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18 Great City Squares of the World

Many of the world's great cities have something in common that exemplifies their beauty. Each are centered around stunning city squares, or piazzas. Large open spaces where people congregate to enjoy city life. They eat, drink, play and enjoy music; they protest, they celebrate, they mourn and they rejoice. All of these squares are ringed with superb architecture, mainly from pre-modern times, giving them an almost universal feel.

Here are 18 of the finest I can find. Just picture yourself sitting at one of these luxurious civic spots, enjoying a nice coffee and watching the whole city walk by!

Click on the images to view them in their full size
1. Old Town Square, Prague (Czech Republic)
Prague is fast becoming the world's favorite Eastern European capital. But it is not all cobbled narrow streets, here you can see a magnificent open square in which you can stretch out your arms and open your eyes wide for an architectural feast. Encircling the town square are the Gothic Tyn Cathedral, the baroque Saint Nicholas Church, the Astronomical Clock and Old Town Hall.
2. Grand Place, Brussels (Belgium)
Brussels has long been considered one of the glories of Europe, and now it's a quasi capital of a burgeoning mega-state, the EU. This Grand Place is surrounded by magnificent Gothic guildhalls, the Old Town Hall and Breadhouse. Here you can see the famous biennial 'flower carpet', which covers and beautifies the square with around a million begonias. 
3. Times Square, New York (USA)
Times Square typifies the neon glamor of America in the 20th Century, when she became the world's preeminent superpower and dominant cultural, political and moral force. At night, the square is simply dazzling and affords a drastic contrast to almost all the other squares on this list. Of all modern squares, Times is the archetype, the greatest square of the modern age. 
4. Plaza Mayor, Madrid (Spain)
This square has been the center-point for many typical Spanish delights: bullfights, markets, symphonies, executions and soccer games. Perhaps you will not see all of those today, but you will certainly feel the plaza rippling with history as you stroll around this glorious place.
5. Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires (Argentina)
The people of Argentina hold the Plaza de Mayo deep within their hearts as the principal place of political agitation and protest. This goes all the way back to it being the scene of the 1810 revolution that led Argentina to become free of its colonial subservience. 
6. Trafalgar Square, London (England)
Rather than celebrating independence, this London square celebrates a victory over tyranny, in this case the victory of Trafalgar, where Lord Nelson led the navy to defeat Napoleon. This wonderful stately square proudly demonstrates the indomitable and obstinate spirit of the British.
7. Zocalo, Mexico City (Mexico)
Hugely patriotic, this city square has been used as a civic focal point by Mexicans since Aztec times. Now, instead of ritual barbarism, a giant national flag is raised and lowered each day. The amount of stunning buildings that surround Zocalo - the cathedral and the palace, to name a couple - do great justice to this most important of Central American city hubs.
8. Piazza San Marco, Venice (Italy)
Perhaps the most famous of the world's piazzas, San Marco was defined by Napoleon as 'the drawing room of Europe.' The perpetual chatter of busy citizens and tourists buzzes around this square, giving the site a wonderfully civilized feel. 
9. Tiananmen Square, Beijing (China)
Scene of the tragic and heroic plight of political victims, this is in fact the largest square of any in the world. A curious place, dominated as it by hideous soviet government buildings, accompanying revered traditional Chinese gates and marble lions. One of these lions in fact carries a bullet hole from the infamous massacre of 1989. This square is a magnet for anyone interested in Beijing and China, for good or ill.
10. Main Market Square, Krakow (Poland)
The Main Market Square is the largest medieval town square in all of Europe. In the middle of the large square stands the Renaissance-style Cloth Hall. Around the perimeter of the square are several important town houses, palaces and churches.
11. Saint Peter's Square, Vatican City (The Vatican, Rome)
St. Peter's is simply the holiest square the world will ever know. It is said to contain the remains not only of the Apostle Peter, Jesus' rock upon which Christendom was said to have been built, but also many of the Vatican's popes and even Julius Caesar, one time Pontifex Maximus himself (a pagan religious office which later became identified with the Christian papacy). 
12. Piazza del Campo, Siena (Italy)
Siena's world famous Piazza del Campo is perhaps the finest of all medieval squares, due in large part to the consistency and integrity of the surrounding architecture. The piazza is shell shaped, and ringed by many palazzi signorili and the Palazzo Pubblico. Twice a year, the horse race known as the Palio di Siena circles del Campo three times. This is a sight to behold!
13. Djemaa el Fna, Marrakech (Morocco)
What a square in which to enjoy the kind of romantic, Islamic culture of the Arabian Nights! In this bustling square you can enjoy snake charmers and monkey shows, story tellers, magicians and medicine men. The Moroccan street food will also delight and thrill. 
14. Red Square, Moscow (Russia)
The word for red in Russian, krasnaya, is actually the same as the word for beautiful. At once explaining the Russian fascination with all things red. St. Basil's cathedral is the highlight of Russia's most extravagant location. 
15. Place Stanislas, Nancy (France)
Nancy is glorified by this grand neoclassical World Heritage site. The Opera National de Lorraine is just part of the opulent ensemble of pale-stone architectural wonders that surround. The wrought-iron gateways were designed by Lamour, and the rococo fountains by Guibal. 
16. Marienplatz, Munich (Germany)
Munich is busiest at Marienplatz, a relatively compact but astonishingly beautiful square. The famous Mariensaule you can see here was built to celebrate the victory over Sweden at the close of the Thirty Years' War, 1638.
17. Plaza de Espana, Seville (Spain)
This unbelievably ornate square was actually built during the 20th century for the Iberoamericana exposition of 1929. The square contains fountains and even mini-canals, which can be enjoyed when hiring a little boat. 
18. Place du Commerce, Paris (France)
Paris is littered with magnificent squares, but for me, the Place du Commerce is one gem that really stands out. Among an overly urbanized district, the place is refreshingly green. What's more, here you can even enjoy ping-pong games, bowling and a sandpit. 
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