The Project for Public Spaces is dedicated to helping communities get the most out of their streets, both as transportation links for all modes of commuters and as vital places for people to enjoy. That's why we showcase many of the world's best streets in our website's Great Public Spaces listings, which begins with people's nominations of their favorite public spaces- streets, parks, squares, markets, buildings and others.
This article below and the complete listing features the recommendations of people from around the world as well as PPS staff. These streets are successful for a host of reasons, among them automobile, pedestrian and bike accessibility; a variety of activities and land uses; comfortable places to sit and gather; and creation of a positive and unique image for the city or neighborhood. We encourage you to contribute streets in your city or town that satisfy these criteria.
Unfortunately, too many streets today provide the exact opposite experience. Along these lines, we encourage you to contribute to "The Hall of Shame" of bad streets so that we can lay out a strategy to fix these streets so that they not only serve all users, but also contribute vitality to the places in which they are located.
Montreal, Canada: Boulevard Saint Laurent
Affectionately known as "The Main," it bisects Montreal down the middle, linking affluent residential neighborhoods to the north with the garment district, Little Italy, the Plateau district, Chinatown, Vieus (Old) Montreal, and the seaport. Fourteen distinct nationalities call The Main theirs. There are people walking about 24 hours a day, and enjoying the sights and smells of the various cultures that call this street home. It is trendy, eclectic, nostalgic and packed during summer festivals. Summertime is when The Main is closed to traffic in the Plateau neighborhood as festivals take over the street.
London, England: Camden High Road
Camden Town throngs with locals, shoppers and tourists, no matter what the time or day of the week. Full of independent shops and markets, the streets are intertwined and pedestrian friendly, lined with old unique buildings, each one different from the next. Each street fosters new and unique experiences. Dozens of train and transit lines come here, with the main underground tube station right in the center of things. There is no dominating age group, race or gender, and if you wanted to meet people from every corner of the world in one day, Camden Town would be the place to do so.
Barcelona, Spain: Las Ramblas
A tremendous variety of eateries, shops, markets, and cultural institutions can be found here, along with a huge number of pedestrians and people-watchers. About 1.5 kilometers long, Las Ramblas is really a sequence of three pedestrian-oriented street/boulevards. Its central pedestrian promenade is unique in many respects, not the least being a clear aesthetic quality created by its pleasant proportions, relative to adjacent development. Landscaping and ample seating are two other big strengths. A mix of activities promotes diverse image and flexible character; Las Ramblas is universally seen as Barcelona's most characteristic, most important, and best street. A huge number of different enterprises are in operation here — traditional retail, specialized vending, kiosk sales, markets and exchanges, fairs and exhibitions, shoe-shining, eateries and pubs, music and much more. There are also a number of museums and cultural institutions.
Glasgow, Scotland: Buchanan Street
With richly ornamented Victorian and Edwardian commercial buildings as a backdrop, Buchanan Street is Glasgow's grandest promenade and the true heart of the city. Along its length you'll find numerous small shops, two shopping arcades, two major shopping centers, a museum and library, and a design centre. There are regular displays of street theatre and a monthly farmers market. In 2003 it was voted Scotland's favorite street in a BBC/CABE poll. In summer 2004 it was awarded a Congress for New Urbanism award for excellence. Glaswegians are renowned for their friendliness and sense of humor. Buchanan Street epitomizes this and is a very convivial place. It is the city's main promenade where people meet up to shop or socialize. The ratio of locals to tourists is well balanced.
Madison, Wisconsin: State Street
This main street is the meeting place and social center of Madison, connecting the University of Wisconsin campus and the Madison Capitol. It is vibrant and busy at all time of the day, week and year. The street is designed to be comfortable and accessible for all modes of transportation: pedestrian and bikes, trolley, bus and auto traffic. It is closed down for street fairs and other events, welcoming all ages and ethnic groups. It is an example of a wonderful "college town" main street that connects to the larger community and invites the community into the college's public life. The shops and restaurants transition from student-oriented to more community-oriented as one approaches the Capitol. A farmers market surrounds the Capitol at the end of the street.
Paris, France: Rue Mouffetard
Rue Mouffetard is a remnant of an old Roman road. Some buildings date from the 12th century, and many have distinct histories. In one sense, this street represents the history of Paris. The market of Rue Mouffetard fills every morning as people come to do their daily shopping. Its vitality is reminiscent of a scene from the Middle Ages. After the market closes, restaurants open up, offering a wide variety of ethnic foods as well as traditional French food at cafes and creperies. Colorful images of local produce, quaint Parisian shops, and diverse crowds along with the constant chatter of market buyers and sellers create a wonderful and long-lasting impression. The minimal vehicle traffic and the presence of shop vendors add to the feeling of safety and comfort for pedestrians.
Zurich, Switzerland: Bahnhofstrasse
Bahnhofstrasse, which connects the main train station with the lakefront, is Zurich's most famous and exclusive retail district. Individual retailers and high-end department stores sit side by side with art galleries, hotels, restaurants, renowned confectioners and Swiss bank headquarters, all of which draw a diverse crowd of locals and tourists alike. The real secret behind Bahnhofstrasse’s commercial success, and enduring appeal for the pedestrian. However, is likely its seamless integration of different transit modes, and the street’s hyper accessibility. Numerous tram lines service the Bahnhofstrasse, most of which interface at either end with rail, ferry, or bus. Private vehicles are prohibited for most of its length, while signaling and careful paving treatment ease their integration with bicyclists and pedestrians where permitted. Because of this restricted automobile access, the many pedestrian-only, cobblestone alleyways that lead onto the street, and the leisurely pace of window shoppers that stroll its sidewalks, Bahnhofstrasse feels largely like a comfortable, pedestrian boulevard.
Melbourne, Australia: Acland Street
Acland Street has an intimate scale that brings pedestrians into close contact with its many cafes and street musicians, giving it the air of a bustling, linear party. Outdoor tables are prominent, and are often situated at the edge of the sidewalk, channeling passers by through cafes rather than around them; in this way pedestrians are integrated into the cafe scene, and are allowed a closer look at the wares displayed in the numerous bakery windows. Festive touches include a bold, checkerboard patterned sidewalk with decorative tile insets. Acland Street is a place of leisure. People go there to relax, socialize, and enjoy good food and music.
Budapest, Hungary: Toth Arpad Setany
This wonderful spot for a promenade acts as a gathering place for locals and visitors who appreciate the beautiful architecture, trees, benches, fountains, and an incredible vista. The street as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts – but its parts are impressive: the architecture is historic and harmonious; mature trees make a shady canopy; a wide walkway follows along a spectacular view; old-fashioned street lights and benches line the street. At one end of the street is Budapest's palace, which is a major destination for visitors. Go up any side street and there is a quiet restaurant, cafe, or shop. The street is a favorite place to walk or jog on a sunny day to enjoy a breath-taking looking out at the hills behind Budapest.