Whether they have fields where Fido can roam free or boast outdoor cafes that serve puppycinos, dog-friendly cities make life simpler and more enjoyable for the whole fur-mily.
Finding truly dog-friendly cities can sometimes be difficult, however, with so many large cities placing restrictions about pets in public spaces. But the 10 cities that follow offer plenty of dog-friendly cafes and accommodation as well as pet-friendly public transportation, so you don’t have to leave your four-legged friend at home every time you’re out.
1. Brisbane, Australia
Saturday morning open-air markets are part of the Aussie lifestyle, and the Jan Power Farmers Markets in New Farm are a real delight for dog owners. There’s an off-leash area right next to the markets at New Farm Park, with a nearby coffee cart serving handmade dog treats for dogs and drinks for dog owners.
Meanwhile, over the river is Davies Park Markets – famous for fresh produce. There’s no off-leash area close by, but dog owners and their pets can relax under the shade of big fig trees in the field next door. Eat Street Northshore on a Friday or Saturday evening is also fun, thanks to more than 100 food and lifestyle stalls. Dogs are welcome but must be kept on a leash. Active pet parents will revel in a power stroll along the Brisbane Riverwalk, with great views and plenty of eateries along the way.
You’ll also find dog-friendly cafes all over Brisbane. Just to name a few:
- Todd & Pup, in the suburb of Moorooka, has a turfed deck, water bowls and dedicated dog menu.
- The New Black, a breakfast hotspot in Fortitude Valley, welcomes pups as well.
- Fitz & Potts, Nundah, is a heritage house turned vegetarian bar and restaurant. Dogs are welcome on the shady veranda.
- Little Black Pug Café, Mount Gravatt, has a menu for dogs, offering puppycinos, dog biscuits and homemade meatballs. And Dog owners can eat dishes like A Dog’s Breakfast, which comes with bacon, eggs, mushroom, haloumi cheese and croissant. (JICYDK, a “dog’s breakfast” is Aussie slang for a “mess”.)
2. Lucerne, Switzerland
The entirety of Switzerland is dog heaven, and you don’t even need a car to get around. All through the country, dogs can travel freely on public transport. If you have a valid ticket, you can buy a one-day travel pass for dogs for 25 francs. This allows your four-legged friend to travel with you for a whole day on trains, ships, post bus lines and tram and bus routes in most Swiss cities and urban areas.
Dogs are also allowed into most cafes, restaurants and even some boutiques and supermarkets, as long as they are on a leash and well-behaved. So why did we choose Lucerne and not Zurich, just one hour away by train? Lucerne is smaller, quieter and close to the High Alps, so it’s surrounded by well-signposted dog-friendly hiking trails up the mountains Pilatus, Rigi and Titlis.
3. Stockholm, Sweden
Swedes see dogs as part of the family – in fact, Swedish law says your dog should be allowed to go outside at least every six hours. If you keep your canine indoors, it must have a view of a window allowing sunlight. Some companies even let their workers bring their dogs to the office, or you can book your dog into a dog day-care centre to ensure Fido gets company while you’re working.
Pets are allowed free on public transport, but must be on a leash or in a carrier. Just be sure to avoid parts of the carriages marked “restricted” – this means no dogs are allowed. It’s fine to let your dog off-leash in the forests around Stockholm, but in the city you must walk your dog on a leash. Some parks, however, provide fenced-in enclosures where dogs can run free and play with other dogs.
Just a heads up: The famously free Swedish health care system does not include animals. And trips to the vet can be eye-wateringly expensive. So you’re wise to copy the Swedes and get insurance for your pets.
4. Portland, Oregon, USA
Portland boasts 33 dog parks, leading the nation. It also has plenty of places to eat with your furkid, including at the city’s famous food carts. Mostly arranged in “pods” or groups of food carts, these mobile eateries sell fantastic food from all over the world, usually for lower prices than in restaurants. If you’re hitting the food carts with your dog, head to northeast and southeast Portland, as pods in these areas are less crowded, and pups are welcome.
For more free fun with your dog, check out the International Rose Test Garden in northwest Portland. Admission is free and dogs are welcome to visit this 4.5-acre rose garden – the oldest public rose garden in the US. With 10,000 rose plants to admire, the garden is open year-round, but June is peak bloom season. Bring a picnic and a ball for your dog, and gaze over the city and Mt. Hood beyond.
5. Rome, Italy
Italians welcome canines with open arms, so your dog can tag along to see most of the sights in the Eternal City. Italy also has impressive numbers of dog-friendly beaches. These are especially appealing in summer, when temperatures can rise to 40C. Dog-friendly beaches are marked with road signs saying “Spiaggia dei Cani” – dogs’ beach – or sometimes “Spiaggia Riservata ai Cani” – beach reserved for dogs. The nearest dog-friendly beach to Rome is Bau Beach in Lazio, just a short drive from Rome. The first official dog-friendly beach in Italy, it’s billed as “the world’s first beach for free, happy dogs”. (Do take note: From June onwards, Italians like to leave the city and head to the beach. So dogs are not allowed on most public beaches from June to September.)
More helpful hints: Carry copies of your animal’s pet passport and all rabies inoculation certificates when you visit a dog-friendly beach. Sometimes, staff will ask to see them. By law, you must also carry a muzzle and leash for your dog. And staff at some beaches may insist on seeing the muzzle before they allow entry, especially if you have a large dog.
6. Southampton, UK
This port city leads the pooch pack with lots of open space nearby, plus plenty of dog-friendly pubs with indoor and outdoor areas that welcome your dog (on a leash). Southampton is ideal for adventurous pet parents because it’s just 90 minutes to London’s Waterloo station by train. In addition, it’s a bustling car ferry port, with regular sailings to France and the Isle of White. Dogs travel free with you on ferry routes to the Isle of Wight, which is famous for yachting and consistently balmy weather. On a clear day, your dog can trot around the outer decks. When the weather is not so good, it can enjoy the short crossing inside in dedicated pet areas.
Here’s a cool idea: Just 15 minutes’ drive away from Southampton is the New Forest National Park – one of the largest tracts of unenclosed pastureland and forest in South England. It has miles of off-road paths, a coastline and plenty of dog-friendly places to eat and stay, so it’s ideal for getaways with your fur fam.
7. Vienna, Austria
Dogs are allowed on all forms of public transport in Vienna, including the underground trains, trams and buses. Small dogs travelling in a fully enclosed bag or container travel free of charge. All other dogs (including small dogs not in a container) must wear both a leash and muzzle and have a half-price ticket. In Vienna, dogs are also allowed inside shops, cafes and restaurants as long as they are wearing a leash and muzzle. If the cafe has a terrace area (and many do) you can take off the muzzle. Many places welcome pets, and staff often bring a bowl of water and snacks for your dog, without you even asking.
On top of all that, most Austrian beer gardens are dog-friendly. And it’s fun to sit outside, listening to live music, drinking beer and eating pretzels. Just check your dog doesn’t use his charm to beg the next table for bratwurst. The local bratwurst sausages are made fresh from beef, veal or pork. They’re delicious but high in sodium and fat. This can make dogs sick. So you’re wise to take along dog treats to distract those puppy-dog eyes.
8. Calgary, Canada
Calgary has more off-leash spaces than any other city in North America, with over 150 public off-leash areas in Calgary Parks. In addition, dogs can ride all buses and trains for free in Calgary, provided they are on a leash and well-behaved. And maybe because the winters are so cold, Canada has excellent daycare centres for dogs. Dogs can also accompany you into some stores, like garden centres, most banks, most sports stores and even Calgary International Airport.
Speaking of travel, some travel companies even run dog-friendly tours to nearby Banff National Park and Lake Louise. Your pet is welcome in the National Parks, but they must be kept on a leash at all times, because off-leash dogs can trigger aggressive behaviour from wildlife such as grizzly bears and elk. Many hotels and bed-and-breakfasts around Banff are pet-friendly, but call ahead because different properties have different policies on the number of pets are allowed in each room. Like any guests, pets pay to stay. Rates vary, but as a guide, fees start at around C$25 a night.
Good to know: Be aware that some public areas in Calgary are “No Dog Areas” – whether a sign is posted or not. Typically, these areas include play structures, school grounds, wading pools and swimming areas, sports fields, golf courses and cemeteries.
9. Lisbon, Portugal
Pets in Portugal can often accompany their owners into shops, restaurants and hotels, and many places helpfully display a pet-friendly sign. Many parks in the city also have special dog park areas, where your pet can be let off the lash to run around. Monsanto Park is the biggest park in Lisbon by far, and many locals walk their pets here. But you can also find dog parks in Jardim Campo Grande in Alvalade, Jardim de São Bento and Jardim Fernando Pessa in Areeiro.
Some extra good news: If you’re a pet owner, you know it’s nearly always harder to find rental apartments – but not in Lisbon! In 2016, authorities in the nearby Portuguese city of Porto ruled that a pet dog is an important part of a family or household. In 2017 Portugal backed this with a law classifying dogs as “sentient beings,” not objects. The result? Landlords can’t use your dog to deny you a rental property.
10. Strasbourg, Bas-Rhin, France
This city welcomes pet-owners with open air markets, incredible food and some of the best Art Nouveau architecture in Europe. Even better? The city is surrounded by picture-pretty villages, castles and vineyards – and they all welcome dogs. Pets are also allowed (and usually welcomed) at almost every hotel, cafés, bistro and bar in the city. You’re expected to keep your pup on a leash, but no-one seems that militant about this law, as long as the dog is well-behaved. Some recommended dog runs: The pretty Parc du Chateau de Pourtales is in the city and has a big, manicured garden around a pretty chateau. Another good dog run is the “Piste des Forts” or Forts Trail, an 85 km. cycle and walking route that surrounds the city of Strasbourg. It runs through natural forest and is a hit with children and dogs.
By Tara Barker
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