Europe is one of the most popular destinations on earth. The many unique countries enjoy a thriving tourism industry year round, and for good reason. Europe is home to some of the most diverse and historical cities in the world. The attractions are endless and the culture is thriving. Alongside this, its natural reserves and rural areas are truly breathtaking to behold.
If you’re someone who loves both the urban and the natural, picking your ideal European destination can be tricky. Fortunately, many cities across the continent are home to beautiful parks, which provide a green respite from the hustle and bustle of the town centers.
Here are 17 of the very best city parks to help you choose the perfect European break for you.
17. Parque de Maria Luisa in Seville, Spain
Seville has earned itself the title of the ‘real Spain’. Its traditional cuisine, architecture, flamenco style and penchant for bullfighting makes it the perfect Spanish archetype. However, in the summer months, the paved streets heat up quick and the sun can be scorching.
Because of this, Parque de Maria Luisa is a crucial part of the city’s charm. Sheltered by vast trees, it provides picturesque shadows over the quaint paths and paved squares. The park was formerly a palace garden and there are countless ornate pavilions and fountains to spot. You can explore on foot, by bike or in the horse and carts, which are available to rent. With many species of exotic and domestic plants and animals, it’s the perfect place to enjoy a cool and relaxing siesta.
16. Tempelhofer Feld in Berlin, Germany
The German capital is home to many attractions remaining from WWII and the subsequent iron curtain era. Tempelhofer Feld stands as a wonderful representation of the German character and their relationship with their turbulent past.
The park was once a military parade ground, which opened to the public on weekends and holidays. In 1920, an airport was built. However, 88 years later, the stretch of land was once again transformed into a park of the people. Today, it’s a hotspot for local athletes, with facilities for skating and cycling. There’s also an urban gardening project, which provides a quaint and picturesque area for picnics – or just for a quick rest!
15. Bernardine Gardens in Vilnius, Lithuania
Tucked away in the Baltics, Lithuania remains one of Europe’s most beautiful hidden gems. With a rich history, the capital city of Vilnius tells an important story through its architecture, culture, and people. Nowhere is this diverse past celebrated so perfectly than in the Bernardine Gardens.
Originally created in the 18th century by local artist, Vladislovas Štrausas, the recent restorations has renovated the gardens to their former glory. The riverside paths, beautiful fountains and central square are all identical to their original pre-WWII versions. The botanical elements of the park also hold an exciting history. Among the various awe-inspiring species of trees, the garden is home to three of the oldest oaks in Vilnius. The eldest dates back an impressive 300 years! The park also has a modern twist; the musical fountain in the central square is an exciting attraction that plays both classical and modern tunes.
14. Park Eduardo VII, Lisbon, Portugal
Lisbon remains one of the most underrated cities in Europe and the Park Eduardo VII is one of its finest attractions. Its prime location offers panoramic views of the Portuguese capital and is a local favorite spot for relaxing on warm summer evenings. The vast stretches of green space also make it ideal for festivals and cultural celebrations.
If you lucky enough to be in Lisbon between May and September, be sure to attend one of the free Jazz concerts – it will be the highlight of your trip! The venue has such a welcoming and friendly atmosphere that it’s the perfect spot to strike up a conversation and get to know some new people.
13. Vondelpark in Amsterdam, Netherlands
Since it was established as the epicenter of the hippy movement in the 1960s, Vondelpark has been a lively outdoor community area that is enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. Celebrating the Dutch love of cycling, the best way to explore is on a bike. The many paths will lead you around the lakes, trees, and art that characterize this natural paradise.
Throughout the year, there is always plenty to do in the park. Yoga classes are a common occurrence and the open-air theatre hosts festivals, dance, cabaret, comedy shows and children’s performances. There are also many high-quality cafes and restaurants where you can grab a bite. Although the park boasts over 10 million visitors per year, you can always find a quiet spot to relax and enjoy the nature.
12. Lycabettus Hill in Athens, Greece
This vast limestone mound is one of Athens’ defining features. Located on the outskirts, it provides spectacular views over the city that has long been known as the cradle of Western civilization. Covered with soaring pine trees, it’s a perfect way to get out of the main city and enjoy the sights of Athens from afar.
You can spend a day hiking up the mount or there’s a cliff railway if you’d prefer not to exert yourself. Once at the top, the attractions are numerous. The chapel of St. George crowns the hill and there are many restaurants to enjoy a classic Italian meal. However, by far the main lure of the hill is the stunning open-air theatre. As great outdoor celebrations have long been a tradition in Greece, it provides a perfect spot to soak up some local culture. Both native groups and international artists headline the stage, including Black Sabbath, Massive Attack, and B.B. King.
Directions: Mount Lycabettus, Athens 114 71, Greece
11. Phoenix Park in Dublin, Ireland
This 354-year-old national park is one of the main attractions for visitors of the Irish capital. It’s currently home to the president’s house and headquarters for the police service, but the surrounding gardens have endless surprises and jaw-dropping sights.
Animal lovers will be filled with glee at the free-roaming deer herds. Plus, the onsite zoo is home to almost 100 different species. If you’re interested in exploring the cities history, then the Viking cemetery and the Wellington monument are essential stops. Alongside this, Ashdown castle stands as the oldest building in the park. For those who enjoy more adrenaline in their adventure, be sure to head down to the motor rally track, which hosts an annual race event.
10. MFO Park, Zürich, Switzerland
When you think of the word ‘park,’ you imagine luscious sweeping fields and wooded hillsides. However, Zürich has taken the concept to a whole new level. As one of the best examples of urban green-spaces in the world, the park is comprised of vertical steel structures, each intertwined with a myriad of trees and plants.
The impressive structure is built around the bones of an old factory, masterfully up-cycled into a true work of art! It’s mesmerizing the sit beneath the canopy and shut out the city for even just a few moments. Boasting over 104 species of plants, the site has won numerous international awards. Despite this, it’s still a well-kept secret that hasn’t yet been tainted by large crowds.
9. City Park in Budapest, Hungary
Quickly becoming one of the most popular destinations in Eastern Europe, Budapest is such a hit because it has something for everything. This wide variety of enjoyment and activities is also evident in the city’s most impressive park. With so much on offer, it’s advisable you dedicate a whole day to exploring.
Vajdahunyad Castle stands at the center and provides an iconic view from all angles. The impressive structure was built in 1896 as part of the celebration for 1000 years as an independent Hungarian state. Across the river stands the famed Széchenyi Baths, one of the best examples of the city’s thermal-spa culture. With naturally heated waters, it’s the ideal way to relax after walking the expansive lawns of the park. There is also a zoo and the Museum of Hungarian Architecture to visit.
8. Drottningholm Slott in Stockholm, Sweden
Stockholm’s charm comes from its location. Situated on an archipelago in the South East of Sweden, the collection of islands rivals Vienna and Amsterdam for its picturesque waterways and riverside parks. Just out of the city, Drottingholm Castle is a must-see landmark, with vast grounds that provide visitors with one of the more breathtaking city-park experiences in Europe.
Spanning 1400 acres, the park has expanded over time. The inner section dates back to the late 1800s and is comprised of luscious tree avenues, decorative fountains, hedge mazes and long stretches of green lawn. The outer circle of the park came later, but its spectacular combination of canals, bridges and open grass are well-known for unmissable vistas. The grounds are also home to the Chinese Pavilion, an oriental style structure gifted to the Royal family in 1770.
7. Tiergarten Park, Berlin, Germany
Berlin is awash with fascinating and unique parks. The most popular is Tiergarten, in the heart of the city. During the summer, this park is one the most popular favorite to while away the hours, as it’s always alive with activity.
For first-time visitors, there are a few essential stops to check off. The famed memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe, the Reichstag Parliament building, and the Brandenburg gate line the eastern edge. The western side is home to the city zoo, numerous restaurants, and the park’s beautiful lake and canal system. Be sure to look out for events taking place, as the venue hosts celebrations throughout the year.
Directions: Großer Tiergarten, Straße des 17. Juni 31, Berlin, Germany
6. Garden of Mont des Arts, Brussels, Belgium
This stunning city park only exists thanks to a spontaneous decision by King Leopold II in the late 1800s. He decided that the site, which then housed a busy neighborhood, would be flattened to make room for a ‘Mont des Arts.’ Unfortunately, the project was a slow starter and the space remained empty for many years. It wasn’t until 1910 that an important event in the city forced the commission of a temporary garden.
Today, this last-minute provision is a much-loved part of the city. It offers avenues of fountains and flower gardens, alongside the monumental staircase that has since become its most iconic feature. The impressive grounds are reason enough to visit the park, but the spectacular views it offers are equally magnificent. The gardens provides one of the best vistas of Brussels that can be found – so don’t forget your camera!
Directions: Mont des Arts, Bruxelles, Belgium
5. Parc Guell in Barcelona, Spain
Gaudi’s stamp in one of the defining feature of Barcelona. The modernist architect combined his love of nature and geometry, to create a visual aesthetic that today has become the symbol of this famed Spanish city.
Gaudi created Parc Guell in the early 1900s, first opening it to the public in 1926. The breathtaking intricacy of his sculptures and mosaics are perfectly intertwined with Spanish nature, to create a park like no other in the world. Wandering his beautiful creations is like entering a dreamland. The cherry on top of the experience is the breathtaking view across the city offered by the park’s main square.
4. Villa Borghese, Rome, Italy
Rome is home to some of the most iconic sights and buildings in the world. Considering this, it’s understandable that the majestic Villa Borghese often does not receive the credit it deserves. Spanning 80 hectares, there’s so much to do here that I recommend dedicating an entire day to the trip.
For nature lovers, the bio-park is a true highlight. Showcasing life of all kinds, this zoo/botanical garden has so much to see. If you’re looking for a more authentic Roman experience, then the Villa Medici and Galleria Borghese showcase classic renaissance architecture and Italian artwork.
3. Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris, France
Often described as the Central Park of Paris, these iconic gardens are regularly seen on TV, film and in works of photography and art. Their long chestnut groves blaze orange in the autumn and provide much-needed shade from the summer sun. Originally donated to the children of the city by Napoleon, it’s now a favored spot for Parisians and visitors of all ages.
It’s impossible not to be caught up in the romantic mood of the park – one the best dates I’ve ever had was spent wandering its ornate terraces! With traditional Punch & Judy shows, a carousel and horse rides on offer, it’s also the ideal family destination. Even if you’re just passing through on a business trip or city break, you have to take a moment to enjoy its enchanting charm.
2. Hyde Park in London, England
Made famous as one of England’s premier music venues, Hyde Park is a must-see attraction, whether you’re there for a concert or not. Set over 350 acres, the combination of green spaces, monuments, outdoor activities and local nature make it the perfect destination for the whole family.
The park is also home to some of London’s most important monuments. The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain is located in the center. Alternatively, the nearby Kensington gardens – made famous by Peter Pan – hosts art installations from prominent British sculptors. Speakers Corner, in the north-west of the site, is a notorious public space where speakers from all walks of life can share their ideas and beliefs.
1. El Retiro Park, Madrid, Spain
Located near the center of one of Spain’s most thriving cities, El Retiro Park does exactly as the name promises: offers a place to retire from fast-paced city life. Originally created for the country’s royalty, today locals and tourists alike can enjoy the beautiful gardens that are, literally, fit for a King!
The central lake is a picturesque lagoon, crowned with the breathtaking Alfonso XII monument – a grand pillared crescent complete with numerous life-size statues. Exploring the grounds, you’ll stumble across the rose garden, a vast walkway of statues and even a muster of beautiful peacocks that hang out in the Jardines de Cecilio Rodríguez. However, don’t forget to keep an eye on the sky in this area, as the birds are known for swooping down from the above trees!
Directions: El Retiro Park, Plaza de la Independencia, 7, Madrid, Spain
There are so many fantastic destinations in Europe that its hard to narrow it down to the perfect list. However, the city parks are all definitely worth adding to your bucket list! Not only do they allow you a break from their respective city’s noise and business, they provide unmissable attractions in their own right.
If you know of any other green spaces that deserve a spot then be sure to leave a comment below – we’d love to hear your ideas!