Just because you’ve opted for a big city break doesn’t mean you can’t get back to nature and into the great outdoors. Many of the largest cities on earth also have a wealth of green urban parks just waiting to be discovered.
Central Park, New York, USA
Probably the most iconic and famous city park in the world has to be Central Park in New York City which has featured in many movies, TV shows and novels. Slap bang in the heart of the cosmopolitan Manhattan district this park covers 843 acres which is owned by the city. Open since 1857, visitors can walk the 130 acres of woodland and enjoy a game of baseball, softball, chess and try a post of fishing. There are also several notable war memorials within Central Park including the 107th United States Infantry and 7th Regiment Memorial. For the kids there are adventure playgrounds, an Alice in Wonderland sculpture and the Ancient Playground. There are also over 21,000 trees in the park and wedding ceremonies are regularly held in the beautiful Conservatory Garden. It’s also worth noting that Central Park is also closed completely on Sundays.
Stanley Park, Vancouver, Canada
Located in picturesque downtown Vancouver is the beautiful Stanley Park which is a huge draw to outdoor adventure enthusiasts. More than eight million visit Stanley Park each year to walk, bike and skate the fully paved trails that run for 14 miles along the sea wall, relax on the beach and capture the native totem poles on film. Covering 404.9 hectares (4.05 km²) Stanley Park is around 10% bigger than Central Park and opened in 1888 and is named in honour of Lord Stanley of Preston, who was the 6th Governor General of Canada. In total there are 200 kilometres (120 miles) of trails and roads in the park as well as half a million trees.
Regents Park, London, UK
One of London’s Royal Parks, Regents Park may be small but it’s surrounded by historical buildings such as Buckingham Palace, St James Palace and Westminster. Within the park itself is a large lake, London Zoo and Regents College. There are deckchairs available for an al fresco picnic in the summer. Covering just 166 hectares Regents Park first opened in 1814. Visitors can browse the immaculately manicured Queen Mary’s Gardens, visit the Wildlife Garden, watch some open air theatre and join in a game of softball, football, rugby and various exercise classes.
Park Güell, Barcelona, Spain
At every turn in the city of Barcelona is iconic architecture from the renowned Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi, from the magnificent Sagrada Familia, structures in the surrounding cosmopolitan Gracia district and the Park Guell. The garden complex successfully combines iconic architecture with a natural setting and is located on the El Carmel hill. Opened in 1914 the park was named after Count Eusebi Güell and was inspired by the great English garden city movement of the time.
Beihai Park, Beijing, China
The Beihai Park is a little piece of calm in the hectic city of Beijing. The historic imperial gardens are located around a sprawling 30 hectare lake and is a great place to rest up and watch locals going about their daily routines. This was probably the site of Great Khan’s Palace and dates back to the 10th century. Traditional calligraphers and artists still work peacefully within the park’s temples, palace and iconic structures. Prior to 1925 the park was reserved for the private use of the Emperor and his Imperial Court only.
Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris, France
The Luxembourg Gardens spans some 224,500 m² (22.5 hectares) yet is only the second largest public park in Paris after the Pere Lachaise Park and Cemetery. The Jardin du Luxembourg is the actually the gardens of the French Senate and the Luxembourg Palace. The park, which opened in 1611, features large swatches of carefully maintained lawns, apple and pear orchards, a puppet theatre and a playground with a carousel for families.
Parco Savello, Rome, Italy
The serene Savello Park is also known as the Giardino degli Aranci (Orange Garden) thanks to the heady orange fragrance on the air from the masses of trees in the park. The park plays host to dramatic performances during the summertime beneath the skies. Grab a seat on the terrace which overlooks the Tiber and St Peters Dome below. The Giardino degli Aranci features a fountain and the remains of the 10th century’s Savelli Castle walls.
By Julie Bowman