Amidst a long day of traveling, a little down time is always nice. But that doesn’t mean the adventure has to stop. Parks act as sanctuaries for any city dweller, and as a traveler they can become yours as well. Parks are much more than just a place to rest your legs. Oftentimes a park is a great spot to experience cultural immersion and interact with locals. Here you’ll find some of the world’s most spectacular parks to visit during your travels.
Park Güell, Barcelona
Considered one of the most beautiful places in Barcelona, Park Güell is a garden with many architectural features. It was designed by famous Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi, whose work can be admired all over Barcelona. Constructed in the early 20th century, Park Güell was originally meant to be a commercial housing project, but later became a city park and garden . It was designed to evoke serenity in the most whimsical of ways; the focal point of the park, the main terrace, is surrounded by a long bench in the form of a sea serpent. The curves of the bench form a number of areas to commune in small groups, making the park a perfect spot to regroup and relax.
Vondelpark, which consists of 120 acres in the heart of Amsterdam, was opened in 1865 and has been an oasis for its annual 10 million visitors ever since. The park is located south of Leidseplein and near the Van Gogh Museum, making it an ideal location for anyone visiting Amsterdam. The park is adored by Amsterdammers who use it for exercising, relaxing, people-watching, and much more. Free concerts are shown at the open-air theater and bandstand throughout the warmer months. Within the park you’ll find a number of other attractions as well, including the statue of Dutch poet, Vondel and the Groot Melkhuis restaurant. Because the park was built in a muddy area, it must go through total renovation every 30 years. Still, you can observe a myriad of bird species and unusual plant life there.
Hyde Park, London
Hyde Park, also known as one of the Royal Parks, is one of the largest in London. Covering 350 acres, Hyde Park is home to many well-known landmarks such as Serpentine Lake, Speakers’ Corner (an area where open-air public speaking and debate are allowed), and the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain. It is the perfect place to unwind during a chaotic stay in London. The park also offers a number of activities from swimming and boating to horseback riding.
El Parque del Buen Retiro, Madrid
Translated as “The Park of the Pleasant Retreat,” El Parque del Buen Retiro is one of the largest parks in Spain’s capital city of Madrid. Up until the 19th century, the park belonged to the Spanish monarchy but since then has become a public space. Buen Retiro is located in the center of town, not far from the Prado Museum. What is perhaps most unique about the park is its history; the park originated in the 16th century during the reign of Isabella I. Since then, an array of architectural styles has been added to the space, making it an eclectic display of Spain’s history.
Englishcher Garten, Munich
Englishcher Garten, formed in 1789 by Sir Benjamin Thompson, spans from Munich’s city center to the northeastern city limits. At 910 acres it is one of the world’s largest public parks. The name of the park refers to a style of gardening, which was popular in Britain during the 18th century. And although it is considered an “English Garden,” this place is classically German. Munich locals flock to the park to relax, swim, surf and absorb the culture of the city.
Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, Paris
Positioned in the northeast of Paris, Parc des Buttes-Chaumont is the fifth-largest park in Paris, but definitely one of the best. It was opened in 1867 after the reign of Emperor Napoleon III and was built by Jean-Charles Alphand. The most famous feature in the park is the Temple de la Sibylle, a magnificent dome standing atop a rocky cliff. Contributing to the fairytale-like atmosphere is the temple’s structure which was beautifully built from local Parisian gypsum. Throughout the park are miles of intertwined walking and biking paths, making it a fun place to meander and enjoy the day.
Ueno Park, Tokyo
Ueno Park is an expansive public park in the Ueno region of Tokyo. Established in 1873, it was one of Japan’s first public parks. It originated as an example of western parks and is representative of the Meiji period when Japan began to embrace western culture. Ueno Park is famous for its gorgeous springtime cherry blossoms and is home to several major museums such as the Tokyo National Museum, the National Museum for Western Art, the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum and the National Science Museum. Perhaps the best part of the park though is the homage it pays to Japanese history with its four major temples and shrines surrounded by over 1,000 cherry blossom trees.