“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.” – Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden
When it comes down to it, all these gardens in Europe are worth visiting. There are formal gardens, Victorian gardens, Japanese gardens and decorative vegetable gardens. Many of our destination’s homes and castles open up their gardens to the public during the warmer months of the year. Visitors can choose from a range of scheduled tours with garden visits. Alternatively, independent travelers and garden enthusiasts may prefer to plan custom garden tours, giving them the opportunity to meander and enjoy the scenery at their own pace. Here are some of our favorite gardens in Europe.
THE BOTANIC GARDENS IN BELFAST | Northern Ireland
These gardens, located in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, were created in 1827. They surround the largest greenhouse in the world, a wrought iron and glass structure that was built in 1839. Several of these plants are well over the age of 100. The Tropical Ravine House displays a range of tropical plants grown in a sunken glen.
THE VICTORIAN GARDENS AT KYLEMORE ABBEY | Ireland
These gardens are located in Connemara, County Galway in the Republic of Ireland. A wealthy Englishman built it for his bride. After her sudden death, the property sat vacantly. During WWII, the Benedictine Nuns purchased the estate. You may tour the country house now used as an international girl’s school and convent or the gardens and long walkways through the woods. Visitors can even clip to the top of the mountain to see a statue of Jesus, a smaller version of the famous one found in Rio de Janeiro. Once on top of the mountain, the panoramic views cannot be beaten.
ROYAL BOTANIC GARDEN | Scotland
Just one mile from the city center, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh offers visitors peace and tranquillity amongst 72 acres of stunning scenery. The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is one of the finest botanic gardens in the world and provides wondrous views of the Edinburgh skyline including Edinburgh Castle. Visitors can discover its fascinating history, which dates back 300 years, learn about its plantings and walk around 70 acres of beautiful landscape.
THE COURTS GARDEN | England
Full of variety, this charming garden shows the English country style at its best. It offers tranquil water gardens, shaped topiaries and stunning views. Visitors can also stroll along the arboretum to see a variety of trees and flowers.
GREAT DIXTER’S GARDEN | England
Great Dixter was the home of Christopher Lloyd, a gardening writer. Today, it is a historic house open to the public that includes a garden and education center for green thumbs from all over the world.
BODNANT GARDEN | Wales
Bodnant is blessed with one of the most impressive gardens in Europe, with century-old cuttings, 180-foot arch flowers and towering ancient trees against the backdrop of Snowdonia. Relax in the shrub borders, enjoy the Italianate terrace and admire the central Poem, where generations of one family rest.
BOBOLI GARDENS | Italy
It took a century to complete the terraced gardens that cover 111 acres behind Florence’s Palazzo Pitti. Always listed among Europe’s best classical garden parks, the Boboli deftly combines landscape gardens and carefully manicured “nature” with the formal parterre, architectural follies, and water features common to Renaissance gardens. All this is tied together by promenades and more intimate paths that make strolling these gardens a welcome respite from the city.
LYSTIGARDURINN | Iceland
The country’s top botanical garden, Lystigardurinn, is a mere 60 miles below the Arctic Circle in Akureyri, Iceland. It features over six thousand types of Icelandic and Arctic flora. The small garden (about 8 acres) originally opened as a park in 1912 and became a botanical garden in 1957.
THE GENERALIFE GARDENS | Spain
Part of the Alhambra Palace complex, the Generalife Gardens became a leisure place for the kings (sultans) of Granada when they needed a break from their official affairs and duties. The garden was built in the 13th century and has been recognized as a UNESCO World-Heritage site since 1984. During your visit, you are likely to see vibrant flowers such as lilies, carnations and roses as well as aromatic plants like lavender, citrus fruits and jasmine.
EL BUEN RETIRO PARK | Spain
Easily considered one of the largest parks in Madrid, ‘El Retiro’ as it’s known locally, belonged to the Spanish Monarchy until the 19th century when it became a public space for Madrilenians to enjoy. The park boasts beautiful sculptures, monuments, fountains, galleries, a lake and a gorgeous greenhouse called ‘The Crystal Palace’ which originally housed exotic plants but is now primarily used for temporary exhibitions.
THE GARDENS OF CHâTEAU DE VILLANDRY | France
No trip to France’s Loire Valley would be complete without a visit to a château, and the grand country house of Villandry is no exception. Built in the Renaissance, the estate features six themed French gardens framed by a series of terraces. There is an ornamental vegetable garden, a water garden, and even a maze. The castle itself is a dreamy and elegant visit and should make any gardens in Europe list.
CLAUDE MONET’S GARDEN | France
A delightfully easy day trip from Paris, Monet’s Garden in Giverny can be reached by local train service (the station is in Vernon) and takes less than an hour each way. Once you arrive at the station, you can hire a taxi, walk or rent a bike for the last 3 miles to Monet’s House & Gardens. Once there, you will be inspired, just like Mr. Monet himself, by the lush and colorful surroundings. To see the famous water lilies, it is recommended you visit at the height of summer (July).
ESTUFA FRIA | Portugal
Right in the heart of Lisbon, and built on the site of a former basalt quarry, this botanical garden is now home to over 300 plant species, lakes, and waterfalls. ‘Estufa Fria’ means ‘Cold Greenhouse’ and is so named because it doesn’t need to use a heat-generating mechanism to control the temperature; a natural system is used instead. In the same space, there is also the ‘Estufa Quente’ (Hot Greenhouse) which features tropical plants and ‘Estufa Doce’ (Sweet Greenhouse) which hosts cacti and succulents.
THE PALACE AND GARDENS ESTOI | Portugal
Located in the southern region of the Algarve in Portugal and only 6 miles from the city of Faro, the charming village of Estoi is known for its small streets, quaint houses, cafés, and stunning Palácio de Estoi. The palace, which is now a luxury hotel (Pousada de Portugal), is a short walk from the main square and allows access to the gardens for free. In the Versailles-style gardens, you will find grand staircases covered in azulejos (traditional blue ornamental tiles) and hidden grottos below.
SCHYNIGE PLATTE BOTANICAL ALPINE GARDEN | Switzerland
Another popular visit among our gardens in Europe list is Schynige Platte Botanical Alpine Garden. Accessible only by cogwheel train from Wilderswil (near Interlaken), the journey itself features amazing views of the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau. Once at Schynige Platte, you can hike the alpine garden trail and enjoy some of the Jungfrau region’s most colorful and famous flowers, such as edelweiss, alpine rose and paradise lilies. During the warmer months (June to September), you can also catch daily performances of traditional Swiss alphorn players at the Schynige Platte Mountain Hotel.
BERN’S ROSE GARDEN | Switzerland
With its prime location, the Rose Garden in Bern has breathtaking views of the old town and Aare loop. The park is home to over 400 types of roses and irises and dozens of variations of rhododendrons and azaleas. This public park, which also has a convenient restaurant, is a great place to relax and soak in the Swiss capital. In addition to the garden, there is an open-access library that lets you check out books to read while you are visiting the garden. There is also a popular bench with a statue of Bern’s most famous former resident, Albert Einstein.
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