7 Car-Free Cities

Waterway cutting through a city landscape
Photo: Catarina Belova/Shutterstock

It's hard to believe that before the early 20th century, almost every city in the world was "car-free." Zoom ahead 100 years later, and you have to do some real digging to escape the army of cars now clogging the planet's highways. Sure, there are some cities with car-free zones, but we wanted to find destinations where entire populations were going about their business independent of the automobile, like Venice (pictured). These are some of our top choices. If you visit, just remember to pack some good sneakers.

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Sark Island, United Kingdom

Photo: Dickelbers [CC BY-SA 3.0]/Wikimedia Commons

Featuring more than 40 miles of gorgeous coastline, Sark is located in the English Channel. Only horse-drawn vehicles, bicycles and tractors are allowed on the island and its roughly 600 residents — though restrictions on some battery-powered buggies have been waived for the elderly. Passengers and goods arrive only by ferry as no airport exists on Sark and flyovers are strictly prohibited.

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Mackinac Island, Michigan

Photo: n8huckins [CC BY-SA 4.0]/Wikimedia Commons

While a horse-drawn carriage ride may seem like a romantic novelty to some, for the nearly 500 residents of Lake Huron's Mackinac Island, it's a way of life. The 3.8-square-mile tourist destination had the foresight to ban all motorized vehicles back in 1898, and today only allows the engine rumbling of some snowmobiles and emergency vehicles. Otherwise, transport is by foot, bicycle or horse-drawn carriage.

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The Medina of Fes-el-Bali, Morocco

Photo: Alvaro German Vilela/Shutterstock.com

The Medina of Fes-el-Bali is home to more than 156,000 people and is considered one of the largest contiguous car-free urban areas in the world. Its narrow street design is the result of its ancient heritage, with some sections only two feet wide. Not only are cars unable to traverse through the Medina, but riding a bike is also limited due to space.

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Hydra, Saronic Islands, Greece

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Fancy a trip to Greece but want to avoid the traffic? Travel by hydrofoil or catamaran to the island of Hydra, where no vehicles (besides garbage trucks) are allowed. Horses, donkeys and water taxis are your main options, but the town is so compact that practically every one of the 1,900 residents just walks.

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La Cumbrecita, Argentina

Photo: AHLN [CC BY 2.0]/Flickr

Billed as a pedestrian town, La Cumbrecita focuses on eco-tourism and features small, stone-paved streets amid homes in an Alpine setting. No vehicles are allowed — and access to the town is only by foot after you drive to a parking lot well outside the main entrance. Alpine-style hotels, lodgings and cabins are available, and with permission you may camp anywhere throughout town.

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Lamu Island, Kenya

Photo: Erik (HASH) Hersman [CC BY 2.0]/Flickr

Once a center for the slave trade, Lamu has since become a tourist destination — in large part to it being mentioned on the World Heritage List as "the oldest and best-preserved Swahili settlement in East Africa." As no vehicles are allowed, the most popular means of transportation is donkey. In fact, there are some 2,000-3,000 working donkeys on the island for the human population of 25,000.

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Venice, Italy

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Ah, Venice. Once you enter this enchanting city, your options for getting around diminish to either walking or boating. In other words, exactly the same as Venetians have done for centuries. The city is Europe's largest urban car-free area and boasts some 400 bridges connecting the 118 small islands on which it's built.