mahabis travel // best european squares


All across Europe, towns and cities boast squares or piazzas where locals flock to sit al fresco and relax, whilst tourists swarm to admire the architecture. This culture of lounging in chairs outside cafes watching the world go by is quintessentially continental, associated with a slower pace of life.

When visiting cities across Europe, why not visit the local squares to soak in the architecture and culture, but also to sit with a cup of espresso and spend some time simply watching the world go by.

Wondering where to visit? We’ve curated a list of seven of the best European squares, selected for their atmosphere, architecture and culture.


Piazza Navona, Rome 

piazza navona // mahabis journal


Although St Peter’s Square in Vatican City may be Rome’s most famous square (and we do recommend paying a visit), Piazza Navona is our favourite Roman destination for soaking up the local culture. Originally built as a stadium for chariot races, the Piazza is now used as a meeting place for locals, lined with dozens of cafes whose alfresco seats are always filled.

Street performers, painters and musicians fill the Piazza with life, tempting visitors to stroll around before settling down into a seat to enjoy a cup of coffee. Spectacular architecture lurks behind every corner in Rome, but Piazza Navona is particularly special with its fountains, Baroque buildings and surrounding palazzos creating the feeling of an outdoor museum.


Red Square, Moscow

red square // mahabis journal


One of the most iconic city squares in the entire world, Moscow’s Red Square is a pilgrimage for architecture lovers who seek to admire the iconic domes of the Kremlin and St Basil’s Cathedral. Lacking the cosy cafes and street performers of other European squares, Red Square can seem quite forbidding on first glance, but its awe-inspiring structures rarely fail to impress.

The Kremlin and the Cathedral (best viewed when lit up at night) aren’t the only important buildings on the square. Lenin’s Mausoleum, the Kazan Cathedral and various bronze statues all tempt history buffs to visit the site of many of Russia’s key historical moments unfolded. 


Piazza del Campo, Sienna

piazza del campo // mahabis journal


One of the most enchanting medieval cities in Italy, Siena is home to a delightful square which still fulfils its original function as the heart of the city. Locals gather here to eat brunch and catch up with friends, but also for the Palio di Siena horse race which takes place in the square twice a year.

A casual, relaxing atmosphere flows through the square, encouraging visitors, but the grand buildings that surround it also draw in the crowds. Gothic houses, medieval structures and the Fountain of Joy attract interest from tourists seeking the historical buildings that Siena is famed for.


Rynek Glowny, Krakow

rynek glowny // mahabis journal


Krakow’s Main Square sits in the heart of the city’s Old Town, surrounded by a melting pot of striking architecture from different eras of the city’s history. Colourful and decorative buildings, including the 13th Century Town Hall Tower and Gothic churches tower above an array of cafes and restaurants that spill out onto the square.

During celebrations such as Easter, the Rynek becomes a bustling hive of activity with festive markets and outdoor concerts hosted in the centre of the square. An enchanting destination all year round, the square thrives during the lead up to Christmas as with one of the most vibrant Christmas markets in Europe.


Plaza Mayor, Salamanca

plaza mayor // mahabis journal


Spanish cities are famed for their plaza mayors, similar to Italian piazzas where locals meet to catch up over a few drinks. Salamanca’s plaza mayor is renowned throughout the country as one of the most beautiful public squares in Spain, even gained UNESCO World Heritage status thanks to the Baroque architecture that surrounds it.

In the past, the square may have been used for bullfighting but that is now a distant memory, with locals and tourists filling the space with laughter, conversation and a party atmosphere. Merry-makers linger here until the early hours of the morning; in summer simply perching on the pavement with a group of friends and bottles of beer.


Grand Place, Brussels

grand place // mahabis journal


Brussel’s Grand Place is perhaps most renowned for its bi-annual Flower Carpet event, where over 700,000 blooms are crafted into a statement carpet design that covers the floor leading up to the Town Hall, tempting crowds of tourists to descend on the city.

Even if you don’t manage to coincide your visit with the flower festivities, the Grand Place is a favourite location with visitors thanks to the fusion of Baroque, Gothic and Louis XIV architecture that surrounds the square. Another city square that boasts UNESCO World Heritage recognition, the Grand Place is the perfect destination to soak up the culture of the city by visiting the cafes, shops and important buildings that surround it.


Old Town Square, Prague

old town square // mahabis journal


Filled with character and culture, Prague’s Old Town Square demonstrates the diverse array of beautiful architecture in the city’s Old Town. Gothic and Baroque churches sit side by side, nestled below the iconic Prague Astronomical Clock that delights tourists and locals alike.

The pavements are filled with friendly little cafes, their tables spilling out onto the streets to allow the perfect setting to simply sit and people watch whilst enjoying local delicacies and a refreshing drink.


If you enjoyed reading our post, feel free to share it via our ready-to-go tweet link.


photos: via wikimedia