11 Car-Free Cities Around the World for Eco-Conscious Travelers to Explore
Air pollution-free, these towns are heaven for locals and tourists alike
Once a place becomes a tourist attraction, it has to inevitably face a manmade crisis: vehicular pollution. For instance, some of the planet’s most popular cities are being choked by cars with continuity of emissions, making them quite unpleasant for people. Cities like London, Paris and Seoul are doubling down on decreasing air pollution from vehicles. Some regulations are forming low-emission zones while others are banning diesel vehicles. However, there are some cities in the world that have gone car-free in an effort to improve air quality.
These green travel destinations are a must-visit for eco-conscious travelers who wish to lessen their travel footprint. Read on to know which cities are car-free and setting a pollution-less example in the world.
The port city of Ghent is located in northwest Belgium and is one of the earliest car-free cities in the world. In 1996, Ghent created a vehicle-free city center of 35 hectares. This initiative addressed several issues the city was facing including insufferable traffic jams, the safety of cyclists and pedestrians, and plummeting energy and air quality.
After the elimination of cars, it has been ranked the second-largest car-free region over the past five years. It opened up new possibilities for cycling routes, and public transportation and made the city more welcoming and healthy for locals and residents alike.
Lamu is a small town on Lamu Island in Kenya. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is completely car-free. Lamu is East Africa’s oldest and best-preserved Swahili settlement. The usual mode of transport are donkeys and bicycles through the narrow streets or people choose to walk.
The ban on cars has allowed the town to thrive in good air quality, thus maintaining the ancient heritage. Brimming with lots of history and no cars, the town is perfect for eco-tourism. Moreover, it has a mesmerizing blend of nature, weather and architecture to amaze the tourists.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
In 2019, Amsterdam’s municipal legislature announced certain limitations to implementing a car-free schedule. While cars are not altogether banned from the city, only a quarter of trips are undertaken by cars in this tourist hotspot.
To ensure strict implementation and keep the city traffic-free, Amsterdam Metro runs all night on weekends. Evidently, only 19 percent of Amsterdam residents use a car every day. Biking is the most preferred mode of transportation in the city.
The capital city of Norway, Oslo is known is primarily known for its green spaces and museums. However, few people know that the city has stretched its network of bike lanes to improve air quality without vividly barring vehicles. In 2019, the city became the first one to record zero pedestrian or cyclist deaths.
The city has gradually and tactically removed cars from the two largest areas of the city and established schools and residents nearby. Oslo aims to accomplish a car-free city livability plan for the pedestrian streets that are attracting many travelers.
La Cumbrecita, Argentina
A remote alpine town, La Cumbrecita is located in the Calamuchita Valley in Córdoba, Argentina’s Grand Sierras. The roadways are closed to autos from 10 am to 6 pm as one of the city’s laws. People can only traverse the town on foot as all automobiles must be parked at the town entrance. There are no cars, banks, ATMs or petrol stations in the vehicle-free city.
The natural beauty of the town and its Bavarian-style houses help keep it fresh and pollution-free. There are no paved roads and it is considered the first pedestrian city in the country. It is a must-visit for sustainable travelers.
The Old Town of Dubrovnik, Croatia
The Old Town of Dubrovnik, popular as a filming location for Game of Thrones, is a car-free zone. The city is lined with red-tiled rooftops, pine- and cypress-shaded slopes, and beautiful turquoise waterways that have a tourist attraction.
Motorized vehicles are not allowed to enter inside the historic walls of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. This initiative has been taken to keep the area vehicle-free due to both environmental issues and to safeguard the heritage from air pollution.
Fire Island, New York
Fire Island is one of the few car-free areas in the US. It is located on the outer barrier islands, the city is navigable on foot or via bikes and golf carts. The scenic island is a haven for cyclists and its 26-mile coastline, natural beauty and pleasant weather attract many tourists.
The island is a no-traffic utopia. It has no paved roads and only service and emergency vehicles are allowed. Fire Island is free of cars, traffic, pollution, and noise to offer a peaceful getaway.
Fes el Bali, Morocco
The town of Fes-al-Bali is one of the largest adjoining car-free urban areas in the world. The medieval city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with 9,400 winding streets that are lined with shops, stalls, mosques, schools, and cart merchants. People navigate the narrow alleyways and streets by foot, donkeys or carts.
It is one of the largest vehicle-free markets and the largest surviving medieval city. There is a strict no-vehicle policy in the vicinity. Fes-al-Bali is a major tourist attraction for fans of medieval cities.
Zermatt is an alpine city that has completely barred cars from entering. Private vehicles must go to the small town of Täsch about 5 kilometers from Zermatt, and board trains that run every 20 minutes into the city. The beautiful city can easily be navigated by foot, horse-drawn carriage, eTaxi, bike, or eBus.
Popular as a mountain resort town, Zermatt attracts many ski-lovers, climbing enthusiasts and hikers every year. Its main street is lined with boutique shops, hotels and restaurants. Its car-free policy makes it pollution-free and a haven for natural beauty.
Hydra Island, Greece
Hydra Island of Greece is famous for its beautiful beaches, vibrant festivals, lack of motor transport, fine restaurants and beautiful architecture. There is a Presidential Decree in place that bans all wheeled vehicles from the city. No cars, bikes, mopeds or quad bikes are allowed in the town. Only trash trucks are allowed.
Residents and tourists can reach the island from the mainland through hydrofoil or boat. The town is navigable on foot or water taxis, or donkeys. The lack of motorized traffic makes Hydra a quiet, picturesque town for an eco-conscious traveler to enjoy.
Venice is one of the most popular car-free cities in the world. As it comprises 118 islands in a lagoon, the main transportation mode is on foot or boating. There are 416 bridges, 177 canals and beautiful buildings that attract millions of people every year.
People must leave their cars in one of the parking areas outside the historic city as there are no cars allowed inside. Besides, the intricate network of canals leaves little room for passenger cars. Venice is Europe’s largest pedestrian-only urban space.