Village, town, and city squares are usually major gathering places, both for tourists and for local residents. As a result, they offer the best opportunity for people-watching. They also frequently provide outdoor restaurants, bars, and coffee shops where sightseers can relax and slow the pace of activity for at least a short while. I love stopping for a beer or a coffee at one of these places and simply checking out the hustle and bustle.
In this series, I will share some of my all-time favorite places to relax and people-watch. I have determined my top fifty (50) squares and have categorized them into groups of five. The groups are ranked. That is, Group 1 represents my top picks, Group 2 is second-best, etc. However, within a group, I have not ranked the individual plazas; they are virtually equal in my estimation.
Burg Square, Bruges, Belgium* — This delightful square, although not as highly ranked as Markt Square (see Group 1), is nevertheless a great place to stroll. Notable buildings on the square include the Basilica of the Holy Blood, City Hall, and the Provost’s House.
Bastion Square, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada* — Here is the liveliest place in Victoria. There are shops to browse through, restaurants to dine at, and plenty of places to sit and people-watch. Pay attention to all the different languages that you here.
Marienplatz, Munich, Germany* — One of the main treats in this crowded space involves watching and listening to the famous Glockenspiel which entertains visitors throughout the day. Also on the square are the Old and New City Halls, both with interesting and very different architecture, as well as the golden statue of St Mary atop a column in the center of the square.
Plaza Mayor, Salamanca, Spain* — This busy square looks much like its counterpart in Madrid. Here, however, the stone of the buildings is much lighter (and very attractive) — it is local. Salamanca is a college town so it is always lively with the presence of students who never seem to be in class.
Plaza del Duomo, Milan, Italy* — The draw here is the famous cathedral, one of the world’s largest and most beautiful. Look for the golden “Madonnina” on the roof. This square also provides access to Milan’s most noteworthy shopping area, the Galleria mall.
* All these locations are included in my walking tours of each city. Check them out by clicking on “Walking Tour Store.”.