Depending on the type of traveling you plan to do, a car-free destination can feel like a blessing or a curse. The pros are evident; there's less pollution, noise, money wasted on gas/ parking and none of those tense traffic vibes because people are accustomed to the leisurely pedestrian pace that comes along with a car-free zone. The cons are, well, if you're doing a road trip it can be awkward to find out where to leave your car, and if you accidentally cross that car-free boundary you're getting a whopper of a fine.
Most people who have embarked into this territory of car-freedom have noticed that these destinations definitely provide a more quaint and laid back environment. Also people are getting noticeably more exercise whether they're walking, biking more or in rare instances rollerblading to get from place to place. However you slice it, changing it up from sitting in a vehicle all the time can put you in touch with nature and help bring back a more active balance to any travel.
We've taken the time to list 25 pretty places where you can experience those car-free feels below, keep reading to pick your next pedestrian paradise.
25 Zermatt, Switzerland
Are you a ski bunny? A mountaineer? Or sprichst du Deutsch? Well, have we got a treat for you. Zermatt Switzerland is a German-speaking town that sits at the foot of Switzerland's highest peaks. The town itself is completely enclosed by the Pennine Alps and consists of 3 main roads. Everything is said to be about 30 minutes walking away which can feel longer during those peak winter months with average temperatures in December hitting as low as -7 degrees Celcius - better bundle up!
This is the starting point for hikes into the mountains or France. That's right, there's a walking path called the Haute Route that leads to Chamonix in France. It's safe to say that this destination is especially meant for any of you pro pedestrians.
24 Dubrovnik Old City, Croatia
Located on the Adriatic Sea, Dubrovnik is one of the most popular tourist destinations out there. If you're a Mediterranean type of pedestrian this may be the spot for you. This breathtaking old city has it all from limestone lined streets to baroque style architecture. You can tour old forts and castles or park yourself beachside on a balmier day. Game of Thrones fans can take a 3-hour themed walking tour and then after, rest the legs while you slide up Mt Srđ in a cable car for an entire hour!
While the ban on motor vehicles is recent since 2016, this plan has successfully managed to reduce congestion in the historic center.
23 Mackinac Island, Michigan
When you tell people you're going on an island holiday, they will hardly assume you mean Michigan. It's just proof that you can get a little slice of relaxation almost anywhere if you look hard enough! This island has a rich history from the Great Lakes fur trade to the two battles that ensued during the war of 1812. A lot of investment has been made in historical restoration and the whole island itself is listed as a National Historic Landmark.
If you want to walk around while you take in the breathtaking architecture and natural wonders, Mackinac Island could be for you.
22 Toronto Islands, Canada
Who knew Toronto had an island? Well, actually it's a chain of islands. They are located just offshore of the major metropolis and are easily accessible by a quick ferry ride from the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal across Lake Ontario. This is also where you will get the most impressive photos of the city's skyline.
A popular recreational hub, locals and tourists alike scurry over to the island to enjoy bike paths, midway rides, and multiple beaches (including a clothing optional beach)!
The island also houses a local community of cottages that have been in existence since 1862 in addition to Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport that was completed with an underground pedestrian tunnel to the mainland built in 2015.
21 Sark, United Kingdom
One of the many islands in England's southwestern channel off the coast of Normandy, Sark has a teeny tiny population of about 500 and is roughly just 5.44 square km in size.
Only horse-drawn carriages and tractors may roam the roads of Sark- no other motor vehicles of any kind. Officially recognized as an International Dark Sky community (a town, city, or community that dedicates itself to the preservation of the night sky through the implementation and enforcement of quality outdoor lighting), it is also the namesake for Enya's 2015 album Dark Sky Island. Are you enticed yet? They also still have a King.
20 Bald Head Island, North Carolina
Do you love golf carts and sea turtles? Bald Head Island could be right for you. Instead of cars residents use these electric motor carts to get from A to B which is manageable since the whole of the island is only 10 square kilometers. Nationally recognized as a popular nesting area for sea turtles you will often hear locals or visitors exclaim that they are on 'turtle time' as a nod to the laid-back island vibe.
There is even a nighttime Turtle Walk that allows visitors to engage in a presentation on the sea turtle habitat before taking a tour to witness first-hand hatchings! Permission to conduct the Turtle Walks is granted via a special state permit that restricts the group size to 25 so be sure to book ahead!
19 Dijon, France
Excuse me, sir, do you have any Grey Poupon? If you ask around long enough, someone is sure to answer YES in this home of the mustard in France. Originating in 1856, Dijon mustard was born when vinegar was substituted for 'verjuice' a highly acidic green juice of not yet ripened grapes and the rest is history. This would be an ideal stop for the foodie pedestrian who enjoys traditional French cuisine.
Every Autumn, Dijon holds an International Gastronomic Fair that contains 500 exhibitors and 200,000 visitors annually. This famous fair is named 1 of the 10 of the most important fairs in France!
18 Venice, Italy
Venice is an incredibly fragile ecosystem that requires a lot of great care when promoting or encouraging tourism of any kind and yet it still draws over 20 million tourists each year. Venice's Centro Storico is the largest car-free zone in all of Europe and it is also a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. As we know the medieval town of Venice is comprised of islands that are immersed in salt water channels. People park their cars on an island-sized parking garage on the mainland before boarding water taxis or trains.
Here your options are limited to your legs or lagoon bound boats. Nothing with wheels will do you much good - in fact, even rolling suitcases are strictly banned.
17 Fes el-Bali, Morocco
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981 Fes el-Bali is the oldest walled part of Fez in Morocco. Fes el-Bali faces some challenges linked to the overpopulation of 156,000 residents within its 540 hectares which includes the deterioration of ancient buildings. Part of the sustainable tourism plan hopes to address this and prevent historical buildings from collapsing and preserve its stupendous architecture. Fes el-Bali is entirely car-free and considered the largest car-free zone in the whole world at that!
Visit this medina and step back in time into the middle ages (they were also car-free back then) and marvel at this well-preserved pride of Morocco.
16 La Cumbrecita, Argentina
Encased with spruce and pine trees, this secluded hamlet won't disappoint your senses. Fresh air is in abundance with just 345 inhabitants in this alpine county. A bit hidden, this is not the type of place you stumble upon. In visiting you might be reminded of small-town Germany as you hike about stopping in a teahouse for some Apfelstrudel (apple strudel) or Chocolate cake.
A town that lends itself to the eco-tourism movement, it is a protected environment that has been officially declared a "pedestrian town" since 1996. Park your car before entering and prepare to be amazed in Argentina.
15 Hydra, Greece
In ancient times, Hydra was known as Hydrea derived from the Greek word for "water" in reference to the natural springs in abundance on this paradisiacal island. If you love sea, sun, and fish then this will be an ideal location for you as it has a strong maritime culture. In hydra, the garbage trucks are the only motorized vehicles permitted. If you're not walking you can always hop on a donkey or mule taxi for a little more kick. This is their most efficient form of public transportation.
Once the home of famous Canadian singer Leonard Cohen, it's not hard to see why people live here even if it is strictly pedestrian.
14 Giethoorn, The Netherlands
Believe it or not, Giethoorn is referred to as the Venice of the Netherlands due to its many canals and pedestrian nature. Forget cars, there aren't any roads! Many of the homes back right out onto water highways and travel by whisper boats that have silent engines. With 176 wooden arc bridges, you can also travel by foot as some of the 2,600 locals tend to do.
Visit Giethoorn to see a historical settlement that dates back to the 18th century and travel along 4 mile long canals for a front row to some of the most marvelous little storybook-like homes.
13 Fire Island, New York
Just off the coast of Long Island, you have Fire Island that is full of natural beauty, vibrant towns, and beautiful beaches. Have you ever wanted to see a sunken forest that sits on sand dunes? Fire Island has that. Maybe you're more of a lighthouse person and don't mind climbing 182 steps for views as far as the eye can SEA. You can do that too!
Fire Island is a popular destination for New York natives who are seeking a bit of asylum from the hustle and bustle of the city or anyone who enjoys a small town vibe and tasty seafood. All this and more only a ferry ride away from the Big Apple!
12 Bornholm, Denmark
A Danish Island located in the Baltic Sea east of Denmark and south of Sweden, Bornholm is understandably most popular in the summer months. Known as the sunshine island for its weather and rock island for its rock formations this island is a mark of natural and unique beauty that certainly has a mystical quality to it.
The Island has a strong dairy farming industry in addition to an arts and crafts culture and has even been named the World Craft Region by the World Craft Council - the first ever in Europe. This gives it a bit of a bohemian vibe as many of the locals are artisans or craftspeople.
11 Frankfurt City Centre, Germany
There is everything you could possibly want to do in this popular tourist stop in Germany as it is commonly known as the city of contrasts. From wealthy bankers to hippied-out grads you will see the breadth of life that is Frankfurt.
Since it is a large metropolis, the car-free zone makes sense as parking can be nearly impossible anyway and public transport is far more reliable. It should be noted that not whole area is a car-free zone but if you mistakenly trespass into a local traffic only zone, the fines can be hefty as this country tends to be strict on those who break the rules intentionally or not.
10 Margaret Island, Budapest
Margaret Island is Budapest's green oasis located in the Danube river between Buda and Pest. Just 2.5 kilometers long and 500 meters wide which could be difficult by foot only. Luckily, you can rent golf carts, electric scooters, or bringo carts to get around without missing a beat. If you're still hungering for a bit more physical activity you can always trek to the top of the island's water tower that was constructed in 1911 in Art Nouveau style.
If you're craving a bit of zen you can visit the Japanese rose garden on the northern tip of the island complete with fish pond, rock garden, and an artificial waterfall.
9 Dublin City Center, Ireland
Fancy a jig down Temple Bar? Well, you might as well give it a go because there are absolutely no cars in Dublin's city center. The locals are finding it appealing as it is less stressful to get around by bicycle or public transport without the influx of tourist-filled taxis but not everyone is thrilled by the debate of cars vs. no cars in Dublin's core.
One thing is for sure: if you're mostly in the mood for a Guinness and some live fiddle music you're better off not getting behind the wheel as bars with both are a dime a dozen in the city center.
8 Florence Market Area, Italy
What is Italy known for besides sumptuous piles of pasta and best-ever traditionally made pizzas? Walking. Italians love a walk whether it's midday, early morning to get an espresso and a biscotti for breakfast or after cena (dinner) to digest. Not just in Florence, but in many major Italian cities there is a limit to where you can go with the car.
In Florence, these areas are marked as ZTL or limited traffic zones where you will need a particular permit. Since this is a post about pedestrianism, forget the permit and do as the Italians do by wearing a snazzy pair of sneakers and sightseeing by foot. You'll see more, smell more, and let's be honest, eat more, and you won't regret a thing.
7 Tiengemeten, the Netherlands
Remote doesn't begin to explain this Dutch town which had a population of 10 up until 2007 and after 2007 it returned to its original state allowing nature to run its course and its inhabitants to be relocated. So, why would you visit this place? If it's flowing creeks, gullies, and flowering meadows weren't enough to draw you in there is also a huge population of migrating birds and Hyland cows that call these parts home.
This completely car-free island is reachable by the bicycle-friendly ferry that takes you from the port of Nieuwendijk across in 10 minutes.
6 Kazan, Russia
When planning a visit to Russia many people don't consider Kazan probably because technically, it isn't in Russia. As the largest city and capital of Tatarstan, it is considered within Russia's official borders but operates autonomously. Known as a religiously inclusive place you can tour all of the world's religions in one building at the Temple of All Religions or sample those that suit within Kazan's Kremlin.
Chillax in one of the many green spaces or cool off at Kazan's famous water park "Kazan Riviera". Getting around should be a cinch with public transportation that includes metro, trams and trolley busses as well as bike sharing service throughout the city.
5 Växjö, Sweden
Famed for being the greenest city in Europe, it's not hard to see why it has chosen to go car-free. This title wasn't achieved without the city hitting rock bottom in the 1960s to landing on the opposite end of the spectrum 50 years later. On the cutting edge of green initiatives the city routinely monitors co2 emissions and participates in numerous green initiatives and collaborations.
Sweden itself has a particular reputation for its green consciousness even implementing a carbon tax with the goal of eliminating fossil fuel dependency by 2020. This would be an ideal stop for anyone with a passion for eco-tourism, city planning, and sustainability.
4 Prince's Islands, Turkey
Peaceful islands away from the hustle and bustle of Istanbul, here you will get around by horse and cart. The islands got their name from the Byzantine period when princes were being routinely exiled to these islands. If you have a passion for real estate you might find that these islands littered with majestic mansions could get your heart pumping - many of which are pristinely preserved.
There are a total of 4 larger islands and 5 smaller islands yet out of the 9, only 4 are possible to tour by ferry on your visit. While it can be tough to give up a few days to experience the islands, it is guaranteed to be one of the most rejuvenating experiences that you can have in Turkey.
3 Leeds, The United Kingdom
Leeds could be an interesting spot for anyone who takes an interest in the industrial side of things with a strong economic history of wool, flax, and iron manufacturing here. It is thought of like a commercial, financial, cultural and educational hub of West Yorkshire as it also hosts 4 Universities. Leeds has many claims to fame including the oldest ever film in existence, Roundhay Garden Scene circa 1888 and the invention of soda water.
Random enough for you? Leeds faced a bit of a car crisis as Leeds-Bradford was rated as the 7th most perpetually gridlocked place in the EU, causing dangerously high pollution levels which could be part of the reason the center remains car-free today.
2 Kotor, Montenegro
Located on the Adriatic coast this town in Montenegro has an impressive and dramatic landscape that's hard to replicate. Kotor has been bringing tourists who are keen to experience an ancient Roman town nestled between impressive mountain peaks complete with a hikeable hilltop fortress.
If you're not a fan of heights you can take in Kotor's breathtaking beauty from the seaside pedestrian promenade that stretches along the Bay of Kotor that is dotted with fishing boats and cozy cafés. An old town walking tour is a MUST for history buffs as it hosts remarkable squares and structures dating back to Roman times.
1 Vilnius, Lithuania
The capital of Lithuania is the second largest city in the Baltic states. An architectural wonder, the old town was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. It is also known as the "Jerusalem of Lithuania" or as Napolean put it, "Jerusalem of the North" as it was at one time, prior to WWII, one of the largest Jewish centers in Europe.
The culture here is highly eclectic and exciting from the Frank Zappa bronze to the 2400 square meter Contemporary Art Centre, we dare you not to be totally enthralled by the bohemian spirit felt in its streets.
References: www.citylab.com, Wikipedia, Canadian Traveller, crcresearch.org