From Japan to Uzbekistan, Malaysia to Mongolia, these are the best walkable cities in Asia (as recommended by travel bloggers).
There’s nothing I enjoy more than exploring a city on foot. While some of the world’s greatest walking cities are in Europe, Asia has its fair share of walkable cities, districts and neighbourhoods as well. You might be surprised to learn that even some of the biggest Asian metropolises have walkable areas.
Getting out on two feet is a wonderful way to immerse yourself in a new city. And in Asia, where a lots of places have a thriving street culture, walking is a great way to experience a city’s local side. Old towns, pedestrian zones, shopping malls, street art and of course, street food are just some of the things you can find when walking in Asia.
I have my own favourite walking cities in Asia but I’m always on the lookout for new pedestrian-friendly cities to visit. I asked travel bloggers to share their own favourite walking cities and here is the result—30-plus walkable cities that stretch from East to South, Central to Southeast Asia.
Table of Contents
- Walkable cities in Asia: Southeast Asia
- Walkable cities in Asia: East Asia
- Walkable cities in Asia: South Asia
- Walkable cities in Asia: Central Asia & the Caucasus
Walkable cities in Asia: Southeast Asia
The Old Quarter in Hanoi, Vietnam
In a city of 7.5 million people and almost as many motorbikes, walking in Hanoi can be a serious challenge. It’s no secret that I love wandering in Hanoi’s Old Quarter—one of the oldest parts of the city that’s home to much of Hanoi’s famous French colonial architecture and other heritage buildings.
Early mornings in the Old Quarter are the most atmospheric. Start you stroll at Hoan Kiem Lake, which comes to life at around 5am each day with people exercising. The lake is located towards the bottom of the Old Quarter, but it’s Hanoi’s heart and soul. North of Hoan Kiem, mango-coloured buildings line the leafy streets and narrow laneways branch out on all sides. You can visit churches and temples, including Bach Ma Temple and St. Joseph’s Cathedral, local markets and ancient houses along with modern fashion boutiques and cafes.
At the northern end of the Old Quarter, Dong Xuan Market and the area around Long Bien Bridge offer some of the most dynamic, lively streets in all of Hanoi.
By Marianne, Mum on the Move
When Sir Stamford Raffles developed his plan for Singapore in 1822, he divided the city up into ethnic enclaves—and these are still in evidence today in Little India, Chinatown and the Arab Quarter. Little did Raffles know that he would be creating ideally compact areas perfect for visitors of the future to explore on foot! Another thing you can thank Raffles for are Singapore’s ‘five foot ways’—sheltered walkways alongside the buildings that protect you from sunshine and rain.
Chinatown is one of the most popular areas of Singapore, thanks to its beautifully preserved shophouses, souvenir stalls and the abundance of temples to admire. Another area that’s great for walking is Little India. The most vibrant and colourful part of Singapore houses several spectacular temples and bustling shops selling everything from gold jewellery to Hindi music CDs, cheap clothing and souvenirs in its street-side stalls.
For fabulous architecture, take a wander around the Colonial District. The juxtaposition of the soaring skyscrapers of the Central Business District towering over the neo-Palladian colonial buildings demonstrates how this city celebrates its colonial past whilst also embracing its fast-paced, energetic present. Don’t forget to end your walk with a Singapore Sling at Raffles Hotel!
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By Katherine and Hali, Tara Lets Anywhere
Malacca (AKA Melaka) is one of the most laid-back places to visit in Malaysia. It’s known as a cultural attraction, with the city declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s easy to explore by foot and most hotspots are just walking distance from each other.
There are many things to see in Malacca. We suggest starting in Jonker Street because it has everything Malacca is famous for: Old architectural houses, temples, restaurants serving generations-old Malay and Chinese dishes, and souvenir shops. At night, Jonker Street turns to a night market where you can taste lots of delicious local food, including some specialties of Malacca such as coconut ice cream and shakes. Outside Jonker Street, you can also visit museums and other religious sites.
Take in views of the famous Malacca River, which looks magnificent at night. There’s a river cruise for tourists that allows you to see the rest of Malacca—or you can just follow the sidewalk along the river and see buildings bustling with street art and quaint cafes and restaurants by the riverside, which you might miss otherwise. It’s easy and fun to stroll along the alleyways and old roads in Malacca.
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Yangon, Myanmar (Burma)
By Marie, A Life Without Borders
Yangon, the former capital of Myanmar, intriguingly blends Southeast Asia with the Indian Subcontinent. With its superb colonial architecture, golden pagodas, interesting food and history-filled streets, Yangon is the perfect choice for wandering. With traffic to rival other Southeast Asian hubs, attempting to catch a taxi or public transport could mean sitting in traffic for hours. Walking is therefore the quickest and best way to see this city.
Downtown Yangon yields a wealth of crumbling, colonial architecture, all neatly contained within a couple of kilometres. The area southeast of Sule Paya (Sule Pagoda) is a manageable walk and its gridded street pattern makes it easy to navigate. A stroll through Mahabandula Park allows glimpses of the High Court clock tower as you head along Pansadan Street and Mahabandoola Road on a heritage building hunt. In the midst of it all, the golden Sule Paya sits like a magnet, attracting all in the vicinity.
A walk along the riverside gleans insights into daily life on the Yangon River. Food lovers will be enthralled strolling Chinatown’s 17th Street fresh market or the 19th Street night BBQ stalls. Walking in Yangon is an adventure in itself and will keep you entertained at every turn.
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Luang Prabang, Laos
By Matilda, The Travel Sisters
Luang Prabang in northern Laos is one of the most charming, pretty, relaxed and walkable little cities in world. Most of the city’s attractions can be found in its historic centre, the old town of Luang Prabang, which has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. Located on a small peninsula formed by the junction of two rivers, the old town of Luang Prabang is dotted with beautiful architecture and over 30 Buddhist temples.
Most of the best things to see and do in Luang Prabang are close to each other in the centre of town and best explored on foot. I recommend waking up early to eat local food at the morning market and watch orange-robed monks walk around town collecting alms. Another must-do is to climb the stairs to the top of Mount Phoosi, a hill located right in the centre of the city, to view the sunrise or sunset and take in panoramic views. Every evening, part of the main street is closed off to cars for the night market. In addition to being compact and full of attractions, pedestrians will appreciate that the centre of Luang Prabang has very little crime and hardly any traffic.
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The Old Town in Phuket, Thailand
By Mar, Once in a Lifetime Journey
The Old Town is the historical part of Phuket and was important before the island became a tourist and beach destination. Originally, the area was a teeming tin trading spot, where Portuguese and Chinese traders met and exchanged good. This rich heritage brought the traditional shophouse architecture (with signature painted facades) that you also find in other cities in the region, including Malacca in Malaysia and Singapore.
The best way to explore Phuket Old Town is on foot so that you can walk under the shophouses and truly find the hidden gems. For a royal lunch, look out for the Blue Elephant Restaurant, which is located inside the Phra Pitak Chinpracha Mansion. Visit the On On Hotel, which appears in the opening scenes of the movie The Beach, or chat to artists at The Drawing Room. Old Town Phuket has a lot of cafes and hipster joints as well as lots of local food stalls serving amazing food.
The most beautiful houses in Phuket Old Town are on Soi Romanee, where you can take all those Instagram-worthy shots.
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George Town (Penang), Malaysia
By Savannah, Savvy Dispatches
Penang is located in northwestern Malaysia, just below the border with Thailand. Often described as the ‘cultural hub’ of the country, Penang’s capital city of George Town features a charming historic city centre that is a registered UNESCO World Heritage site.
Despite the typical humid climate of the region, the old town is easily walkable thanks to a series of covered walkways that line each street. Keep an eye out on your shaded stroll around George Town for colourful, shuttered townhouses. These historic homes are classic examples of the Peranakan style of architecture that is distinctive to the Malaysian peninsula.
As you take in the architecture, make your way through the Little India neighbourhood. This ethnic enclave features elaborate Hindu temples, Indian eateries, sari shops, and more. Next on your list should be a short amble down Armenian Street to sneak a peek at some of George Town’s famous street art. Last but not least, beat the heat at the bayside in the breezy, floating neighbourhoods known as Clan Jetties. The most well-known of these is the Chew Jetty, which is home to several souvenir shops and cafes.
Old Town Hoi An, Vietnam
By April, The Unending Journey
Anyone who’s been to Vietnam will tell you the traffic is insane. The historic old town of Hoi An is free of cars, which makes walking around a joy. Designated an UNESCO site, Hoi An is a colourful, well-preserved town of over 800 buildings, all centuries old. Being able to leisurely walk down the streets means you can really take in and appreciate the old architecture, colours, and vibrant atmosphere.
As you amble along the main street, Tran Phu, there’s museums, assembly halls, and art shops to enjoy. One of the highlights is the Japanese Covered Bridge, which has stood for over 400 years, linking what was once Hoi An’s Chinese and Japanese communities.
Another highlight is the Thu Bon River. During the day, it’s the perfect place to stroll along and grab a meal at one of the many bankside restaurants. At night, the area becomes a sea of lights as colourful lanterns float down the river. Hoi An is all about the lanterns: They’re everywhere, in every colour and shape. And at night, when they’re all lit up, the entire city transforms and becomes almost magical. There’s not another city like it in Vietnam.
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Boracay, the Philippines
By Jillian, Adventure Dragon
The entire island of Boracay is just 7km long, so it can be fully explored by foot in a single trip. The neighbourhoods are divided according to the beaches, and there’s an endless amount of activities for every type of traveller.
If you love stunning scenery, an easy-level walking path will lead you to the top of Mount Luho and reward you with a breathtaking panoramic view of every spot in Boracay. The streets of White Beach are where you’ll find the most travellers as well as the most extensive list of things to see while walking. White Beach Path runs right parallel to the ocean, and you can walk for miles without the beach ever leaving your sight. As you casually stroll, you’ll stumble across professionally-constructed sandcastles as well as giant metal statues of gorillas, scantily-clad ladies, cacti with sunglasses, and other odd art sculptures that you probably wouldn’t expect to find on a beach.
Boracay’s most iconic landmark, Willy’s Rock, can also be seen from the street as you pass through White Beach’s Station 1 District. If you opt to walk at night, you’ll see the beach come alive with fire dancers, paraw sailboats, and some of the most beautiful sunsets in the world. I highly recommend Boracay to anyone looking for a safe, beautiful, and fully walkable destination in Asia.
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Ubud (Bali), Indonesia
Recommended by Priyanka, On My Canvas
Before I went to Ubud this year, I assumed that it must be over-hyped. But after a few days making my way through the streets fringed with artistic temples, blooming frangipanis, and colourful shops, I realised that Ubud is famous for a few good reasons.
The main road, the Jalan Raya Ubud, and the perpendicular streets are the best place to start your day. Here, you can find monkey forests, temples, art galleries, museums, silver jewellery workshops, big and small restaurants, and anything else you might associate with Bali.
Saraswati Temple, Ubud Palace, and Ubud Main Market are the most popular touristic attractions. Of those, Saraswati Temple stole my heart – the lotuses blooming out front are unmatchable in beauty. The area is almost always full of people, but if you just walk two lanes away from the centre, you can find quaint cafes, serene temples, rolling paddy fields, ducks wobbling around, and local villagers just going about their day.
I loved walking through Ubud, for it is a place that should be soaked in slowly. And if you get tired, walk to a rice field, sit down, and watch the paddy stalks dance with the wind.
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Recommended by Ashley, The Great Wander
What makes Chiang Mai so walkable? Walking around Chiang Mai is such a breeze within the walls of Old City. Chiang Mai’s sidewalks, attractions, and temples always leave something to look at or stop to see while walking around Old City.
To walk from one side of Old City to the other will take you not more than 20 to 30 minutes total. Unless you stop along the way to see some of the city’s over 300 temples. It’s easy to get lost in the wonder of these beautiful structures with the rich history and zen-like feel.
In addition to the temples, the city has many coffee and smoothie shops to quench your thirst and get you out of the Thailand heat. No matter what your taste, Chiang Mai has a something for you!
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Walkable cities in Asia: East Asia
Seoul, South Korea
By Kim and Del, Going the Whole Hogg
In the heart of South Korea’s buzzing modern capital, a trove of traditional treasures waits for those ready to explore on two feet. Starting at Bukchon Hanok Village, climb the hill on pedestrianised cobbled streets past Korea’s traditional hanok houses, some now galleries, museums and cafes, others still home to the city’s residents. Enjoy the views of Seoul before heading down to wander the palace grounds of Changdeokgung and Gyeongbokgung.
Cross the road and walk down the flagstoned Insadong-gil, lined with shops selling local crafts and street stalls dishing out delicious Korean snacks. Branch off the main drag to meander the maze of back lanes and byways, sampling an endless variety of local food and a cup of makgeolli.
Rest in a pagoda at tree-filled Tapgol Park, before wandering down to unique Cheonggyecheon: a below-street-level stream lined with walking paths and wall art, and home to two spectacular lantern festivals in May and November. Finish up at Deoksugung, a final palace across from futuristic City Hall, where you can witness a changing of the guard ceremony by day, and wander the lit-up atmospheric grounds by night.
By Kylie, Between England and Iowa
Despite being home to one of the country’s major international airports, Narita often gets overlooked by people heading straight into Tokyo. However, Narita is very walker-friendly and makes for a perfect stop on a long layover!
One of Narita’s major sights is the Naritasan Shinshoji Temple. The temple, dating back to 1701, is a 10-minute walk from both Narita train stations. At the temple, you’ll also find Naritasan Park. Even when the temple grounds are packed with visitors, the park remains peaceful. Enjoy a stroll around the large koi ponds and find the waterfall that’s tucked away in a quiet corner.
Omotesando Narita is a cute little Japanese street filled with restaurants and gift shops. You can’t miss it, as it is on the main route between the train station and Naritasan Temple. Historically, it’s a route that Buddhist pilgrims used to walk between Tokyo city and Naritasan. Grilled eel is a popular dish served in the restaurants along this street—you’ll often see chefs sitting along the edge of the street preparing the eel. Historically a good source of nutrition for the walking pilgrims, it makes the whole street smell delicious!
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By Keri, Little City Trips
Hong Kong is a city best explored on foot so that you can take in all the exotic sights, sounds and smells of this vibrant metropolis. The city is hilly and there are a lot of steps, particularly around the Central district, but Hong Kong has counteracted this with a genius installation—a giant escalator (the longest outdoor covered escalator in the world) that connects the Mid-levels with Central. It has 14 exits, making it easy to hop on and off to explore.
One of our favourite areas to discover on foot is Sheung Wan. This old part of the city is a little off the main tourist track and offers an interesting insight into daily Hong Kong life. This is where the locals head to buy dried seafood such as abalone and scallops, as well as other pungent products to add to their soups and tonics. Wandering the streets and trying to identify all the different products is quite an experience.
Sheung Wan is also home to Cat Street, which is full of antique shops and art galleries. It’s also home to the famous Man Mo Temple. Dedicated to the God of Literature and the God of War, it’s renowned for its giant coiled incense sticks that hang from the ceiling.
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The Muslim Quarter in Xi’an, China
By Daisy, Beyond My Border
As the first city in China to be introduced to Islam, Xi’an has a community of around 50,000 Hui Muslims amongst its 8.7 million-person population. The Muslim Quarter (回民街), a popular food and cultural district, is a local favourite. Not only does it gather a number of delightful Xi’an delicacies within a couple of blocks, the quality and cleanliness of the street food are also fantastic.
The street has bluestone paved walkways in between centuries-old architecture, including 10 mosques of different sizes. Although a noted tourist destination, the Muslim Quarter remains a local spot for snacking, shopping and leisure.
At night time, the district turns into a buzzing marketplace that offers hundreds of specialty snacks such as cakes, dried fruits and desserts. Behind these stalls are restaurants serving local cuisines. Some of my favourites are the Pita Bread Soaked in Lamb Soup (羊肉泡馍), Cold Steamed Rice Noodles (凉皮), Hot and Pepper Soup (胡辣汤), and Kebab (羊肉串).
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Ximending District in Taipei, Taiwan
By Nick, Spiritual Travels
Ximending is without a doubt the funkiest neighbourhood in Taipei—and has been for over 100 years. The district’s history goes back to when Taiwan was a Japanese colony. It was first developed as a theatre and entertainment district just outside the west gate (Xi Men) of the Taipei Old City.
Today, the pedestrian-only shopping district is referred to as the ‘Harajuku of Taipei’, with its hip fashions, brightly coloured signs, and plethora of quirky (and outright weird) things to do. Here you can get inked or pierced in an open-air tattoo parlour, dine on shit-shaped foods at Modern Toilet Restaurant, have a coffee in a cosplay cafe, or get an ancient Chinese knife massage, just to name a few.
Ximending is also a hub of art and LGBT culture. You can spot renowned local and international graffiti artists’ street art in narrow alleyways, while Red Theater, dating to Japanese times, hosts a weekend arts and crafts market. Next to the theatre, you’ll also find the city’s largest gay district, welcome to all, and with the best collection of bar patios in the city.
Gyeongju, South Korea
By Marie, Be Marie Korea
With a 1500-year history, Gyeongju is one of the oldest cities in South Korea. The former capital of the ancient Silla Kingdom is now a peaceful city filled with stunning UNESCO sites. It’s the perfect destination for anyone who wants to see the more hidden parts of South Korea. Visitors should spend at least a couple of days in Gyeongju as there are an abundance of things to see in and around the city.
Sites in the city centre are all within walking distance of each other. Start your day at the Unknown Tomb, make your way through the Tumuli Park to Cheomseongdae Observatory. Around the Observatory park you can find the Gyerim Forest, the National Museum of Gyeongju, Wolji Pond, and a Traditional Hanok Village.
It’s easy to travel to Gyeongju by KTX or bus from Seoul or Busan. The journey takes around 2 to 3 hours by KTX, or 4 to 5 hours by bus, depending on traffic.
Wangfujing District in Beijing, China
By Talek, Travels with Talek
Wangfujing is one of the most famous shopping streets in Beijing. The street was pedestrianized in the 1990s but has been a commercial hub for much longer, since the Ming Dynasty in the 1400s. Today, the area remains a very popular shopping district for both locals and tourists.
Among the many high-end stores in Wangfuging is the Beijing Department store in Oriental Plaza, China’s first department store. A little tourist train runs up and down the main avenue, which is lined with upmarket stores displaying some of the most well-known brands in the world. On the main corner of Wangfujing you can find the Friendship Store. This is a large, multi-story shop with hundreds of vendors selling local handicrafts. Here you can find reasonably priced carpets, jade, jewellery and other gifts.
One of the most interesting features of Wangfuging is its snack streets, located in hutongs (narrow alleys) just west of the main street. Many exotic foods are served on Wangfujing snack streets, including deep-fried starfish and scorpions on a stick.
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Yanaka District in Tokyo, Japan
By Rachel, Rachel’s Ruminations
Tokyo can be an overwhelming place for visitors from other countries. Loud, crowded, unfamiliar, and all operating in a language you don’t know—you might feel a need to escape. For me, the Yanaka neighbourhood became that escape.
Yanaka has two things going for it: Traditional architecture and temples. Because it survived the war and earthquakes intact, many of the structures are older and some of the traditional housing remains. Not only that: Because of its age, many buildings are low-rise and less densely packed than much of Tokyo. That makes it a quiet area, and allows for more gardens and trees.
Yanaka is home to dozens of simple, small temples. You can sign up for a tour around the best ones, or just wander randomly as I did. Each is dedicated to different gods, and each is lovely in its own way. Make sure you take the time to notice the details in the architecture. Each temple’s garden is painstakingly maintained, and often includes artworks such as images of Buddha. The temples range in age from the 13th to the 19th centuries and all seem to exude calm, despite the high-rises and distant traffic noises in the background.
To get to Yanaka, take the JR Yamanote line and get off at Nippori Station, leaving at the south exit.
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West Lake District in Hangzhou, China
By Dana, Discover Discomfort
Take a walk around West Lake (西湖) in Hangzhou, China. Less than an hour from Shanghai, Hangzhou is a beautiful and tranquil city, and the West Lake is its main feature. The lake is surrounded by hills and has a lot of attractions like pavilions, bridges, sculptures and artwork.
West Lake is special for the landscaping, the history and the artwork that it has inspired its 1,000-plus years of history. As you walk around, you’ll come across specific spots, each with a poetic name. My three favourites are ‘Listening to Orioles Singing in the Willows’ (柳浪闻莺), a garden of weeping willows, ‘Viewing Fish at Flower Pond’ (花港观鱼), a small lake filled with teeming goldfish, and the ‘Melting Snow of the Broken Bridge’ (断桥残雪), the site that was the starting point for the fairy tale of Bai Suzhen and Xu Xi’an. (Don’t worry—the bridge isn’t actually broken!)
I’d allocate at least half a day to exploring the lake and its attractions. The entire path is suitable for people of all abilities; but if walking’s not your thing, you also can rent a bicycle or take boat tours, including self-guided ones.
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Walkable cities in Asia: South Asia
Galle Fort in Galle, Sri Lanka
By Penny, Globe Trove
One of the most walkable places that I’ve been in Asia is Galle Fort. Located in the city of Galle on Sri Lanka’s southern coast, the fort was originally built by the Portuguese and was then taken over by the Dutch. The entire fort has a very European vibe because of the history that is linked to it. Once you enter through the thick walls of Galle Fort, you leave the chaos of the city behind.
Inside the fort, you can walk through the cobbled streets and admire the myriad of lovely houses. Or you can choose to walk along the wall of the fort, which will give you a gorgeous view of the coast.
Despite the fact that traffic is allowed within the fort, it is mostly explored on foot by tourists and locals alike. The fort was affected by the tsunami that hit Sri Lanka a couple of years ago. The government has, however, managed to restore the fort to what it was before the disaster hit. It’s a gorgeous place to spend a couple of hours.
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By Zinara, Nat n Zin
With its pleasant weather, mountain charm and mind-your-own-business attitude, Shillong is one of the best walking cities in India. Capital of the Northeast state of Meghalaya, Shillong is surrounded by lakes, towering peaks and icy cold cascades.
While you can take leisurely walks at Ward Lake, Police Bazaar reminds you of yet another chaotic Asian city. Bustling with people, Police Bazaar is the best place to sample street eats in Shillong. Laitumkhrah, the hip neighbourhood, is home to Shillong’s electric cafe culture. Shillong is known as ‘The Rock Capital of India’ and here, live jam sessions happen every single day.
A walk to Don Bosco Square offers you a glimpse of the British-influenced architecture in this tiny Indian capital. Shillong is also home to a happening fashion scene and in December, when Christmas nears, the city turns into its happiest self. If you are in Shillong during the monsoon months of June to August, don’t forget to pack a lightweight raincoat.
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By Shweta, Zest in a Tote
The old town of Jaisalmer in Rajasthan is best seen on foot. For one, the narrow lanes are too small for most cars to pass through without causing a traffic jam!
Jaisalmer Fort is the main attraction in the old town. This large looming structure once housed about 3,000 people and has rooms, restaurants, temples and whatnot within its imposing walls. It’s unlike any other forts or palaces in Rajasthan.
Park your car outside the Fort walls and walk within to see the environs. The architecture, colour and chaos is a delight to experience. There are other old merchant houses (known as havelies) with intricate artisanal work and colourful local markets that you will also come across while walking the old town of Jaisalmer.
By Kimaya, Homosapien Intransit
The cultural capital of Maharashtra, the city of Pune has a rich heritage. It’s a big city, but the heart of Pune has many historical and cultural landmarks within a walkable distance.
Commence your journey in Manapa. From there, take a walk across the Mutha River and the medieval fort, Shaniwar Wada, that overlooks the river. A beautiful fort built in the 18th century by the Peshwas of Maratha Kingdom, it was also the set for a Bollywood love story called Bajirao Mastani. Continue to Dagadusheth Ganapati, a famous temple of Lord Ganesh, where a gold and silver Ganesh idol is displayed behind thick glass right on the street. Continue a little further and you’ll end up on Laxmi Road, where merchants sell Maharashtrian jewellery, saris, and other items.
Tulshibaug is a well known shopping area among Punekars (avoid visiting on weekends), and just a little further on, the Kelkar Museum gives an insight into the lives of people during the Maratha Kingdom. Sarasbaug is a beautiful garden with great spots to chill out and spend a quiet evening. It also has temple for Lord Ganesh in the middle. This whole area is beautifully decorated for 10 days during the Ganeshotsav Festival. Finish your walk at Parvati, a famous hilltop temple that offers panoramic views of Pune from the top.
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By Ellis, Backpack Adventures
Kathmandu remains one of my favourite cities in Asia and I have fond memories of the time I lived there. The capital of Nepal provides beautiful views of the Himalayas on a clear day that can be enjoyed from one of Kathmandu’s plenty rooftop restaurants. One of the highlights of Kathmandu is walking from the lively bazaar at Ason Tole through the narrow old streets towards temple-filled Durbar Square.
It’s easy to get lost, but that doesn’t matter—it’s all part of the Kathmandu experience. Every street corner offers a new surprise. Along with vendors selling fruit and vegetables, you’ll find hidden temples and shrines.
The sounds of the temple bells and the smell of spices and street food might feel like an assault on your sense, but it has always delighted me. At times it feels as if you are travelling back in time when you’re immersed in the heart of the city. Unfortunately, the earthquakes of 2015 damaged this beautiful old part of Kathmandu, but restoration work is underway and it remains a magical place.
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By Andra, Our World to Wander
Jodhpur, the Blue City of Rajasthan, is a busy city that’s famous for the fantastic Mehrangarh Fort, which is situated on top of a hill in the old historic area. The area surrounding it is an excellent place for walking and enjoying the Mughal architecture.
From here, you will be able to see why Jodhpur is known as the Blue City. That’s because a lot of the houses and the buildings in the old city are painted in blue. The colour is said to have been used for multiple purposes, including protection from insects and to show that the homes are used by Brahmins (the highest Indian caste).
A walking tour in the old city will take you through markets—excellent places for people watching—as well as mystical Hindu temples and small narrow streets where you will most likely bump into at least a cow or two. To avoid the chaotic traffic, the city is best enjoyed during the early hours of the morning.
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Walkable cities in Asia: Central Asia & the Caucasus
By Megan, Megan Starr
Almaty, Kazakhstan is one of the easiest cities in the world to navigate. The Central Asian city is built in a grid-like format and the streets are very walkable compared to many other places in the region. My first trip to Almaty back in 2013 left me thinking that the city was too large for easy walking, but I eventually realised that I was staying in a microdistrict far away from most sights worthy of checking out. I later changed my accommodation and base and found a city that was a complete delight to walk around, regardless of the season.
The best place to get started in Almaty is along Dostyk Avenue. Walking up and down this street will take you past some of Almaty’s best restaurants and some fine examples of stately Soviet architecture. You will also pass the Kok-Tobe cable car station, which will give you a break from the walking and send you atop Kok-Tobe for a view over Almaty (dusk is best!) From there, make your way through Panfilov Park to check out some statues and the famous yellow Zenkov Cathedral. There are two pedestrian streets nearby: Panfilov Street, which is newer, and Arbat Street. Both have an array of restaurants and street musicians.
If you want to give your feet a break, hop on the affordable Almaty Metro, which can take you to a variety of places within the city. The stations are aesthetically pleasing and one is even designed to look like a space station and named after Kazakhstan’s cosmodrome, Baikonur. Almaty is a great city to get lost in as you’ll stumble on hidden gems with every turn you take. There are also a number of parks and green spaces to break up your day.
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By Leyla, Women on the Road
Registan Square is much more than a square—it’s the heart of Samarkand, an ancient city that lies on Uzbekistan’s Silk Road. Registan means ‘place of sand’—the buildings came later—and is where for centuries citizens gathered to hear royal proclamations, trade with each other, and watch executions. Today, in a complete turnaround, tourists pose for selfies and locals attend concerts.
Within pitching distance are three spectacular madrasahs, or Koranic schools (pictured is the Tilya Kori Madrasah), whose designs are monuments of Islamic architecture. The three madrasahs share this enormous space, which dwarfs any visitor. The Registan is why Samarkand is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
A brisk 20-minute walk away is yet another stunning complex, the Bibi Khanym Mosque which, like the Registan, was painstakingly restored (some say too extensively) by the then-Soviet authorities. Walking in and around these buildings, it’s easy to forget the 21st century and expect, instead, a caravan of camels to slowly drift by.
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Ulan Bator, Mongolia
By Stefan and Sebastien, Nomadic Boys
One of our favourite pedestrian-friendly cities in Asia is Ulan Bator, the capital of Mongolia. It’s not a city you’d initially associate as being touristy, especially as most of the country’s attractions, including the Gobi Desert, are further afield.
One of the best places to walk in Ulan Bator is the central main square called Sukhbaatar Square. It has a huge monument devoted to Genghis Khan. At the northern end of the square, directly in front of the Saaral Ordon (Government Palace), are columns that honour Ogedei Khan (son of Genghis Khan) and Kublai Khan (grandson of Genghis Khan). In the centre of Sukhbaatar Square is an equestrian statue of Damdin Sukhbaatar, who was one of the leaders of Mongolia’s 1921 revolution when they expelled Russian White Guards from the country, paving the way for the country’s independence in 1924.
We love walking in Ulan Bator because of the many 3D street art murals dotted around the city, mainly in the streets surrounding Sukhbaatar Square. Some are placed in obvious locations, others are hidden and a lot of fun to try and spot.
By Rohan, Travels of a Bookpacker
While the other cities of Uzbekistan have pristinely pedestrianised tourist zones, Tashkent offers more authentic and varied wandering opportunities that allow you to see some attractions as well as daily life in the Uzbek capital. The city is filled with greenery and you can walk a lot of Tashkent along tree-lined paths and through peaceful park areas. The central city around Amir Timur Square is a great place to start. A stroll here will show you many of the main attractions within a 20-minute radius.
If you’re feeling more adventurous, head a bit further out into some of the more urban areas. Here, you’ll find local cafes, shops, and some of Tashkent’s finest Soviet-era architecture. Towering concrete apartment blocks line the streets and there are all kinds of quirky architectural designs. If you take a peek at the end of many of the buildings you’ll find stunning mosaics—street art before wall murals were hip! Chorsu Bazaar is another top spot for bustling local life and obscure shopping opportunities.
Done with walking? Head down into the metro to gaze in awe at the chandeliers, mosaics and motifs of the gorgeous transport system before travelling to your next destination for a mere 12 cents.
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By Allison, Eternal Arrival
If you’re looking for a walkable area in Baku, there’s no better place for a stroll then the scenic Old City, or Icheri Sheher in Azeri. This walled old city used to be the entirety of the city of Baku and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The walls encompass several important buildings, such as the Palace of the Shirvanshahs and the Bukhara caravanserai. In the early 19th century, the city of Baku grew too big for the mere area enclosed by the walls and began to expand rapidly outward.
When visiting Baku Old City, be sure to visit the historic Palace of the Shirvanshahs, the mosques inside the city walls, the Museum of Miniature Books (a small museum but a real treat!) and the famous Maiden Tower, which has been a symbol of Baku for centuries. This is a great place to walk around because the streets form a labyrinth of sorts, making it easy —but extremely photogenic—to get lost. Don’t forget to give the friendly resident cats a snuggle!
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I couldn’t talk about walking cities without mentioning my favourite city in the world for walking or otherwise. Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital, is made for pedestrians. From the historic Old Town and Republic Square to the outer suburbs, Tbilisi is full of historic architecture, vibrant markets and quirky modern buildings. Take a walking tour or wander yourself around the city’s best pedestrian areas.
What about you? What are your favourite walkable cities in Asia? Which of these locations has you wanting to put on a pair of shoes and hit the pavement? I’d love to hear your thoughts!