Relaxing, scenic, and also an insightful portrait of the destination at hand, botanical gardens provide a unique snapshot of local culture and wildlife. We’ve found eight of the world’s loveliest gardens that merit more than just a quick stroll. (Our gorgeous featured image of an orchid garden is © Janelle Lugge, 2013 and Used under licence from Shutterstock.com)
1) Jardim Botânico, Rio de Janeiro
In addition to being a horticultural research capital, Rio’s Jardim Botânico is a stunning display of tropical flora. Containing more than 6,500 species, numerous greenhouses, and incredible views (the garden is situated below the right arm of the famous Christ the Redeemer statue), it’s a must-visit for cariocas and visitors alike.
2) Kew Gardens, London
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kew Gardens dates back several centuries. The 121-hectare expanse in south-west London includes thousands of different species, as well as greenhouses, outdoor sculpture exhibitions, a museum, and more.
3) Monet’s Gardens, Giverny
No, Monet’s paintings weren’t surrealism – fact is, the landscapes he painted really were that gorgeous. At Giverny, visitors can see his works come to life. Look for water lily-dotted ponds, wisteria-covered bridges, and colourful flower gardens.
4) Kirstenbosch National Botanic Garden, Cape Town
Located at the foot of distinctive Table Mountain, Kirstenbosch National Botanic Garden was founded 100 years ago in an effort to preserve South Africa’s unique ecology. A large conservatory showcases different species, while Zimbabwean stone sculptures decorate the outdoor gardens.
5) Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, New York City
The Brooklyn Botanic Gardens are a favourite yearlong urban escape for both locals and tourists. The 52-acre garden is a destination in the spring for its cherry tree esplanade, while the C. V. Starr Bonsai museum is another popular attraction.
6) Byodoin, Kyoto
Though it’s just shy of five acres, this garden is now ranked as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Featuring an 11th-century Buddhist Temple, Byodoin boasts classic elements of a Japanese garden: a pond, pavilions, bridges, and cherry trees.
7) Seychelles National Botanic Gardens, Victoria
Those after lush flora shouldn’t miss the Seychelles National Botanic Gardens. Filled with tropical jungle plants, including the national coco de mer tree and numerous spice and fruit-bearing species, the garden also hosts populations of fruit bats and giant tortoises.
8) Tohono Chul Park, Tucson
There’s more to desert ecology than prickly cacti. At Tohono Chul Park in Arizona, a vibrant hummingbird garden attracts the birds with fragrant honeysuckle plants, while indigenous salvia and species of succulents populate other areas of the park. The historic, on-site adobe house provides a snapshot of desert life.
Written by insider city guide series Hg2 | A Hedonist’s guide to… whose guide covers the best hotels, restaurants, bars, clubs, sights, shops and spas