Here’s a look at some of Europe’s most fascinating botanical gardens.
I’ve always been fascinated by botanical gardens. These fragrant green urban oases nestled between period buildings and skyscrapers are perfect for getting lost as if you’re a character in an adventure novel. Often, the pebble lanes, glass and wrought iron greenhouses, and exotic plants with complicated names provide the perfect backdrop for getting lost in a good book.
There are many cities in Europe that boast a botanical garden, and here are five of them.
1. Royal Botanic Garden of Edinburgh
Edinburgh is one of my favorite cities in the world, and I can honestly say that the botanical garden is one of the reasons I fell in love with it. First of all, to get to Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden you need to leave the medieval Old Town, cross the elegant streets of New Town, stroll through the enchanted “village in town” of sorts that is Dean Village and pass the low, colorful Stockbridge houses. This walk will put you in the right spirit to visit the 70-acre garden where the countless species of plants include the flora of a typical Chinese ecosystem. Do not miss the memorial dedicated to the Queen Mother with a maze and hut covered entirely by shells, and the magnificent Victorian greenhouse in which you can admire the giant water lilies.
2. Lisbon Botanical Garden
More than a botanical garden, this urban jungle in Lisbon contains about 2500 species of plants including baobabs, banana trees, tropical plants and trees that even date back to the garden’s founding in 1873. Among the paths, trees, plants and statues, your visit to the Bairro Alto will feel like a real adventure. If you prefer relaxation, you can admire the Tagus river surrounded by the perfume of flowers.
The magnificent glass conservatory of the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh.
3. Le Jardin des Plantes, Paris
The Jardin des Plantes in Paris is a magical, superb place to visit year round. During the spring, the aroma of the beautiful blossoming plants fills the entire park, which is breathtaking in autumn as well with its thick blanket of yellow and orange ginkgo tree leaves.
The garden is part of the Museum of Natural History which also houses the Gallery of Mineralogy and Geology, Gallery of Entomology, Gallery of Paleontology and Comparative Anatomy and Great Gallery of Evolution. In addition, the garden boasts greenhouses filled with exotic plants, a rose garden, a peony garden, an iris garden and a labyrinth that leads to a summit where you can admire a spectacular view of Paris from above. Footsteps from the botanical garden, the Great Mosque of Paris is worth a visit for a cup of tea.
4. The Plantentuin of Antwerp
The Plantentuin, the Antwerp Botanical Garden, is almost 200 years-old. The Leopoldstraat and its arcades, red brick buildings and statues contain more 2,000 types of plants including trees, shrubs, herbs and cacti from all over the world.
5. The Horticultural Garden, Florence
This botanical garden in Florence dates back to the mid-nineteenth century and is divided into themed sub-gardens: the Gardens of Parnassus famous for the dragon fountain that snakes its way along the steps vaguely reminiscent of Park Guell. The Garden of the Righteous, similar to that of Jerusalem, counts a carob tree and a crepe myrtle tree among its many species of plants.
The Garden of Horticulture is also characterized by a spectacular glass and iron tepidarium that at the time of its construction was the largest in Italy. This real “glass palace”–as it was defined by its contemporaries–is often used for events, exhibitions and cultural initiatives.
The fountain of the serpent in Florence’s Garden of Horticulture