Barcelona wants to join these car-free havens

5 car-free cities around the world

Photo: ItzaFineDay/Flickr

As Barcelona prepares to banish cars from most of its streets, we take a look at the world’s most inspiring automobile-free zones

In 2015 the cosmopolitan capital of Spain’s Catalonia region was named the top “smart city” by Juniper Research, based on its sustainability and efficiency. But Barcelona continues to have difficulty meeting the EU’s targets for air quality.

That’s one of the reasons why they’re planning to remove cars from the city in 2017, by turning 60% of its streets into green spaces for pedestrians. How? By cordoning off “superblocks” where motorised traffic will be prohibited.

“The superblocks are intended to put an end to the predominance of the car in the streets, taking away road space and returning it to pedestrians,” said Irene Capdevila from the environmental agency.

It will enable pedestrians and cyclists to reclaim the streets – but it’s not the first city to create no-go areas for cars. Barca is taking inspiration from these role models. 

  • Venice
  • Helgoland
  • Lopud
  • Floridsdorf/Vienna
  • East Frisian Islands


The enchanting city of Venice is Europe’s largest urban car-free area. Why take the car when you can travel via the Grand Canal or set out on foot and see up-close the heart and soul of this lover’s paradise? There are no buses or trains in the centre of the lagoon city, and it’s helped to make the Venetians a fit and healthy bunch.

The bridge of sighs in Venice, Italy 🇮🇹 Via @mary_quincy

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Germany’s only high sea island, 29 miles off its coast, Helgoland is a car-free space promising fresh air and artistic inspiration. They’ve even banned cyclists, and locals tend to whiz along the narrow streets on push scooters. It has a reputation for being a creative hub and even inspired the words of the German national anthem. It’s a breath of fresh air, although the police do keep a car in the garage, just in case.

#hummerbuden #Südhafen #Helgoland #Heligoland

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Next up is the small island of Lopud, a natural paradise in the Adriatic Sea around 17 km off the coast of Dubrovnik in Croatia. It has a relaxed pace of life, a superb beach and air clean of pollution. Forget the stench of exhaust fumes; here you’ll detect only the scents of the salty sea, orange and lemon, olive groves, mandarin and vineyards.


Vienna is car-free? If you know where to look. Residential complexes in Floridsdorf, the 21st district of the Austrian capital, have been getting by just fine without cars for a number of years. People who move into the area have to forsake their vehicles; this is even stated in the rental agreements. It’s created an environmentally friendly city and, along with other initiatives, shown how a sustainable urban life is possible.


The East Frisian Islands, located in the North Sea, are made up of Juist, Borkum, Baltrum, Norderney, Langeoog, Spiekeroog and Wangerooge, where motor vehicles have been prohibited. It’s created a stress-free haven for families and those seeking tranquillity, promising long sandy beaches and wonderfully refreshing sea air.

"be with someone who is good for your mental health"

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