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.
Stephansplatz, Vienna, Austria* — This busy square, smack in the middle of a pedestrian-only street in Vienna, features the city’s most beloved church, Stephansdom. Its interesting and colorful tiled roof as well as its height, towering above other buildings in the downtown, makes it distinctively noticeable. On the square, you will find shopping, street food and hordes of people walking to and fro. You can even book a Mozart concert here.
Place Royale, Quebec City, Quebec Province, Canada* — Here is one of the busiest places in the Old City of Quebec. It is the main square in Lower Town and a beehive of activity. There are often special events taking place. It is a charming square, typical of this delightful throwback to European civility and ambience.
Holy Trinity Square, Budapest, Hungary* — This square is in the center of the Castle District, Buda Hill. There is actually a busy traffic circle here, so pedestrians must beware, but this square provides access to some of the major tourist sights of Budapest. Buda Castle is on one side of the square, St Mathias Church and the Fisherman’s Bastion is on another side. In between the two is a local crafts market where you can find that all-important treasure.
Main Square, Bratislava, Slovakia* — The capital city of Bratislava is more like a village, at least the old part of the city is. As such, this adorable little square seems perfect for a small town or village. A managable crafts market takes place in the center of the square, which is also occupied by the Roland Fountain, a statue of Maximillian II atop a column. Also on the square is the Town Hall, alongside other buildings with characteristic Eastern European architecture.
Plaza de Cibeles, Madrid, Spain* — This busy traffic circle is notable for the gorgeous fountain at its center and for the beautiful architecture that frames the fountain. Visitors are surprised to learn that the beautiful building behind the fountain is actually a post office.
* All these locations are included in my walking tours of each city. Check them out by clicking on “Walking Tour Store.”