At PPS, we love to stick our necks out. And we’ve done it again here with these lists of the best and worst parks, along with the best and worst squares. We know all of these parks and squares very well — meaning we have studied them at various times of the year, we’ve worked on campaigns to improve them, or we have visited them at least five times. With both our lists of the greats and those most needing improvement, we hope to inspire discussion about how to make all parks and squares better.

The Piazza del Campo in Sienna, Italy tops our list of the world's best squares

The real reason we’ve done this is to get you thinking. We want to hear your opinions on what are the great parks and squares of the world and which ones are overrated and in need of serious overhaul. Please tell us about the great (and not-so-great) parks and squares in your city that you use often and know well, which we may not know about.

Some of these choices may surprise you. New York’s Bryant Park was once on our honor roll of Great Public Spaces and now we’re listing it as a park needing big changes. (See When bad things happen to good parks in this issue of the newsletter.) Chicago’s new Millennium Park has won raves nationally (See Jay Walljasper’s Town Square column in this issue), but it is too early to know where it fits here. There was wide debate in our office about Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens, which some of us think is the best park in the world. It doesn’t fit the classic definition of a park, however, even though it offers an interesting model for the future. We will discuss it further in the next issue of Making Places. And in compiling this list, it struck us that plazas are important public places whose role in society needs more thought. We hope to explore this idea further in a future issue of our newsletter. We’ve concentrated our choices on North America and Europe, where parks and squares are the classic forms of public space. Different types of places, such as markets, prevail in other parts of the world, which we hope to address in the future.

Best Parks

  1. Plaza Hidalgo, Mexico City

  2. Luxembourg Gardens, Paris

  3. Central Park, New York, NY

  4. Prospect Park, Brooklyn, NY

  5. Jardin des Tuileries, Paris

  6. Parc Guell, Barcelona

  7. Kungsträdgården, Stockholm

  8. Palais Royal, Paris

  9. Place des Vosges, Paris

  10. Boston Public Garden, Boston, MA

  11. Parque del Retiro, Madrid

  12. Parc de la Ciutadella, Barcelona

  13. Balboa Park, San Diego, CA

  14. Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA

  15. Saint James Park, London

  16. Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC

  17. Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney

  18. Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh

  19. Main Beach Park and Heisler Park, Laguna Beach, CA

  20. 6th and B Community Garden, New York, NY

  21. Paley Park and Greenacre Park, New York, NY

  22. Jackson Square, New Orleans, LA

  23. Vondelpark, Amsterdam

  24. Hong Kong Park, Hong Kong

#6 – Parc Guell

#7 – Kungsträdgården

#13 – Balboa Park

Worst Parks

  1. Parc Diagonal del Mar, Barcelona
  2. Parc André Citröen, Paris

  3. Parc de la Villette, Paris

  4. Tate Modern, London

  5. The National Mall, Washington, DC

  6. Logan Circle, Philadelphia, PA

  7. Civic Center, San Francisco, CA

  8. Forum des Halles, Paris

  9. Bryant Park, New York, NY

#2 – Parc André Citröen

Best Squares and Plazas

  1. Piazza del Campo, Sienna
  2. Piazza San Marco, Venice

  3. Campo Santa Margherita, Venice

  4. Pioneer Courthouse Square, Portland, OR

  5. Hotel de Ville (City Hall), Paris

  6. Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia, PA

  7. Rathaus Park (City Hall), Vienna

  8. Union Square Park and Greenmarket, New York, NY

  9. Piazza Navona, Rome

  10. Washington Square, San Francisco

  11. Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY

  12. Plaza de la Constitucion (Zocalo), Oaxaca, Mexico

  13. Plaza de Armas, Cuzco, Peru

  14. Post Office Square, Boston, MA

#6 – Rittenhouse Square

#12 – Plaza de la Constitucion (Zocalo)

Worst Squares and Plazas

  1. City Hall Plaza, Boston, MA
  2. Place de la Concorde, Paris

  3. United Nations Plaza, San Francisco, CA

  4. Guggenheim Bilbao public spaces, Bilbao

  5. ABN AMRO Headquarters Plaza, London

  6. Ernst and Young Headquarters, London

  7. Proctor and Gamble Headquarters, Cincinnati, OH

  8. HUD Plaza, Washington, DC

  9. GLA Building and Plaza (City Hall), London

  10. Foley Square, New York, NY

  11. Astor Place, New York, NY

  12. Pershing Square, Los Angeles, CA

  13. Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, Barcelona

  14. Placa Paisos Catalans, Barcelona

#5 – ABN AMRO Headquarters Plaza

#8 – HUD Plaza