Skip to main content
EU Urban Mobility Observatory
News article31 August 20232 min read

Nine European cities paving the way for car-free living

Pedestrianisation of cities is an increasingly popular initiative to remove cars from the road and return the public space to pedestrians. In many cases, pedestrianisation is usually localised to small parts of the city centre however nine cities in particular highlight cases where they have taken it a step further and created car-free street networks.

Promoting active mobility, such as walking and cycling, complements the health benefits gained from reducing air pollution. The stories of these towns and cities can provide a case for other locations to start revolutionising their transport infrastructure.

Pontevedra, Spain

Situated in the north-western corner of Spain, this municipality of 80,000 inhabitants stands as a resounding success story of pedestrianisation. Transformation started in 1999 under the ongoing leadership of Mayor Miguel Anxo Fernandez Lores, and was soon hailed as the 'trailblazer of Europe's car-free movement', having received much recognition. The most recent vehicle fatality occurred back in 2011 (an isolated incident involving a delivery van), solidifying its reputation as arguably the safest pedestrian-oriented locale in Spain.

Venice, Italy

Venice's historic core stands as a car-free haven on its narrow streets. This absence of vehicles is not only practical given the city's layout, but it also establishes Venice as Europe's largest pedestrian-only urban expanse. Characterised by 438 bridges, 183 canals, and a labyrinth of narrow alleyways, Venice relies predominantly on its iconic gondola boats for mobility.

Giethoorn, Netherlands

Similarly to Venice, Giethoorn is distinguished by its canals, however you are allowed to cycle here. Boats and bicycles provide all the necessary transportation to get around this village.

Hallstatt, Austria

The picturesque town of Hallstatt is car-free so you can enjoy its beauty without the sound and air pollution of busy car traffic. Instead, visitors and staff can park in the outskirts of this UNESCO World Heritage site.

Rovinj, Croatia

Rovinj is believed to be Croatia's largest pedestrian zone, encompassing the entire medieval town with its cobblestone alleys.

Loutro, Greece

Loutro is a tiny village on the island of Crete with only 300 residents, and the only way to reach it is either by boat or foot.

Civita di Bagnoreggio, Italy

Perched atop a hill, Civita di Bagnoreggio used to be wholly reliant on donkeys who could carry trade across the thin footbridge. Donkeys have now been swapped for mopeds which now carry out the delivery needs of the town.

Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium

In opposition to the some of the towns and cities on this list, being car-free in this town is not a feature of its medieval constraints, but a design feature where the Catholic University wanted a place for academia and youthful spirit to flourish. Visitors can park in an underground parking space a ten-minute walk out of town.

Obidos, Portugal

Obidos has its origins in the Middle Ages and was designed to be walled and narrow to hamper the efforts of any invaders. Like with most of the locations on this list, you can visit without the worries of traffic.


You can read the original article on TheMayor.



Publication date
31 August 2023
  • Urban Vehicle Access Regulations
  • Europe-wide