Urban-style Hiking in Vancouver
Downtown Vancouver, British Columbia is crammed onto a peninsula barely two miles long and a mile and a half wide. That doesn't include Stanley Park, one the world's largest urban parks, which is attached to, and slightly larger than, downtown. However, your feet need not be confined to this small area. Most of Vancouver's vast urban charms can be enjoyed by foot, from skyscrapers, to several unique and historic neighborhoods, to forests and beaches.
Walking enthusiasts can easily make a morning of hiking in serene Stanley Park and strolling through the city to go shopping in historic Gastown, at the far end of downtown. A nice late afternoon walk would start by crossing the Granville Bridge to tiny Granville Island, with its bountiful farmers' market, theaters, restaurants, and local craftsmen, although a short trip on a rainbow Aquabus is more quaint (www.theaquabus.com). From the island, it's an easy stroll to Kitsilano, Vancouver's hip beachfront community, for a sunset picnic on the beach and some of the city's best people watching.
For an all day outing, take the bus to the Museum of Anthropology, in the University of British Columbia, on the far western tip of Vancouver. After the museum, follow one of the wooded paths off the main university ring road all the way down to Point Grey Beach. With the bluff behind you and the Strait of Georgia ahead, you'll feel completely isolated from Canada's third largest city. Walk the rocky beach, with the shore on your left, and a mile an a half on, the white and glass towers of downtown will suddenly (and dramatically) appear around the corner. It's a seven mile stroll from the University to Granville Island, but you'll pass through most of the city's best beaches -- plus, the view gets progressively more picturesque as you go. You can cut the walk in half by veering inland and into Kitsilano, where you can catch a convenient bus to downtown. -- Melinda Quintero
Talk to other Frommers.com readers on our Trip Ideas Message Boards.