Enjoy doing a little people watching during your travels? These are some of the world’s very best streets and squares for that often fascinating pastime.
Trafalgar Square, London, England (Hotel Prices & Photos)
People watching is at its best in London’s Trafalgar Square. With site festivals, the occasional protest, and almost always lots of tourists, the large plaza is a great place to sit in and stare. Just climb up onto the central monument with a cup of tea or coffee and watch the people go by. Afterward, head to the National Gallery, the crowning glory of the square as the home of hundreds of the most famous and most beautiful paintings in the world. This vast space features Western European paintings from the 13th to 19th centuries, including works by masters like Van Gogh, da Vinci, Picasso, Michelangelo, Botticelli, Renoir, and Titan. As it’s free to visit, if you’re limited on time and want to see just one great masterpiece, view Holbein’s “The Ambassadors.” Laden with symbolism, it features the “anamorphic perspective” which was a technique popular in Early Renaissance art. The seemingly smudged image in the foreground is transformed into a human skull when viewed sideways.
Times Square, New York City, New York (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Walking through New York City sometimes feels as if you’re watching a movie. No matter where you might be, and what time of day it is, there’s always a place to sit and watch what’ s happening, what people are wearing, and sometimes even what they’re arguing about. Of all the spots in the Big Apple, however, Times Square is arguably the best for people watching. Take a seat on the steps of the TKTS ticket booth, or the chairs behind Walgreens, and watch all the tourists weave in and out of stores and restaurants. You can survey the styles of six continents right here, and maybe even a few planets too. There are sure to be lots of locals as well as tourists – you can make things more interesting by trying to guess which is which, and even taking a stab at where the visitors might be from.
Quai de Valmy, Paris, France (Hotel Prices & Photos)
On the western side of Canal Saint-Martin along Quai de Valmy, is arguably the trendiest, and the best people-watching spot in all of Paris. Here, you can mingle or just observe the hip Parisians that picnic with their charcuterie and baguettes, along with lots of wine. You’ll see artists sketching or painting and writers journaling. In the spring and summer, locals arrive in droves to picnic, strum guitars., hang out in cafes and visit the quirky boutiques that flank the water and iron footbridges. Every Sunday on the two streets that run parallel to the canal, Quai de Valmy, and Quai de Jemmapes, are vehicle free, reserved only for pedestrians and cyclists, making it ideal for renting a bike and exploring the city from a new perspective. For those on a tight budget, simply sitting along the water and watching the comings and goings is one of the best free forms of entertainment there is.
Bourbon Street in New Orleans, Louisiana (Hotel Prices & Photos)
It doesn’t have to be Mardi Gras to enjoy some of the world’s best people-watching in New Orleans. While that event, and others, such as Halloween, offer the best, on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter, it’s really fantastic all year round as a go-to destination for fascinating characters. If you want a bird’s eye view of the scene, book a room at Bourbon Suites at Arnaud’s (you’ll have to do it well in advance). Each of its suites comes with a private bar, a dining room and a balcony overlooking Bourbon Street. There you can sip fabulous libations and order from a unique menu, all while you watch the happenings below.
Oceanfront Walk, Venice Beach, California (Hotel Prices & Photos)
The Venice Boardwalk, officially known as the Ocean Front Walk, is arguably best known as a mecca for eccentric characters. This world-renowned spot is, not surprisingly, also one of the top places on the planet or people watching, and a place to see and be seen. The three-mile beachside stretch is filled with tattoo artists, fortune tellers, joggers, rollerbladers, cyclists, weight lifters, handmade jewelry peddlers and an array of street performers, including everything from musicians to jugglers, mimes, and breakdancers.
Rothschild Blvd, Tel Aviv, Israel (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Rothschild Boulevard is considered by many to be one of the hippest streets in the entire Middle East, in fact, some call it the “Brooklyn of Israel.” It’s famous for its wide, tree-lined walking strip, Bauhaus architecture and a practically endless number of bars and eateries. People watching almost never ends either, with the street lit at night, you’ll see visitors and locals strolling it long after the sun goes down. Nechama Va’Chetzi, at the corner of Rothschild and Ben Tzion Boulevard, attracts a high-profile crowd of celebrities and those who’d like to be. The location opposite Habima Square is ideal for watching from the balcony, and you’re likely to hear plenty of great tunes as well.
Grafton Street, Dublin, Ireland (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Grafton Street is one of Dublin’s most famous streets, running south from College Green. It’s also the most fashionable shopping area as well as the home to some of the country’s top street performers. Arguably the best spot to watch the crowds is Alchemy, which serves coffee and specializes in all types of juices. Enjoy one as you watch all the people below. When you’ve had your fill and are ready to shop, Grafton also features the chic Brown Thomas department store, and nearby is a branch of one of one of Ireland’s most popular stores, Avoca, which offers woven products from its mill in County Wicklow. Just behind Grafton Street, Powerscourt Townhouse is lined with outlets from top Irish and international designers.
The Strip, Las Vegas (Hotel Prices & Photos)
With a nickname like Sin City, you know the people watching is going to be good. You’ll see plenty of flash, along with a dash of freakiness – well, perhaps maybe a good bit more than a dash, depending on the day. Vegas is an international melting pot that makes for a lot to see, with people of all ages, from all walks of life and from all corners of the globe. Of course, people often lose their inhibitions in this place known for the phrase “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” but that only makes it a lot more fun for those who prefer to observe. Step inside any one of the casinos, and when you aren’t playing the slots or the tables, just take a look around and you’re sure to find a host of interesting, free entertainment.
Miami Beach Boardwalk, Miami, Florida (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Even Vegas can’t compete with Miami when it comes to booze-infused fests, including hopping nightclubs, music extravaganza and massive beach parties. It’s also known for its oodles of beautiful people, with countless models coming to pose for ads, commercials, and whatnot. Along the Miami Beach Boardwalk, you can enjoy some of the best people watching, with locals and visitors coming to jog or walk. Long enough stretch for a serious power walk at about four miles, but close enough to the water for a romantic stroll, it’s a favorite of locals and tourists alike. It snakes behind the fabulous beach hotels, providing views of sparkling pools and oiled sunbathers on one side and the allure of the Atlantic on the other. This is also a popular spot for professional photo shoots, so don’t be surprised if you see beautiful teens posing with surfboards or gorgeous women in barely-there Brazilian bikinis.
Piazza Navona, Rome, Italy (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Piazza Navona is Rome’s liveliest square. Vibrant crowds fill it most hours of the day, many to enjoy the Fountain of the Four Rivers, a Baroque masterpiece. The Egyptian obelisk that crowns the fountain is also impressive – it’s impossibly suspended over thin air. But of course, the biggest reason to come is to enjoy the people: a mix of young and old, rich and poor, locals and foreigners, jugglers, artists and street vendors, all mixing in this one legendary spot.