You don’t have to be a botanist or somebody who studies nature to enjoy a scenic stroll through beautiful gardens. Sometimes, it’s worth it to set your phone on vibrate (or better yet, turn it off), peruse the flora and fauna, and breathe in substantially less polluted air.
1. Luxembourg Garden- Paris, France
Paris is home to several beautiful gardens, and the Jardin du Luxembourg is among the most famous.
Commissioned by Marie de Medici around 1612, it’s a favorite of locals and tourists, and it’s large enough to grant everyone some personal space.
Owing to the garden’s historical significance and prime location between The Latin Quarter and St. Germain, it’s always well manicured. The Luxembourg Palace, with its imposing facade, is currently in use by the French Senate.
The tree-lined promenades, lush vegetation, and statues are a joy to behold throughout the year, especially in the spring. While the kids are entertained by a puppet show, you can find a bench in the shade to unwind with a book.
If you happen to cross the Grand Bassin in the center of the garden, you might find children pushing little wooden boats through the water with long sticks. This is part of a charming tradition dating back to the 1920s, when a man named Clément Pandeau crafted toy boats for children to enjoy. Today, you can rent them for just a few Euros.
The Medici Fountain is magnificent, but you really have to know about it in advance because it’s somewhat secluded. If you walk along the water basin preceding the principal statues, you’ll find a secret feature- a second, smaller fountain with a relief depicting the Greek myth of Leda and The Swan.
2. Tuileries Garden- Paris, France
This is another Parisian landmark, which was the first park in the city made accessible to the public.
Jardin des Tuileries was also founded by a member of the Medici family, Catherine, who transformed it from a marsh with little potential to the spectacular site it is today.
As noted by the Paris Insiders Guide, the garden has “a network of criss-crossing paths,” along its 28 hectares, and many are dotted with statues.
The Louvre is obviously the most famous museum on the grounds, but there are also two smaller ones. The Musée de l’Orangerie is great for Impressionist art, and the Jeu de Paume for photography.
Grab a coffee and a croissant at one of the open- air cafés, and when it’s in season, take the kids to the Ferris Wheel.
3. Ciutadella Park- Barcelona, Spain
More of a park than a garden, this beauty in Barcelona deserves a mention. You’ll find the Barcelona Zoo, which is always a hit with the kids, and the Catalan Parliament building.
You can rent boats here (large enough for a person to sit in) and row on the lake. Take advantage of the large expanses of grass where you can spread out a blanket for a picnic. You’re bound to find somebody banging a drum or plucking a guitar, especially when the weather is nice.
Barcelona sometimes hosts its own version of New York’s Summer Stage, offering free concert s in a few of its parks, including Ciutadella.
4. Boboli Garden- Florence, Italy
The Boboli Garden is a must-see if you’re visiting Florence, and once again, the Medici family was instrumental in its development.
According to Visit Florence, the grounds continued to expand between the 15th and 19th centuries, with the addition of avenues, meadows and groves, which offer a respite from the throngs of tourists in the city squares.
There are a few sites of interest here. First, there’s Pitti Palace, which is in front of the garden, built in 1457. There’s also the Amphitheater, Viottolone (a sloping avenue of cypress trees and statues), Giardino del Cavaliere, the Kaffeehaus, and the impressive Buontalenti Grotto, an artificial grotto filled with stalactite statues.
5. Japanese Tea Garden- San Francisco, California
The Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco is part of The Golden Gate Park, and is the oldest garden of its kind in The United States.
The garden was originally conceived as an exhibit for the California Midwinter International Exposition in 1894, and continued to grow after the event was over to its present size of approximately five acres.
It has many of the elements associated with this style of garden. According to the website, you’ll find “an arched drum bridge, pagodas, stone lanterns, stepping- stone paths, Japanese plants, koi ponds and a Zen garden.” Not to be outdone by the cherry blossoms, which are in full bloom in March and April.
The Tea House on site is a great little spot to enjoy some Japanese refreshments.
6. Castleton Botanical Garden- St. Mary Parish, Jamaica
The Castleton Botanical Garden in Jamaica is a tropical haven in the parish of St. Mary, close to Kingston.
If you’re looking for some Zen while on vacation, consider Castleton, which is, according to Trip Advisor, one of the oldest botanical gardens in the Caribbean.
There’s a wide variety of plants here, “many which were introduced to the island in the late 19th and 20th centuries,” such as the Royal Poinciana Tree.
After a restorative stroll, take a dip in the Wag Water River, or simply put your feet in and watch the water rush between your toes.
Black writer Rochelle Knight is the creator of the Adventures from Elle blog, and her lively feature on the Castleton Garden can be found here.
7. Royal Botanical Garden- Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago
This is yet another fantastic Caribbean oasis, which is dedicated to “conservation, education, research and recreation.”
As the website states, this paradise dates back to 1818, and “is comprised of approximately 700 trees,” with 13% of them indigenous to Trinidad and Tobago. Some of the particularly old trees have names and ages printed on their tags.
The garden is ideal for single visitors and families, with its picnic tables and ample grassy areas for children to play.
The Education Center curates a series of events intended to inform visitors of the importance of conservation, and these are designed to appeal to all ages.
If you’re interested in learning more about the specifics of the surrounding plants, consider hiring a guide.
The park is open daily from 6 AM to 6 PM.