Most cities were built around an area that initially served as its historical heart. Squares are also places where many of the most important buildings in the city are located.
In this post, you’ll discover a list of some of the most famous squares in the world!
1. Times Square – New York City
Times Square is located in New York City and arguably the best-recognized square in the world. It’s one of the major intersections of the city in Midtown Manhattan and is sometimes referred to as the “Crossroads of the World.”
Up until the 1980s, the square was considered to be one of the most dangerous areas in the city as there were a lot of prostitutes and drug dealers roaming around. This all changed in the 1990s when the area was cleaned up and now the square is one of the most popular areas in the city for tourists.
2. Trafalgar Square – London
Trafalgar Square is one of the major and most popular squares in London. It’s located in the City of Westminster, a borough in central London just to the west of the historic city center and known for the Palace of Westminster, the Elizabeth Tower better known as Big Ben, and Westminster Abbey.
The square was built to commemorate the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 just off the coast of Cape Trafalgar in southern Spain. The British navy was victorious in the battle fought during the Napoleonic Wars over France and Spain. The center of the square is decorated with Nelson’s Column, a monument built in honor of Horatio Nelson, an admiral who died in the battle.
3. Place de la Concorde – Paris
The Place de la Concorde is a huge square located right in the historical center of Paris and at the eastern end of the so-called “Axe Historique.” With a length of 359 meters (1,178 feet) and a width of 212 meters (696 feet), it’s the largest square in the capital of France. The center of the square is decorated with an Egyptian obelisk which used to stand at the entrance of the Temple of Luxor in Egypt.
The square borders the most famous avenue of the city to the west as well, the Champs-Élysees. To the east, it borders the Tuileries Garden which leads to the Louvre Museum. The square is infamous because it served as the execution ground during the French Revolution as a guillotine was erected in the center of the square. It’s here that King Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette were executed along with hundreds of other royal family members and political figures.
4. Red Square – Moscow
Red Square is the most famous city square in Moscow, the capital of Russia. It’s a massive square with multiple famous buildings on which the former royal citadel of Moscow, the Kremlin, is located. The Kremlin is now the official residence of the President of Russia and is a massive complex consisting of 5 palaces, 4 cathedrals, and several other important government buildings.
The most iconic landmark of Red Square is one of the most famous churches in the world called the St. Basil’s Cathedral. This church is located right on the square and has become the ultimate symbol of Moscow and all of Russia, especially because of its magnificent colorful domes.
5. Saint Peter’s Square – Rome
Saint Peter’s Square, also known as the “Piazza San Pietro,” is the wonderful square in front of the largest church in the world, the Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, the papal enclave in the city of Rome. Both the square and the Basilica were named after Saint Peter, the main apostle of Jesus Christ who is believed to have been crucified on this location during the reign of Emperor Nero, one of the cruelest of all Roman Emperors.
The square is designed in the exuberant Baroque style by one of the most famous Baroque artists of all time, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, who had a major stake in the interior design of the Basilica as well. The center of the square is also decorated with an ancient Egyptian obelisk, and it’s bounded by a series of colossal Doric colonnades, 4 columns deep, giving the square an extraordinary look.
6. Old Town Square – Prague
The Old Town Square is the main square in the Old Town district of Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. Its located between Wenceslas Square, the main square in the New Town section of the city, and Charles Bridge one of the most famous historic bridges in the world.
The architectural style of the buildings on the square varies tremendously. The most prominent building on the square is a magnificent Gothic church called the “Church of Our Lady before Týn,” which features 2 massive towers. The Old Town Hall features a medieval astronomical clock called the “Prague Orloj” which dates back to the year 1410.
7. Tiananmen Square – Beijing
Tiananmen Square, also sometimes referred to as Tian’anmen Square, is an enormous square in the center of Beijing in China. It’s located right next to the city’s Central Business District and was named after the enormous building located on its northern end, the “Tiananmen,” also known as the “Gate of Heavenly Peace.”
The square has a total size of 440,000 square meters (4,700,000 square feet) and a total length of 880 meters and a width of 500 meters (2,890 by 1,640 feet), making it one of the largest squares in the world. It became one of the most famous squares in the world on June 4, 1989, when a protest, referred to as the “Tiananmen Square protests,” ended in a military crackdown that caused the death of at least hundreds of people.
8. Zócalo Square – Mexico City
The Zócalo, also known as Plaza del Zócalo or by its formal name Plaza de la Constitución, is in the historic center of Mexico City, the capital of Mexico. The name derived from the Cádiz Constitution, the first constitution signed in Spain in 1812.
Zócalo, on the other hand, refers to the base of a monument that was supposed to be built on the square commemorating the Independence of Mexico. This monument was never completed as only the “Zócalo,” which means “plinth,” was built and eventually got buried. The square has been one of the main squares in the city since Aztec times between 1300 and 1521 and is still used today for ceremonial purposes.
9. Main Market Square – Kraków
The Main Market Square in Kraków is locally known as the “Rynek Główny” and is the main square of the Old Town of Kraków, a city in southern Poland. The square was originally constructed in the 13th century and covers an area of 3.79 hectares (9.4 acres), making it the largest medieval town square in Europe.
The Rynek Główny is one of the most famous squares in the world because it’s dominated by the fascinating Cloth House, a building that was rebuilt in the Renaissance architectural style halfway through the 16th century. This central building is surrounded by structures for various periods in history, including the Town Hall Tower and several churches. The square was chosen as one of the Seven Wonders of Poland as well.
10. Piazza San Marco – Venice
The Piazza San Marco, in English known as the “St Mark’s Square,” is the main public square in the city of Venice in northeastern Italy, one of the most remarkable cities in the world that as built on a collection of 118 islands which are interconnected with some of the most amazing bridges in the world, including the Rialto Bridge and the Bridge of Sighs.
The square is known in Venice as “The Piazza” or “The Square,” this is for the simple reason that it’s the only square in the city which is referred to as a “Piazza.” All other squares in the city are called “Campi,” or “Fields,” except for an extension of the Piazza San Marco which is called the “Piazzetta,” and the Piazzale Roma. The square is dominated by the St Mark’s Basilica and its magnificent clocktower called the “St Mark’s Campanile.”
11. Grand Place – Brussels
The Grand Place also referred to as “Grote Markt” in Dutch, is the central square in the city of Brussels, the capital of Belgium. It’s surrounded by magnificent guildhalls and two prominent buildings, the Town Hall of the city of Brussels, and the King’s House or Breadhouse, now a museum.
The square is far from being the largest square in the world with a length of 110 meters (361 feet) and a width of 68 meters (223 feet), but it’s often considered to be one of the most beautiful city squares in Europe. This is especially the case every other year in August when the square gets covered with a fabulous flower carpet consisting of a million begonias set in various patterns, an amazing sight to behold!
12. Pariser Platz
The Pariser Platz is considered to be one of the most important squares and most important historical landmarks in Berlin, the capital of Germany. One of the famous and best-recognized landmarks in the city is situated on the square, the Brandenburg Gate, and is located just next to the historical heart of the city.
The square was named after Paris, the capital of France, to commemorate the Allies who fought Napoleon along with the Prussian Army during the Battle of Paris in 1814. Most of the buildings were destroyed during the final stages of World War II and the only structure still standing was the Brandenburg Gate. Development around the square was restarted in the 1990s after the reunification of Germany in an attempt to bring back the square’s old glory.
13. Praça do Comércio – Lisbon
The Praça do Comércio is a large city square in Lisbon, the capital of Portugal. It faces the Tagus River and was originally built alongside the main residence of the kings of Portugal, the Ribeira Palace in the early 16th century, and is therefore still known as the “Terreiro do Paço” or “Palace Yard.” This palace along with most of the buildings surrounding the square were destroyed during the great 1755 Lisbon earthquake which flattened most of the city.
The square was rebuilt instantly and given a new name to indicate its new purpose as one of the most important commercial areas in the city. One of the most famous arches in the world, the Rua Augusta Arch, was built alongside it as a remembrance monument for the devastating event that happened in 1755.
14. Plaza Mayor – Madrid
The Plaza Mayor is the main square of the capital of Spain, Madrid. It’s located right in the heart of the city and was originally the center and marketplace of the old city. The current Plaza Mayor was constructed during the reign of Philip III between 1580 and 1619 and has been one of the most popular landmarks in the city ever since.
The square has had 4 different names in its history before it received its current name. These are “Plaza del Arrabal”, “Plaza de la Constitución”, “Plaza Real”, and “Plaza de la República.” It wasn’t until the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939 that the Plaza received its current name. The statue of King Philip III, the man who commissioned its construction, can be found on the square as well.
15. Piazza dei Miracoli – Pisa
The Piazza dei Miracoli, also known as the “Piazza del Duomo” or “Cathedral Square” is an enclosed area of 8.87 hectares where we can find some of the finest structures of medieval architecture in the world. It’s world-famous because of its fascinating tower, the so-called Leaning Tower of Pisa which is leaning because of a combination of amateur engineering and unsuitable soil.
Other important structures located in this area are the Pisa Cathedral, the Pisa Baptistry, and the Camposanto Monumentale (the monumental cemetery). All of these amazing structures make the Piazza dei Miracoli one of the most famous squares in the world and one of the most popular tourist destinations on the planet!
16. Piazza Navona
The Piazza Navona is one of the most remarkable squares in Rome. It’s located right on the spot where the Stadium of Domitian was constructed in the 1st century A.D., a massive Ancient Roman entertainment venue built by Emperor Domitian. The square still has the same form as the ancient stadium as well and some remains of the stadium’s entrances are located right next to it.
The modern-day square was constructed in the 15th century and completely remodeled and decorated in the 17th century. It features two marvelous Baroque fountains created by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in the 17th century. The massive obelisk on the square was moved from the ancient Circus of Maxentius and even though it features Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, it was constructed during the reign of Domitian as well.
17. Piazza della Signoria
The Piazza della Signoria is the heart of the Italian city of Florence, the capital of the Tuscany Region in Central Italy. It has been since Roman times when the town was still referred to as “Florentia.” The square was named after the original name of the most prominent building on it, the Palazzo Vecchio which was originally called the Palazzo della Signoria.
Apart from the historical buildings which surround it, this famous square also features multiple sculptures, both created by contemporary Renaissance artists and ancient sculptors. These sculptures date back to the 1st century A.D. One of the most famous statues of all, David by Michelangelo, used to be located on the square between 1504 and 1873 until it was moved to a museum in Florence.
18. Potsdamer Platz
Potsdamer Platz has historically been one of the most important squares in the city of Berlin. It was the location of the Potsdam Gate, the western city gate of Berlin, and an intersection of country roads that ended up at the Berlin Customs Wall between 1737 and 1860. It was also the endpoint of the main road between the city of Potsdam and Berlin.
The importance of the square only grew following the arrival of the first railroad in Berlin and the first railway station which was located right on this square. It eventually became the busiest intersection in Europe in the 1920s, also called the “Roaring Twenties,” and was the home of some of the most famous hotels and department stores, including the largest in Europe at the time. Following World War II, all buildings were demolished and the square was completely rebuilt in the 1990s.