Across the globe, one trend is uniting many great cities: a push to develop pedestrian-only spaces in city centers. These street reclamations are taking place everywhere from Paris to New York, where scenic zones that used to be flooded with cars are now home to park benches, art installations, and safe areas for families to soak it all in. Here are some of our top picks for pedestrian-only areas in big cities worth checking out on your next trip.
1. The Left Bank, Paris
In 2013, a major project in the center of Paris was completed, opening a 1.4-mile stretch along the Seine on the Left Bank as a pedestrian zone. The brainchild of mayor Bertrand Delanoe, the area has been transformed from a thoroughfare of speeding cars to a peaceful place with a playground for kids, a big slate wall with chalk for impromptu sketching, and plenty of space for picnics and relaxing amongst the gardens. Completing the transformation of this former stretch of roadway is new restaurants – serving everything from a casual lunch to dinner and cocktails – along with river views.
2. Street Reclamation in Moscow
Keeping safe from whizzing cars has long been a concern in Moscow, one made easier recently by the introduction of new pedestrian areas. Downtown Moscow now has a slower pace, especially along Kamergersky Pereulok, where benches and cafés offer great people watching. This summer, Kuznetsky Most is also almost completely pedestrianized, with musicians performing daily and street festivals in the works. The trend has been successful and looks set to continue in other areas too, including along Nikolskaya Ulitsa.
3. Grafton Street, Dublin
Central Grafton Street in Dublin has been pedestrianized since the 1980s, but this year it is receiving a transformative facelift. The beloved red brick thoroughfare is being replaced by pink and grey granite, a change that will significantly alter the look of this shopping street that connects St. Stephen’s Green to Nassau Street and Trinity College. While some pedestrian centers attract more tourists than locals, this isn't the case along Dublin's Grafton Street.
4. Pedestrian Zones in Athens, Greece
When you need to escape the omnipresent motorbikes of Athens, turn its pleasant pedestrian zones, where a café with a refreshing frappe (an iced coffee drink) is never too far away. Stroll along Apostolou Pavlou, a stretch that runs in front of the Acropolis in the neighborhood of Thisio, or along Dionysiou Areopagitou, the road that runs from the neighborhood of Plaka to the Acropolis.
5. Times Square, New York
In past years, between the traffic and the crowds, it was difficult for visitors to stop and admire the enormous electric attraction that is Times Square. No longer the case nowadays, a pedestrian plaza has been installed, extending along the now-closed Broadway between 42nd Street and 47th Street. This is part of a wider plan from the Department of Transportation to reclaim streets to be used as pedestrian plazas (other examples include Bogardus Plaza in Tribeca and Gansevoort Plaza in the Meatpacking District). Sturdy furniture, umbrellas, and greenery are now a permanent part of the Times Square experience.