Europe’s parks aren’t just pretty, they’re also stacked with history, gorgeous green spaces, and lots of people-watching.
Europe’s cities have long been a tourist gateway to its history and culture. These green spaces serve the community’s needs for respite and beauty, and provide tourists a fantastic home base for exploring and relaxation. But Europe’s city parks also add to the unique stories of the metropolises. There is the Swiss home of jazz, the former zoo where Parisians ate the animals, the London green space fringed by democracy, the Edinburgh haven that keeps a castle company, and the Amsterdam park that guards priceless artworks, and more. Let’s explore 10 of Europe’s best parks.
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WHERE: Paris, France
Embedded in one of the most cheerful locations in Paris is a truly grim tale. The 1870 invasion of Paris by the Prussians prompted a degree of poverty and desperation that led some locals to eat the animals in one of the city’s zoos. That site is now occupied by the attractive Jardin d’Acclimatation, a 20-hectare green lung that features shady parkland, an amusement zone, a small farm and large aviaries. It is hugely popular with Parisian families who bring their children to enjoy the rides, admire the animals and absorb the fresh air.
St Patrick’s Park
WHERE: Dublin, Ireland
St Patrick’s Day has become renowned for partying and drinking in many parts of the world, but behind all the revelry is a man with an enormous role in Irish history. The country’s patron saint popularised Christianity in Ireland 1,600 years ago and reputedly performed his first Irish baptisms in a well in what is now the splendid inner-city haven of St Patrick’s Park. Small but beautiful, this green space has a fantastic view of Ireland’s most majestic religious structure, St Patrick’s Cathedral. Its location in downtown Dublin makes it a great spot to rest in between exploring the city’s many historic sites.
Montreux Jazz Park
WHERE: Montreux, Switzerland
Montreux owns such a staggeringly majestic location, flanked by Lake Geneva and the Swiss Alps, that it’s hard to imagine how this town could be enhanced. Yet that’s just what happens each July when its historic streets brim with soothing sounds created by the world’s finest jazz musicians. Alongside the main venues for the annual Montreux Jazz Festival is a petite park that’s lined with statues of some of the legends of this genre of music. As visitors admire the park’s striking vista across the pristine lake they’re kept company by statues of the likes of Ray Charles, Carlos Santana, and Ella Fitzgerald.
WHERE: Frankfurt, Germany
While most of Europe’s cities are surprisingly low-rise in architecture, Frankfurt looks like an American metropolis, laden with skyscrapers. In the shadows of those towering buildings is one of the continent’s most attractive riverfront green spaces. Hugging the northern edge of the Main River is Mainufer, a 1.5-mile long strip of parkland and gardens, enhanced by a string of open-air bars and cafes. In the summertime, the Mainufer heaves with people exercising, couples cuddling, families picnicking, and friends making merry.
Parco delle Rimembranze
WHERE: Venice, Italy
Venice has long been criticized for being too saturated by tourists, even at times during the pandemic. Yet visitors prepared to stray beyond its crowded central area are rewarded with serene locations like the Parco delle Rimembranze. At the eastern fringe of Venice, a 2.5-mile walk from the heaving Venezia Santa Lucia train station where most tourists first arrive, this verdant park is suitably peaceful given its background. Dedicated to the Italian soldiers who died in World War II, it has a series of war memorials and plaques. It also boasts alluring views across an especially-picturesque stretch of the Venetian Lagoon.
Victoria Tower Gardens
WHERE: London, England
London is blessed with green space like few other massive cities on the planet. And perhaps no other park makes you feel like you’re in London to the extent of Victoria Tower Gardens, from which you can glimpse several of the city’s icons. As you recline on its wide lawn, the River Thames, Westminster Bridge, and the London Eye are due east. To your north are the colossal Houses of Parliament and to the west the spectacular Westminster Abbey. All the while, a giant Union Jack flag billows in the wind overhead.
WHERE: Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdam has one of the world’s great clusters of museums, home to the giant Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, the Moco Modern Art Museum, and the Stedelijk Art Museum. Wandering these grand cultural institutions for hours ca be tiring, so it’s handy that the city’s best park is right next door. Roughly 1000 feet wide and a mile long, the Vondelpark is a delightfully relaxing stretch of ponds, gardens, and lawns, embellished by old-growth trees. There’s also a network of paths perfect for riding a bicycle, which is something every tourist to Amsterdam should try.
WHERE: Barcelona, Spain
His imprint is all over the Barcelona cityscape–a mad genius who experimented with quirky styles of architecture and interior design. The brains behind the city’s astonishing church, La Sagrada Familia, Antoni Gaudi also channeled his remarkable creativity into the terrifically odd Parc Guell. Built in 1914, it is lined with unique, heavily-curved andslanted structures that are cartoonish in appearance. This hillside park is also laden with Trencadis, Gaudi’s iconic style of mosaic using mismatched pieces of shattered glass. What makes this whimsical park all the more memorable are its sprawling views across Barcelona.
Princes Street Gardens
WHERE: Edinburgh, Scotland
The Princes Street Gardens are gorgeous yet they have to fight to keep the attention of visitors. That’s because looming above Edinburgh’s favorite park is one of the world’s most renowned buildings. Edinburgh Castle is magnificent from all angles. From nowhere, though, does it look more intimidating than far below in the lush expanses of this park. Due to being spacious–about 37 acres–visitors can always find a quiet, secluded spot from which to relax under the park’s trees and stare up at the fortifications of the 900-year-old castle.
Parc de Bruxelles
WHERE: Brussels, Belgium
When a park borders a Royal palace, you can be confident it’ll be beautiful and meticulously maintained. Which is a fine description for Parc de Bruxelles, which has landscaping just as impressive as the architecture of the adjoining Royal Palace of Brussels. At 32 acres in size, it is one of the largest parks in the city and is surprisingly quiet considering its central location, right on the edge of the city’s historic Old Town, which is its main tourist zone. The city’s first public park has a pleasing array of ponds, fountains, statues, lawns, and old-growth trees.