Urban Nature - The World's Best City Gardens

Urban Nature – The World’s Best City Gardens

Urban tourism is undeniably exciting. Shopping malls, museums, nightlife, restaurants, and the overall excitement of the urban experience are enough to put major cities on the top of many tourists’ to-visit lists. Of course, urban travelers do’t have to forego nature altogether. In fact, some of the world’s best natural landscapes are found in cities. Amazing botanical gardens and well-kept parklands make it possible for city-based tourists to experience nature during their vacation. Many times, the type of plants and flowers found in these gardens would otherwise be inaccessible to tourists because they only grow naturally in very remote areas.

Want to put some amazing nature on your city vacation itinerary? You’ll find what you are looking for at the world’s top urban gardens. Here are the best of the best.

Versailles, France

Versailles, France

Photo: netcfrance / Flickr

These gardens, sitting around the stately Palace at Versailles, not far from Paris, are arguably the most famous in the world. Built in the 17th Century for France’s Louis the XIV, this well-manicured green-space stretches for more than 250 acres. Winding paths pass numerous flower beds, making it possible for plant-lovers to spend an entire day wandering through the grounds. The most-pictured, most-visited part of the garden, in front of the palace, is spectacular, but there are plenty of quiet corners with ponds, classical statues and even a stream.

Singapore Botanical Gardens

Singapore Botanical Gardens

Photo: j0055 / Flickr

The Singapore Botanical Gardens is not quite as old as Versailles, but it definitely has its own history. Built in the mid-1800s, this garden has grown into one of the world’s most respected botanical garden. The garden is divided into three unique areas. One area contains many species of orchid (60,000 plants in total). It is the most popular section of the garden for tourists. However, an education-oriented section is attractive to people who have more than a passing interest in plant life. Meanwhile, the classical section features well-manicured gardens and an array of statues and other man-made features.

Sanssouci, Germany

Sanssouci, Germany

Photo: Wolfgang Staudt / Flickr

Built by a Prussian emperor, this garden’s name translates into “without a care.” With statues of legendary leaders from Prussia and Rome and a variety of other artistic installations tucked in between the greenery and plant life, Sanssouci is definitely a perfect natural retreat. Other features like an Oriental tea house give this garden an almost whimsical feel, like a nature-oriented theme park.

Villa d’Este, Italy

Villa d'Este, Italy

Photo: Dark Rome Tours and Walks / Flickr

This garden is located on a famous estate in the suburbs just outside of Rome. The entire property is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The garden is characterized by a collection of fountains, streams and pools, and visitors who view the garden from the terrace of the villa will be able to notice some elements of symmetry in the garden, which was designed so that it could be appreciated by residents viewing it from above. Of course, strolling through the classical gardens themselves is also an interesting experience.

Botanical Garden, Curitiba

Botanical Garden, Curitiba

Photo: Adam Jones / Flickr

This classical French-style garden is located in the tourist-friendly, laid-back city of Curitiba, the biggest metropolis in Southern Brazil. Curitiba’s gardens have a wide range of attractions, include a French style, art Nouveau greenhouse. Aside from the tropical plants in the main greenhouse, this garden has a huge educational venue known as the Botanical Museum and lots of fountains, waterfalls and streams. Concerts are held on the grounds during the warmer months.

Yuyuan Gardens, Shanghai

Yuyuan Gardens, Shanghai

Photo: Rafael Gomez / Flickr

These gardens in the huge Chinese metropolis of Shanghai were first built more than 400 years ago during the famous Ming Dynasty. Classic Chinese buildings, with sweeping, terra cotta roofs and wide windows and doorways, sit throughout this amazingly well-kept garden. Paths and bridges lead to different corners of the garden. It is possible to wander around for an entire day, exploring new corners of the garden. Ponds and statues of dragons and other mythical creatures create a truly unique setting. This is one of the best venues of the Middle Kingdom for experiencing a traditional Chinese classical garden.

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About Josh Lew

Josh Lew has traveled widely in Asia and the Americas. He has contributed to popular travel sites like Gadling and Brave New Traveler and currently writes a weekly travel column for MNN. His work has also appeared on the websites of CNN and Forbes Magazine.

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