It’s been an interesting couple of years for one of America’s favorite pastimes: Driving. The Great American Road Trip took a hit when COVID inadvertantly caused a rental car shortage. Then a chip factory fire in China meant no new cars could be completed for sale. And this year, the big headline is runaway gas price inflation. So, if you want to keep traveling, it’s more important than ever to find destinations that do not require a car when you get there. Here are my favorite car-free cities to visit in the world!
The Northern Irish capital city is one of the most delightful places I’ve ever visited! My younger brother and I came here for his 30th birthday trip extravaganza, and we did so much–all without a car! It’s a very walkable city, and in fact, we took a fantastic walking tour here that was probably one of the most informative, funny, and fascinating tours I’ve ever taken.
And while that’s all well and good (most cities are walkable in the city center), Belfast had a little ace up its sleeve. I was delighted to find that even the must-dos outside the city center, like the Titanic Museum, Afternoon Tea at the Titanic Hotel, and more, were still all within easy walking distance. I can’t wait to go back myself!
Even more here: What to Know Before You Visit Belfast
Did you hear about United Airlines’s new non-stop flight from Newark (EWR) to Bergen, Norway (BGO)? I’m so excited about it! Steve and I briefly visited Bergen on our honeymoon, and we both agreed it was our favorite stop on our trip through Scandinavia. This gorgeous, historic seaside town (where some say Disney got its inspiration for Arendelle in the Frozen movies!) boasts hiking trails, stunning views, quaint museums, and even trolls!
But even if you’re not flying right into Bergen, it’s easy to get to without a car as well. It’s one end of the “Norway in a Nutshell” tour through fjords, mountains, and more on the way to the Norwegian capital city of Oslo! We are excited to return soon.
Bratislava was not even on my radar until I started planning a trip to meet up with friends in Prague back in 2012. I wanted to see a few other cities nearby before meeting up with them, and Bratislava seemed like a natural stop on my journey. It quickly became a favorite city in Europe! This was back when I was working three jobs and living on my own, too, so saving money was a very high priority. Renting a car was not on my list of things to do!
So it’s a good thing that, not only was Bratislava walkable and easy to navigate, even their public transportation to sites outside the city center was easy and inexpensive! The Slovakian people I met were so helpful and welcoming, the food was wonderful, and there were actually a ton of free things to do there as well. If you’ve never been, put it at the top of your list!
Chocolate? Christmas markets? Medieval architecture? Waffles?! Add to that the fact that you can take a canal boat tour, and you’ve got one of the most romantic, most historic cities in Europe! And one of the most walkable.
With easy access to train routes all over Europe, it’s easy to get here from just about anywhere in Belgium or the surrounding countries, and of course, there’s a direct train from the Brussels Airport (BRU) as well. Once you’re here, by foot is the easiest (and most pleasant!) way to get around. You can see everything in just a day or two, or take your time and spend a week! Most people who go to Bruges on a day trip say the same thing: They wish they’d stayed longer!
More here: What to Know Before You Visit Bruges
Another stop on our Scandinavian honeymoon also makes this list. Copenhagen is easy to navigate on foot or by bike. Old European cities like this one were quite literally made for walkability, since they were designed long before cars were something anyone could dream of. Visitors can easily walk from the colorful canalside buildings of Nyhavn to Rosenborg Castle, from Christiansborg Slot to Rudentarn Tower, and from Copenhagen City Hall to the National Museum of Denmark without breaking a sweat!
Find more on my Scandinavia Page!
Europe is not the only place you can explore without a car! Easter Island, off the coast of Chile and accessible only from the capital city of Santiago, is a great place to visit if you’re looking for an outside-the-box destination. There are plenty of famous “heads” to see within walking distance of the only town on the island (Hang Roa), but I also recommend taking a full-day tour while you’re here. Let someone else do the navigating, and learn all the best information about what you’re actually seeing here!
Read next: 10 Reasons to Visit Easter Island, Chile
Edinburgh is a fantastic place to go carless. You’ll climb a few hills whether you like it or not, but people do it every day! The few sites that might be outside walking distance are easily and inexpensively accessible on public transportation (don’t miss the Royal Yacht Britannia!), but the vast majority of the things you want to do can be done in your walking shoes. In just a couple of days, you can easily explore the Royal Mile, tour Edinburgh Castle, visit museums large and small, and top it all off with a hearty Scottish meal with sticky toffee pudding for dessert!
Keep reading: 10 Reasons to Visit Edinburgh
The Galapagos Islands
Most islands require a car if you want to explore more than just your resort. That is not so in the Galapagos Islands, just a few hours by plane from mainland Ecuador! There are few paved roads on the islands, and in fact, some islands don’t have roads at all–they’re occupied exclusively by rare species of animals!
Many locations can only be accessed by guided tour, so you’ll want to go through a tour company–I recommend Galapagos Alternative because they treated us so well. You can also choose from a land-based visit (staying at some of the few hotels in the islands), or a unique sea-based visit. It’s true, you can stay on a yacht to tour the islands! You’ll be so fascinated by these friendly, fearless animals, you won’t miss the car at all!
Just a 45-minute train ride from Frankfurt, you’ll love beautiful, historic Heidelberg, Germany! Or if you happen to be a cruise-loving traveler, you could even visit by river cruise via the Neckar River! Boasting medieval architecture, one of the oldest Universities in the world, and one of the most charming Christmas markets in all of Europe, there’s something for everyone! A walk up the hill to the Castle will work up your appetite for gigantic soft pretzels while you’re there, too.
Get there ASAP: How to Get to Heidelberg, Germany
Between the Tube, Black Cabs, and walkability on both sides of the River Thames, London is one of the largest cities that can be explored car-free! While the sites you want to see may be spread out, you’ll have no trouble seeing it all. In fact, taking the tube or walking is often faster than driving even if you do have a car at your disposal! Take a walking tour, order your Oyster Card for the Tube in advance, and check all the iconic sites on foot: The London Eye, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Globe Theatre, Picadilly Circus, The British Museum, and more!
Essential reading: The Beginner’s Guide to Afternoon Tea in London
It’s more than just the setting for The Sound of Music! Salzburg is one of the most pedestrian-friendly cities I have ever visited, which is just one contributing factor to its place on my very short “favorite cities in the world” list. My husband and I loved everything about it, from the sweeping views (not every city has such green views of the Alpine countryside!), the castle, the food, and the walkability.
Yes, you should take a Sound of Music tour, as some of the important sites are not within walking distance of the city. And yes, you should get the Salzburg Card, which has the potential to save you hundreds of dollars on all the things you want to see and do! You will also need to eat a Sacher Torte at Cafe Sacher–you’ll earn it!
So much to see and do: Your Guide to the Money-saving Salzburg Card
So, Europe is pretty old. But have you been to Cambodia? The Angkor Wat Temple Complex and similar sites in Siem Reap, Cambodia, are some of the oldest places of worship still standing in the world. The architecture is uniquely beautiful, and made even moreso by the surrounding jungle setting. My trip here several years ago remains one of my most favorite.
You won’t, however, be able to explore them all on foot. You also won’t want to rent a car in the crazy, chaotic streets (and sometimes trails) of the Cambodian jungle. Instead, you should hire a tuk tuk! Many accommodations arrange tuk tuk drivers for guests during their stay, and they’ll do everything from pick you up at the airport, drop you off and pick you up for dinner in town, to offer full-day tours of the temples.
Keep reading: 10 Reasons to Visit Siem Reap
This tiny country has it all figured out. They have a great metro system, and though the city-country was largely built after World War II and the invention of motor vehicles, many of the most popular sites are within walking distance of each other. The few sites that are just outside of walking distance are easily accessed by cab, metro, or if you’re headed to Sentosa, you can take the… cable car!
More here: The Most Iconic Singapore Sites
Australia is big, y’all! So big that road trips between major cities are almost out of the question. Thankfully, iconic Sydney is one of the most walkable cities in Oceania! Get to downtown from the airport via the train, then put on your walking shoes. There’s so much to see and do in and around Sydney!
Walk across the Sydney Harbor Bridge and visit the museum in one of the pylons (or if you like an epic view, climb it with BridgeClimb Sydney). Head over to Darling Harbor, then across to the Sydney Opera House. Explore the Royal botanic Gardens, then take the Yellow Water Taxi across the harbor to visit the Taronga Zoo!
Stay a while: The Perfect 4 Days in Sydney
Every pedestrian needs to put one thing on their bucket list: Crossing at Shibuya Scramble! Tokyo’s iconic crossing at their version of Times Square is nothing short of overwhelming. But there’s so much more! After you explore the legendary Ginza area, you can visit temples and shrines, marvel at world-class museums and galleries, and even go kimono shopping! When you finish with Tokyo, take the Shenkansen train to any of the other major cities in Japan. The entire country is easily accessible without ever needing to step into a car. I should know, I lived there for three months!
Start planning your trip now: Top 12 Ultimate Experiences to Have in Japan
Unless you’re coming from nearby Alice Springs (283 miles and 4.5 hours away), you will most likely be flying to Uluru, Australia’s “Red Centre” formerly known as Ayer’s Rock. Believe it or not, transportation won’t be a problem way out here in the middle of actual nowhere, even if you don’t rent a car!
The accommodations here are all part of the same resort, and they have tours and transportation that will take you to all the things you want to see. From walking around Uluru itself to hiking in Kata Tjuta, from helicopter tours to camel tours, and from art installations to sunrise and sunset viewing areas, you can relax and let someone else do the driving!
Unforgettable: 10 Things to See and Do at Uluru
The capital city of Liechtenstein, the world’s 6th smallest country, is one of the cutest, most beautiful, friendliest places you’ll visit! Hike up to Vaduz Castle (where a real Prince lives!), visit the Liechtenstein National Museum, then marvel at the Cathedral of St. Florin. You can do it all on foot. In fact, you can even check another couple of countries off your list: Hike to Austria, then walk across the bridge that connects this tiny country to Switzerland!
Get everything about this tiny country on my Liechtenstein Page!
Once place you definitely won’t drive? Venice! You will want to take a gondola, though! Though it’s easy to get lost at first (just accept it and enjoy the journey!), you’ll quickly realize you won’t be lost for long. It’s a small island! You will certainly be able to walk to anything you want to do, but if you get tired, or just want a bit of a different perspective, you can also take a water taxi along the Grand Canal!
Read next: The Most Romantic Things to Do in Venice
Fair Verona! Steve and I both truly enjoyed our trip to Verona, even during their busiest weekend–Valentine’s Day weekend! Everything is close to everything else. The Roman ruins are close to several churches. The main square is close to Torre dei Lamberti. Romeo’s house is close to Juliet’s house! And the best restaurants are close to it all. I would go back in a heartbeat, and I hope we will go back one day.
Start planning now: Why You Should Spend Valentine’s Day in Verona, Italy
You won’t be renting a car in the Alpine village of Zermatt because… They’re not allowed! You’ll see a few electric carts tooling around town to help tourists with their bags, but other than that, you’ll either be walking, skiing, or taking a ski lift! As a bonus, because Switzerland is so well-connected by trains, you won’t have any trouble getting here or continuing your journey elsewhere. You can even catch the famous Glacier Express from here!
Don’t stop there: The Ultimate Guide to Train Travel in Switzerland
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