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Post-Pandemic, These Cities Plan to be More Visitor-Friendly than Ever

Condé Nast Traveler logo Condé Nast Traveler 8/8/2020 Tom Vanderbilt
a person sitting on a bicycle in front of a building: Cycling in the Torensteeg area of Amsterdam © Charissa Fay Cycling in the Torensteeg area of Amsterdam

Throughout history, pandemics have prompted civic responses that have made cities better in the long run. New York's Central Park, for instance, was partly a health care initiative, conceived in response to the cholera outbreaks that had swept through the city. While we still don't know how COVID-19 will play out, its impact on cities is coming into focus, with consequences that once again could turn out to be unexpectedly positive.

One of the most striking differences will be the act of getting around. Cities from Paris to Bogotá, looking to promote social distancing, have reallocated road space from car traffic to cycling and walking. Athens mayor Kostas Bakoyannis has spearheaded a campaign to largely pedestrianize key thoroughfares frequented by visitors, including a four-mile long Grand Walk through the city's treasures.

And along these streets, in places as far-flung as Melbourne and Vilnius, alfresco dining is becoming the norm. Restaurants in 20 cities around the world are utilizing a prefab kit designed by New York-based Rockwell Group that allows them to speedily set up an outdoor operation. “I think the barrier between inside and outside will be more fluid,” says founder David Rockwell. “And frankly, it's something that I think is desirable.” While many of these interventions are for the short term, temporary fixes have a way of sticking around, as happened a decade ago with New York City's reimagined Times Square.

When travelers return to public transit, they will likely find it a lot cleaner. Istanbul has dispatched hygiene fleets to ramp up mobile disinfection of metro and bus stops, among other public facilities. And for cities like Amsterdam and Barcelona, which have struggled in recent years to address the problem of overtourism, the pandemic, despite its economic implications, has presented a welcome reset that could carry over as travelers venture out again but look to keep their distance. It may seem counterintuitive, but in the end, COVID-19 could be an unexpected boon for anyone who loves cities.

We're reporting on how COVID-19 impacts travel on a daily basis. Find all of our coronavirus coverage and travel resources here.

This article appeared in the August/September 2020 issue of Condé Nast Traveler. Subscribe to the magazine here.


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