There are a few great things that unify the human race, like ice-cream, bank holidays and hugs. Public parks fall into this category; from Australia to Zambia, people are equally keen to take their families to the local park for a stroll. We started this month by counting down the top 10 UK parks, and then someone brought up a beautiful place they'd been to in Austria. Another co-worker brought up their favourite park in Canada. Anyhow, it wasn't long before we were debating our personal favourites for the Top 10 International Public Parks...
10. Tiergarten Park, Berlin
Tiergarten Park is a marriage between the über-efficiency of Germany and the tranquility of a quiet, public park built for relaxation. It's right in the busy center of metropolitan Berlin, offering city-goers a peaceful place to think and spend a quiet afternoon. Major tourist attractions, like the Reichstag (Germany's Westminster), the Holocaust memorial, the House of World Cultures museum (otherwise known as the 'pregnant oyster') and the Zoo, are situated in and around the park, making it ideal for families, tourists and locals.
For more information, see visitberlin.de
9. Stanley Park, Vancouver
As far as urban parks go, Stanley Park is in a league of its own. Tall Western Red cedar and fir trees decorate the 1,000-acre plot, which is home to eagles, squirrels, rabbits and other small mammals - they're shy, but easy to spot on the many hiking, biking and walking trails around the park. Each season brings new life to the park, as the leaves turn from bright orange to electric green every year.
Stanley Park is more than just a hot spot for green thumbs though. The peninsula park hosts -among other sports - regular cricket matches, tennis and bowls. The kids (and adult kids!) can enjoy family activities like a mini-train ride through the park, a world-class aquarium and a free water park. For a more relaxed affair, the encircling 8.8 kilometres of promenade is a walkers delight.
For more information, see vancouver.ca
8. Mirabell Palace and Gardens, Salzburg
The Mirabell Palace Gardens were made famous in modern times as a filming location for The Sound of Music. But the palace itself was originally built by Prince-Archbishop Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau, in honour of his unattainable mistress, Salome Alt (back then it was called Altenau Palace). The original sentiment has lived on through the ages, and the immaculately arranged garden outside is still a popular wedding location. With photogenic landscapes and bright flowers that light up the scenery, this is the perfect place to lose yourself in the romance and splendorous atmosphere of Salzburg. So hop, skip, sing do-re-mi and recreate your own version of the 'Sound of Music' at Mirabell Palace.
For more information, see salzburg.info
7. Keukenhof Gardens, Lisse
Keukenhof Gardens is a welcome invasion of colours and smells. It's arguably one of the prettiest, sweetest smelling parks on the planet - you can't help being enchanted. At 32 hectares, the park is the largest bulb flower garden in the world. Open for spring bloom it hosts the preeminent flower event of the year. Even stone-cold cynics can't help but be swept away by this incredibly romantic setting.
This year Keukenhof will open on the 24th of March and close on the 20th of May. For more information, see keukenhof.nl
6. Ibirapuera Park, Sao Paolo
With the incredible climate and scenery in Brazil it is surprising that more international attention isn't given to its major cities like Sao Paolo. Ibirapuera Park epitomises the diverse and vibrant nature of this cosmopolitan wonderland. Where else could you find a Japanese Pavilion, an Afro-Brazilian museum and a Modern Latin American Art museum in the same place? In addition to this, you can catch a free performance at the funky looking auditorium, the Praca da Paz, or star-gaze at the dome-shaped planetarium. Every Sunday, there is a free outdoor book swapping/ library service at the Bosque di Lietrura, which brings scores of people down onto the beautiful park grounds.
For more information, see parqueibirapuera.org
5. Parque del Buen Retiro, Madrid
'Parque del Buen Retiro' literally translates 'park of pleasant retreat' - and pleasant it certainly is. The picturesque trails (perfect for walkers, bikers or roller bladers) that cut through the lush park are peppered with works of art, street performers and sunny spots to relax. For some evening excitement, you can view weekly performances by the Madrid Symphony - a perfect way to start your big night out on the town. The Palacio de Cristal (an art piece itself, based on the Crystal Palace in London) is home to an extensive collection of flora and fauna from the Philippines. The gorgeous glass structure stands in front of the artificial lake, where people take out row boats and spend lazy afternoons under the warm Spanish sun.
Parque del Buen Retiro is also home to the Madrid Book fair, which opens on the 27th of May. For more information, see esmadrid.com
4. Beihai Park, Beijing
Once connected to the Forbidden City, Beihai Park has only been open to the general public since 1925 - hardly any time at all when you consider that it was built in the 10th century. It is the perfect place to immerse yourself in Chinese culture - the park strikes a rare balance between being a beautiful place for locals to relax, a home for some important historical artifacts and a great place to escape the Beijing summer heat. In winter time, you'll find people skating on the frozen lake, rather than rowing a rented boat, but the scenery is as beautiful. Some of the highlights of the park include the Five Dragon Pavilions, the Temple of Everlasting Peace, the Hall of Received Light, the Nine Dragon Wall and the unique Jingxin Room - a garden within a garden.
For more information, see the Beihai Park wikipedia page.
3. Governor's Island, New York
Long overshadowed by Central Park, Governor's Island Park is set to be the next big thing in the Big Apple. The birthplace of New York state has recently been designated a summer park and is fast gaining popularity. Although still incomplete, it is already a popular attraction for locals wanting to escape their busy life in the city for a few hours. With stunning views of the famous New York skyline and a relaxing island seclusion, it makes for a great day out. Catch the free ferry to the island and on Fridays rent a bike for free.
The park will open on 27th of May for the summer season. For more information, see govisland.com
2. Dream Forest, Seoul
The Dream Forest in Seoul blends natural beauty with modern architectural attractions, creating a world that could only be considered 'dream-like'. Features like the cherry blossom path and a maple tree forest give the park its magnificent seasonal colours, which light up the area like a fireworks display. While the dream forest is perfect for walks, picnics and breaks from the city-life of Seoul, it also hosts the Sansang Toktok Museum of Art, a concert hall and the Seoul Design Gallery - three fantastic facilities that house some highly impressive displays. Next door, you'll find the space age observatory that offers incredible views of downtown Seoul. There is magic in this effortless fusion of traditional Korean features and futuristic elements.
For more information, see parks.seoul.go.kr
1. Table Mountain National Park, Cape Town
Table Mountain is not an attraction of Cape Town - it is the very heart of the city. Cape Town is perhaps the only city built within a park. Starting in the city bowl, and going all the way down to Cape Point, it is the largest urban park on the planet. The best view of the city is reserved for daredevils who take the plunge from Lion's Head Peak, just off Table Mountain, and para-glide their way across the Atlantic Side of the peninsula. Hikers are not left out though, as there are a number of trails to the summit of the various peaks that overlook the city. From short treks up Signal Hill to grueling five day hikes like the Hoerikwaggo, from Cape Point to Cape Town, there is something for everyone. A trip to the top of Table Mountain is essential for all visitors though - you simply cannot miss this amazing view, especially on a cloudless day.
Last Updated: May 2011