Almost every major city has a square, the center of both the social and commercial worlds. Most squares are paved, and are suitable for open markets, musical concerts, political rallies, and other large events. They are also usually lined with small shops, such as clothing, bakeries, and grocery stores, and have a monument or fountain in the center. But beside these similarities, the squares all have their own unique history, and they have become major tourist attractions because of the ambience, the bustle of the shops, and their stories.
5. Piazza del Campo
The Piazza del Campo is widely known as one of Europe’s best medieval squares. It is located in the heart of Siena, Tuscany, Italy, and is surrounded by beautiful and historic architecture. The Palazzo Pubblico is the square’s famous tower, built in 1297 to house the government, and still standing today. The wealthiest of Siena’s families live around the shell shaped plaza, and twice per year, a horse race called the Palio de Siena runs three times around the square’s perimeter.
4. Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar Square is commonly known as the greatest square in the United Kingdom. It is situated in central London, in the area formerly known as Charing Cross. The square features many fountains and monuments, most commemorating the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 for which the square was named. People gather to feed the pigeons, and watch the spectacular fireworks on New Year’s Eve.
3. Jeema el-Fnaa
In the old city of Marrakesh, Morocco, Jeema el-Fnaa is a huge public square and open market. Originally founded in 1070, the square has remained almost unchanged architecturally. During the day, the market is filled with snake charmers and orange juice vendors, but night falls, the square changes, magicians and peddlers of ancient medicine come out, Cheulah boys dance, and traditional story tellers draw many listeners. Dozens more food and bakery stalls appear, and the crowds peak.
2. Times Square
Known as the “Crossroads of the World,” Times Square is the major commercial intersection in Midtown Manhattan, New York. It is known for its bright lights and busy pedestrian traffic, and also the famous ball drop on New Year’s Eve. The Square is the hub of the Broadway theater and entertainment district, and is one of the worlds most visited tourist attractions, bringing in over 39 million visitors annually.
1. Saint Peter’s Square
Saint Peter’s Square is located directly in front of St. Peter’s Basilica in the heart of Vatican City, Rome. Massive Tuscan columns, four deep, form the trapezoidal entrance and surround the elliptical square. At the very center of the ellipse stand an Egyptian obelisk transported from Egypt to Rome during the reign of Emperor Augustus. The obelisk was moved to its current location in 1586 under the direction of Pope Sixtus V. Some still believe the gilt ball on top of the obelisk contains the ashes of Julius Caesar.