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Running in Europe

My favorite running routes in Europe

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Oh, the Old World! It’s easy to fall in love with Europe. Each city I’ve ever visited there is uniquely charming. In my opinion, one of the best ways to get to know a new destination is to run through it. Take to the pavement, pavers, or cobblestones with my favorite running routes when you’re traveling through Europe. If you follow any of these routes, be sure to watch your stride as pavers and cobblestones can be tricky to run on. While traveling, I like to include one major point of interest that’s half the distance I want to run from my accommodations. These are easy routes for a simple out and back run. This is the safest way to go running in Europe or in any other new destination.

Running route safety while traveling

A few safety precautions: as with any large city, when you go running, make sure someone—the concierge if you’re traveling alone—knows that you’re going on a run and knows your general route ahead of time. Make sure you have identification, means of communication, and a credit card. It might be wise to not use earbuds in your ears, or to switch off their noise-canceling feature if you must listen to something on your run, so you are aware of your surroundings.

When I travel, I take a Lycra running belt with me. Mine fits tight around my waist like a pair of running tights, but many tights now come with side pockets big enough to fit the items I mentioned above, so lace up and check out these three- to six-mile runs.

Madrid running routes

Running inside Madrid's Retiro Park
Running inside Madrid’s Retiro Park

If you’ve ever been to Madrid, you already know that, as big cities go, it’s one of the safest. Morning, noon, or night, I feel safe running there, and I’ve been visiting since 2009. With its wide main thoroughfares, beautiful architecture, and large green spaces, running in Madrid is nothing short of fantastic. Through the years, I’ve carved out many different running routes while traveling through Europe. Here are three of my favorites running routes in Madrid.

Amsterdam running routes

Most major cities in Europe have rivers running right through them. Amsterdam, like many other cities in the Netherlands, has an intricate network of rivers and canals that work together to make running through it feel like traveling through time. Try not to stumble on Amsterdam’s worn pavers, which cover most of its streets and wide sidewalks.

If you’re staying in the Grachtengordel, Amsterdam’s canal district, I have two great running routes for you while you’re traveling through this European city. Getting around this area is a breeze because it’s so small that even long runs feel fast.

Listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2010, the Prinsengracht, Keizersgracht, Herengracht, and Jordaan areas are the most popular, and the perfect place to start a run. Because I stay around this area, my two runs start and end at Dam Square. These routes will take you through Amsterdam’s most charming sites. But I will say this—take the time to check out their parks. I recommend running through Vondelpark. It’s so big, it could take a week’s stay to see it all. One loop around this park is three miles, so keep that in mind if you’re running there from your hotel.

It’s amazing some of the sights you can discover on your own. The ‘I amsterdam’ letters below caused such a stir for unintentionally being a big hit with selfie sticks that in 2018, the city council had them removed. But I have my selfie! While I agree that overcrowding can be an issue caused by tourism, this sign became Amsterdam’s hallmark. I saw it, and selfies of it, as a symbol of people all over the world coming together in solidarity with Amsterdam’s values, their diversity, their culture, and their inclusivity. It’s a shame too because Amsterdam gives credence to the idea self expression is important. Incidentally, the photo below was taken at seven in the morning, so that’s why it’s so bare of visitors.

I Amsterdam sign at Amsterdam's The Rijksmuseum
I amsterdam sign that was once just outside The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

Paris running routes

Paris is known as La Ville Lumière—the city of light—for its role during the Age of Enlightenment and clever innovation of street lighting. But to me, it will always be known as a destination with a thousand-plus choices for running routes. The prettiest Paris runs, though, can only be experienced during the Christmas season, from late November to early January. The lights merrily twinkle from dusk to dawn, which makes running before sunrise optimal. And if you’re running along the Avenue des Champs-Élysées toward the Arc de Triomphe, you’ll likely catch the exhibitors opening their Christmas market kiosks.

Along Avenue des Champs-Élysées toward the Arc de Triomphe
Beautifully lit Avenue des Champs-Élysées toward the Arc de Triomphe

Paris Neighborhoods running routes

To truly enjoy the city’s vibe, you must run through its 20 irresistible arrondissements.

Paris is packed with large green spaces, which makes an out-and-back run from where you’re staying a sweet sensation. Head to Bois de Boulogne (Paris’s Central Park); you’ll love it.

Don’t miss out on an interesting three-mile run around Le Marais. Cut through the Centre Pompidou and head for the Rue des Halles. Here, you’ll find some of Paris’s most inviting, pedestrian-only streets.

Begin with the Seine, the river that casually meanders through the south half of Paris. You can choose to run next to the water or up top at street level. If you begin your run on Port de Bercy, the road that leads you to the upper and lower pathway decks along the Seine, and Avenue de Terroirs de France on the east side, and follow the Seine to the west end of Paris, just before crossing the Boulevards de Maréchaux you’ll have run about eight miles, one way. When I run along the Seine, always on the top deck, I use the bridges to gauge my miles. I tend to start on Pont Alexandre III and turn Pont Notre-Dame to head back. My personal favorites are these two four-mile routes.

They are south of the Seine, in the more bohemian, artsy, Saint-Germain-des-Pres area of Paris between the fifth and the sixth. It is also known as the Latin Quarter. Parks are abundant on this side as well.

Bordeaux

My running routes while traveling through Europe also include Bordeaux. Paris and Bordeaux are like feuding sisters. I love to spend time in both cities and each has its own flair. It’s a tug-of-war to see which city will get more of my attention. Both are lovely and majestic in their own right, but boy, are they different. Paris is hot, fast-paced, and trend-setting. Bordeaux is its equally beautiful, more mature sister. Bordeaux has a dreamy facade, especially when viewing Place Saint Pierre from the mouth of the Garonne river; it’s majestic.

Place de la Bourse reflecting pool
Place de la Bourse reflecting pool

Running along the wide promenade that stretches for miles along Quai Richelieu, next to the Garonne river, is both fascinating and breathtaking. But be sure to keep your eyes ahead of you as the wharf makes a crescent shaped curve along the way. You’ll experience an unimpeded run up and down Bordeaux on the quai, so remember where your starting point is so you know when to turn back.

If you prefer to run on a course with twists and turns, this city center running route will take you through Bordeaux, along the quai, and through the Allées de Tourny over its smooth walkways and along its divine shops.

Visit my travel page for more of my favorite places.

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