Written by Brian Johnston
Iconic boulevards offer the best of shops, style, architecture, and national events. Here are some of the best avenues which encapsulate the heart of the cities in which they are set.
Fifth Avenue, New York
The wealthiest street in the world – at least in its Midtown section – is the place to window shop. The lure of Tiffany’s, where you expect to see Audrey Hepburn linger, competes with Saks Fifth Avenue department store, the famous red door of Elizabeth Arden, and legendary toy store FAO Schwarz. However, a cathedral, public library, art deco architecture, and outstanding museums strung out along the avenue provide a polite reminder that there’s more to New York than consumer delights.
New York, USA
Distance: 10,792 km
Flight Time: 14 hours, 10 minutes
Chang’an Avenue, Beijing
The seven-kilometre Avenue of Eternal Peace cuts through central Beijing and forms a processional route for military parades and national events. It’s lined with buildings that mark changing architectural styles in the People’s Republic and, to the east, brings you to Chaoyang district, the epicentre of contemporary action, with some of the city’s best hotels, shopping, and nightlife. Most importantly, Chang’an Avenue leads through Tiananmen Square in front of the Gate of Heavenly Peace. Mao Zedong declared the founding of the People’s Republic here, and his portrait hangs from the gateway, which leads into the Forbidden City beyond.
Distance: 6,164 km
Flight Time: 7 hours, 35 minutes
Hapsburg emperor Franz Josef created the Ringstrasse in 1857, and it rapidly became the grandest of boulevards, flanked by palaces, sumptuous mansions, and important buildings such as the Town Hall, Museum of Fine Arts, and State Opera. Styles from baroque to art nouveau are an architecture-lover’s delight. The circular avenue runs for just over five kilometres, encloses Vienna’s old town, and links many museums. Ride the spotlit Ringstrasse on a rattling tram at night, and re-live the romance of a long-lost empire.
Distance: 3,983 km
Flight Time: 6 hours, 10 minutes
The Mall, London
With no shops, few residences, and running for under a kilometre, The Mall would hardly be a great avenue were it not for its impressive setting. Starting at grand Trafalgar Square and passing through Admiralty Arch, this broad boulevard heads straight to Buckingham Palace. The Mall was created specifically as a ceremonial route – it’s coloured to give the impression of a red carpet – and has been the stage for many significant events, including royal weddings and jubilees.
Distance: 5,219 km
Flight Time: 7 hours, 35 minutes
Frequency: 6 flights a day
Avenida 9 de Julio, Buenos Aires
The city’s main boulevard, named after Argentina’s Independence Day, runs for only a kilometre, but is the world’s widest boulevard, flanked by marble and bronze-adorned buildings. Its obelisk is the most obvious landmark, but don’t miss Teatro Colón, opened during Buenos Aires’ heyday in 1908: every great name in opera and ballet has performed in the splendid five-tiered auditorium, decorated with Italian frescoes and stained glass.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Distance: 13,319 km
Flight Time: 18 hours, 50 minutes
Frequency: Daily via São Paulo