There’s nothing better than a cobblestone street. They are slowly growing out of fashion – perhaps it is their high upkeep (and poor wear in high traffic areas) that has left many cities replacing them with pavement. But in many areas, like in America, there is a bit of a resurgence, so here’s to hoping. Here are a few of my favourite cobblestone streets from around the world. Perhaps one of your favourites is here? If not, give it a shout in the comments below.
Gamla Stan – Stockholm, Sweden
One of the top things to see in Stockholm is the Galma Stan – the city’s old town, tucked away on an island in the middle of the city. There are beautiful cobblestone streets that vine out from the main square into narrow alleyways lined with colourful buildings. Rain or shine, this place is a beautiful sight.
The best and most atmospheric part Romania’s capital city are the cobblestone streets between Calea Victoriei, Bulevardul Bratianu, Bulevardul Regina Elisabeta and the River Dîmbovita. As you can see from the photo above, they are lined with small shops, galleries, cafes and restaurants. When the establishments get full, so do the streets – it’s a wonderful place to just hang out and soak up the culture.
Macau is a lovely little “municipality” – a small enclave once Portuguese but now a SAR of China. Because of this long heritage, you’ll find some of the best Portugese food outside of Portugal itself. One of the sights is the city streets – in the old town (not the newer, casino-infused part) you’ll find waves of black and grey cobblestone undulating under your feet as you walk through town. There are also squares dotted with mosaic-style art made from cobblestone. Macau is a perfect daytrip from Hong Kong, so don’t miss it.
I just LOVE this photo because it really illustrates the beauty of Lille, a tiny village in the north of France that most people know of (it’s a major transport hub) but few take the time to explore it properly. I think it should be called the city of squares, because there are several beautiful ones to see; there are cobblestone streets everywhere, from the squares to the sloping streets of Vieux Lille, the old town. The architecture is magnificent and just adds to the allure. Tres fabuleux!
I’m no stranger to cobblestones in Amsterdam – I’ve been jarred by their rough edges on my bike day after day. The city’s canalside streets are actually just stones packed into sand; it’s quite an unstable mix, so the streets become quite uneven and streets are rebuilt every couple of years. This is mostly due to the unusual foundations of the city – in this case, it seems, less is more. Be sure to take a tour of the city on two wheels and check out all the cool bicycles.
Harbin is a very interesting place. The main shopping street, said to be one of the longest pedestrian streets in Asia, is lined with these lovely European buildings. But there’s also heavy influence of Russian architecture as well – dubbing this place “East Moscow” in some terms. That’s because the Russian railway’s eastern terminus was once here, though today the Russian border is still quite a few miles away. This another one of those “must been to be understood” places.
Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt
We’ve already talked about all the things to see in Egypt that aren’t the pyramids. But cobblestone? Indeed. In Sharm el-Sheik, you’ll find a lovely little boulevard that leads down into Na’ama Bay. They call it the ‘Sinai Champs Elysée’ because it is lined with beautiful street lamps that light the boulevard at night. It’s also lined with tea shops, restaurants and cafes so is the perfect place to enjoy a warm evening.
Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Acorn Street in Boston must be one of America’s most famous cobblestone streets (and the most photographed too). For good reason – the multi-coloured stones, lined with multi-coloured bricks, and with a single iconic flag draped along the row of beautiful homes, what is not to like? This is a must see during any stay in Boston. Gorgeous.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Buenos Aires is alive with beautiful cobblestone streets; you’ll probably find yourself at Plaza Dorrego, the epicentre of the action with tango dancing in the square and an enormous antique market stall on the weekend. From the square radiate out narrow cobblestone lanes which are packed with shoppers checking out the latest city fashions. From buskers to dancers, cafes to oversized meals, Buenos Aires is pretty awesome.
Bahir Dar, Ethiopia
Ethiopia might seem the last place to find cobblestone streets, but indeed the city of Bahir Dar is embracing cobblestone in a big way. Creating the stones gives unskilled workers jobs, the stones cope better under the heat of summer, and clearly these are a lot nicer than dusty streets. I think it looks great, so don’t miss this stop during your tour of Africa.
Prague, Czech Republic
Ah, good old Prague. Many of it’s streets are lined with cobblestones as far as the eye can see, and if you visit any of the Czech Republic sightseeing tips we mentioned last week, you’ll see plenty of them along your way. Many of these stones have been worn down by human feet, the many pedestrians who have walked through these squares and enjoyed Prague’s charms. But with the gorgeous architecture, nothing else really fits but cobblestone.
Real de Catorce, Mexico
They say that the ancient highway to Real de Catorce – which is essentially cobblestone streets, just a very long one – is the longest cobblestone street in the world. It’s worth a visit, especially for the last challenge; after bouncing your way along the cobbles, you’ll jet through that itty-bitty-teeny-tiny tunnel shown above. It’s just barely big enough for the minibus; but once you see the beautiful old city on the other side, it’s all worth it.
Charleston, South Carolina, USA
Last but not least, we have Maiden Lane in Charleston South Carolina. It’s one of the few remaining cobblestone streets in the city, but as far as cobbles go, it is one of the prettiest. Just look at that blend of colours in a random pattern. Simply beautiful – a reminder that however functional or not functional these streets were, they were (and are) beautiful: sometimes, isn’t that enough to justify their continued existence?
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