Perhaps the best way to get to know a city, both quickly and well, is to explore it on foot.

This is most enjoyable in cities -- whether in this country or abroad -- that are graced with a reasonably compact city center, interesting and attractive structures, fine parks and inviting shops and cafe's.

Among the world's most walkable big cities:

*San Francisco. The climbs in this city of hills can be arduous, but each new summit offers marvelous views of the sea, and along the way you'll pass the elegant boutiques of Union Square and the intriguingly aromatic cafe's of Chinatown.

*New York. The tourist's Manhattan is easy to negotiate on foot, and every step of the way is a sometimes funny, sometimes sad but always interesting street show. Take your pick: The classy shops of Fifth Avenue; the honky-tonk hubbub of Times Square; the "noshing" delis along the streets of the Lower East Side.

*Venice. A pedestrian's dream city, where the streets are free of motor vehicles, the water views enchant, and a short walk from almost anywhere will take you over an arched bridge to a pleasant cafe', a beautiful church or a hidden piazza. See Piazza San Marco and the Ponte di Rialto, certainly, but also get lost in the quiet, charming neighborhood of Santa Maria della Salute, the lovely baroque church across Ponte dell Accademia.

*Copenhagen. An attractive seaside city of easygoing people, it delights with colorful streets, flower-filled parks, storybook palaces and very sophisticated shops. Walk the famous pedestrian-only shopping street, the Stroget, which begins near Tivoli Garden and ends about three-fourths of a mile later at Kongens Nytorv, the city's largest square.

*New Orleans. The French Quarter is compact, historic, full of fine shops, cafe's and restaurants, and is as lovely as it is lively. Stroll Bourbon Street for jazz or rest on a park bench watching the busy Mississippi River scene.

*Vienna. The inner city looks almost forbiddingly elegant and formal, as perhaps befits the old capital of the Hapsburg empire. But don't be misled. The coffeehouses are cozy, the pastry shops (especially Demel's) are superb, and you'll almost certainly hear Strauss waltzes in the park. Explore particularly the winding old streets around Stephansdom, Vienna's famous cathedral. A few steps will take you to Domgasse, where at No. 5, Mozart lived from 1784-87 and wrote "The Marriage of Figaro." It's now a museum.

*Paris. The Seine, the Left Bank, Tuileries Garden, the Champs-Elysees, the sidewalk cafe's -- they are all best enjoyed on lazy walks to anywhere.