Much of the Western concept of gardens and gardening came from Europe. Europeans are, justifiably, proud of their gardening excellence and much money is invested in this pursuit. Thus, the gardens of Europe are among the most famous in the world. The following is a list of some of the greatest gardens we have seen in our trips to Europe. We have left out gardens which are primarily associated with a palace or castle, since they are covered elsewhere in this blog’s archives, even though some of these gardens would be high on any traveler’s list.
1. Stourhead Gardens, Wiltshire, England
Not far from Stonehenge are the Stourhead Gardens, considered the nicest gardens in all of England, and among the best in the world. These are landscape gardens famous for their blending of nature with some man-made classical structures. A two-mile walk around the lake is very spiritual and tranquil, with many opportunities along the way for quiet contemplation and great views. A small village at the end of the walk provides evidence of the area’s Medieval past, and a cute pub offers respite and sustenance.
2. Keukenhof Gardens, Lisse, Netherlands
A fantastic excursion from the city of Amsterdam is southwest to Keukenhof Gardens, in the town of Lisse. It is like a theme park centered on flowers. Especially in the spring, the area is alive with the bright colors of tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, and many other bulbs for which the country is famous. Stroll the extensive pathways and admire the meticulous landscaping. Stop at the various pavilions for an immersion in other types of flowers, such as, orchids and bromeliads which are not hardy in the Middle Latitudes. Interspersed with all this color and greenery are interesting sculptures, wonderful playgrounds for kids, ponds and streams, and even a windmill. It makes a wonderful day trip from Amsterdam, and can even be visited by bicycle since Holland has extensive bike paths throughout the country. It ranks as one of the most beautiful gardens in the world.
3. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, near Richmond, England
The Kew Gardens are not only beautiful, with an incredible variety of plants from around the world, housed in its greenhouses, lakes, ponds and all over the grounds, but it is also a respected research facility which is responsible for numerous botanic discoveries. The architecture on the property is also significant and all blends nicely into the rural setting.
4. Retiro Park, Madrid, Spain
Retiro Park is a splendid place for strolling and escaping the hectic city scene. Is is definitely Madrid’s most popular park. There are miles of walkways, pools, fountains, and interesting buildings, particularly the Crystal Palace.
5. Hyde Park, London, England
London’s parks, such as Hyde Park and Green Park, are noteworthy since they offer a peaceful respite in a crowded, hectic location. Hyde Park is the largest park in the city, and along with the Kensington Gardens, within its boundaries, offers the biggest area of greenery in the entire city. There are lakes, walkways, and even the famous Speaker’s Corner where anyone can launch into a tirade or read a poem, etc. It is also the location of the Diana Memorial, a fountain dedicated in 2004 to the beloved Princess of Wales who was killed in a tragic automobile crash in Paris. The Kensington Gardens contains the famous statue of Peter Pan, made famous in the book by author J.M. Barrie.
6. Luxembourg Gardens, Paris, France
Parisians and tourists alike love to stroll through and/or relax in the Luxembourg Gardens, a treasure of tranquility in this very crowded city. There are flower gardens, pools, and tranquil settings to enjoy before heading back to work or sightseeing.
7. Mirabell Gardens, Salzburg, Austria
Any walking tour of the city of Salzburg should also include a stop at the Mirabell Gardens, on the other side of the river from the Old Town. The gardens are beautiful with fountains and statues, plus they appeared in the Sound of Music, so are part of any tour of movie sights. The gardens also provide a beautiful view looking back toward the fortress.
8. Claude Monet’s Garden at Giverny, France
One of the most famous gardens in the world is known because of paintings of its unique landscape by the foremost Impressionist painter, Claude Monet. Monet lived and worked here for many years, translating his tranquil setting to the canvas on numerous occasions.
9. Maria Luisa Park, Seville, Spain
Maria Luisa Park, just south of the city, adjacent to the river, offers a pleasant area of escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Note the beautiful, symmetrical Plaza de Espana and the Plaza de America, both of which contain buildings which blend Moorish and Andalusian architecture.
10. Englischer Garten, Munich, Germany
Its name recalls the fact that it was the idea of an Englishman, Sir Benjamin Thompson, but this garden is definitely German, and a favorite with locals and tourists alike. There are miles and miles of pathways, flower gardens, and sculptures. Some people even stroll here nude.
11. Hidcote Manor Gardens, Chipping Campden, England
This little gem in the Cotswolds combines flowers with classic English garden landscaping to achieve a special effect. The grounds are extremely pleasant to stroll, and the architecture of the buildings is also interesting.
12. Boboli Gardens, Florence, Italy
The Boboli Gardens are part of the estate of Pitti Palace, but I have decided to include it here because the palace was not significant enough to make it into my "Great Palaces" entry. The gardens here are all about shrubs and trees, not flowers. There are numerous pathways, many of them shaded, and several elaborate fountains with interesting sculptures.