More than often, we associate the term "street" with world-famous avenues such as the marvelous Champs-Élysées in Paris or Beijing's formidable Chang'an Avenue, oblivious to the other end of the spectrum, beyond which the definition of what actually counts as a street becomes blurry and debatable. The world's shortest streets might not be as renowned as their larger counterparts, yet each of which holds an interesting story that far eclipses the streets' physical size.
Known for its pristine nature and art-deco architecture, Hot Springs AR is named after its ample springs, with their thermal waters said to have medicinal properties. Apparently, this verdant resort town is also home to the former holder of the title “the shortest street in the world”, Bridge Street, spanning between Malvern and Central Avenues. With its length being only twice as large as its width, the 98 feet long street was branded in the past as the world’s busiest street for its size by Ripley’s Believe it or Not.
Interestingly, the Hot Springs Creek that traverses the town once ran along the Central Avenue on its route to Lake Hamilton. Prior to 1870, when a pavement was constructed over the river, the nowadays Bridge Street was literally a bridge, hence its name.
Since 2004, the street annually hosts the world’s shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade, celebrating the legacy of the 4th century Irish patron. Despite its ridiculously short route, it takes roughly an hour for the dozens of participants to complete the procession, after which weird contests are being held, including a game that involves passionately kissing a large sandstone for a 100-dollar prize.
photography by: Kimberly Vardeman/ Flickr
One of 20 administrative districts across the French capital, the 2nd arrondissement of Paris is a major business hub, home to many of the city’s banks, numerous shopping arcades as well as the former stock exchange. You might be surprised to learn that alongside the many architectural and historic gems throughout the district is a somewhat unusual attraction, the shortest street in Paris, Rue des Degrés.
As its French name suggests (degrés – stairs), this 3.3 meter wide and 5.75 meters long street is practically a staircase, consisting of 14 steps in total. Linking Rue de Cléry and Rue Beauregard, the mini-street is a vestige of medieval Paris, as both parallel streets follow the exact path of the Wall of Charles V, one of Paris’s city walls that were demolished to make room for the modern-day grand boulevards. The accumulation of garbage along the city wall over the course of centuries resulted in a small hillock, standing for the topographic gap that Degrés Street crosses and bridges.
While in the past, the street’s façades had multiple windows and doors, all of the openings were ultimately sealed, turning them into blank walls, which in recent decades became a large-scale canvas for artists who occasionally cover the surrounding buildings with whimsical murals.
photography by: Chabe01 and William Jexpire/ Wikimedia Commons
The small town of Bacup in England’s Lancashire County is nationally renowned for being a medieval production center of woolen and cotton clothes, and subsequently, a factory town during the industrial revolution. Curiously, Bacup’s center is home to another former holder of the world’s shortest street’s title, the 17 feet/5-meter-long Elgin St.
Dating back to the 19th century, Elgin Street is bordered by merely a single house, whilst its other side functions as a parking lot. Any visitor will immediately notice the white plaque on the street’s only façade, proudly declaring that the street is the world’s shortest, yet in 2006, it was stripped of its fame after this list’s no.1, Ebenezer Place, was recognized by the Guinness World Records as the new title holder.
photography by: robert wade/ Wikimedia Commons
Once a major railroad center, the town of Bellefontaine OH serves as the administrative capital of Logan County, and surprisingly, is also home to the state’s highest point, Campbell Hill, all of which is still far from making the city a significant place nationwide. Nevertheless, an unassuming road along Bellefontaine’s railway tracks happens to qualify as the shortest street in the United States, and consequently, in the Americas as well.
Linking West Columbus and Garfield Avenues, McKinley Street is anything but impressive, and yet, a seemingly generic green sign on its corner boasts the “shortest street in America” title (recently replacing an older sign which proclaimed that the street is the shortest in the world).
A sole nondescript building sits along the street, whose official length ranges anywhere between 15 to 30 feet, depending what parts of it are excluded. Several attempts to brand the place as the world’s shortest street have failed, although the advocates relentlessly claim that the other contenders lack any road, thereby failing to meet the basic criteria of being regarded as a street.
Nestled in the far reaches of Northern Scotland, the coastal town of wick is a former Viking village, which during the 19th century had one of Europe’s busiest herring ports, a contrast to its current sleepy character. Hilariously, Wick was brought to the world stage in 2006, when the Guinness World Records officially recognized the town’s Ebenezer Place as the shortest street in the world.
Measuring a staggering 6 ft 9 in or 2.05 meters, Ebenezer Place is one centimeter shorter than the American basketball star LeBron James. By now you probably wonder, and rightly so, how such an anomaly came into being, and well, it’s all have to do with municipal regulations.
Built in 1883 along the Wick River, Mackay’s Hotel had 4 exterior walls upon its completion, three of which faced the surrounding streets. As a result of the building’s sharp tip being trimmed, a ridiculously short façade was formed at the junction of Union and River Streets.
Since according to the local planning laws every wall that had doors or windows must be marked independently as a street, local authorities ordered the hotel’s owner to install the sign “Ebenezer Place” on its shortest side, which in 1887 was formally listed as a street.
Nowadays, the entrance at the building’s shorter than a horse side leads to the only address in the street, the No.1 Bistro restaurant, frequented by hotel guests and curious tourists alike.
photography by: Noudbijvoet and Peter Robertson/ Wikimedia Commons