Best Car Free Precincts in Europe
“Car-free” is a relative term in Europe. To wit, many famous “pedestrian zones” on the continent enforce vehicle bans with borderline antipathy and indolence. As a result, the likes of Gamla stan Stockholm, downtown Athens, Florence and even the Barri Gòtic of Barcelona do not, in practice, serve as car-free exemplars. Happily, some progressive urban enclaves do more to promote pedal and foot power than others. Discover a dozen of our favourites.
Strøget, Copenhagen, Denmark
Strøget, the paragon artery of car-free commerce in Europe, resides between Copenhagen’s two linchpin public squares – the Rådhuspladsen and Kongens Nytorv.
Where to stay: Stay Apartment Hotel Copenhagen
Capital of Estonia and Europe’s Capital of Culture for 2011, the gem of Tallinn has a car-free and landmark-rich UNESCO World Heritage Old Town.
Where to stay: Telegraaf Hotel Tallinn
Rue Mouffetard, Paris, France
Rue Mouffetard. La cinquième. The Latin Quarter. Hemingway. Just 0.5 km but all you need to know about the Moveable Feast that is Paris.
Where to stay: Four Seasons Hotel George V Paris
Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England
Cambridge, a park and ride and bicycle hub, bans cars from the urban and campus core and, as a result, is the poster child university town.
Where to stay: Felix Hotel Cambridge
5 km/h is the modest speed limit for public transport and taxis in magnificent medieval Ghent. A peerless car-free role model.
Where to stay: Ghent Marriott Hotel
Innere Stadt, Vienna, Austria
The sublime Innere Stadt of Austria’s handsome capital cocoons St. Stephen’s Cathedral from cars and, with Graben, Kärntner Straße, Stephansplatz, Freyung, Minoritenplatz and Judenplatz, makes Vienna a vanguard.
Where to stay: Small Luxury Hotel Das Tyrol Vienna
Freiburg im Breisgau, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Why is urbane, postcard-perfect Freiburg im Breisgau such a popular target for expats and international students? The medieval university town is largely free of cars.
Where to stay: Clarion Hotel Hirschen Freiburg
Medieval Town of Torun, Kujawy-Pomerania Province, Poland
UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Seven Wonders of Poland, Torun, the gorgeous second city of Kujawy-Pomerania, is a car-free oasis just 45 km from Bydgoszcz, Europe’s Capital of Culture for 2016.
Where to stay: Holiday Inn Bydgoszcz
Groningen, Groningen, Netherlands
The hip university city of Groningen keeps pretty with a strict car-ban in the urban core. Incredibly, almost 60% of trips within the city are made by bicycle.
Where to stay: Mercure Hotel Groningen Martiniplaza
Old City of Salamanca, Castile and León, Spain
Spain is no stranger to car-free quarters but the UNESCO World Heritage Old City of Salamanca is extraordinary.
Where to stay: NH Puerta De La Catedral Hotel Salamanca
Zurich is so progressive that everyone seems to be in eternal catch-up mode with the cosmopolitan hub of Switzerland. The sphere of public transport is no exception. Even the wealthy (many, anyway) shun cars in the city and, indeed, the medieval urban core of Zurich is all but cut off for exhaust-belchers.
Where to stay: The Dolder Grand Hotel Zurich
Saint Petersburg, Russia
The Baroque and Neoclassical time capsule that is the UNESCO World Heritage Historic Centre of Saint Petersburg unfurls scores of pedestrian jewels, from Malaya Sadovaya Street to Palace Square.
Where to stay: Nas Hotel Saint Petersburg
Where do you like to go in Europe for pedestrian pleasure? Drop us a comment below.