The 17 strangest streets in the world

Rues les plus étranges au monde

These seventeen bizarre streets from around the world each have something atypical about them: here’s what’s special about them, with photos to prove it!

The unknown is part of the appeal of travel, like trying out a local specialty, witnessing a cultural tradition, or stumbling across a decidedly unusual street. Imagine browsing the stalls of Thailand’s Maeklong market when a train horn sounds, the merchants abruptly lower their awnings, and you retreat to the side of the street that also happens to be a railroad. It’s one of those moments that makes you want to take a photo to regale your friends later.

Streets, of course, have an identity. And some even become emblems of a destination, like Fifth Avenue in New York or the famous curves of Lombard Street in San Francisco.

But strange streets are not so rare. Some have record-breaking dimensions, from the widest to the narrowest. In the Scottish town of Wick, for example, Ebenezer Square measures 2.06 meters, making it the shortest street in the world.

You’ll see that there are some truly bizarre streets all over the world:

Angel Place, Sydney, Australia

Rues les plus étranges au monde

Pixabay – Schommartz

The unexpected and evocative sound of birds chirping indicates that you’re in Angel Place, a small alleyway in Sydney’s central business district. The 120 empty birdcages are another indication. Artist Michael Thomas Hill created this « exhibition » in 2009 to draw attention to the way urban development was repelling wildlife. Officially known as Forgotten Songs, the installation was so popular that it became permanent. When you’re there, listen carefully. The soundtrack changes throughout the day, revealing the sounds of over 50 species of birds that once lived here. At night, you can hear the Australian Sandgrouse, the Ninox, the Grey Podarge, and the Whip-poor-will.

Caminho do Comboio, Funchal, Madeira, Portugal

Traineaux en osiers, Carros de Cesto, Monte, Funchal, Madère

Flickr – nutmeg66

The Caminho do Comboio has no sidewalks, and the most popular means of transport is by wicker sled « driven » by men on foot (you can choose to walk, take a sled or take a cable car). Continuing a tradition dating back to the 1850s, two carreiros, dressed in traditional cotton garments and straw hats, run as fast as humanly possible from the Nossa Senhora church in Monte to Funchal, the capital of Madeira Island. The journey takes around 10 minutes and can reach speeds of up to 50 km/h (and €30 for 2 per run).

Ebenezer Square, Wick, Scotland

Rues les plus étranges au monde

geograph.org.uk – Iain Lees

Ebenezer Square, located at the tip of a triangular block, was built in 1883 by Alexander Sinclair and has been officially credited with the title of the world’s shortest street, measuring just 2.06 meters long. The only address on the street is No. 1, a bistro owned by the Mackays Hotel.

Maeklong Railway Market, Thailand

Rues les plus étranges au monde

Flickr – Fabio Achilli

Is it a market? A railway? A street? Maeklong is all of these things. In the Maeklong market, everyone does business, merchants sell their wares, passers-by shop, but when a train horn is heard in the distance, the stalls retreat just as passers-by hurry to the edge of the street. Then a train passes by, levelling the market by a few centimetres. After which, everyone resumes their activity as if the train had never passed.

Avenida 9 de julio, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Rues les plus étranges au monde

Flickr – José María Pérez Nuñez

At normal walking speed, it takes pedestrians two to three green lights to cross the 12 lanes of traffic and flower-filled medians of Avenida 9 de Julio. Construction of the world’s widest street began in the 1930s and took almost 50 years. It was modelled on the Champs-Élysées, but is twice as wide to make Buenos Aires the « Paris of South America ». Many of Buenos Aires’ most remarkable monuments can be seen along the immense street, including the Obelisco, the statue of Don Quixote, and the Teatro Colón.

Paper Streets, Pittsburgh, United States

Rues les plus étranges au monde

Credit – Huffington Post

Paper Street » is a street that appears on a map but doesn’t actually exist. The term gained some attention thanks to the film Fight Club, in which the protagonist lives in a house on Paper Street. As simple as they are mysterious, these streets exist on maps, but may only be a passage or a staircase, when they can be found at all. How did this happen? Poor city planning and poor real estate record keeping.

Norderstraße, Flensburg, Germany

Rues les plus étranges au monde

Wikimedia – Sönke Rahn

Have you ever walked down a street and seen piles of pairs of shoes hanging from an electric wire? In this German town a few kilometers from the Danish border, there’s even a term for it: Shoefiti (contraction of shoe and graffiti). The practice of shoe-throwing is sometimes considered an art form, or a way for a child to grow up and throw his shoes in order to hang them on the wire. Others claim that the shoes were thrown to commemorate the death of a gang member, or as a way of marking gang territory. It may also be a way of signalling that there’s a drug dealer about. Regardless of its original purpose, Norderstraße has become a tourist landmark in Flensburg, encouraging tourists to leave their shoes behind.

Baldwin Street, Dunedin, New Zealand

Rues les plus étranges au monde

Flickr – macronix

Baldwin Street is the steepest street in the world, with an average gradient of 35%. Good brakes are a must if you want to park on this street. The locals have enormous calves. Joking aside, you’ll be rewarded at the top with a drinking fountain and views over Otago Harbour.

Spreuerhofstraße, Reutlingen, Germany

Rues les plus étranges au monde

Wikimedia – Hedwig Storch

Even if you overindulged in beers and pretzels during your stay in Germany, you’d still have a hard time passing through the world’s narrowest street. Measuring less than 31 centimetres at its narrowest point and 50 centimetres at its widest, this street was built in 1727 when the city was rebuilt after a major fire. One wonders what the builders were thinking back then. People weren’t that thin, were they?

Hosier Lane, Melbourne, Australia

Rues les plus étranges au monde

Flickr – vincentq

Among the world’s most cosmopolitan cities, Melbourne is widely recognized for its street art, particularly that found on Hosier Lane, a legal space that attracts both local and international artists. From stencils and caricatures to posters and portraits, art is constantly evolving here. And you may be lucky enough to see the artists in action. Just imagine the number of layers on these almost living walls.

Canusa Street, Stanstead, Canada/USA

Rues les plus étranges au monde

Wikimedia – Dominic Labbe

Imagine crossing a street and finding yourself in another country. Such is the case of Canusa Street in Quebec, or should we say Vermont? The international border is marked simply by a yellow line that runs through the towns of Stanstead (Quebec) and Beebe Plain (Vermont), and in some cases, individual houses. If you live on Canusa Street, your kitchen may be in one country and your dining room in another. At the Haskell Opera, the stage is Canadian, but the entrance to the theater is American, as are most of the seats. Given its border location, the city has two postal addresses. Canadian Geographic reports that there are ground sensors and hidden cameras alerting the Border Patrol. Helicopters will be there within minutes if you don’t cross the border normally with the authorities. This doesn’t have to apply to locals…

Bubblegum Alley, San Luis Obispo, United States

Rues les plus étranges au monde

Flickr – kellinahandbasket

No garbage can in sight? It’s perfectly legal, even encouraged, to stick your chewing gum along the wall of this alley. Passers-by have been doing this since around 1950, leaving behind colorful stains. The alley is therefore a germaphobe’s worst nightmare. You’ll find it between 733 and 734 Higuera Street in downtown San Luis Obispo.

Bom Jesus Road, Braga, Portugal

Rues les plus étranges au monde

Credit – Youtube

« Nothing is stranger than putting your car in neutral and driving up a hill, » says Jayme Henriques Simões of the Portuguese National Tourist Board. On the « Estrada Magica », cars can be seen driving up the street, defying gravity. Many believe there is a magnetic field that draws the cars upwards, while others say it’s due to the religious power of the site (Bom Jesus do Monte is a sacred church at the top of the hill). In reality, the effect is caused by a natural optical illusion when two roads meet, giving the impression that the street is ascending. A similar road exists in Lauriole, Hérault.

Snake Alley, Burlington, United States

Rues les plus étranges au monde

Wikimedia – Craig Markley

San Francisco’s Lombard Street is famous for its curves. But it’s not the only one. In fact, Snake Alley (built in 1894) is the most tortuous street in the world. This Burlington street is a one-way street, and while it has fewer bends than Lombard Street, its curves are much sharper.

Heidelberg Street, Detroit, United States

Rues les plus étranges au monde

Flickr – Bob Jagendorf

Better known as the Heidelberg Project, this street is an open-air work of art, where discarded objects adorn (many) abandoned houses. Artist Tyree Guyton helped launch the project in 1986 to restore hope after losing three brothers to neighborhood violence. There has been no crime in the area for 26 years. Heidelberg continues to attract around 275,000 visitors a year.

Calle de las Siete Cruces, Quito, Ecuador

Rues les plus étranges au monde

Credit – fernandosandovaljr.blogspot.fr

Rue des sept croix takes its name from the concentration of religious buildings, each from a different period of history. The name comes from the seven stone crosses built by the Spanish to impose the Christian faith on the Inca and Quitus tribes. It is also known as Calle García Moreno.

Snake Alley, Taipei, Taiwan

Rues les plus étranges au monde

Flickr – rustler2x4

Foreign tourists once flocked to Snake Alley to watch the live skinning of reptiles and enjoy a glass of snake bile and Kaoliang liqueur. Changing attitudes mean you’re unlikely to witness such behavior, although it’s still sometimes done slyly after someone orders a snake meal or snake wine. You can, however, expect to see vendors openly carrying boa blood, snake stew, turtle testicles, and traditional Chinese remedies. Massage parlors and noodle vendors are also open on Snake Alley, also known as Huaxi Street Night Market, a two-block area in Taipei’s oldest district, open from 4pm to midnight every day.

Do you know of any other strange streets in the world?