“Don’t bother with churches, government buildings or city squares, if you want to know about a culture, spend a night in its bars”
– Ernest Hemingway
In some ways he was right but perhaps not about city squares. A city square, especially the main one of a capital or major city really does seem to be the focal point for the soul of its country. It just seems to be the right place to go to for a beginning or end point of a march, a place where people congregate to celebrate often national events (think of the celebrations and people dancing in the fountains in Trafalgar Square at the end of the second world war and in Times Square on V-J Day), or even to protest (the Arab Spring protests in Tahrir Square, Egypt in 2011). An art exhibit or cultural event can often find a home in the city square too.
As a hub and axis point for the city, it serves as a useful focal point – where buses end or start their routes, they serve as intersections for the major roads and pedestrian paths that navigate the city.
For enjoyment and leisure. The city square is a place to go and people watch, sit in a café and take it all in and go for the pleasant afternoon or evening walk.
The measure of any great civilization is its cities and a measure of a city’s greatness is to be found in the quality of its public spaces, its parks and squares.