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What’s the best type of map to use for navigating a city on foot?

The best online and digital maps for walking in cities

Maps for driving and hiking are commonplace but it might seems that anyone needing to navigate a city on foot has been almost forgotten. While it would be wrong to say there’s as much support as there is for motorists and outdoor enthusiasts, first impressions are deceptive and there are probably more options than you thought.

In the days when paper maps ruled the roost, the A-to-Z range was considered the de facto standard for detailed street mapping for both driving and pedestrian use. A-to-Z now also offers digital mapping which will be of interest to those navigating city streets on foot but your choice of towns and cities will be limited compared to paper maps.

London, Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow and Edinburgh are available for iPhone but there are only London maps (£4.99 for Greater London or £1.49 for a Visitors’ Map of Central London) for Android. The London Visitors' map is free to view on the A-to-Z Website.

A-Z Maps

Turning to Windows PCs, A-to-Z mapping is available from Memory Map. You'll also find Ordnance Survey mapping for hikers and sophisticated software.

The software allows you to plan routes, print maps, and upload mapping to a handheld GPS device. There are four A-to-Z regions (Greater London, Birmingham & West Midlands, Greater Manchester, Glasgow & Edinburgh, and Liverpool & Merseyside) each of which costs £19.99.

You will also find A-to-Z mapping of London, and sometimes other major UK cities, included on some of the free online mapping sites. Included here are Bing Maps where you have to select “London Street Map” an alternative to “Road Map”, and Streetmap where it kicks in automatically at a given zoom level.

Google Maps, allows you to plan a walking route between any two points on the globe, but this is a beta feature, so it's worth checking the map of the route before you print out the directions.

Tube map Android

Also useful, if you’re navigating the capital on foot, is a map of the London Underground. Once you get to a station, maps abound for planning your route, but if you’re not familiar with the network and find yourself equidistant from two or more stations, a handy map will reveal which station to head for. There is no shortage of apps for Android and iPhone, many of them free, and in addition to providing the basic map, most will provide live status information on the lines, and route planning facilities. We like MX Tube Map for iOS.

For turn-by-turn navigation, with the option of spoken prompts, several of the apps that are often used for in-car route finding also have a mode for walking. Google Maps for Android, for example, will provide you with textual or verbal prompts for finding your way around town and there’s even the option of viewing your progress in Street View. Google Maps is also available for iOS, but Apple's own Maps app will give you turn-by-turn walking directions on an iPhone 4S or 5.

iOS Apple maps walking directions

If you have an older iPhone you can try the free Global Navigator although reports differ greatly on how well it performs. Don't overlook the well-respected CoPilot Live, that supports both Android and iPhone, which serves both your in-car and your walking needs, although at £20 for the UK and Ireland, it's one of the more expensive solutions.

A few route planners that are intended specifically for walking city streets are becoming available but, as yet, their coverage is limited. One that looks quite promising although it currently covers only 40 of the UK’s towns and cities in Walkit which provide online route-finding plus apps for Android and iPhone.

Walkit

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