Photo Essay: 20 of the World’s Best Public Spaces

Public spaces can be anything from a lush urban park to a subway station, but all of them offer a free place to enjoy the company of friends, family, and strangers.
French Quarter

Click Here to See 20 of the Top Public Spaces in the World

Every community needs a commons where people can gather as friends, neighbors, and citizens. This can be a grand public square, a humble Main Street, or a vacant lot with a few handmade benches where locals sit down for conversation. Or even a bridge, beach, or bus station, as the examples in the pictures show.

What’s important are the connections made among people, which can lead to wonderful things: friendships, love affairs, partnerships that flower into new ideas for businesses or community projects.

The Project for Public Spaces, a New York-based group that works around the world helping citizens boost the sense of community in their neighborhoods, compiled a comprehensive catalog of more than 600 of the best public spaces around the world. Here is a selection of some of the most inspiring, many of them in surprisingly humble locations, which can offer ideas about creating or improving a commons in your own town.

You can find out more—including practical information about which elements make these places succeed as commons—and nominate your own favorite public spaces at Project for Public Spaces’s Great Public Spaces Hall of Fame. You can peruse PPS’s Hall of Shame to learn what mistakes not to repeat from over 60 of the most disappointing public spaces around the world.

Jay Walljasper, a YES! Magazine contributing editor and author of and , chronicles urban life for a variety of publications. He is also a contributing editor to National Geographic Traveler, editor of, a senior fellow of the Project for Public Spaces, and a contributor to, where this originally appeared.

Photos by , , , , , , , , , , , el , , , , , , , , .


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