Historically, the description of a garden has been characterized as everything from vegetable to floral, manicured to overgrown, manmade to natural. Varying greatly by region and culture, the existence and evolution of this type of designated outdoor space cannot be adequately explained in one all-encompassing definition; it can however be simply described as having 2 universal characteristics: nature and tranquility. So, to showcase the amazing collaboration between human talent and Mother Nature, here are 11 exquisite gardens around the world that are sure to bring not only extreme peace, but genuine appreciation to anyone visits them.
11. Mount Stewart, Northern Ireland
Found on the eastern coast of Northern Ireland, about 25 km from Belfast, the gardens at Mount Stewart are frequently recognized as some of the most beautiful in the world. The estate was built in the mid-1880s for the Marquesses of Londonderry under the leadership of architects George Dance and Vitruvius Morrison. Along with the world-renowned gardens, the property includes the main residence building, a variety of outbuildings and monuments and the Vane-Tempest-Stewart family burial ground. Today, the estate is owned and maintained by the National Trust and visitors can explore both the house and the spectacular grounds, which feature the sunk garden, shamrock garden and Italian garden, to name a few. Lady Londonderry was known for her love of Irish and Greek Mythology, and elements from both of these traditions can be seen along the walkways of both the formal gardens and the more wooded, natural grounds.
10. Dumbarton Oaks, USA
This stunning escape in the heart of Washington DC was once the private residence and gardens of Robert Woods Bliss and his wife Mildred. In the 1940s, the couple donated the lower portion of their 53- acre property to the United States Government for the creation of a public park, and the upper portion to Harvard University for research in Byzantine studies and landscape art. Today, the formal gardens of the Harvard building and the more ‘naturistic’ public park are the two components of the Dumbarton Oaks Gardens, a property that still retains much of the design created by Mildred Bliss and lead landscape architect Beatrix Farrand. Visitors can marvel at this stunning (and quiet!) piece of beauty hidden away amid the bustle of the Georgetown neighborhood and appreciate the meticulously thought out details of the garden, from each center piece tree to the strategically placed benches and urns. Originally created to mimic the feel of ‘country’ in the city, this garden definitely delivers and is the perfect place to snag some peace in an otherwise hectic place.
9. Villa d’Este Gardens, Italy
Stepping into the gardens at Villa d’Este in Tivoli, Italy is akin to stepping into a parallel universe of unimaginable beauty. The grandiosity of the seemingly ground-to-sky landscaping and water fixtures prove that the original creator (a 16th century cardinal) spared no expense in creating this private piece of paradise. Today, the property is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, recognized as one of the first examples of giardini delle meraviglie (literally ‘wonderland gardens’), as well as the blueprint for what is now known as the characteristic ‘European Garden.’ Open to the public since the 1920s, admission grants access to the palace and gardens, and visitors can take in the surroundings from any one of the tiered terraces (reminiscent of the ancient hanging gardens of Babylon) or stroll through the manicured lower grounds amid countless ponds, fountains, basins and waterfalls. Located just 35 km from Rome, this garden is a must-see for anyone visiting the area.
8. Majorelle Garden, Morocco
This 12 acre garden found in the heart of Marrakesh is a plethora of exotic plants, ponds and colors. The tireless, 40 year efforts of French artist Jacques Majorelle (1886-1962) live on in the astounding beauty that greets visitors as they meander through the many shaded lanes and walkways, and encounter the aroma of countless water lilies and lotus flowers that float majestically in the numerous pools. The vibrant coloring of all garden fixtures really adds to the exotic vibe of the garden and the sheer height and magnitude of the landscaping creates the isolated feeling of a truly secluded sanctuary within the city.
7. Yuyuan Garden, China
With ‘yu’ meaning ‘peaceful’ in Chinese, it’s not hard to understand why Yuyuan Garden in Shanghai is also known as Yu Garden. Though now attached to a bustling market that attracts millions of yearly visitors, the serenity of the 5 acre gardens are not lost, with ample opportunities to get lost among the many ponds, walkways and overgrown walls. The garden’s history dates back hundreds of years (originally created as a private escape for the Ming Dynasty) and has weathered many changes in owners and national political landscapes. After being neglected, abandoned and severely damaged, the gardens underwent a privately funded restoration project in the 1950s, before finally being opened to the public in 1961. The exquisite grounds now feature several rockeries, ponds, halls and cloisters, as well as the infamous Jade Rock, widely considered the greatest treasure of the property.
6. The Alhambra and Generalife Gardens, Spain
A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Alhambra and Generalife complexes date back to the medieval period (the Alhambra may be even older) as the fortresses and royal residences of ruling emirs. Located in Grenada, on the south coast of Spain, the property saw both expansion and neglect over time as rules and political climates changed in the region. Today, the site encompasses a vast area composed of various palaces, courtyards and outbuildings, all surrounded by and scattered with some of the most magnificent gardens in the world. For visitors, the site provides an unparalleled trip through history displaying both magnificent Eastern architecture as well as the early advent of characteristic European landscaping. The fountains, pools, arched hedges and cobblestone and tile walkways create an aura of romance and elegance not found anywhere else in the world. For an upgraded experience, stay at the gardens past dusk and watch the property transform into a fairy tale world as it becomes illuminated by hundreds of lights.
5. Nong Nooch Tropical Botanical Gardens, Thailand
The Nong Nooch Tropical Botanical Gardens north of Sattahip feature 500 acres of mind-boggling landscape design. Opened to the public in 1980, the property currently contains several design divisions, including French, European, Stone and Cactus and Succulent Gardens, as well as one of the world`s greatest displays of the ancient and endangered cycads plant group (the garden also serves as an important conservation and research facility for this species). For a 500 baht entrance fee (approximately 14 USD) visitors gain access to the entire property, as well as an awesome variety of live entertainments, such as traditional Thai and elephant shows. Make sure to wear comfortable shoes, because the expansive gardens are easily a whole-day excursion packed with fun for the whole family.
4. The Butchart Gardens, Canada
This magnificent garden was originally created by Jennie Butchart as a “sunken garden” to beautify a former stone quarry on the family’s property. The addition of the Japanese and Italian gardens in the early 1990s catapulted the site into national fame, with the 1920s bringing upwards of 50,000 visitors. Since then, the garden has expanded to include a Mediterranean garden, rose garden, and concert lawn walk. Remaining a family-owned business, the gardens now attract over 1 million people each year and boasts over 900 floral and plant varieties. Though the site is open year round, the most show-stopping arrangements can be seen from March to October, when garden admission rates hover around the $30 mark. Taking a stroll among the many spectacularly manicures flower beds, fountains, ponds and tree arrangements is truly an indulgence for the senses, and one of the best reasons to take a trip to Victoria, BC.
3. Dubai Miracle Gardens, UAE
A shockingly amazing display of floral design and creativity, the Dubai Miracle Garden is a mandatory destination for anyone visiting the city. The 17-acre grounds feature countless intricate flower beds, as well as an extravagant variety of fixtures—everything from vandalized cars, entire houses, and historic carriages and train cars -completely adorned in and beautified by floral arrangements. Walking through the gardens is like a giant feast for the eyes, with new explosions of color and design visible at every turn and from every angle. The garden blooms year-round with arrangements changing by the season, so visitors have the unique opportunity to catch a once in a lifetime display each time they visit. Since opening in 2013, the garden has become one of the city`s most popular attractions, featuring over 45 million flowers and drawing hundreds of thousands yearly to this incredible display of floral creativity.
2. Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, France
On the extremely long list of reasons to visit the French Riviera, the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild in Sainte Jean Cap Ferrat should be somewhere near the top. Built in the early 1900s, the villa became the winter residence of Beatrice de Rothschild until 1933, when she donated the estate and all of its contents to the Academie des Beaux Arts. The property features one of the most beautiful outdoor estates in the world, surrounding the villa with a collection of gardens, including a rose, exotic, Provençal, Japanese, stone, Florentine, French, Spanish and Sevres garden. These 9 unique gardens showcase the brilliantly creative mind of the designer and provide visitors with the chance to get lost amid hundred year old olive trees, extravagant flower beds and whimsical musical fountains, all while being surrounded by unparalleled views of the Mediterranean.
1. Keukenhof Gardens, Netherlands
Consistently recognized as one of the most beautiful gardens in the world, the Keukenhof Gardens are found about 37 km west of Amsterdam. The site dates back to the 15th century as the “kitchen garden” of Teylingen Castle. The gardens seen today are based on the foundation created by lead architect Jan David Zocher and his son Louis Paul Zocher who redesigned the grounds in 1857. The property was opened to the public in 1950 with a dazzling display of flowers that bloom in springtime, founding its current international identity as the world’s premier Spring Garden. Visitors now have just 8 weeks to marvel at the more than 7 million flowering bulbs that exhibit the very best of what the Dutch horticultural world has to offer. Open next year from March 24- May 16, visitors can check out hundreds of blooming varieties of tulips, hyacinths and daffodils, as well as enjoy the site’s many children’s events, flower shows and “inspirational” garden exhibits.