If youâre feeling footsore after pounding Europeâs cobbled streets, take time out in the citiesâ landscaped parks and gardens, where locals and visitors alike retire to relax and find tranquility in nature.
Whether you prefer symmetrical gardens in the formal tradition, or the more ânaturalâ rural designs of British landscaping, youâll find visiting a big city garden provides a captivating mix of history and leisure. Here are some of our favorite European gardens.France
The Gardens of Versailles
are the ultimate in the French formal style, combining geometrically aligned vistas, grand ponds, pavilions and mythological statues. For the origins of this mastery, visit Vaux-le-Vicomte: the gardenâs symmetrical paths and fountains inspired Louis XIV to imprison the chateauâs owner and hire the designer, Le Notre, to work his magic at Versailles.
In contrast, Monetâs intimate garden at Giverny
is as pretty as the painterâs pictures, complete with lilies and that romantic wooden bridge.Italy
Italian Renaissance gardens like the terraced Boboli Gardens in Florence
were the inspiration behind the famous gardens of France. Steps, grottos and statues add mystery to the geometry, typified by the Villa dâEste gardens outside Rome, where around 500 jets of water provide a surprise at every turn.
In northern Italy, the terraced gardens surrounding Lake Comoâs elegant villas combine pines and statuary, while Lake Maggioreâs Isola Bella is regularly voted one of Europeâs loveliest baroque gardens.AmsterdamKeukenhof
, outside Amsterdam, is the most beautiful springtime garden on the planet, with thousands of tulips, daffodils and hyacinths blooming in all their myriad colors after the long cold winter.Germany
Munichâs Nymphenburg Palace
gardens were designed in the French style, with sweeping pathways and lawns dotted with classical statues, while the less formal English style is celebrated in the cityâs Englischer Garten
, a relaxing inner-city park scattered with temples and teahouses, lakes and monuments.
For over-the-top rococo grandeur, visit Sans Souci in Potsdam, landscaped with avenues of trees, obelisks and Chinese pavilions.Spain
Perhaps the most beautiful European garden of all is the Generalife Garden
of the Alhambra in Granada, with its sparkling fountains, tranquil ponds and meticulously designed planting and pathways.