Europe is famous for its rich history, its architecture, as well as its beautiful squares, inviting cafes, statues, a town hall or an iconic church. Central plazas and public squares play a crucial role in urban areas as they are usually the focal point of that city. They serve a purpose as a social and commercial meeting place, a place where impromptu gatherings, people watching and even, political discourse all naturally intersect.
Frequented by locals and tourists alike, in the beautiful historic squares, represents major attractions in European cities, whether you’re looking for history, culture, and impressive architecture, or want to walk around and catch a glimpse of local architecture and lifestyle. Each city’s historic public squares serve from Romanesque, Gothic, Moorish, Renaissance to Baroque architecture.
Below is the list of 15 such public squares in Europe:
George Square, Glasgow, Scotland | Public squares
It is the civic square in Glasgow city. Laid out in 1781, it is today home to the headquarters of Glasgow City Council and many buildings from the 19th century. It boasts a collection of eleven statues and monuments.
It is a place designed for musical events, light shows, sporting celebrations, political gatherings, and parades. In 2013, the surface of the square changed to grey with the addition of four grass areas.
Grand Place, Brussels, Belgium
Also known as Grote Markt, is an architectural jewel, an exceptional and highly successful example of an eclectic blending of architectural and artistic styles of Western culture that is Baroque and Gothic, illustrates the vitality of this political and commercial center.
The square is imposed by Brussels’ Town Hall and guildhalls on its south side from the 14th to 17th century, and by the ornate King’s House to its north, which contains the Brussels City Museum. The area surrounding the Grand’ Place, known as the Îlot Sacré (“Sacred Isle”), includes the late 19th-century Stock Exchange. Perhaps the most famous curiosity of this quarter is the Manneken-Pis Fountain, the statue is adorned in various costumes throughout the year to mark festivals, holidays, and other events.
Marienplatz, Munich, Germany | Public squares
Marienplatz used to be home to medieval markets, celebrations, and tournaments. Today, the square is a popular meeting place with its many cafes, restaurants and all kinds of stores and it is always crowded and noisy with locals and tourists alike.
Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall) is a 300-foot-long, elaborately decorated façade with hundreds of statues, turrets and arches that dominate the square, constructed in Flanders Gothic style.
The tower of the Neues Rathaus houses the Rathaus-Glockenspiel, the clock tower. The Mariensaule, placed at the center of the square, is the column of St. Mary having the golden statue of Virgin Mary at the top, showcasing the city’s overcoming of war, pestilence, hunger, and heresy.
Old Town Square, Prague, Czech Republic
It is a historic square in the Old Town quarter of Prague, surrounded with historical buildings such as the Old Town City Hall with the famous Astronomical Clock, the imposing St. Nicholas Church, Church of Our Lady before Tyn and many houses and palaces of various architectural styles and colorful history.
Jan Hus Memorial, Kinský Palace and Stone Bell House are other notable admirations at the square which are gothic in its architecture. People still gather at the Old Town Square on the occasions of important events. Also, the traditional Christmas markets take place there.
Piazza Del Campo, Siena, Italy | Public squares
It is one of the biggest medieval squares in the world and the principal public space of the historic center of Siena.
Public performances and other informal activities often occur in the center of the square because the downward slope of the space creates a natural amphitheater for spectators. Users of the space often sit on the red brick floors of the square, wherever they feel most comfortable. Normally, this occurs along the edges of the square which is highly activated by the presence of cafés, museums and retail stores.
Piazza Navona, Rome, Italy
Originally built as a Domitian stadium in the first century for athletic contests and chariot races, Piazza Navona is nowadays a great meeting place for Romans and tourists alike.
The piazza has lined up with luxurious cafes, restaurants and Baroque palaces. The Church of Sant’ Agnese in Agone and the Palazzo Pamphilj are considered as the most important buildings of the square.
It’s a splendid masterpiece with works by Bernini and Borromini, such as la Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi in its center. The four statues on it represent the rivers of the continents, the Nile, Danube, the Ganges and Rio de la Plata. In the middle, there is an obelisk measuring 52 ft (16 m), which had been part of the Circus of Maxentius, originally.
Piazza San Marco, Venice, Italy
Piazza San Marco has been the scene of some of the most important religious and political activities as well as the center of Venetian social life for almost a millennium. Inside it’s surrounded by stunning Baroque and Victorian-era buildings and monuments.
The northern and southern wings of the square formed by two official buildings are the Old Procurators’ Offices and the New Procurators’ Offices. Three of Venice’s major sites located in this square are the Basilica di San Marco; a Byzantine marvel, the Torre dell’ Orologio; a famous medieval clock tower, and the Doge’s Palace; the seat of the government of Venice.
At the basilica end of the Old Procurators’ building stands a late 14th-century structure, the Clock Tower, where the hours are struck by two Moorish figures.
Plaza De Espana, Seville, Spain | Public squares
Built-in 1928, Plaza De Espana is a landmark example of Regionalism Architecture, mixing elements of the Renaissance Revival and Moorish Revival styles in Spanish architecture.
This magnificent construction is highlighted with polychromatic ceramic tiles and flanked by two spectacular towers and a bordering lake. It is a semi-circular brick building with a tower at either end.
A 500-meter canal crossed by four bridges follows the curve of the Plaza in the center. Hence, the Plaza is known as “the Venice of Seville”.
Plaza Mayor, Madrid, Spain
The Plaza Mayor is a grand arcaded perfectly rectangular square in the center of Madrid and a popular spot for tourists. From hosting various local fiestas and performances to religious ceremonies and markets, Plaza Mayor is a social and cultural venue in Madrid nowadays.
In addition to the eye-catching architecture, the statue of Philip III, and the wonderfully painted building of Casa de la Panaderia charms the vibe of the Plaza, which shelters shops, restaurants and outdoor cafes under its lovely porticoes.
Plaza Mayor, Salamanca, Spain | Public squares
Built in the traditional Spanish baroque style, the Plaza Mayor in Salamanca is one of the most beautiful squares in Spain. A baroque building with five granite arches and a steeple decorated with allegorical figures imposed on the north side is the City Hall. The Plaza makes a captivating impression with its galleries and arcades.
The irregular height of the buildings adds charm to this harmonious space, especially atmospheric in the evenings when it becomes the social meeting point for locals and tourists alike.
Red Square, Moscow Russia
A UNESCO designated World Heritage site, is the historic center of not only Moscow but Russia’s cultural life. It has been the scene of executions, demonstrations, riots, parades, rock concerts and speeches. The outdoor space is now home to St. Basil’s Cathedral, the State Historical Museum and Vladimir Lenin’s mausoleum.
St. Basil’s is one of the most recognizable buildings in Russia due to its unique domes, towers, cupolas, spires and arches.
RynekGlowny, Krakow, Poland
The RynekGlowny, the main square, in the heart of Old Town Krakow is Europe’s biggest market square. The 10-acre vast square, the largest of all Europe’s medieval cities, is a curio in itself. At the same time, it is arguably one of the world’s most beautiful plazas in the world, boasts a plethora of landmarks such as renaissance Cloth Hall at its center and the gothic basilica of St. Mary.
Surrounded by gorgeous pastel yellow and peach buildings of myriad restaurants, clubs, and cafes, including the 13th-century Gothic Town Hall Tower.
RynekGlowny, Wroclaw, Poland | Public squares
The Rynek Square in Wroclaw, Poland is a medieval market square with many cafés, bars, restaurants, and souvenir shops. The buildings around the square show different styles, ranging from Art Nouveau to Gothic. Monuments such as St. Elizabeth, and a fountain constructed from glass panels that provide a contrast with the surrounding buildings.
The impressive facades of the townhouses deserve all the attention they can get. The middle part of the ring that surrounds the square occupied by the Old Town Hall, the New City Hall and numerous houses. In the center, is the Town Hall, the seat of municipal authorities and other institutions that affect the management of Wroclaw.
Saint Peter’s Square, Vatican City, Rome
Designed and built by Bernini between 1656 and 1667, St. Peter’s Square in Rome is a mesmerizing feat of architecture and art. It is located directly in front of St. Peter’s Basilica as the papal enclave inside Rome. At the center of the square is an Egyptian obelisk, erected at the current site in 1586, it is the only ancient Egyptian obelisk in Rome to have remained standing since Roman times.
The trapezoidal shape of the piazza creates a heightened perspective and praises it as a masterstroke of Baroque theatre.
Trafalgar Square, London, England | Public squares
Trafalgar Square, at the heart of London, is one of the city’s most vibrant open spaces. A lively place, often used for a wide range of activities including special events, celebrations, rallies and demonstrations.
On the north side of the square you will find the National Gallery that built-in 1838, it displays over 2,000 Western European paintings from the middle ages to the 20th century.