10. Butchart Gardens, British Columbia, Canada
These beautiful gardens are among the best in the world. In 1909, Jennie Butchart began beautifying an exhausted quarry and soon welcomed friends and visitors to this landscaped sanctuary. Now The Gardens welcomes visitors from around the world to this jewel in the crown of Victoria, BC.
Building on the first garden (which still remains), the Butcharts soon added an Italian garden and a rose garden, before further additions were made in the years to come, including the Rose Carousel and Children’s Pavilion. In 2004, this special space was named a National Historic Site.
9. Central Park, New York, USA
New York’s Central Park is one of the world’s most handsome pieces of parkland completely surrounded by a dense urban sprawl. It opened on 770 acres (it later expanded to 843) in 1857, when a landscape design contest was held. Among the innovations of its design were different circulation routes for horse riders, pedestrians and pedicabs and subterranean roadways for crosstown traffic – which has helped keep the park an unparalleled urban oasis.
Panoramic view of Central Park from Rockefeller Center
During the course of its long history, America’s most-visited park has gone through various periods of decline and restoration. Today, it is well-maintained, crime is low, and there are many activities one can do in the park – including birding in The Ramble, boating and kayaking, visiting the zoo, and even rock climbing on the park’s glaciated outcroppings. The Egyptian obelisk and the famous Strawberry Fields are other must-stops.
8. Park Güell, Barcelona, Spain
Designed by world-famous Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí and constructed in the early years of the 20th century, this stunning urban space was later converted from a housing development into a municipal garden.
One of the major focal points in Park Güell is the main terrace, which features a bench made in the image of a serpent. Gaudí apparently designed the curves using a naked workman sitting in wet clay as a model. Covered in mosaics, it is an amazing feature, as are the incredible birds’ nests Gaudí also designed.
Motifs of Catalan nationalism, mysticism and archaic poetry are also incorporated into the park’s design. Park Güell is an integral part of the UNESCO world heritage site, ‘Works of Antoni Gaudi’, and a blessing not just for the people of Barcelona but for visitors from all over the world. The views over Barcelona and the bay are something to behold.
7. Keukenhof, Lisse, Netherlands
Keukenhof in the Netherlands is a must-see for any lover of all things floral; a place where the blooming flowers seem to flow in rivers of color. Also known as the ‘Garden of Europe’, it is the world’s largest flower garden, with around seven million new bulbs planted each year.
Located on medieval hunting grounds in the small Dutch town of Lisse (whose people must be some of the luckiest alive!), it was opened in 1949 as a place where flower growers from all over Europe could exhibit their hybrid plants. In 2011, it was open from March to May.
6. Wiener Prater, Vienna, Austria
Austria’s Wiener Prater boasts surely one of the most impressive avenues in the world, the Hauptallee, which is closed to traffic and lined with verdant horse chestnut trees. Among the other notable attractions in the park are a narrow gauge railway, the Liliputbahn, and a micronation known as the Republic of Kugelmugel – the artist who designed its spherical shape having declared it a sovereign country.
The Prater in Vienna was opened to the city’s fortunate inhabitants and the world in April of 1766, when Emperor Josef II declared it free for public use and allowed coffee houses to be built – although it was still used for hunting (its earlier purpose) until 1920. This image captures the incredible beauty of trees resplendent in autumnal colors.
5. Griffith Park, Los Angeles, USA
Griffith Park is beautiful for much of the untamed ruggedness of its 4,310 acres. It is also home to the Griffith Observatory – perched on the slopes of Mount Hollywood – and has been used as a location in many movies, including the James Dean classic, Rebel Without a Cause. Sadly, it has been prone to wildfires, with 817 acres burned in 2007, destroying its bird sanctuary and other attractions.
The park was made possible by Colonel Griffith J. Griffith, who donated land to the city of Los Angeles in 1896. At first, its future as a park didn’t really take off (partly due to Griffith’s being convicted of shooting his wife!) but in 1912, he set up a trust fund in order to see his dream of seeing an observatory, planetarium and amphitheater instituted in the park come to life, as well as a boys’ and girls’ camp. Later, further donations and purchases allowed the park to expand it to its current size. Overlooking Los Angeles and providing incredible views, it is a shining light for inhabitants of the Californian metropolis.
4. Roundhay Park, Leeds, UK
Roundhay Park is an unexpected treasure in the city of Leeds, England. Visiting it, you might think yourself a world away from a bustling city center! Spread over 700 acres, it is one of the largest urban parks in Europe.
There are three main gardens in Roundhay: the Canal Gardens, containing old trees, a rectangular lake flanked by brilliant colored flowers and a lovely rose garden; the Monet garden, which was built in the style of the artist’s garden path in Giverney as depicted in one of his most famous paintings; and the Alhambra Garden, featuring a rectangular pond and fountains.
Roundhay also has a folly, built in 1812 to resemble a castle gate, which originally had a wooden roof and an upstairs room that was used by the owners at the time. After belonging to the Nicholson family for the best part of a century, the land was purchased by a group that included the Mayor of Leeds and became a public park in 1871.
3. Silesian Zoological Garden, Katowice and Chorzów, Poland
Not only does Poland’s Silesian Zoological Garden have a zoo that’s home to 2,500 animals; this urban green space is unique because of its stunning dinosaur valley, which contains full-scale reconstructions of 16 different dinosaurs found in an exhibition about the Gobi Desert. Walking through this amazing outdoor feature must be rather like walking in a valley millions of years ago when these huge creatures roamed the earth! The zoological garden – a mainstay of the larger Silesian Central Park – was founded in 1954 on 47.6 hectares of land.
2. Master of the Nets Garden, Suzhou, China
The Master of the Nets Garden is a calm and peaceful garden in the bustling city of Suzhou (home to over 6 million people!) and part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the ‘Classical Gardens of Suzhou’. These beautiful gardens surround the central feature of the Rosy Cloud pool – the name alone is enough to bring peace to an overly busy mind! Different seasons are represented by different views of plants and rocks in the gorgeous western section of this 5,400 sq m garden.
There are two other main elements worth mentioning in the Master of the Nets Garden: one is the Barrier of Cloud grotto, a cypress as old as the Ming dynasty, and the other is a pine that is itself hundreds of years old. The garden itself first came into being in 1140!
The areas of the garden to the north of Rosy Cloud Pool were designed for intellectual goings-on, while those to the south were for social uses. The pool itself actually looks larger than it is because a ‘close to the water’ design style was used, whereby small buildings are positioned directly on the water, while larger ones are set far back with trees used to help minimize their appearance.
1. Fort Canning Park, Singapore
On a 60-meter high hill in downtown Singapore lies a lush green park with a rich history of having been used for either government or military needs. Now, of course, it is a beautiful park containing many different elements, from the historical to botanical.
Among Fort Canning’s attractions are the Spice Garden, which replicates a botanical garden established by Sir Stamford Raffles (he being the British statesman who founded Singapore), Gothic gates, cupolas for resting in, and much, much more. Outdoor concerts are held on a green that was historically used for the burial of the bodies of 600 Christians; you can see some of the tombstones since set into the surrounding walls.
Fort Canning is a fairly young park as it was used for military purposes as late as 1966. Singapore is a massive, bustling city-state, and the park provides some freshness and beauty in the midst of its masses of stone and steel.
Bonus: Couple’s Retreat Garden, Suzhou, China
This gorgeous place is another of the Suzhou gardens listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is called the Couple’s Retreat Garden because it is divided into two (hence ‘couple’) sections, with residential houses in the middle.
On the east side is the beautiful park area, with a pond enclosed by covered walkways, while the west side contains different structures arranged around a central grotto. The whole is surrounded by water on three sides and can be reached by boat. It sounds like tranquility itself…