Favorite Places Around the World, Part 1

St. Peter's Square image: Alexandra Hay
St. Peter’s Square
image: Alexandra Hay

In a 2013 survey of ASLA’s Professional Practice Networks (PPNs), the questions focused on the theme of favorite spaces, and throughout the responses, a few locations were consistently mentioned—with nearly all of the most popular places located here in the United States. But now, we’re setting our sights farther afield, highlighting the best places to see abroad according to PPN members.

Italy and France dominated across the board, and were at the top of the list among the favorite iconic spaces, designed spaces, and absolute favorite places outside the US. Specific sites in each country that were mentioned multiple times include:


  • Piazza del Campo, Siena
  • Piazza San Marco, Venice
  • Piazza del Popolo, Rome
  • Spanish Steps, Rome
  • St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City
  • Parco dei Mostri, Bomarzo
  • Villa d’Este, Tivoli


  • Versailles
  • Avenue des Champs-Élysées, Paris
  • Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris
  • Jardin des Tuileries, Paris
  • Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris
  • Place des Vosges, Paris
  • Vaux-le-Vicomte, Maincy

Here are a few of the reasons why Italy and France were such powerhouses among the international responses.

Piazza Navona, Rome image: Alexandra Hay
Piazza Navona, Rome
image: Alexandra Hay

Italy’s piazzas, paradigms of public space

Piazza del Campo, Siena

“All the elements combine to make it a perfect public space: scale, materials, activities, and the incredible color of the light!”

“It is one of the most pleasant and functional urban spaces on earth. The scale is perfect, the design is elegant and understated, and the coffee is superb.”

Piazza del Popolo, Rome image: Alexandra Hay
Piazza del Popolo, Rome
image: Alexandra Hay

Piazza del Popolo, Rome

“Large spaces devoted for public enjoyment with such history surrounding it. Being there for an event when the entire piazza is filled with people is incredible.”

The Hundred Fountains at Villa d'Este, Tivoli image: Alexandra Hay
The Hundred Fountains at Villa d’Este, Tivoli
image: Alexandra Hay

Villa d’Este, exemplar of the Renaissance garden

“This garden is a marvel, and it says everything about water, nature, humanity, class, magic, myth. It is its own world and it makes one think.”

“A magnificently designed and implemented space.”

Villa d'Este, Tivoli image: Alexandra Hay
Villa d’Este, Tivoli
image: Alexandra Hay
Versailles' Latona Fountain image: Kaitlyn Hay
Versailles’ Latona Fountain
image: Kaitlyn Hay

Versailles, the apex of the Ancien Régime

“Grandeur and detail in one location. Opulent, beautiful, amazing.”

“All the proportions are amazing.”

“The scale, detail and history. There will never be anything privately designed like it and the fact that it is now a public space is important.”

Vaux-le-Vicomte, Baroque precursor of Versailles

“Brilliant manipulation of sight lines and grades to achieve drama and surprise. Astonishing anamorphic manipulations.”

Avenue des Champs-Élysées, Paris’ most elegant boulevard

“It is a place where people become part of the landscape. The cafes spill out on to the streets. Every tiny detail regarding aesthetics has been attended to. The experience of walking the corridor is entertaining. There are things to do and people to watch. The buildings create enclosure and they have continuity of architecture. The plant material has a delicateness to it. There are magnificent focal points.”

“It reflects the best of human intention and craft, from the grand overview to the elegant details.”

At the start of 2013, a questionnaire was sent out to members of ASLA’s Professional Practice Networks (PPNs). The theme: favorite spaces. As you can imagine, responses were varied, and included many insightful comments and suggestions. Synopses of the survey results were originally shared in LAND over the course of 2013, and we are now re-posting this information here on The Field. For the latest updates on the results of the annual PPN Survey, see LAND’s PPN News section.

5 thoughts on “Favorite Places Around the World, Part 1

  1. Francisco Serrano February 10, 2016 / 4:41 pm

    In Spain you have several:
    Barcelona: The Sagrada Familia..
    the Barcelona Pavilion
    the Casa Mila and Casa Batillo
    the Catedral de Segovia
    also the Catedral de Sevilla
    The Alhambra
    the Alcazar
    the Museo Guggenheim in Bilbao
    the bridge by Calatrava in Campo Volantin
    so many more..

    • asla staff February 10, 2016 / 5:11 pm

      Thank you for those additions! Part 2 of “Favorite Places Around the World” will highlight international locations beyond France and Italy (they just happened to have the most locations mentioned), including spots in Spain. Check back when Part 2 is out to see which of the places you listed were also named by members among their favorite places…

      • Francisco Serrano February 10, 2016 / 5:13 pm

        Great!! thanks, I will.

  2. Concerned Educator February 14, 2016 / 3:19 am

    Curious that they all are ‘classical’ gardens and plazas. Perhaps a commentary on the audience’s romanticism for history, their education’s bias towards the same, or idea of Europe as a museum, not a laboratory. In my opinion there are far more interesting contemporary projects in Europe – thanks to mainstream attitudes towards environment, urbanism and design – than those listed here, which are celebrated largely for their social vibrancy (in the case of piazzas, one cannot deny the importance of), antiquity, sculptural qualities, and have been curated as such for centuries. This is not to say that history is not important nor that it should not be studied, but I’d be far more reassured about the future of the profession if we were more readily cognitive of – and as a result this list of favorites populated by – those European landscapes, gardens and cities that question historic paradigms and set a trajectory for innovation for the next landscape – landscapes like Queen Elizabeth Park, Duisburg Nord – not places that perpetuate an obsession with the ordering hierarchies, horticultural practices, and formal agendas of the past that is crippling the majority of the profession in the US. Though they may not have widespread consensus, I’d be interested in what contemporary projects did get mentioned in the survey…

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