Capital Cities Around the World: The Best Neighborhoods for Long Wanders5 min read
Long wanders in a city are one of the best ways to completely immerse yourself in a new place.
I’ve compiled a list of some of the best neighborhoods to wander in some of the most dynamic capital cities on Earth. With advice on must-see landmarks, museums to pop into and scenic viewpoints, each of these long wanders has its own delicious flavor. That being said, wanders of any length are best done by following your intuition, so don’t worry too much about the map.
Whether you hope to visit for the first time soon or want to reminisce over your past long walks in these beautiful cities, enjoy!
With views of cascading orange roofs and plenty of vantage points looking out over the Tagus River, Lisbon, Portugal is an incredible city for long wanders. However, between the steep slopes and the sometimes-slippery tiled sidewalks, it’s not for the hill-averse. (Though we won’t tell if you cheat and hop in one of the city’s iconic funiculars for a breezy ride to the top.)
Starting in Praca do Comercio, the main square by the waterfront, you’ll get a sense for the city’s vibrant personality. From here, walk along the water to the main train station Cais do Sodre, and explore inside the nearby Time Out Market. Heading up into the city, you’ll venture through Bica, a tranquil neighborhood during the day where you can see the infamous Pink Street.
Head up through Bica and you’ll come to Bairro Alto, one of the best neighborhoods to explore in Lisbon. This is a great place to watch the sunset, whether from the viewpoint of Miradouro de Santa Catarina or from one of the many rooftop bars. Stay after dark to experience one of the trendiest areas of Lisbon for nightlife.
Mexico’s capital city is a fascinating epicenter of all things Mexican culture. Long wanders in this sprawling metropolis will inevitably put you in touch with foods from all over the country, museums full of Mexican art by painters like Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, and plenty of beautiful open spaces.
Starting in the city’s center, near the Zocalo square, you’ll find the Templo Mayor ruins which date back to the 1300s. From here, head towards Alameda and enjoy a wander through the beautiful Palacio de Bellas Artes to get a taste for Mexican art. Enjoy the walk through the Alameda, and pop in to see how the famous Diego Rivera mural beautifully portrays the city’s history.
From here, enjoy the long walk over to Roma Norte and Condesa where you can spend hours popping in and out of these neighborhoods’ trendy coffee shops, restaurants and bars.
While you may need to hop on the Metro on occasion, Paris is an otherwise beautifully walkable city for those with the time and stamina. Both first-time travelers and returning visitors will find themselves drawn to the Seine, where the city’s soul is felt the strongest.
My favorite neighborhood wander uses the Seine as a guide. This path can be a museum-hopping tour for those who wish, but there is otherwise still plenty to do.
Start at Musee D’Orsay where you can either admire the historical architecture of the building or explore the French art housed inside. Then, head west (keep the Seine to your left!) and wander through St Germain, the old stomping ground of writers like Hemingway and Fitzgerald. Bring a book or journal and pop into one of the many adorably Parisian cafes.
After, continue heading down the Seine until you can cross over at Notre Dame. On the other side of the river, see if any of the exhibitions being shown at Centre Pompidou tickle your fancy. From there, keep the Seine to your left again and wander back down this side until you hit Le Louvre where you can pay a visit to Mona Lisa or enjoy a crepe in the beautiful Tuileries Gardens next door.
Oh, New York. The Big Apple had to be included on this list (even though it’s not technically a capital city). And while trendy Brooklyn has taken the spotlight in recent years, Manhattan will always be the long wander capital of the world. That’s the beauty of packing so much onto a tiny island. Every block is a whole new universe to explore.
Like Paris, the ideal long wander in NYC will take you through multiple neighborhoods. Starting in Washington Square Park (or a bit further south in SoHo for shoppers) you’ll head into the West Village. The notoriously zig-zaggy streets of this neighborhood are perfect for wandering aimlessly. Pop into Murray’s Cheese shop, check out the Friends building or enjoy lunch in a quaint garden.
Next, head up through the Meatpacking District and Chelsea where you can explore Chelsea Market and continue your long wander on the High Line, a former elevated railroad platform that’s been transformed into a park and pedestrian pathway. Once you hop off the High Line, you can decide whether to keep traveling north towards Penn Station and Times Square or turn west to discover Madison Square Park and the Flatiron Building.