From Seattle and New York City to London and beyond, global cities have implemented measures to pedestrianize roads, extend bike lanes, and make more room for outdoor dining spaces in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some major urban areas are even pledging to create more car-free areas permanently, too. (City officials in Barcelona recently announced plans to transform one in three streets into green public spaces in the Catalonian capital’s popular Eixample district, for instance.)
Still, many cities had thriving pedestrian streets at their centers before “social distancing” became a term in the global lexicon. From Glasgow to Beijing, these are some of the most popular pedestrian streets around the world.
Strøget (Copenhagen, Denmark)
Known as one of the longest pedestrian shopping streets in the world, Strøget (pictured above) spans .7 miles of Copenhagen’s historic city center. (The pedestrianized area is technically a collection of streets that spread out from this central thoroughfare.) Since the strip eliminated vehicles in 1962, its success—and tourist draw—has influenced other global cities to implement the same type of car-free areas.
Today, Strøget is popular for its mix of ultra-high-end brands such as Hermès and Prada and budget-friendly stores like H&M and Zara. Strøget is also known for its street performers, who often gather at landmarks like Amagertorv Square.
Rue Mouffetard (Paris, France)
This medieval street in Paris’s Latin Quarter balances the fulcrum between global influence and French tradition in a quintessentially Parisian way. This pedestrianized street, which Parisians call “la Mouffe,” is one of the oldest roads in Paris. (It dates back to the 12th century when it served as a Roman road.)
Today, Rue Mouffetard is a cobbled epicurean wonderland where you can stroll past a crepe stall, cheese store, sushi bar, and vegan dessert shop in a few minutes. Fun fact: Ernest Hemingway mentions the street in his 1926 classic, The Sun Also Rises.
Carnaby Street (London, England)
Spanning 14 streets with more than 100 shops and 60 bars, restaurants, and cafés, Carnaby Street is a lively hub in London’s West End. The strip has a long, colorful history as the home of the 18th Lowndes/Carnaby Market and the birthplace of the “Swinging London” cultural movement in the 1960s. (Stars including Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Brigitte Bardot, and Elizabeth Taylor were all Carnaby Street regulars during that time.) The street was pedestrianized in 1973 and has since continued to draw artists, musicians, designers, and shoppers through its iconic welcome arch.
Qianmen Street (Beijing, China)
With traditional Chinese architecture and history dating back to the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368–1911), plus modern shopping outputs and accommodations (including the Muji Hotel), Qianmen Street embodies Beijing’s knack of harmoniously juxtaposing old with new.
The contemporary iteration of Qianmen Street—named so in 1965—underwent a massive renovation before the Beijing Olympics in 2008. In addition to big-name shopping, the strip boasts long-standing landmarks such as Quanjude Roast Duck Restaurant, first opened in 1864, and Lao She Teahouse, one of the best-known teahouses in Beijing.
Flower Street (Curitiba, Brazil)
Also known as Rua das Flores or Rua XV de Novembro, Flower Street gets its moniker from the well-tended flower gardens installed throughout the pedestrian mall. A gathering place, shopping center, and historic district wrapped into one, the car-free street is beloved by both tourists and locals for its abudance of greenery and Brazilian goods. Located in Curitiba, the capital of Brazil’s southern state of Parana, Flower Street became one of the first major pedestrian streets in the country in 1972.
Buchanan Street (Glasgow, Scotland)
Since it banned vehicles in 1978, Buchanan Street has evolved into an epicenter of Glasgow’s shopping district. The lively street is characterized by a vibrant collection of department stores and street performers, as well as its well-preserved display of Victorian and Edwardian architecture. It’s also home to the impressive Buchanan Galleries shopping mall and the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. Although the area is pedestrian only, it’s easily accessible via the Glasgow Subway’s Buchanan Street stop.
Lincoln Road (Miami Beach, Florida)
There are few better ways to spend a warm Miami day than with a stroll through Lincoln Road, a pedestrian strip just blocks from the beach. While the shopping covers mall staples such as Athleta and Urban Outfitters, a diverse mix of restaurants offer outdoor patios ideal for a midday break. Come sunset, nab a cocktail and bite at Juvia, a penthouse-level rooftop restaurant with a menu influenced by French, Japanese, and Peruvian cooking styles.
Rue du Petit-Champlain (Québec City, Canada)
Named after Samuel de Champlain, who founded Québec City in 1608, this historic street in Québec City’s old town was the first commercial district in North America. It’s reachable via the city’s oldest stairway, built in 1635, known as the Breakneck Stairs. In addition to its craft shops and artisan galleries, Rue du Petit-Champlain attracts visitors for its colorful street art, which includes a famous mural depicting the neighborhood’s history dating back to the 17th century.
Cat Street (Tokyo, Japan)
Stretching about a half-mile between two of Tokyo’s biggest shopping districts, Harajuku and Shibuya, Cat Street is a more laid-back pedestrian road characterized by edgy shops and stylish cafés and restaurants. Formally named Kyu-Shibuya-gawa Yuhodoro (or “Old Shibuya River Pedestrian Lane”), the thoroughway is thought of as a haven for Tokyo’s young hipsters. (Its moniker “Cat Street” refers to its status as a fashion-forward catwalk of sorts.)
Third Street Promenade (Los Angeles, California)
The Third Street Promenade spans three car-free blocks just a short stroll from the world-famous Santa Monica Pier. Bordered on one end by the Santa Monica Place mall and Wilshire Boulevard on the other, the street—pedestrianized in the 1960s—is packed with restaurants, stores, and fame-seeking street performers. It also features some classic California touches, such as palm trees lining both sides of the promenade, and sculpture fountains in the midway.
This article originally appeared online in January 2017; it was updated on December 29, 2020, to include current information.
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