Piazza, plaza, place, platz…each language has its own word for square. Although these ‘squares’ usually have four sides, I’m not talking about your average geometric form. Europe has something many other places in the world just don’t have: the concept of the public square. These are lively places where people can hang out, shop, eat, drink, walk around and simply be. Europe has endless public squares, and some simply shouldn’t be missed.
Plaza España, Seville, Spain
How many squares do you know that have a moat? The Plaza España might be the most visually appealing square in Europe, or maybe even the world. The 50,000 square meter space has four bridges, hundreds of arches, 48 pavilions and endless colorful tiles, plus a few fountains. If it looks familiar, some parts of Star Wars have been filmed there.
Grote Markt, Antwerp, Belgium
Home to the Antwerp City Hall as well as 16th century guildhalls, the famous Brabo Fountain takes center stage in the square. During the colder months, the square features an ice rink, plus a Christmas market around the holidays.
Piazza Del Duomo, Milan, Italy
Surrounded by some of Italy’s most impressive sights, this square dates back to the 14th century. Besides the towering cathedral, which took over five centuries to complete, the square boasts five palaces and the famous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Italy’s oldest shopping mall.
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Praco de Commercio, Lisbon, Portugal
Perched on the banks of the Tangus River, Lisbon’s Praco de Commercio is actually U-shaped. One of Portugal’s most important kings, Carlos I was assassinated there in 1908. Nowadays, the square is home to the oldest cafe in the city, Martin da Arcada.
Place de la Bourse, Bordeux, France
One of France’s most well-known sights and part of an UNESCO World Heritage city center, the Bourse Square is the quintessential example of 18th century French architecture. The massive square features the current Chamber of Commerce, the National Museum of Customs and a captivating sculpture named ‘Three Graces’.
Marienplatz, Munich, Germany
Marienplatz has been Munich’s main square since 1158. Named after a large Marian column which stands in the center of the square, you can view both the new and old City Hall buildings there. A Christmas market also comes to the space around the holidays.
Old Town Square, Prague, Czech Republic
Known as Staromestske Namesti in Czech, Prague’s Old Town Square has one of the world’s most famous astronomical clocks. In fact, the clock is the oldest astronomical clock still in operation, dating back to 1410. A variety of churches and buildings add interest to the square, all created in varying architectural styles.
Domplatte Square, Cologne, German
Home to UNESCO World Heritage Site Cologne Cathedral, the Germanic spires of the church tower over the square, which measures at a whopping 75,000 square feet. Known as the ‘heart of Cologne,’ the Domplatte connects the city center with the hill on which the magnificent cathedral stands.
Plaza Mayor, Madrid, Spain
Once used for bullfights and the Spanish Inquisition trials several hundred years ago, today, tourists admire the 237 red balconies cover the square. With plenty of bars, restaurants and souvenir shops lining the plaza, you can stop for a beer and soak up the surrounding ambiance.
Piazza del Plebiscito Naples, Italy
The endless Piazza del Plebiscito has hosted concerts from big-name acts like Elton John and Maroon 5. Equally spectacular without a large event, the square is flanked by the Naples Royal Palace and the Church of San Francesco di Paola, topped with a 175-foot high dome.
Stortorget Square, Stockholm, Sweden
If you’re in search of colorful living, start in Stockholm’s Stortorget Square. Although it’s home to the Stock Exchange Building, the real intrigue comes from the smaller colorful buildings that line the plaza. Even on the greyest of days, the brightly contrasting facades are a treat to admire.
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