When visiting the cities of Europe, you will undoubtedly see and wander around some of the most architectural and colourful city squares. City Squares are the central hub and heart of a city serving both commercial and social functions.
Due to serving a social purpose you will likely see many shops, cafes and restaurants, all of which compel you to stay within the square. Most squares also include either fountains and statues. They are also the usual location for the city hall.
Throughout history to the modern day, squares are the most popular city location for markets, political rallies and many other cultural events.
We have put together a list of some of the most impressive and enticing squares in European cities.
St Peters Square, Rome – Vatican City
Probably one of the most recognisable squares in the world, St Peters Square in Vatican City, is a must see while in Rome.
Located adjacent to the St Peters Basilica, the square was first constructed during the 1600’s. It was specifically designed so that as many worshippers as possible could see the Pope’s blessings.
In the centre of the square you can see a giant 25-metre-high ancient Egyptian obelisk and a fountain. Around the outside are 284 columns and 88 pilasters which add to the impressiveness of this landmark.
Make your way to the square via the Piazza San Pietro. This way you will take in the sheer size of the religious square.
Red Square, Moscow – Russia
However many times you have visited Red Square it never ceases to amaze.
Many of the major landmarks of Moscow are located within a short distance from the Red Square. St Basil’s Cathedral, the Kremlin, Lenin’s Mausoleum and the State Historical Museum can all be found here.
The square did not get its name from the colour of the bricks used for many of the buildings. It was in fact because the Russian word for red ‘Krasnaya’ is related to the Russian word ‘Krasivaya’, meaning beautiful.
It has been used as Moscow’s main location for markets and public ceremonies for many centuries.
Place Stanislas, Nancy – France
When you first see the Place Stanislas square you will clearly see why it is one of the most architecturally stunning squares in France.
The large golden gates are what gave the city of Nancy its nickname ‘the golden gates city’. Within the square you will find the Hotel de Ville (Town Hall), Arc de Triomphe, Fine Arts Museum and the Opera National De Lorraine.
Since 2005 the area has been completely pedestrianised, so it is the perfect place to get away from the bustling city for a while.
Construction began in 1752 and reached its completion in 1755. Since 1983 Place Stanislas has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Markt, Bruges – Belgium
Markt (Market square) is located right in the centre of Bruges.
As soon as you enter the Markt you will see the striking and imposing Belfort van Bruges.
Once a hub for public gatherings, today you will find many restaurants, cafes and shops. You will also see horse drawn carriages here which give rides around the city for tourists.
For an amazing view of the square, climb the belfry's 366 steps. Look down over the square and take in the stunning 360-degree views over the entire city.
Old Town Square, Prague – Czech Republic
The Old Town Square in Prague is one of the most historical sites in the city. Some say this is where the true heart of Prague beats.
The square is located within the Old Town quarter, which is the most beautiful district in Prague. Here you will see some of the most recognisable buildings in the city. These include The Gothic Church of Our Lady Before Tyn, the Old Town hall and Prague Orloj, which is a large astronomical clock.
Every year one of the world's most famous Christmas markets is held here and hundreds of thousands of tourists visit.
Piazza San Marco, Venice – Italy
The Piazza San Marco, or St Mark’s Square, will probably be the first place you will see when you visit Venice. St Mark’s Basilica is the most recognised landmark here. The basilica is where the square got its name.
Napoleon called the square ‘world's most beautiful drawing room’ and it's not hard to see why. It is also the largest and flattest area in Venice. No wonder it is a popular meeting place for locals and tourists alike.
Other landmarks include the Doge’s Palace, San Marco Campanile and the Biblioteca Marciana.
Grand Place, Brussels – Belgium
As soon as you enter the Grand Place Square you will see why it's known for portraying an image wealth. It is an architectural jewel of Belgium.
In the square you will find the Town Hall, King’s House and Houses of the Grand Place.
During the year many events are held within the square. Most notably of course is the Flower Carpet. This event is held every couple of years in August. Here many hundreds and thousands of Begonias are laid out in a tapestry like fashion which turns the square into an exhibition of colour.
Trafalgar Square, London – United Kingdom
Trafalgar square is one of the most dynamic and energetic areas in the heart of London. It has also been an important landmark for many centuries.
In the centre is Nelson’s Column which was created in the honour of Admiral Nelson. Standing at 52 metres tall the monument was erected because of the victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in the early 1800’s. There are also several fountains and statues located around the square.
Many museums, galleries, and other famous landmarks such as Big Ben and Buckingham Palace are all a short walk away.
The area is a popular location for cultural celebrations and other events.
Plaza Mayor, Salamanca – Spain
The Plaza Mayor in Salamanca is considered to be one of the most beautiful squares in Spain. The Baroque architecture is simply stunning. As a very popular meeting place, there are many restaurants and tourist shops.
The square was initially built in 1729 and was completed in 1755. Its use initially was for bullfighting.
The City Hall and the Royal pavilion are located within the square. Visit at night and the lights add to the already vibrant atmosphere.
Dlugi Targ, Gdansk – Poland
The Dlugi Targ, or Long market, is Gdansk most famous tourists spot. Once a merchant street in the 13th century, it became the main street of the city in the 1300’s.
The square is surrounded by palaces, merchant houses and the notable Town Hall.
Due to its draw of tourists the square is packed with restaurants and cafes. You will also find many street artists and vendors.
Plaza de Espana, Seville – Spain
The Plaza de Espana is one of the city's main sights and a landmark you must simply visit when in Seville. The Square really captures the character of this colourful city.
The square was only completed in 1929 and was built in the style Regionalism architecture, a mix of Renaissance and Neo-Moorish styles.
The semi-circular building has two impressive towers at either end which can be seen throughout Seville.
If you are looking for somewhere to relax, within the grounds is the Parque de Maria Luisa. This park contains landscaped gardens, monuments and fountains.
Rynek Glowny, Krakow – Poland
Rynek Glowny is the grand square of Krakow. It has been the hub of the city since the 13th century and the largest medieval town square in Europe. In the centre is the Cloth Hall which was the major centre of international trade.
The main purpose of the square was for commerce and it is still used for this purpose today in some capacity.
The market square is the main start and finishing point for many of the city's tours. Spend some time here and take in the impressive architecture.
Market Square, Nuremberg – Germany
The market square in Nuremberg is the heart of the city and the market is still used regularly. The largest flea market in Germany takes place here filling the whole Old Town with a lively atmosphere. Everything from food and drink to home décor is sold here throughout the year. Although the market square is most famous for the Christmas market, Weihnachtsmarkt.
Largo da Portagem, Coimbra – Portugal
Translated Largo da Portagem means tollgate. This is because in previous centuries goods which came to Coimbra from the south of the country were taxed here. The square sits opposite the Santa Clara bridge, presumably where the goods crossed to enter Coimbra.
In the centre of the square stand a statue of Joaquim Antonio de Aguair, who was the prime minister of Portugal in the early 1800’s.
Restaurants and cafes surround the square which make it a perfect location to take a break from exploring or as great place to meet with friends. All while taking in the views over the Mondego River.
New Market Square, Rostock – Germany
The Neuer Markt in Rostock due to its gothic architecture is one of the most picturesque locations in the city.
Rostock was originally made up of three individual sub cities, each of which had their own square. Eventually these squares became one and named the new market.
Many roads lead to the square making it the focal point of the city.
George Square, Glasgow – United Kingdom
Named after King Georg III, George Square is the national square of Glasgow.
There are many statues and sculptures of prominent figures of Scotland's past, such as James Watt, a Scottish inventor, and Robert Burns, who wrote the famous lyrics of Auld Land Syne.
The architecture here is spectacular, especially the city Chambers, which domineers the square. Make sure you sit in one of the many cafes and admire the impressive landmark.
Piazza Del Duomo, Milan – Italy
The main square of Milan is the Piazza del Duomo. The square sits adjacent to and is dominated by the cathedral Duomo of Milan.
This stunning square marks the city centre. It is a cultural hot spot and one of the most popular tourist attractions in Milan.
There are many famous monuments and landmarks you must see while at the square. These include the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, one of Italy’s oldest shopping mall, and the Royal Palace of Milan.
Plaza Reial, Barcelona – Spain
The Placa Reial is a gothic square in Barcelona. Located just off Las Ramblas it is extremely popular with tourists and locals.
At night the square comes alive. There are many restaurants and nightclubs with plenty of live music creating a boisterous atmosphere. Come here during the day, you can sit and watch the world go by.
Monastiraki, Athens – Greece
Monastiraki Square is a hive of activity whether in the day or night. It is located in the heart of Athens the square and flea market of Monastiraki is a favourite amongst tourists.
There are stalls selling items from clothes to souvenirs. The food here is also something that must be experienced.
Just look around and you will see the square is steeped in history for you to explore.
There are many other alluring squares in European cities. Which ones have you visited?