As spring merges into summer, gardens in much of Europe are at their most vibrant and colorful.
Whether you seek out gardens as a main sight for your day or duck into them as a respite from sightseeing in built environments, it is hard not to fall in love with these lovingly cultivated spaces. They can tell you a lot about a culture and what it values. And if you are a gardener, you will no doubt come away from them inspired.
Here are some of our favorite gardens in Europe.
Versailles – A short train ride from Paris, the Palace of Versailles is a must-see, but do not overlook its sprawling formal French gardens. Fountains, lush lawns, parterres of flowers, and sculptures speak to Louis XIV’s vision of grandeur in this vast, perfectly manicured garden.
Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris – These expansive flower gardens, walking paths, orchard, fountains, and lake were created by Marie de Medici alongside Luxembourg Palace. They offer a shady left-bank respite for families, who enjoy the remote-controlled boats.
Jardin des Tuileries, Paris – This formal garden, stretching from Place de la Concorde to the Louvre, takes its name from tile factories that once occupied the site. Built in the mid 16th century by Queen Catherine de Medici, they were opened to the public after the revolution.
Parc de la Ciutadella, Barcelona – Citadel Park is a vast green space that includes the city’s zoo and natural science museum, along with a lake and regal fountain. Enjoy its many statues, monuments, and palm trees. It is a local favorite for wedding photos too.
More info: https://www.barcelona.de/en/barcelona-parc-ciutadella.html
Generalife Gardens, Granada – Translated as the Architect’s Garden in Arabic, Generalife is among the world’s oldest surviving Moorish gardens, though much was reconstructed in the 19th century. It is distinct in its structure with flowers, pilars, and a stunning water garden.
La Foce, Tuscany – This stunning formal garden is a blend of English and Italian design, set on the estate of Iris Origo, who became famous for he moving account of WWII in the Val D’Orcia. Its roses, box hedges, and countryside views are remarkable.
Boboli Gardens, Florence – On the other side of the Arno, behind the Patti Palace, you’ll find the formal gardens and sprawling slopes of this park. Established by the Medici, these Renaissance gardens rise above the historic center of town and offer stunning views over the Duomo.
Borghese Garden, Rome – This lovely green space contains the Villa Borghese and Modern Art Museums but also offers a vast green space and lots of shaded paths, sculpture, and even space for a casual bocce match among friends. The Romans relax, bike, and picnic here.
Vrtba Garden – Located on the slope of the Petřín Hill, in Mala Strana, this High Baroque garden is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Set alongside three other Baroque gardens near the Vrtba Palace, this formal garden is stunning, a must see.
Mirabell Garden, Salzburg – Anyone who has seen The Sound of Music knows this grand formal garden that compliments the Mirabell Palace. It is flush with flowers and laced with walking paths. Enjoy the fountains and shade of this lovely Baroque garden, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Volksgarten, Vienna – On the grounds of the Hofburg palace, this grand, sprawling garden was built in the 1820s on the site of the fortifications that were destroyed by Napoleon. This People’s Garden includes two fountains and numerous temples and monuments.
More info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volksgarten,_Vienna
Keukenhof Gardens, Lisse – Open for 8 weeks a season, normally starting the last week in March, the Keukenhof showcases some 7 million spring-flowering bulbs. Find every variety of tulips under the sun, alongside other colorful blooms in beds that go on forever!
Botanical Gardens, Leiden – The Hortus Botanicus of Leiden is the oldest garden in the Netherlands, dating from the late 16th century. It features newer and historic greenhouses and a Japanese Garden that showcases the influence of trade routes on local horticulture.
Ricola Gardens, Kandersteg – This is a family favorite. One of six show gardens maintained by Ricola throughout Switzerland, this garden allows visitors to touch, sniff, and taste the medicinal herbs. Visitors will find herb beds set amongst the rustic chalets so typical of the region.
Untour: Swiss Heartland or Swiss Oberland
Kensington Gardens – Distinct from bordering Hyde Park, this space was once the private garden of Kensington Palace and features the Serpentine Bridge, Italian fountains, and the impressive Albert Memorial, plus plenty of shady spots for relaxing.
Kew Gardens – The Royal Botanical Gardens include a collection of over 50,000 plants, with extensive information and educational programming. Visit the world’s largest Victorian greenhouse, woodland gardens, the rock garden of mountain plants, and more.
This list is just the beginning. There are so many wonderful parks and gardens in Europe to explore. What are your favorites?