Even in the most chaotic cities, gardens big and small are a balm for the soul, enwrapping us in tranquility. Beyond giving us a botanical education, gardens also reveal the artistry of different landscaping styles and offer insights into a destination’s culture, history and geology.
1. Gulbenkian Gardens, Lisbon, Portugal
Paths weaving through dark woodland and thick brush suddenly open to a sun-filled meadow in these gardens around the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, a major cultural and art institution. Streams crisscross the leafy landscape where visitors often lounge beside a lake, attend a con-cert at the al fresco amphitheater or bring binoculars for birdwatching.
2. Gardens of Suan Pakkad Palace, Bangkok, Thailand
Set in the unlikeliest location, beside a car-choked highway, a verdant oasis surrounds the elegant teak Thai houses comprising this former palace cum art museum. Behind tall walls, orange jasmine, heliconia, golden shower trees and other botanicals grow in this expanse where small tributaries flow from a broad pond.
3. Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, Cape Town, South Africa
Sprawling along the slopes of Table Mountain, this tiered garden is renowned for its extensive variety of native flora, including endangered species. The stepped terrain holds a Braille trail and numerous individual gardens, some devoted to ancient cycads, and medicinal and fragrant plants.
4. Japanese Gardens, Buenos Aires, Argentina
In this harmonious garden of cherry, ginkgo and other Japan-sourced trees as well as native flora, vibrant crimson footbridges span streams and a koi-stocked lake. Vines drape a pergola near a tumbling waterfall, an ornate tea house offers private ceremonies and a zigzag-shaped bridge provides different views from each angle along its length.
5. Seoullo 7017 Skygarden, Seoul, South Korea
Soaring high above Seoul’s main railroad station, an abandoned highway overpass has been transformed into a half-mile, green promenade. More than 20,000 flowers, shrubs and trees from all over South Korea are sprinkled along this elevated corridor that’s also peppered with entertainment options, including children’s trampolines and a shallow, tiled, foot-soaking pool.
6. Gardens of the Rodin Museum, Paris, France
This 7-acre garden has two tiny themed walks beside a central lawn: the Garden of Springs with winding paths, miniature pools and trickling springs and the Garden of Orpheus with blooms amid rockeries. The Thinker and other Rodin sculptures dot the landscape where some 2,000 rose bushes thrive.
7. Reykjavik Botanic Garden, Reykjavik, Iceland
In a country noted for its austere landscape, the 60-foot-high Sitka spruce trees clustered in this garden are a treat. Visitors who stroll the network of paths winding through shady wood-land and sunny stretches can explore myriad botanical collections of native flora and specimens from as far away as the Himalayas.
8. Gardens of the Golden Rock Inn, Nevis, Caribbean
Renowned designer Raymond Jungles transformed the grounds of this former sugar plantation into a wild garden lush with African tulips, lipstick palms, bougainvillea and other blooms. Splashes of reds, oranges, and purples stand out against a blanket of green pierced by volcanic boulders.
9. El Capricho Park, Madrid, Spain
Despite its distance from downtown Madrid, horticulture enthusiasts flock to this expansive park that was commissioned in the 18th century as a garden playground for aristocrats. Its romantic vibe is evoked by ornamental finds, like a French-style parterre of boxwood hedges, laurel trees arranged in a hide-and-seek labyrinth, elaborate fountains and a striking palace.
10. River Gallery Sculpture Garden, Chattanooga, Tennessee
Overlooking the Tennessee River, this petite garden is speckled with sculptural works by Frank Stella and other notables, with a formal garden giving way to more naturalistic landscaping. On this 2-acre site, a ribbon of a path parallels a slim stream that ends at a tiny cascade where, surprisingly, a bronze of several fish hides.