It’s hard to resist a garden in full bloom, especially one sampling every color of the rainbow. While one can easily find a slew of scenic gardens and public parks in just about any city, there are a few European destinations boasting quite impressive flowerbeds this season. From larger-than-life palace grounds and artist-inspiring, free-growing shrubs to an island dedicated to flowers, here are eight gardens definitely worth an afternoon stroll.
Mirabell Palace Gardens: Salzburg, Austria
Austria is almost synonymous with picturesque mountains and evergreen hills, but don’t underestimate its flower-packed gardens. The Mirabell Palace in Salzburg underwent a complete redesign in 1689 and was renovated again in 1730. In addition to endless color, this particular palace showcases a series of statues representing Roman gods including Minerva, Venus, Juno, Jupiter, Hercules and Apollo. Adding to its unique flair is the Dwarf Garden, including a series of dwarf marble statues dating back to the time of Archbishop Franz Anton Harrach. “The Sound of Music” tour participants can revel in the fun fact that the Mirabell Gardens appear in the background of the famous “Do-Re-Mi” number. The gardens are open year-round, although times vary depending on the day.
Alhambra and Generalife Gardens: Granada, Spain
If you plan on visiting Spain anytime soon, sticking solely to Madrid and Barcelona would be a misguided choice. While these cities are ideal for surf, sun and shopping, Granada houses one of Europe’s most beautiful gardens. Originally constructed to serve as a summer retreat for Muslim emirs, the Generalife boasts gardens consisting of fountains, pools, flowers and trees. If the sweet-smelling roses don’t impress you, perhaps the stunning view of the Alhambra’s Nasrid Palaces and the distant mountains will. Generalife literally translates to “Architect’s Garden,” so be prepared for some awe-inspiring design details. Tours of the Generalife Gardens go daily from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., with extended hours between March and October.
Monet’s Gardens: Giverny, France
Anyone who’s seen a Monet piece can appreciate his deep aesthetic for color. Unlike the more tamed flowerbeds found in Europe’s most decadent palaces, Monet’s Garden in Giverny is much like the artist’s work – wild, lush and romantic. After all, his famous “The Water-Lily Pond“ depicts the tranquil scene found in this place he called home. Adding to the garden’s complexity is its division into two contrasting parts: the Clos Normand flower garden and a water garden designed with Japanese elements. Giverny, a day trip from Paris, is in a small province that takes you back in time, allowing visitors to walk in Monet’s shoes for a day. Stop by the garden from late March to November between the hours of 9:30 a.m. and 6 p.m.
Mainau Island: Lake Constance, Germany
Far from your typical garden, Mainau Island in Germany hosts a colorful blur of flower gardens, butterfly sanctuary and palace dating back to 1853. Located near the town of Konstanz and close to the Switzerland border, Mainau Island offers the perfect view of Lake Constance. The spring season kicks off in March with an annual orchid show. Roses bloom in June, so make sure to stop by the Italian Rose Garden to view the flowers laid out in a geometric design complete with detailed sculptures and fountains. Mainau is accessible via boat, bus or car, and there is a pedestrian bridge leading from the parking area to the island.
Royal Botanic Gardens: Kew, London, England
A scenic ride on the Tube brings you to Kew Gardens, an impressive 300 acres of flower power. Created in 1759 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2003, Kew continues to be a top tourist attraction in London. Highlights include the Queen’s Garden and Aquatic Garden. Get ready for a blast of humidity as you enter the Aroid House, which features various tropical plants. Kew Gardens is open daily beginning from 10:00 a.m., with varying closing times.
Keukenhof Gardens: Lisse, Netherlands
It’s hard to exclude the Netherlands when the topic is gardens, as the country is typically associated with green grass and fields of neverending color. Also known as the Garden of Europe, the Keukenhof Gardens, in Lisse, take the prize for world’s largest flower garden, with roughly seven million seeds planted each year. Just a bus ride away from Amsterdam, Lisse is a quiet escape from the hustle and bustle of big city life. The garden is open between March and May, with mid-April being the best time to visit and see the tulips. Keukenhof Castle is open year-round for visitors, so even if you miss out on flower season, you can still stop by for various festivals and classical music performances taking place on the estate grounds.
Read more about the Keukenhof Gardens.
Kromeriz Castle Gardens: Kromeriz, Czech Republic
History buffs hit the jackpot with the Gardens and Castle at Kromeriz in the Czech Republic, which was previously used as an Olomouc residence for bishops and archbishops in the 17th century after the Thirty Years’ War. Originally founded in 1497, the Gothic-style building with Renaissance-inspired detail was later destroyed by a Swedish army and redesigned in Baroque style. The Flower Garden hosts an array of colorful flora, antique statues and rare species of trees, and is complemented by the Chateau Garden. In 1998, it was awarded the prestigious designation of UNESCO World Heritage Site. Stop by year-round; opening hours vary by season.
Garden of Ninfa: Cisterna di Latina, Italy
Last but certainly not least is a garden sporting a vast variety of fauna including the very rare and beautiful brown trout. Birdwatchers will also find Ninfa in Italy a desirable place to visit so they can try to identify all 152 species flying above their heads. The garden has an interesting history; it includes the remains of Ninfa, an ancient city during Roman times. Time permitting, stop by the walled garden of the fortress – it requires an additional fee but is well worth the cost. The Garden of Ninfa is generally open to the public for guided tours during limited hours from April to October, in an effort to protect its delicate environment. Rome is about 40 miles away, and most tourists use a combination of trains and taxis to get to the grounds without a hitch.