Piazza, plaza, place, platz… each language has its own word for square. Although these ‘squares’ usually have four sides, we’re 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.
Best European Squares to Visit
- Plaza España, Seville, Spain
- Place des Vosges, Paris, France
- Grote Markt, Antwerp, Belgium
- Grand Place, Brussels, Belgium
- Piazza Del Duomo, Milan, Italy
- Piazza San Marco, Venice, Italy
- Piazza Navona, Rome, Italy
- Praco de Commercio, Lisbon, Portugal
- Place de la Bourse, Bordeaux, France
- Marienplatz, Munich, Germany
- Odeonsplatz, Munich, Germany
- Old Town Square, Prague, Czech Republic
- Alexanderplatz, Berlin, Germany
- Domplatte Square, Cologne, Germany
- Heldenplatz, Vienna, Austria
- Plaza Mayor, Madrid, Spain
- Piazza del Campo, Siena, Italy
- Piazza del Plebiscito Naples, Italy
- Stortorget Square, Stockholm, Sweden
- Rynek Glówny, Kraków, Poland
- Trafalgar Square, London, United Kingdom
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.
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Place des Vosges, Paris, France
Place des Vosges in Paris, France, is an enchanting oasis tucked away in the bustling Marais district. As the city’s oldest planned square, it captivates visitors with its symmetrical red-brick facades adorned with elegant arcades. The lush central garden, shaded by tall trees, provides a serene spot to relax and people-watch. With famous former residents such as Victor Hugo and a host of quaint cafes and galleries nearby, Place des Vosges offers a delightful blend of history, culture, and charm that makes it an unmissable destination for any traveler exploring the City of Lights.
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.
Grand Place, Brussels, Belgium
The Grand Place in Brussels, Belgium, is an awe-inspiring jewel nestled in the heart of the city. This UNESCO World Heritage site mesmerizes visitors with its breathtaking architecture, featuring ornate guildhalls, the majestic Town Hall, and the King’s House. At every turn, you’ll be greeted by intricate facades adorned with gold leaf and stunning sculptures. As a vibrant hub for cultural events, markets, and lively cafes, the Grand Place is not only a feast for the eyes but also a thriving epicenter of Brussels’ unique charm. Its magnetic allure and rich history make it an essential stop for anyone seeking to experience the true essence of this captivating city.
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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Piazza San Marco, Venice, Italy
Piazza San Marco, in Venice, Italy, is a spellbinding square that effortlessly transports visitors to a bygone era of opulence and grandeur. Often referred to as the “drawing room of Europe,” this iconic square is framed by majestic historical buildings, including the awe-inspiring St. Mark’s Basilica and the regal Doge’s Palace. The Campanile di San Marco, towering above the square, offers breathtaking views of the surrounding lagoon and cityscape. Piazza San Marco invites you to indulge in its timeless atmosphere as you sip a cappuccino at one of its elegant cafes, listen to the melodic orchestras, and watch the world go by. A visit to Venice would be incomplete without experiencing the magic of Piazza San Marco.
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Piazza Navona, Rome, Italy
Piazza Navona, nestled in the heart of Rome, Italy, is a mesmerizing square that showcases the city’s rich Baroque heritage. Its graceful, elongated shape is a testament to its ancient origins as a Roman stadium. Piazza Navona enchants visitors with its stunning fountains, including the famous Fountain of the Four Rivers, a masterpiece designed by the legendary Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The charming Church of Sant’Agnese in Agone, with its striking facade, adds to the square’s artistic allure. As you stroll along the cobblestones, browsing the works of local artists or savoring a gelato, the captivating spirit of Piazza Navona will make you fall in love with Rome all over again.
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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, Bordeaux, 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’.
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The Water Mirror, located in the Place de la Bourse in Bordeaux, France, is a unique and mesmerizing attraction. The mirror-like surface of the shallow pool creates a stunning reflection of the grand 18th-century buildings that surround it. As the water slowly evaporates, mist rises from the surface, creating an enchanting visual effect. Visitors can walk barefoot on the cool, shallow water and enjoy the playful experience of splashing around, making it a popular spot for tourists and locals alike.
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.
Odeonsplatz, Munich, Germany
Odeonsplatz in Munich, Germany, is a stately square that exudes an air of elegance and history. Flanked by remarkable buildings such as the Theatine Church and the Feldherrnhalle, it showcases the city’s architectural prowess and affinity for grandeur. Odeonsplatz’s strategic location also connects it to the Residenz, the opulent former royal palace of the Bavarian monarchs, and the Hofgarten, a picturesque baroque garden perfect for a leisurely stroll. As you wander through this impressive square, absorbing the harmonious blend of past and present, Odeonsplatz invites you to discover the fascinating stories and cultural treasures that make Munich an unforgettable destination.
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.
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Alexanderplatz, Berlin, Germany
Alexanderplatz, situated in the vibrant heart of Berlin, Germany, is a dynamic and expansive square that reflects the city’s rich history and progressive spirit. Once the center of East Berlin during the Cold War era, Alexanderplatz has evolved into a bustling hub of commerce, entertainment, and transportation. The iconic TV Tower, or Fernsehturm, stands tall above the square, offering panoramic views of the city’s skyline. The World Clock, a unique timepiece displaying the time in various cities around the world, and the Fountain of Friendship among Peoples, further enhance the square’s character. As you wander through Alexanderplatz, exploring its diverse shopping options, eateries, and historic sites, you’ll be immersed in the ever-changing energy and fascinating stories that define Berlin’s unique charm.
Domplatte Square, Cologne, Germany
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.
Heldenplatz, Vienna, Austria
Heldenplatz, located in Vienna, Austria, is a majestic square steeped in history and splendor. Situated within the grand Hofburg Palace complex, once the imperial residence of the Habsburg dynasty, Heldenplatz has borne witness to some of the most significant events in Austrian history. The square is adorned with striking equestrian statues commemorating Archduke Charles of Austria and Prince Eugene of Savoy, while the impressive Neue Burg and the Austrian National Library stand proudly nearby.
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Heldenplatz serves as a gateway to Vienna’s imperial past, inviting you to explore its opulent surroundings and immerse yourself in the city’s rich heritage, making it an essential stop on any Viennese itinerary.
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.
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Piazza del Campo, Siena, Italy
Piazza del Campo in Siena, Italy, is a captivating square that exudes the spirit of the city’s rich medieval past. Its distinctive shell shape, gently sloping towards the center, creates a unique and inviting atmosphere, drawing visitors in to experience the essence of Siena. The square is surrounded by elegant, terracotta-hued buildings, including the striking Palazzo Pubblico and the soaring Torre del Mangia, offering breathtaking views of the city.
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Piazza del Campo comes to life during the thrilling Palio horse race, held twice a year, when the vibrant energy and ancient traditions of Siena create an unforgettable spectacle. A visit to this enchanting square is truly a journey back in time, allowing you to savor the authentic charm and character of this Tuscan gem.
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.
Rynek Glówny, Kraków, Poland
Rynek Glówny, located in Kraków, Poland, is a captivating square that embodies the city’s rich history and vibrant spirit. As the largest medieval square in Europe, Rynek Glówny boasts an array of architectural gems, including the iconic St. Mary’s Basilica with its eye-catching twin towers, and the Cloth Hall, a historic market hall filled with local crafts and souvenirs. The square’s lively atmosphere is enhanced by the many cafes, restaurants, and street performers that delight visitors as they explore its cobblestone paths. With a perfect blend of the old and the new, Rynek Glówny offers a truly immersive experience that captures the essence of Kraków, making it a must-see destination for anyone seeking to uncover the city’s unique charm and character.
Trafalgar Square, London, United Kingdom
Trafalgar Square, situated in the heart of London, United Kingdom, is a bustling and iconic public space that seamlessly blends history, culture, and urban energy. Dominated by the towering Nelson’s Column, guarded by majestic lion statues, the square stands as a testament to Britain’s naval triumphs and national pride. The world-renowned National Gallery, overlooking the square, houses an exquisite collection of European paintings, offering art enthusiasts a treasure trove of masterpieces to explore. Trafalgar Square’s lively atmosphere, with street performers, seasonal events, and lively cafes, makes it an exciting and dynamic hub for both locals and visitors alike. A visit to London would be incomplete without experiencing the vibrant pulse of Trafalgar Square, a true reflection of the city’s diverse and captivating spirit.
Sultanahmet Square also should be in the list unless you are butthurt European.
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