Sustainable Travel: 10 Car-Free Cities For Your Travel Bucketlist

Tired of vehicular noise and pollution? This year, why not try visiting a city without cars, where people travel by boats or gondolas. Or cities where cars are just banned in certain areas and residents rely primarily on public transport, walking, or cycling. These places offer a change of pace and give you a glimpse into a possible future. We have curated a list of such places.

Riding a bicycle is an essential Amsterdam experience

OT maps out 10 cities where people either do not use cars for transport or have decided to earmark car-free zones for a better environment. If all goes according to plan, Berlin will be the latest city to join the list of cities which have allocated dedicated zones with no car entries. And no one really misses them. 

Ghent, Belgium

Ghent in Belgium, known for large public squares and marketplaces, is ranked the second-largest car-free region over the past five years. The initiative began in 1996. The heavy traffic in market clusters was unfit for outside cafes and dining culture. However, a 2020 report by FastCompany suggested that the city's transport has seen a significant difference with a 25 per cent rise in cyclists across the city changing the cityscape. Also, for an easier commute through the car-free area electric buses take passengers who don’t prefer cycling.

Lamu, Kenya

Lamu, the UNESCO listed World Heritage Site and an exceptionally fascinating island off the coast of Kenya. It is East Africa's oldest and best-preserved Swahili settlement whereby the usual mode of transport are donkeys and bicycles or people just prefer walking. The city is completely car-free.

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Amsterdam is the land of dreams for many culture enthusiasts as well as artists and the city has always had a reputation for unique laws and inclusive choices. In a 2019 report by Bloomberg, the city’s municipal legislature announced certain restrictions to implement a 'car-free' agenda. Although cars are not banned altogether, studies say that only a quarter of trips are undertaken by cars. To ensure the city remains traffic-free, Amsterdam Metro operates all night on weekends beginning in 2021 and has made weekend transit free for children under the age of 12. 

In fact, most Scandinavian countries are pro-bicycles. In Copenhagen, you have even got chefs who cook on fully equipped cycles, moving around the city giving cycling tours! Check here for details on chef Morten Kryger Wulff who can unfold his bicycle into a fully-equipped, mobile kitchen to create a five-course menu for culinary tours of Copenhagen. If you are ever in the city, you can book a ride with him here.

Giethoorn, The Netherlands

Going from cities that are car-free to a village that is absolutely road-free, Giethroon takes both beauty and sustainability up a notch. Settled by the Franciscan monks in 1958 near the Dutch province of Overijssel, Netherlands, the village has a ban on cars and visitors are guided to park their vehicles on the outskirts of the town. The only form of transportation in this charming hamlet is by boat along the waterways, which are connected with almost four miles of canals. The voyage through this 'Dutch Venice' is made all the more memorable by the silence, space, and wildlife.

Oslo, Norway

Adapting with the trends of nearby cities, hundreds of parking spaces in the city centre of Oslo have been taken up over the previous few years. Simultaneously, it expanded its network of bike lanes in an effort to encourage people to drive less without expressly prohibiting vehicles. The city was also reported by New18 in 2019, as the first one to record zero pedestrian or cyclist deaths by slowly and strategically removing cars from the two largest areas of the city and placing schools and residents nearby. The city has promising plans like the car-free city livability plan for the recently made pedestrian streets which will also be the upcoming attractions for travellers.

La Cumbrecita, Argentina

La Cumbrecita is a small, remote alpine town located in the Calamuchita Valley in Córdoba, Argentina's Grand Sierras. One of La Cumbrecita's laws is that roadways are closed to autos from 10am to 6pm. Tourists can only enter the town on foot because all automobiles must be parked at the entrance. Because there are no cars, banks, ATMs, or petrol stations in La Cumbrecita, the city urges that you plan ahead for these necessities as it plans to keep the place vehicle free and safe from urban hazards.

The Old Town of Dubrovnik, Croatia

The Old Town of Dubrovnik is a city of red-tiled rooftops, pine- and cypress-shaded slopes, and beautiful turquoise waterways. The Old Town is a car-free zone. Cars are not authorised to enter within the city walls; the only option is to park the car outside the city limits. During peak tourist season, this becomes a problem, as most parking locations in the area are full. However, the city plans to keep the area car-free due to both environmental issues as well as to keep the heritage market area safe from air pollution.

Fire Island, New York

Fire Island is one of the handful of car-free areas in the United States, located on the outer barrier islands that run parallel to Long Island, New York. Either you walk or use a bike or golf carts. It is a haven for cyclists.

Situated in the hub of Morocco's mediaeval streets is the town of Fes-al-Bali. Owing to the narrow passageways and streets, the area is majorly inaccessible by car. This UNESCO acclaimed site is therefore one of the largest car-free markets in the world. Most residents and travellers here rely on foot, donkey, or carts to navigate the meandering lanes housing shops, booths, mosques, and schools. Fes el Bali is said to be the world’s largest surviving medieval city and locals suggest that it is due to the strict no vehicle policy in the vicinity.

Halibut Cove, Alaska

The small village of Halibut Cove in Alaska is centred in Kachemak Bay State Park, which is on a protected stretch of water known as The Narrows. The majority of its structures are built on stilts or float on docks, including the postal office. There are no paved roads in this car-free zone, thus the only way to get about is by foot, skiff, ATV, or seaplane. The city is a testament to how places retain scenic beauty when left undisturbed by humans.