Walking in Global Cities

Sep 26, 2014 9:11:27 AM / by Stephanie Sadler

“Connecting Global Cities” is a monthly column written by Colin Speakman, Director of China Programs for CAPA International Education.

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Hugh Pope, author of Sons of the Conquerors: The Rise of the Turkic World and Turkey Unveiled wrote that legs can be “faster than combustion engines in Istanbul”. That concept can be applied to the centers of many of our global cities, with traffic congestion on the one hand and pedestrian streets, back alley shortcuts and footbridges on the other that cars cannot access. The walks around our global cities below show that many famous sights can be taken in in around two hours of reasonably-paced walking, so long as one is not tempted by a coffee break or shopping. The suggested walks do not return us to our starting points but there is plenty of public transport for that.

Photo: Walking on Brick Lane, London by Chris Goldberg

Of course, walking in the countryside is pleasant too, yet the destination (if there is one) is all too easy to see far, far ahead and with little protection if the elements turn nasty. Somehow, walking in the urban environments, it seems possible to have gone far without noticing it as there are continuous sights of interest and variety. We need not fear the wet weather nor the heat, as we will never be far from shelter or a watering hole. Best of all, we are increasingly learning about the benefits of walking regularly for our health. It is a great way to explore a new city armed with guide books containing many suggested walks.

So on that note, here are my recommendations for interesting walks in CAPA’s eight global cities.

BEIJING, CHINA

China’s capital is very spread out and it is hard to walk between many of the major attractions of Beijing in the way I will suggest for the center of our other global cities. In fact, just walking across Tiananmen Square is a trek! However, there is a nice varied route I undertake with CAPA students starting at Qianmen Subway Station, on line 2. We walk up part of the totally redeveloped, yet historically connected, Qianmen Commercial Street which re-opened for the Beijing Olympics. Once opposite the Rolex clock building we turn right to go through the still original side street past famous silk stores and Beijing’s earliest cinema. At the end, we cross the road and wander through the Dashilar Hutong, which while increasingly trendy, still gives a sense of old Beijing life. Then we head to the Ancient Culture Street, LiuLichang. Here, we will find the amazing paintbrushes and ink slabs used in ancient times as well as some interesting antique stores and musical instruments. When we finish, we can easily walk to Hepingmen Subway Station which is also on line 2.

Photo: At the start of the walk in Qianmen Commercial Street from Colin Speakman

BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA

For our Buenos Aires walk, we start at the Gate of the Congress of the Argentine Nation (National Congress) at Av. Entre Rios 51. This walk will take in many of the famous places in my memories of the capital. We head past the Palacio Barolo and along the Av. De Mayo and past a not-to-be-missed Evita mural. Then we head on to the Plaza de Mayo and the St Francis Church. After Manzana de las Luces (an illuminated block – an ancient cultural and education enclave), we pass that unforgettable Pink Palace which is also of Evita fame. Another church, the Lady of the Ransom, comes next and we reach the Cathedral. If that is not enough, we carry on to Florida Street (which is pedestrianized and has great shopping), pausing to watch the Tango being performed or the occasionally very talented buskers, before we end at the Obelisk (BA’s equivalent to Times Square) in the Plaza de la Republica.

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Photo: Florida Street, Buenos Aires by Tom Walsh

DUBLIN, IRELAND

We can see a lot on foot, as most of the main sights of Dublin are situated in a comparatively small area. A tour of the whole center can take as little as two hours for brisk walkers. We start on O'Connell Bridge, seen as the heart of Dublin, situated between the affluent Southside and the once (and in places still) rundown Northside. We walk up O'Connell Street, past the O'Connell Memorial with its magnificent statues and the impressive General Post Office and head past the trompe d'oeil Carlton Cinema and on to the Parnell Statue. We reach the Presbyterian Church and the Garden of Remembrance (of all the victims of the fight for Irish independence). Outside of the garden, we head past the Rotunda Hospital. Right and then left and we are into Moore Street (which is partly a pedestrian zone) and heading to the right into Henry Street (which has some quality shopping). A left turn takes us to the River Liffey and the Ha’penny Bridge. On the south side we see the road to Temple Bar and the nightlife. We head there and, at this point, we might stop for a well-earned coffee!

Photo: O'Connell Bridge by Tobias Abel

FLORENCE, ITALY

Firenze is another of those easy-to-walk cities, and one which has history on every corner. I suggest we gather in front of the cafes opposite the Pitti Palace and perhaps we first fortify ourselves with a coffee in true Italian style. We then head towards the River Arno with a detour through the Piazza Santo Spirito (popping into the church of same name) before ambling across the Ponte Vecchio. We then head straight, slightly to the right, into the Piazza della Signoria (the city’s primary meeting place for locals and tourists). We see the towering Palazzo Vecchio and a copy of Michelangelo’s David among other statues. In the center of the square we see the Neptune Fountain. We continue on Via Sant Elisabetta until it ends, take a left and, quickly after, a right. We end in the Pizza dell Duomo. There we see the magnificent Cathedral and Giotto’s Bell Tower. Those require some time to take in!

Photo: Piazza Della Signoria, Florence by Nathan de Gargoyle

ISTANBUL, TURKEY

Our Istanbul walk starts at Taksim Square, a massive roundabout with a 1928 monument to Atatürk’s Republic, bus and subway depots and flashy advertising. We head down the pedestrian boulevard of İstiklal Caddesi (Independence Avenue) to take in Beyoğlu district’s lively music shops, theaters, embassies, churches and diverse, youthful crowds. We arrive then at Tünel, the café-lined terminus square for İstiklal’s traditional red trolleys, and take a short side trip down Galip Dede Caddesi, a cobbled lane lined with modern and traditional musical-instrument shops. We will cheat a bit by taking a subway from Tunel to Golden Horn. We get off on the main street of Karakoy, an area of fascinating shops. We head across the Galata Bridge and reach Eminonu to see the 17th Century mosque (Yeni Camii) and then consider browsing and bartering in the Egyptian Bazar while we catch our breath.

Photo: Galata Tower, Istanbul by Laszlo Ilyes

LONDON, ENGLAND

I recommend that we start our London walk at the corner of Hyde Park by Marble Arch. After admiring the Arch, we can walk down Oxford Street and pass the department store icons of Selfridges, Debenhams and John Lewis. We will see Oxford Circus (but no clowns, since a circus here is a kind of roundabout or rotary no longer in evidence). We turn right down the notably posher feeling Regent Street and resist the temptations of Hamley’s famous toy store. We head to Piccadilly Circus with the well-known Eros statue and advertising lights. A left turn takes us past the top of Leicester Square, a prominent entertainment area, and I recommend a quick detour left, right and back left at the end to take in London’s Chinatown, on the way to Charing Cross Road. It's an area famous for old bookstores, including the historic Foyle’s, as well as musical instruments. We then head down to Trafalgar Square and gaze at the fountains and lion statues. Here we have finished our walk, but if you're in the mood, the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery are right there to browse.

Photo: London's Marble Arch by Karen

SHANGHAI, CHINA

Our Shanghai walk will begin at Jing An Temple, at the west end of the Nanjing Road - the longest and most famous shopping street in China, and the area wher I live when I'm in Shanghai. We walk past the first of many large shopping malls and standalone Gucci, Louis Vitton, Rolex and similar luxury stores that can make for interesting window shopping. We also pass a Russian-style building which is an Exhibition Center, the Shanghai TV Studios and a Ferrari-Maserati car dealership. That tells us we are nearing People’s Square which is overlooked by the Park Hotel. In the 1930s, this was the tallest building in China; today it is, itself, overlooked by pretty much everything else around it. We then enter the Nanjing Road Pedestrian Street with many shops. We notice cars again as we reach the East Nanjing Road. We head past the famous Peace Hotel once owned by the Sassoon family and its sister hotel opposite, now the Swatch Art Peace Hotel with international artists in residence. After that we can congratulate ourselves as we have finished our walk by reaching the Bund, the historic riverbank.

Photo: Jing An Temple - start of our walk by Colin Speakman

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA

My recommended Sydney walk allows us to approach the Opera House and Harbour via the Royal Botanic Gardens and thus we are awarded with a breath-taking view of these famous icons. If time is tight, we can do this walk in two hours. Like in London, we begin at a Hyde Park where we can see the famous Archibald Fountain and St Mary’s Cathedral before we head down Art Gallery Road past the Art Gallery of NSW to Mrs Macquarie’s Point. At the southern end of the park is the War Memorial. The Art Gallery has a great collection of Australian Art and of Aboriginal works. We then continue down Art Gallery road along the edge of the garden to the end of the road and Mrs Macquarie’s point. Here is our photo opportunity (selfie?). After we have captured plenty of images, we head into the gardens and follow the sea wall around to the Opera House. We now deserve a rest!

Photo: Mrs Macquaries Point, Sydney by Robert Linsdell

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Topics: Global Cities