Every city has a heart and usually it is beating around its squares filled with people, life and unique characters. City squares are regarded as major landmarks in all world cities as they particularly hold a strong history, an imposing architecture and/or an entertaining scene. On this list, I will take you around the globe to see the best city squares around the world!
1- Red Square, Moscow, Russia
This is the heart of Moscow, bordering the Kremlin and incorporating within its cobblestones the mythically colorful St Basil’s Cathedral. Every visit to the Red Square is followed by a visit to its nearby attractions such as the department store GUM and Lenin’s grave. I simply loved my visit there and I hope to visit again soon. I went in summer but I expect the square to look magical during Christmas time. Read more about this UNESCO World Heritage Site here.
Read more: Two days in Moscow
2- Jemaa El-fna, Marrakech, Morocco
In terms of architecture, there is nothing special about Jemaa El-fna Square. What makes it interesting are its people. The Moroccan culture is on full display with food markets, dance shows and music performances. The square has been proclaimed UNESCO Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity due to its unique character. I personally love this square and it is a must-see on every trip I make to Marrakech! Unmissable! From the square, it’s possible to visit other landmarks or simply get lost inside the Medina’s tiny alleys.
Read more: Two hours in Marrakech
3- Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China
One of the largest squares in the world, Tiananmen Square is at the heart of Beijing. Its name translates to “The Gate of Heavenly Peace” which actually is located at the North of the square and separating it from the Forbidden City. I have recently visited it, I did not enjoy the security checks to access the square as it was a long queue. However, the square has something special and historic which somehow electrifies the air around the square as we all know the tragedies of the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989.
Read more: The Great Slide of China
4- Piazza San Marco, Venice, Italy
If there was something I would change about San Marco’s Square in Venice, it would be reducing the number of tourists as the square is mega crowded. However, there is a reason why it is crowded. It is one of the prettiest squares in Italy as it displays the best of Italian art.
Read more: Festa del Redentore in Venice
5- Times Square, New York, USA
Although I feel like Times Square is not really a square but simple a road with a large middle pavement, it still remains quite symbolic in the life of New York. Times Square is known for its countless screens displaying ads from all the big brands with Coca Cola being one of the most iconic and first brands to continuously advertise there. Times Square is truly a symbol of the capitalist American Empire. Check all events at Times Square as it is a great place for celebration especially during the New Year!
Read more: 36 hours in New York
6- Place de la Concorde, Paris, France
Paris is full of interesting places and surely La Concorde Square is one of them. The view from the ferris wheel in the square is outstanding. This square is one of the main squares in the city as it is the largest measuring 8.64 hectares. The square is also known for many important public executions during the French Revolution. When I was there it was easy to notice the Egyptian obelisk at the center of the square. Other Paris landmarks are all connected to the square one way or another.
Read more: Things to Do in Paris in One Day
7- Piazza San Pietro, Vatican
St Peter’s Square at the Vatican is a major sight as it actually takes up a good part of the territory of the country. It is directly facing the St Peter’s Basillica. There is an Egyptian obelisk at the center of the square that is all surrounded by Tuscan colonnades. The Pope in person takes part of many events taking place on this square, so if you’re lucky enough, you may get to see him!
Read more: Five Reasons to Visit the Vatican
8- Praça do Comércio, Lisbon, Portugal
National Monument of Portugal since 1910, Commerce Square in Lisbon is a must-see! This square was initially the location of a royal palace until it got destroyed in 1775 Lisbon Earthquake. The square was then part of a refurbishment project of the city center of the city. I enjoyed the architecture around the square and the opening on the Tagus River.
Read more: My Lisbon city-break turned into a nightmare
9- Placa de la Constitution, Mexico City, Mexico
Formally known as Placa de la Constitution but commonly called Zocalo, this square is the heart of Mexico City. The square is a place of gathering for many Mexicans during special religious, political and other ceremonies. The square is 57,600 square meters making it one of the largest squares in the world. I have never been but I could not avoid including this historic square on my list!
10- Plaza Mayor, Madrid, Spain
Plaza Mayor simply means Main Square in Spanish. It is simple also by design but the architecture around it is timeless. Its red-coloured buildings resonate within the square and make it one of the most beautiful squares I have seen. Those buildings have 237 balconies overlooking the square.
11- Rynek Glowny, Krakow, Poland
Rynek Glowny in Polish means Main Square. This prime location in Krakow is full of life. Tourists and locals alike gather at this medieval square to enjoy what it has to offer: restaurants, bars, entertainment,… The Town Hall Tower dominates the square while the gothic St Mary’s Basilica has an imposing posture right in front of it. The UNESCO made the square along Krakow’s Old Town a World Heritage Site. In 2013, Lonely Planet qualified the square as the most beautiful in the world.
12- Grand Place, Brussels, Belgium
When I walk into the Grand Place in Brussels, I feel some sort of darkness taking over my day. I must admit that this is not a positive sign, however, I guess that the buildings around it make this effect on me. They have an aggressive posture with their dominant medieval and gothic architecture. They are impressive and the details are well preserved. However, the square has a dark past as it has witnessed many destructions through wars raging in Europe in the 20 century.
Read more: 5 Most Disappointing Monuments in Europe
13- Kim II Sung Square, Pyongyang, North Korea
You probably saw it on CNN, Fox News or BBC… Kim Il Sung Square is a common image on TV reports about North Korea. The reason is that the North Korean regime holds its famous military parades to showcase its capabilities and scare its enemies. I was lucky to visit the square recently but the square was rather host of another type of event. It was hosting school kids rehearsing for the Mass Games. The square is quite impressive with its imposing portraits of the leaders and flags of the country and the one and only political party.
Read more: How to Visit North Korea
14- Trafalgar Square, London, UK
I must say that Trafalgar Square is not the most beautiful sight in London. However, it is quite symbolic with it being the heart of London. I also love the symmetric fountains and 51 meters high Nelson’s Column with its lions at the bottom. Trafalgar Square is also a lively place as it hosts major London events such as the Chinese New Year, the Gay Pride and Eid Festival at the end of Ramadan. I particularly have a special connection with it as I was hosting my little event: giving free hugs to strangers passing by the street! It was fun!
Read more: Bus 11: London’s Best Route for Sightseeing
15- Old Town Square, Prague, Czech Republic
Located between Wenceslas Square and Charles Bridge, the Old Town Square is the life of Prague’s Old Town. It is its centre and a point of localisation for many. The towers of the Gothic Church of our Lady before Tyn dominate the square as they rise 80 meters above the ground. Meanwhile, the square also hosts the oldest astronomical clock still in operation in the world. To be precise, it was installed in 1410. I love the square but being a visitor during the high peak of the summer season made it harder to fully enjoy it within the crowds.
Read more: Beautiful Spring Days in Prague
16- Imam Square, Isfahan, Iran
This is definitely a square I want to visit and I hope it will be sooner than later! Imam Square is known by so many names but it’s the same historical UNESCO site. The square is surrounded by impressive buildings such as the Shah Mosque, Ali Qapu Palace, Sheikh Lotf Allah Mosque and Isfahan’s Grand Bazaar.
17- Republic Square, Belgrade, Serbia
Republic Square in Belgrade has been through so many eras from its origins as Theatre Square to World War Two. It is the centre of life in Belgrade as it connects directly to Knez Mihaelova street and many shopping areas of the city. Many buses and trams pass by making it a big transit stop for commuters. The square is also a place where many protests happen including pro-democracy protests in 1996. I particularly love the square for its vibes and busy lifestyle Belgrade people showcase there!
Read more: 10 Things to Do in Belgrade
18- Skanderbeg Square, Tirana, Albania
The square has gone through so many changes but when I visited in 2015, it apparently was looking its best ever. Skanderbeg Square is 40,000 square meters big and around it are some of the main landmarks in Tirana. Just to name a few, there is the National Opera, the National Library, Ethem Bey Mosque, the Clock Tower of Tirana and some official and ministerial buildings.
Read more: Stories from Tirana, the Albanian Capital
19- Stephansplatz, Vienna, Austria
Stephansplatz is quite a small square as there is pretty much mainly the Stephansdom, Vienna’s medieval cathedral, standing there. The cathedral’s tower is one of the tallest cathedral towers in the world. The whole area with shopping streets, mostly pedestrian streets, is now known as Stephansplatz.
Main image credits: Old Town Square, Prague by archer10 on Flickr.