Two women walking in St Petersburg

Princess

Five brilliant walks to do in Europe

Get a different perspective on the continent’s history and landscapes on foot

Updated December 2020

By Johanna Derry

Some parts of Europe can only be truly experienced by walking, while others are best explored at a slower pace. From epic landscapes to spectacular ruins, via ancient pilgrim ways, pull on your walking boots and see the best of the region on two feet.

Santiago Cathedral on the Plaza do Obradoiro

Santiago Cathedral on the Plaza del Obradoiro © Robert Harding Productions/Robert Harding

Camino de Santiago, Vigo, Spain

Starting point: Church of Santiago de Vigo

Vigo
is a popular starting point for travellers following the ancient way along the Atlantic coast to the Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela. Around 100km away, it’s the shortest distance you can walk while still claiming to have completed the pilgrimage. The camino is well marked with its iconic yellow arrows from the Church of Santiago de Vigo and its first leg to nearby Redondela, renowned for its 19th-century viaducts, is not too challenging, taking around three hours to complete on foot and around 20 minutes to return by car or bus.

Hikers walking the old city walls during the daytime above the Bay of Kotor

Hike up the old city walls above the beautiful Bay of Kotor © Kimberley Anderson/Robert Harding

Ladder of Kotor, Kotor, Montenegro

Starting point: Apartments Ana, by the river Scurda

Get beyond the medieval walls of Kotor’s Old Town and hike the trail that, for centuries, was the only link between the coastal city and the rest of the country. With more than 70 switchbacks zigzagging up the mountains to the Krstac Pass, it’s a challenge, but the way is well marked with red and white signage painted on rocks along the route. The reward for climbing the full 940m is the phenomenal view over the Bay of Kotor and beyond from the top.

Ísafjörður, Iceland

Ramble through the mountains surrounding the fjord of Ísafjörður, Iceland © Joel Rohland/Unsplash

Naustahvilft, Ísafjörður, Iceland

Starting point: Ísafjörður Airport

The rim of flat-topped mountains surrounding the fjord of Ísafjörður on Iceland’s northwest coast are the stuff of legend. The huge, bowl-like depression in these mountains, known as Naustahvilft, has the local nickname ‘the troll seat’. The story goes that a troll was running home before sunrise and sat on the edge of the mountains to cool her feet in the fjord’s waters below. Her seat created the vast, hollow dip in the rock, which can be seen from miles away. The climb from the ground upwards and into Naustahvilft is short but challenging and there’s a guestbook to sign for those who make it to the top.

The Ancient Ruins of Ephesus, Turkey

One for the bucket list: the ancient ruins of Ephesus in Turkey © Mehmet Turgut Kirkgoz/Unsplash

The ancient ruins of Ephesus, Turkey

Starting point: Meryem Ana Yolu, Selçuk

Just a short drive inland from Kusadasi, start at the top of the ancient ruins of Ephesus, one of Turkey’s 18 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Walk your way down through the ancient town, past the Library of Celsus, the House of the Virgin Mary and what remains of the famous Temple of Artemis. At the bottom of the hill, you will reach the Great Theatre, standing proud on a grand Roman Imperial harbourside, which is all that remains of the maritime gateway into this once great city.

Winter Palace, St Petersburg

Be dazzled by St Petersburg's Winter Palace © Princess

The Palaces of St. Petersburg, Russia

Starting point: Anichkov Bridge, Nevsky Prospekt

St. Petersburg
is a city of palaces. Peter the Great ordered Russia’s noble families to move to his northern capital in the 18th century and their legacy of splendid buildings here is best explored on foot. Keep it simple by following the avenue Nevsky Prospekt from Anichkov Bridge over the River Fontanka, down towards the River Neva, and you’ll pass the Admiralty, Kazan Cathedral and end up at the Winter Palace, perhaps the most famous of all St. Petersburg’s sights.

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About the Author

Johanna Derry

Johanna Derry

Johanna Derry Hall is a journalist and features writer with a focus on food, drink and travel. She writes for the Evening Standard, Daily Telegraph, and Mr Porter among others, and has a reputation among her friends for often being found in a distillery, on a remote Scottish island, or both.