Surrounded by towering skyscrapers, roaring traffic and crowded streets, sometimes all you want to do is find some peace. Luckily, many of the world’s busiest urban areas also contain beautiful green spaces. Whilst some simply provide a quiet oasis in the midst of an urban jungle, others offer museums, world-class events and more.
From the world’s largest flower garden in the Netherlands to colourful architectural icons in Spain, here are 10 of the world’s best city parks.
Park Güell, Barcelona
Unesco-listed Park Güell is one of the icons of Barcelona. Designed by famed architect Antoni Gaudí, the park is filled with creative modernist works inspired by his passion for natural forms. It’s one of the city’s top attractions and draws around four million visitors each year.
The park’s entrance features two fairytale-like houses that lead to the central plaça and famous lizard fountain. For wonderful views over Barcelona, head to the terraced area at the top of the park. The mosaic seats are adorned with multi-coloured tiles, providing not only a place to rest your feet – but a perfect photo opportunity.
Ibirapuera, São Paulo
Located in the heart of São Paulo, Ibirapuera is the centre of the city’s cultural life. The park was designed by landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx and modernist Oscar Niemeyer. First opened to the public in 1954 to celebrate the city’s 400th anniversary, it’s now the city’s most famous attraction.
Covering a total of two square kilometres, Ibirapuera features a beautiful landscape of fountains, lakes and monuments. It also contains a series of museums, the Japanese Pavilion and renowned Bienal – the venue for São Paulo Fashion Week. During the weekends, visitors can also enjoy live music shows in the park’s many performance spaces.
The National Garden, Athens
Located right next to the Greek Parliament, the National Garden provides an ideal refuge from the heat and traffic of Athens. Created by the order of Queen Amalia, the first queen of Greece, the park contains around 519 different plant species. Whilst many are Greek, the agronomist responsible for first planting the garden imported a variety of species from all over the world.
Explore the park’s narrow labyrinth of paths, small lakes and delightful pergolas. Tucked among the trees is a playground, cafe and ponds for ducks and turtles. To the east side you can also find guardhouses staffed by traditionally dressed Greek soldiers known as Evzones.
Located in Lisse, the Netherlands, Keukenhof is famed as the world’s largest flower garden. More than seven million tulips, daffodils and hyacinths fill the 32-hectare garden with colourful and fragrant displays every year. However, as they bloom in Spring, the gardens are only open from late March to late May.
The garden also offers 30 flower and plant shows, unique art and exhibitions such as Tulip Mania in the Juliana Pavilion. A great day out for all the family, children can enjoy a treasure hunt, maze and a playground with a zip line.
Lumpini Park, Bangkok
The first public park in Bangkok, Lumpini was named after Buddha’s place of birth in Nepal. Featuring shady paths, green lawns and a large lake, the park is the perfect escape from the city’s urban noise. Kids can take to the playgrounds or couples can take a romantic paddle boat ride. Enormous monitor lizards also roam the park, giving you the chance to meet the local wildlife.
If you’re an early bird, one of the best times to visit the park is before 7am. At this time the air is fresh, and you can see hordes of Thai-Chinese practising tai chi. Alternatively, visit in the cooler evenings when the park reawakens and aerobic classes are moving to techno beats.
Hibiya Park, Tokyo
An oasis in the heart of Tokyo, Hibiya Park is Japan’s first Western-style park. The 16-hectare grounds contain some 3,100 trees and 10,000-sqare-metres of green lawns and pretty flower beds. Two outdoor music venues host weekend events and festivals, alongside several restaurants and a tennis court.
One of the park’s must-see attractions is the great fountain. The symbol of Hibiya Park, the fountain is 30-metres wide and features a 12-metre high water jet at its centre. Autumn is an especially lovely time to take a stroll, as tree’s leaves turn beautiful shades of red, orange and yellow.
Central Park, New York
Possibly one of the most famous parks in the world, Central Park ranks alongside the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty as a symbol of New York City. Not only was Central park the first public park in America, but it’s also the most visited – with over 25-million visitors each year.
Set in the midst of bustling Manhattan, Central Park’s 843 acres are filled with gorgeous fountains, monuments and bridges, alongside green meadows and sprawling waters. Loved by locals and tourists alike, the park’s recreational facilities boast everything from skating and cycling to climbing and rowing. You could easily spend a whole day exploring Central Park, whilst gazing up to New York’s iconic skyline.
Hyde Park, London
One of London’s eight Royal Parks, Hyde Park offers both world-class events and a peaceful place to unwind. Set along the Serpentine, the park covers 350 acres and contains around 4,000 trees, a meadow and ornamental flower gardens. Famous monuments include the Diana Memorial Fountain, famous Achilles Statue and the Serpentine Bridge.
The park truly offers something for everyone. You can go swimming, boating and horse riding or simply enjoy the fresh air alongside the many other walkers, joggers and cyclists. Two lakeside restaurants also offer everything from a cup of coffee to a 3-course meal.
The park also has a long history as a site of protest. If you’re visiting on a Sunday morning be sure to head to Speaker’s Corner – where people from all walks of life come to share their views with the world. Alternatively, visit from November to January for the huge Winter Wonderland Christmas market.
Hong Kong Park
One of the world’s most unusual parks, Hong Kong Park blends modern design with the natural environment. Covering just over 8-hectares, the park uses flowing water in the form of waterfalls, ponds and fountains to link its different features. With mountains on one side and skyscrapers on the other, it’s also a great vantage point for some striking photographs of Hong Kong.
One of the park’s main attractions is the Edward Youde Aviary. Designed to simulate a tropical rainforest environment, the aviary contains more than 150 different bird species. And with an area of 3,000 square metres – it’s one of the largest aviaries in the world.
Stanley Park, Vancouver
Vancouver’s largest and most beloved green urban space, Stanley Park attracts around 8 million visitors each year. Ideally located on a peninsula in downtown Vancouver, this 400-hectare park contains kilometres of walking and biking trails, a pristine coastline with lovely beaches and roughly 500,000 trees.
The park’s famous Seawall is well-worth exploring. This 8.8-kilometre walk offers fantastic views of the Northshore Mountains, downtown Vancouver and the Lions Gate Bridge. Interesting landmarks also include the ‘Girl in a Wetsuit’ sculpture and the 32-million-year-old Siwash Rock.
The park is also strongly tied to the culture of the First Nations – one of Canada’s Aboriginal groups. Parts of the park were previously home to a First Nations village and traditional totem poles can be found at Brockton Point on the eastern side of the park.
Which of these is your favourite city park? Comment below.