Your favorite square, plaza, piazza or park

With the euro climbing back up against the dollar and the U.S. economy stuck in the mud, some of the best travel experiences on my next trip will need to be freebies. With that in mind, what are your favorite squares, parks, plazas or piazzas in Europe? I'm interested in free public spaces that are sights in themselves and don't cost a penny.

I think my all-time favorite is the little square in Vernazza with the fountain.

Thanks for sharing!

Posted by Grier
Carmel, IN
1054 posts

This is a great question. Here are a few in France:

In Paris: the Eiffel Tower/Champs de Mars, Luxembourg Gardens, Palais Royale, the Bois de Boulogne.

Market day in almost any French town. Three outstanding ones are in Lourmarin, Vaison la Romaine, Uzes.

The Promenade des Anglais in Nice and the harbor in Cassis.

Walking through any of the Most Beautiful Villages in France. Check the Les Plus Beaux Villages website.

Eze le Village and other perched villages.

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
4757 posts

I am pretty fond of the Roemer square in the middle of Frankfurt, but I also like the Alte Opera platz as the fountain is so pretty as are all the turn of the century buildings surrounding it,plus it is wonderful for people watching. For a park, I like the Bethmann park with its Chinese Garden and little waterfall.

In Rome, I adored sitting outside of the Coliseum, eating my picnic lunch, that was a great feeling.

I like the beach in Ostend Belgium, just 15 min. from Brugge. The sea is kind of wild here and I could walk along here for hours, at all time of the day or night.

Posted by Amy
Madison, WI, USA
455 posts

I think my favorite so far has been "Place Dauphine" in Paris. It is on the island. And surprisingly, it was not crowded at all. We ate at "La Rose de France" and just had a fabulously relaxing few hours watching Parisians play bachi ball. And this square has some sort of story attached to it how a very famous French singer housed all of his mistresses. And it is just beautiful.

But yes, Vernazza is just amazing.

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9094 posts

My favorite square for grabbing a drink and people watching is the Oude Markt in Leuven, Belgium... especially on a weekend evening. Not a tourist in sight.

Best public parks? Can't decide, so here's some of my favorites: the cluster of Kensington Gardens-Hyde/Green Park-the Mall in London, Phoenix Park and St. Stephen's Green in Dublin, Domijn Laaken and Quicentennial Park in Brussels, Gent's City Park, Domijn Bovie near Hasselt, and Munich's Englischergarten.

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
3499 posts

Other freebies - most churches, and in France and Italy they are art museums too. In Paris, there are free organ concerts and Gregorian chant masses. There are also a few free museums and some that are free for the last couple of hours on certain days. My favorite in Paris is the Carnavalet, always free.

Frommer's has walking tours for many cities, with maps, that are free on their website. Rick has several free audio tours.

You can probably find books of walking tours in a second-hand book store. Even new ones dont cost much. It sounds like a great way to vacation, not rushing from museum to museum, just walking and people-watching.

Posted by ashley
baton rouge, la, US
269 posts

Madrid: Retiro Park. Miles and miles of green spaces, people-watching, beautifully manicured grounds.

Zaragoza, Spain: Plaza Nuestra Señora del Pilar, right out in front of the cathedral. Great, awe-inspiring views, very quiet and peaceful. Also, the benches outside of Aljafería were exceptionally pleasant.

Rome: Villa Borghese (park) and Piazza del Popolo. Also truly enjoyed grabbing some street food and eating outside of the Coliseum, watching the world go by.

Prague: Old Town Square has great people-watching, especially if you can grab a seat at the benches under Jan Husse's statue. Also, Petrin Hill has great views and an amazing walk back into town.

I could go on and on ... thanks for giving me the excuse to go on a mental vacation!

Posted by CL
Salem, Oregon, USA
914 posts

In Venice, Campo San Barnaba in the Dorsoduro - just a pretty place with a lot of locals. Ditto on Vernazza. St. Stephens Green in Dublin is a great picnic spot.

Don't forget the beaches - the old town beach in Monterosso is a favorite of mine. I had a fantastic picnic on the beach in Lahinch (Ireland).

Posted by Joel
Tempe, AZ, USA
835 posts

Emma - Our family enjoyed the Jardin des Tuileries in Paris(near the Orangiere(sp?)). There is a big fountain, lots of trees, and benches. There is a little kiosk near by that had a wonderful lemon sorbet.

Posted by Linda
Bromley, Kent,, UK
1629 posts

All national museums and art galleries in London are free. Plus our lovely city parks.

Posted by Mike
Los Angeles, CA, USA
1447 posts

The English Garden in Munich is attractive, and you can stop for a beer in the park. It's enjoyable to walk along the canals in Amsterdam.

Posted by Toni
Charlotte, NC, USA
2846 posts

In London: Leciester Square, Covent Garden area, Travalger Square, Big Ben and the Thames, Windsor's Long Walk, Camden Town market. Inverness: the walk along the River Ness. Aviemore: the whole village! Salzburg Austria: all of Old Town. Innsbruck Austria- the area around the Golden Roof.

Posted by Claudia
Land of La
2009 posts

Hampstead Heath, Hyde Park, Regent's Park, Greenwich Park London

Parco delle Rimembranze on the East end of Venezia

Posted by Gonzy
Pacifica, CA, USA
171 posts

We loved Placa Catalunya in Barcelona. Lot of people watching and at the top of La Rambla. Strolling La Rambla from the Placa down to the shore fills you with sights, sounds and actions all at no cost!

Posted by Chris
Vancouver, BC
162 posts

The market square in Krakow is beautiful, and the cafes and restaurants are cheap, an added bonus. And the Planty is a lovely park.

The square in front of the Vienna city hall has a film festival every night all summer, with great food and a concert film. Absolutely fabulous.

Posted by Charlie
Lodi, California, USA
149 posts

The Great Banyan Tree in Kolkatta. Place de la Contrescarpe, Luxenburg Garden, and Place de la Concorde in Paris. Piazzale Michelangelo above Florence.

Posted by Penny
Tulsa, OK
276 posts

I agree wholeheartedly with Chris about Krakow. Not only is it beautiful, but there is almost always something going on in the town square: concerts, folk festivals, crafts and antique markets...no charge. And I would add the grounds of Wawel Castle and the walking/bike path along the Vistula(Wisla)River.

Posted by Debbie
Cayuga, Canada
124 posts

My favourite park, the Place des Vosges in Paris, with its fountains and buildings surrounding the park square, is beautiful, as is Champs de Mars with its fantastic view of the Eiffel Tower. Yes it's touristy but it's the place that I first love to visit to say to myself "yes, I'm really in Paris!!!", particularly when the lights first start to twinkle at night.

Also, St.Stephens Green in Dublin, especially in the early spring is beautiful. Any of the squares in the Dorsoduro in Venice, as well as the park outside of the Royal Palace in Madrid, are favourites of the local people and mine.

For paid admission parks, the park setting of the Rodin Museum is amazing, with its fantastic sculptures set outside.

Posted by Cait
Burlington, Ontario, Canada
104 posts

Great question!

I love Piazzale Michelangelo in Florence, the raised square in Manarola, the Louvre courtyard and Place du Tertre in Paris, Hyde Park/Kensington Gardens, walking along the Southbank, and Trafalgar Square in London, and St. Mark's Square in Venice.