Great Runs has put together a list of the world’s top 15 running cities. This is an admittedly subjective list, culled from the 150+ cities covered so far by Great Runs.
What makes for a great running city? We have several criteria:
- A good number of scenic and interesting running opportunities, centrally located.
- Easy access to the city’s iconic routes, i.e. near downtown/central city and major hotels, and accessible by public transport
- Good infrastructures for running, such as off-road paths, good wayfinding, and other amenities that support runners (water, restrooms, etc.)
For our list of 15 cities, we’ve picked 6 in North America, 4 in Europe, and 5 in ‘rest of world.’
Catch this city in good weather and there’s nothing like it. This city has it all for runners – oceanside runs, beaches, great paths, and mountains. A highlight is the 17-mile Seawall Trail, the world’s longest uninterrupted waterfront path.
The combination of great weather, beautifully laid out harbor, beaches, and lovely running trails — all accessible from downtown, the airport, and the convention center — makes San Diego one of our top running cities. Highlights include multiple options around the harbor, Mission Beach, Balboa Park, and Sunset Cliffs. La Jolla and Torrey Pines are also worth the trip.
One of the world’s most beautiful cities, San Francisco has it all for runners: views, ocean, hills, paths, trails, good weather, variety, and accessibility. The highlight of San Francisco running is the trail from the Embarcadero, over Fort Mason, along with Crissy Field, and toward the Golden Gate Bridge. And for those who like hills, well…
A beautifully laid out city for runners, with miles of paths around its most visited destinations. A run on The Mall and the Lincoln Memorial, and then along the Tidal Basin to the Jefferson, FDR, and MLK Memorials, is one of the most inspiring runs in the world. There are great longer trail options as well, from Rock Creek Park to the Mount Vernon Trail and the C&O Canal Trail.
It’s not because of the Marathon and historic running culture. In addition to being a very pedestrian-friendly city, there are three ‘iconic’ routes: along the Charles River, the famed Emerald Necklace, and a continually improving waterfront path, which now has nearly 13 nearly uninterrupted miles along Boston Harbor.
The ‘unsung hero’ of North American running cities, Pittsburgh offers lots of variety. The Heritage Trail, sort of like the Charles River Trails in Boston, is downtown and takes advantage of the convergence of “three rivers,” with numerous options for good loops.
There are many parks and trail runs, and hills, including a great view of the city from the top of Mount Washington.
One of the world’s great cities…is also terrific for running. London’s grand parks, paths along the Thames, and historic sites are all accessible and centrally located. The running highlight is undoubtedly the famous and historical Royal Parks, which are all relatively close together and are interconnected. Other running highlights include the paths along the Thames River, and the ‘lanes and mews’ of some of the quieter residential streets.
This pedestrian and cycling-friendly city is also a haven for runners. Highlights include the walkways along the canals (go early!), lovely runs along the Amstel River, and some of the city’s beautiful parks, notably Vondelpark, Rembrandtpark, and Westerpark.
One of the world’s most beautiful capitals, Stockholm is built on 14 islands around a medieval city center. This unique geography is showcased in Stockholm’s running infrastructure, which features great routes along the water, across bridges to the islands, and some lovely green spaces.
The city’s geography, weather, and history make it a great city for running. There’s a terrific 5-mile path along the Tagus (Tejo) River, going by important museums and landmarks. For hills, run the narrow streets and lanes of the Bairro Alto or Alfama neighborhoods, up to the Castle or one of the Miradouros (view points). Lisbon’s largest park, Monsanto which is now well connected to downtown via a recently completed ‘green corridor’.
Rest of World
Surrounding the world’s largest natural harbor, Sydney‘s countless coves, good weather, and numerous beaches provide great running opportunities. A great ‘Sydney Sites’ run incorporates the harbor, gardens, and parks. The coastal path from Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach is one of the unique urban runs.
Cape Town, South Africa
The city is famous for its harbor, natural setting in the Cape Floristic Region, beautiful landmarks such as Table Mountain, and superb beaches. Routes along Camps Bay, the Sea Point Promenade, and Lion’s Head are a great way to experience Cape Town’s unique geography.
Hong Kong, China
You might be surprised to hear this, but great running options abound in Hong Kong. Yes, the city is crazily congested, hot, and hilly, but with a bit of effort, you’ll be treated to some truly spectacular runs. The iconic Hong Kong routes are located on Victoria Peak: the 4km Bowen Road trail and the Peak Circle Trail, which are part a larger network of trails. Running on the Happy Valley racetrack is one of the more unique runs out there. There’s also some good running along the waterfront.
Aukland, New Zealand
We had trouble deciding between Auckland and Wellington, but one of these two New Zealand cities had to make the list. Auckland’s unique natural setting, with harbors on the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean, plus great paths winding along the coast and through parks, make it a great running city. Highlights include Tamaki Drive and Pakuranga Pathway, a run up the dormant volcano of Mt. Eden, and “the bush” just outside the city for trails through seemingly enchanted forests.
One of the largest and most densely populated cities in the world is surprisingly good for running. The unique runs in Tokyo are around the Akasaka Palace and Imperial Palace. Yoyogi Park and Koganei Park are very popular, as are a continually improving network of river trails and paths. Try to hit Tokyo during cherry blossom season!