For me, the best way to get to know a city is to walk in it.
At the walking pace, you can look up and see the wonderful architecture even if you are on your way to somewhere.
If time is no object you can stop and drink it in. You can also explore – now where does that little alley go? What’s that I can see over there? I’ve ended up in some amazing places by letting my curiosity get the better of me, and in turn, have been able to share those findings with others.
Another bonus is to discover wonderful shops and great coffee stops. I now include those when out walking with my group.
When walking, you get to find things others don’t.
But walking in a city isn’t only about pavements and busy streets, your route can lead you off the beaten track. It can take you into parks which may be full of wonderfully manicured lawns and designed flowerbeds or into less formal grassy areas with woodland, wide-open spaces, sports fields and children’s playgrounds. Here you can take a break and lie in the sun; sit on a bench and read a book; enjoy the autumn colours and the emergence of spring; look around you and just ‘be’; have a picnic; paddle in a pond; catch the spray from a fountain; kick through the leaves; play hide and seek; take photos. I do them all.
One of my favourite walks is in Stanley Park in Vancouver, it’s amazing to have this huge are in a city and I love to walk on the Highline in Manhattan, it changes every time I visit – thehighline.org
Then there are paths along rivers, both great and small. I’ve watched swans and their cygnets swim among the reeds, seen a whale been towed out to sea and stood on one side of Tower Bridge as it’s been raised. One of my favourite places to walk in London is from Mile End tube station up the canal which takes me to Islington, then on to Camden teaming with life on market days, through Regents Park and then to Maida Vale with its wonderful mansion blocks and houses and finishing up in Paddington. New developments, houseboats, canal side pubs, bikes, buggies and runners – life on those paths is never dull.
So let your feet take you there, whether in your leisure time or when travelling to a meeting or commuting.
On regular routes there is always something new to see and why not vary your route and see what you discover. Explore your own city, discover new ones. It will give you a real feel for a place and give you the chance to meet real people too.
Which is your favourite city to walk in? What is it about that city that you love and why? Just add your comments below.
If you are interested in city walking, I run monthly walks in and around London. If you’re interested or if you’d like to have these in your own town or city check us out.