Four best cities for walking
WALKING is the best way to see a city. And here are the cities in which to walk:
Portland, Oregon (USA) I recently visited Portland, Oregon, and began by taking the bus to an inner-city dormant volcano. Starting out with a beautiful view of the central hub of the city in the distance, the walk begins through a beautiful park before finding a set of lakes. From here you hit an incredibly long and straight road called SE Hawthorne Avenue, toward the Willamette river that chops the city in two. Walking the full length of this road shows the diversity of Portland culturally with the aromas wafting out from restaurants: South Korean, Mexican, Greek, French.
Next are the many coffee and tea shops grinding their own beans to the sound of local music. This area of Portland buzzes with diversity: theatres, music houses, instrument shops, organic farmers markets, art shops and second-hand thrift and furniture stores. It is a relaxed and mellow walking experience as you head toward the river. When you cross the river and beautiful bridge, you hit the high-rise hustle and bustle of downtown. Look up or you’ll miss the glitz of the modern world as you head toward the Pearl District where, again, the chilled nature of the city takes over from the core business district of downtown.
From here, you can head northwest and enter the enchanted world of Forest Park. With over 70 miles (113 kilometres) of trails, the air feels cooler and healthier to each breath you take. A walk in suburbia shows off the true diversity of a city.
London, UK Walking west from Vauxhall Bridge toward Battersea Park on the north side of the Thames is a favourite walk of mine. I love the point when the apartment buildings fade away and I am left with the view of Battersea Power Station, Chelsea Bridge and the Thames as far as Worlds End. The beautiful London plane trees whose branches stretch over the Victorian railings give one the feeling of walking within the trees.
The old water works is on the right as I approach Chelsea Bridge; its tower a reminder of London’s past. I pass Chelsea Bridge along the embankment and look across to Battersea Park, one of London’s greatest parks, though I feel it never gets the recognition it deserves.
I stroll past the Peace Pagoda and look across to the houses on the other side of the Thames and wonder if anything looks as Dutch as this view in London. I turn and walk toward the Festival of Britain fountains before reaching the stunning Victorian bandstand – it’s perfect for relaxing and watching people stroll past. If you have arrived on a sunny day this has the feel of one of the greatest spaces in Europe. Such a Parisian feel.
I continue on to the sub-tropical gardens, the first in England, built in 1863 when the park warden travelled to South Africa for horticultural inspiration. I carry on to the 1950s cafe and have an ice cream while sitting on a bench looking across the boating lake to the Victorian rockery. I walk toward Albert Bridge to continue my journey along the Thames totally infused with the beautiful park and the joy and happiness of all the Londoners that make this a perfect urban walk.
Istanbul, Turkey If you love Istanbul, you should walk through it; if you love walking, you should walk through Istanbul. Starting from the Rumeli Castle to Dolmabahçe, on the side of Bosphorus, feel what the great discoverers of ancient history felt when they first saw these lands, and understand why Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror was so eager to make it the capital of his empire after 100 years of Ottoman’s attempts to conquer Constantinople.
You need to touch the ancient stones of Hagia Sophia, smell the Rodos clay, and feel the glory of what was once the biggest worship building in the world. Walk by Byzantine walls, touch its stones, look at the sea and feel the history in your veins. And if you want to walk even earlier in history, go to the first settlement: Khalkedon, which is now the most modern and Westernised part of Istanbul. You can have some tea with locals, talk about politics and get lost in the narrow, chaotic streets.
Go to the old settlements of Beyolu, the back streets of the main walking route Istiklal Street and find yourself in something out of Harry Potter’s universe. If you prefer some colourful buildings, walk through Balat, up the hill until the Armenian school, and feel the diversity and freedom. I have lived in Istanbul for 16 years, and with every walk it is completely different, but in many ways it remains the same: great, giant, glorious. The capital of two continents and greatest empires.
Plovdiv, Bulgaria I love to travel around Europe alone, and few things are as rewarding as walking through a new city for the first time. Plovdiv, the second-largest city in Bulgaria and Europe’s oldest continuously inhabited city, was a particular highlight. The city centre is the longest pedestrian zone in Europe, making it perfect for a ramble. The walk takes in almost a thousand years of architecture and culture, as vibrant Austro-Hungarian buildings overlook the excavated remains of a Roman theatre opposite a particularly stylish 15th-century mosque.
Straying down the back roads took me into the 21st century. Nayden Gerov Street, tucked between the main street and one of the city’s seven hills, hosted a street art festival in 2013, which transformed the walls into an explosion of colour. Opposite the walls, the rocks at the foot of the hill had faces of famous people drawn on them. Of all the street art-heavy areas I’ve seen across Europe, this was the most exciting and imaginative – a modern twist in an ancient city. – The Guardian