What is your favorite thing about traveling? When posed with this question, most people will answer with things like “the cuisine,” “the history”, or “the culture”. It is incredibly uncommon to hear someone say “the gardens”. This is a tragedy, considering how many gorgeous, unique, and incredible public gardens there are around the world. Enjoying the natural world is a unifying human experience. Considering this, it is no surprise that gardens are a nearly universal feature. A garden in England will absolutely differ from a garden in Japan, but the core concept of cultivating plants that are to be enjoyed by man is the same.
So the next time you decide to venture out into the world, consider based a trip around a public garden that captures your attention. The best public gardens on earth are infused with the culture and values of the location they can be found in. Visiting them will present a unique personal and cultural experience. Trust us, you will not be disappointed.
Below you will find descriptions of 25 must-see gardens from around the world organized by continent and then alphabetically. The next time you plan a trip, check to see if you will be near one of these astounding places. The list includes:
Academy of Sciences Living Roof
Located in: San Francisco, California, United States
Smack dab in the middle of Golden Gate Park is the Academy of Sciences. Many people visit for the natural history museum and the planetarium but miss out on the incredible living roof. 87% of the academy’s roof is covered in local plant life which helps to reduce energy costs by insulating the building and provides an incredible concept garden for visitors to explore. If you find yourself in San Francisco, make sure to carve out some time for a visit. Learn more here.
Located in: Asheville, North Carolina, United States
The Biltmore is known as America’s castle. It was built in the late 1800s for George Washington Vanderbilt II, and today functions as a historical house museum. The gardens and grounds are spectacular and were actually designed by the same man who designed Central Park (Frederick Law Olmstead). Set against a backdrop of rolling hills and mountains, the gardens are absolutely stunning. Learn more here.
Located in: Victoria, Canada
This garden is the former site of a quarry. It began as a passion project of Jennie Butcharts, and today is home to 26 greenhouses and more than 900 plant varieties. It is still family-run, but is open to the public and hosts more than a million visitors every year. If you are looking for some inspiration while traveling, swing by the Butchart Gardens and marvel at how a former quarry can be transformed into something so spectacular. Learn more here.
Located in: New York City, New York, United States
If you are a fan of urban revitalization, then you cannot miss the High Line in New York City. Once an elevated freight railroad track, it sat abandoned for years until some forward-thinking minds decided to repurpose it into a garden. It stretches for nearly a mile and a half and draws more than 5 million visitors annually. This once forgotten piece of infrastructure is now home to more than 400 different plant species. Learn more here.
Located in: Xilitla, Mexico
Las Pozas is actually an outdoor sculpture garden, which makes it a perfect destination for fans of the outdoors and art alike. It was created by the English poet Edward James, who was prominent within the surrealist movement. Walking through this garden vaguely feels like exploring the ruins of an alien civilization, or maybe through the mind of a fantasy author. Either way, it will offer an incredibly unique experience and moving that should not be missed. Learn more here.
Portland Japanese Garden
Located in: Portland, Oregon, United States
Looking for an authentic Japanese Garden that doesn’t require travel to Asia? Look no further than the Portland Japanese Garden. Located in Washingon Park, it was once declared the most authentic Japanese garden outside of Japan by a Japanese Ambassador. This beautiful outdoor space is tranquil and inviting, and is a great way to experience some Japanese culture without even having to leave the United States. Learn more here.
Joaquin Antonio Uribe Botanical Garden
Located in: Medellín, Colombia
The defining feature of this incredible free public garden is the honeycomb structure that was designed to protect the plants. In addition, it features many varieties of trees, cacti, and flowering plants that offer a natural oasis from the bustling life of the city around it. This garden is made up of more than 35 acres that are right in the center of Medellín, which means that you have no excuse to miss it when you visit the city! Learn more here.
Garden of Cosmetic Speculation
Located in: Dumfries, Scotland
If you are more science-minded, then you cannot miss this natural wonder full of bridges, sculptures, and architectural works designed to distort your perception and make you question the reality of the natural world. Each installation is meant to describe a different natural phenomenon, like the distortion and space and time. This is a gorgeous outdoor space with a slight sense of humor, and it looks quite pristine next to the rugged terrain that makes up most of Scotland. Don’t miss it. Learn more here.
Gardens fo Versailles
Located in: Versailles, France
These are some of the most famous gardens in all of Europe. They were constructed over 40 years in the late 1600s under King Louis XIV and to this day they still feel fit for royals. The hedges, statues, and swan ponds are all iconic and were all signed off on by the kind himself who wanted to oversee every last detail. The garden is replanted roughly once every century. Learn more here.
Located in: Lisse, Netherlands
Are you a fan of flowers? Then you are going to love the fact that an astounding 7 million bulbs are planted in Keukenhof every year. Holland is famous for tulips, and when you visit this garden you will see why. Rows upon rows of different colored tulips create a beautiful foreground for some of Holland’s iconic windmills. It is most colorful and impactful in the spring, so make sure you visit between March and May. Learn more here.
Lost Gardens of Heligan
Located in: Cornwall, England
This garden has deep roots (no pun intended). Originally built in the 13th century, it features unique and whimsical stone statues. It lay forgotten between WWI and the 1990s, but after nearly a century of sitting in disrepair, it was restored to its formal glory. Explore the grounds and marvel at how the ancient statues seem to grow right out of the ground. Today it is managed using both historic and sustainable techniques. Learn more here.
Located in: Enniskerry, Ireland
These gardens also date back to the 13th century and were once the property of the Viscount Powerscourt, an Irish noble. It was recently ranked 5th on a National Geographic list of the World’s Top Ten Gardens. The garden was designed to flow cohesively with the surrounding natural landscape and consists of formal garden plots, terraces, statues, lakes, a secret hollows. Learn more here.
Located in: Lucca, Italy
If you are more into non-traditional gardens, then the Torre Guinigi is the destination for you. Once a medieval defensive tower, it now hosts a rooftop garden consisting of ancient Hold oaks. The tower itself was built in the 1300s and depictions of the city show the rooftop garden as early as the 1600s. In order to reach this garden, you have to climb more than 200 steps, but the ancient trees and the view from the top make the exertion worth it. Learn more here.
Tromso Arctic Alpine Botanical Garden
Located in: Tromso, Norway
Interested in colder climates? This is actually the northernmost garden in the world and focuses on plants that are native to the polar regions. You can view Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine plants along with perennials and herbs that are native to Norway. This is unlike any other garden you have seen before. You are all but guaranteed to encounter a plant or flower you have never laid eyes on before. Learn more here.
Villa Éphrussi de Rothschild Gardens
Located in: Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, France
This garden surrounds a Venetian-style villa located in the South of France. Elements of the garden were inspired by the Petit Trianon at Versailles, but there are also sections of Provencal lavender gardens and Spanish gardens. Learn more here.
Located in: Darmstadt, Germany
Unlike most of the gardens on this list, this garden is actually located on the winged roof of an apartment building, which in and of itself is unusual. The roof gradually slopes up from ground level in a curved shape, and all along the gradient, you can find lime, maple, and beech trees. It is an incredibly unique place and it is worth the visit if you find yourself in Germany. Learn more here.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
Located in: Cape Town, South Africa
The most defining feature of this botanical garden which is situated on the side of Table Mountain is the canopy walk. Visitors are elevated nearly 40 feet off of the ground and can walk along winding paths up above the trees. The view is stunning, the grounds rugged and gorgeous, and the flora and fauna unique. Learn more here.
Le Jardin Majorelle
Located in: Marrakech, Morocco
This walled garden presents an incredibly unique environment. The boldly colored buildings of both Art Deco and Moorish influence enhance the exotic plant life in a way that makes you feel as if you are exploring an artist’s playground. That feeling is only reinforced by the crisscrossing alleyways and different levels. It was created in the 1920s by French painter Jacques Majorelle and was saved from destruction by Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge in the 1980s. Learn more here.
ACROS Fukuoka Prefectural International Hall
Located in: Fukuoka, Japan
This urban garden is located on top of the ACROS Fukuoka Prefectural International Hall. It consists of 15 stepped terraces, and it was designed with the intent of creating a useful cultural center along with an open green space for the city’s residents. When you first see it, you will get the distinct impression that the building itself grew organically out of the ground. Learn more here.
Ancient City of Sigiriya
Located in: Sri Lanka
This ancient garden dates all the way back to the 400s. When you visit you will be standing on the ruins of a capital built by King Kassapa. The natural and architectural features are truly astounding. The 590-foot granite peak has been called the eighth wonder of the world. The garden may not be as green as it once was, but visiting is still plenty impactful and reminds visitors that humans have been congregating in outdoor spaces since our natural history began. Learn more here.
Butterfly Garden at the Changi Airport
Located in: Singapore
Traveling isn’t easy on anyone, which is perhaps why the Changi Airport has elected to build in dozens of high-end amenities...including a full butterfly garden! This gorgeous indoor space is home to more than 1,000 different species of butterflies. So if you ever find yourself flying through the Changi Airport, take a moment to explore the exotic butterfly garden during your layover. Learn more here.
Dubai Miracle Garden
Located in: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Dubai doesn’t do anything halfway, and its Miracle Garden is no exception. Dubbed the largest natural flower garden in the world, it spans 18 acres and includes vibrant floral displays that change seasonally. Visiting means walking through a theme park made of flower arrangements. The whimsical flower structures include a floral clock, floral castle, and full-scale Emirates A380. It is truly unlike any other garden in the world. Learn more here.
Master of the Nets Garden
Located in: Suzhou, China
This garden dates back to the 12th century and contains a labyrinth of courtyards that give the illusion that the garden is larger than it actually is. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the Classical Gardens of Suzhou. It is incredibly ornate and is a favorite of world visitors. Learn more here.
Nong Nooch Tropical Botanical Garden
Located in: Pattaya, Thailand
This incredible tropical garden has been open to the public since 1980. Not only is it host to tropical flowers and plants , it is home to a major scientific center dedicated to the study of cycads. The landscaping is pristine and dramatic, and with the traditional Thai dancers and martial arts demonstrations, you are bound to have an exotic experience. Learn more here.
Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria
Located in: Cranbourne, Australia
If you are interested in learning about plant life in Australia, you cannot miss the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria. More than 170,000 native Australian plants are featured. The park also conducts biodiversity research that plays a major role in the conservation of plants. Their mission is to advance the understanding and appreciation of plants with every interaction with the Botanic Garden. The landscape is breathtaking, and there is a lot to learn. Learn more here.
So the next time you travel domestically or internationally, consider building a garden visit into your trip. The diversity of flora and fauna on this planet is truly incredible. Add to that the unique architectural and cultural elements each location infuses into their local gardens and you can all but put together a world tour of the most incredible gardens on our planet. Plus, taking the time to reconnect with nature while on a busy trip can really set the mind at ease and help you to remain focused and mindful during your travels. Nature is like therapy, and that is something that every culture on earth understands.