Hiking and cities don’t tend to go together when we imagine ideal travel destinations. Typically we think of long mountain trails, beautiful country areas, or even beachside paths when we imagine the best places to hike. Then again, it’s not uncommon to hear about “walking tours” in popular cities around the world, and it’s not a big leap to get from there to hiking. The truth is there are small towns and big cities across the planet that are wonderful for people who like to take an active approach to vacation because they offer unique and beautiful walking routes – either within the city limits or very close by.
To make an exhaustive list of such cities and towns would require an entire website’s worth of content, and need regular updating. I’ve at least gotten a jump on it though in collecting a few great options for urban hiking destinations.
Choosing Hong Kong for a discussion on urban hiking almost feels like cheating, because Hong Kong is a destination beyond its city. It’s its own island, and the Hong Kong trail explores much of it. Specifically, it’s a 50km trail that passes through the five country parks spread out on the island and surrounding the iconic city. For those who want a less rigorous experience the trail can be cut up into smaller hikes, but ultimately it offers you a great opportunity to explore the surroundings of one of the world’s great cities. And while doing it all is fairly demanding, the trail itself is accessible to most.
Hiking isn’t exactly the first thing that comes to mind in London. Most people think instead about exploring the city’s pubs or seeing a football match live. Others think of seeing famous landmarks, or riding the London Eye. These are all worthwhile activities and part of a thorough exploration of the city (and in some cases may involve quite a bit of walking as well). However, the nearly 300km Thames Path does pass along the city, as well as up and down the River Thames in either direction. It basically gives visitors a chance for as long a hike as they might wish, with some of the prettiest sections going right through London.
Cape Town is perhaps one of the few major cities that might come to mind easily as a hiking destination, given that a large mountain or plateau is its main natural landmark. Unsurprisingly, there is a trail that crosses this mountain and overlooks the city in a spectacular fashion. It’s the Hoerikwaggo Trail, about 75km long and with its own campsites for those who want to do the whole thing in one go.
As with London, lots of non-hiking activities come to mind when you think about Monte Carlo. It’s a city for sightseeing and luxury, and for feeling like a high roller. The casino that is perhaps its main attraction opened its doors in 1863 and is known as one of the best casinos in the world outside of Vegas. And its harbor is right up there with Sydney’s as the most picturesque anywhere. There is some excellent hiking in and around the city also though, including numerous sightseeing routes that show you the best the city has to offer.
Vancouver is viewed by many as one of the most pleasant cities in North America to visit, for a number of different reasons. It just so happens that one of its most famous attractions doubles as a hiking opportunity though. It’s Stanley Park, which is essentially a peninsula within the city. Around its perimeter is the city’s famous Seawall, which includes a cycling and hiking trail with some of the best urban views in the world.