By Briana Seftel
Everyone needs a little breath of fresh air, and what better place to escape the hustle and bustle of a city than a garden? Whether you’re a botanist or an amateur gardener, you’ll want to seek out these stunning botanical gardens that are truly nature’s gift to the world.
Jardim Botânico • Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Founded in 1808 by King John VI of Portugal, the Jardim Botânico is one of the most awe-inspiring places in a city known for its beauty. The garden was originally intended for the cultivation of spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, but was opened to the public in 1822. Visitors can stroll the 340-acre garden, home to over 8,000 plant species including the Victoria Regia water lilies. Lying at the foot of Corcovado Mountain, Jardim Botânico offers stunning views of Rio’s iconic Christ the Redeemer.
Nong Nooch Tropical Botanical Garden • Chonburi Province, Thailand
Located in the Chonburi Province of eastern Thailand, Nong Nooch is a 500-acre garden and a world unto itself. With multiple themed gardens, 650 different species of orchids, a skywalk, cultural performances and much more, you could easily spend an entire day exploring this exotic wonderland. The best way to see this botanical garden-meets-theme-park is by bicycle, which are available to rent on site.
Kew Gardens • London, England
Situated 30 minutes from Central London, Kew Gardens holds the impressive title as having the "largest and most diverse botanical and mycological collections in the world." Walking around this 300-acre garden and you will begin to understand its breadth, from the Victorian-era glasshouse to the treetop walkway. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kew Gardens is the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of London. It even has its own police force, the Kew Constabulary.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden • Cape Town, South Africa
Nestled on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain in Cape Town, Kirstenbosch Garden is a jaw-dropping oasis filled with flora unique to South Africa. Opened in 1913, it was the world’s first botanic garden dedicated to indigenous flora. Explore on your own or take a free 90-minute guided tour of the garden’s main attractions including a treetop walkway affectionately known as the Boomslang. Kirstenbosch is also a popular starting place to hike Table Mountain.
Singapore Botanic Gardens • Singapore
In the heart of Singapore, the Singapore Botanic Gardens are one of the most iconic attractions in the so-called “garden city.” Established in 1859, the tropical garden began as a British colonial botanic garden and became an important place for the cultivation of rubber. Today, it’s home to an astonishing 10,000 species of plants including 1,000 species of orchids, some named after celebrities and heads of state.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden • Brooklyn, New York
Can’t make it to Japan for cherry blossom season? Head to Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Every spring, this garden in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park neighborhood hosts an annual festival celebrating the pretty pink blossom. Home to more than 200 cherry trees donated by the Japanese government, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden is one of the few places outside Japan to see cherry blossoms. If that wasn’t enough, the garden also has a Japanese pond, rose garden, and glasshouse housing a number of tropical plants.
Atocha Botanical Garden • Madrid, Spain
You’ll need to head to an unlikely place to find this magical garden. Lining the concourse of Madrid’s largest train station is a stunning 43,055 sq ft covered tropical botanical garden. Home to nearly 7,000 plants from 260 different species, the garden also has small lakes with freshwater fish and turtles, and palm trees that nearly reach the top of the domed station. Who said waiting for a train had to be boring?
Claude Monet’s Gardens • Giverny, France
See your favorite Monet painting come to life at Claude Monet’s House and Gardens in Giverny, a popular day trip from Paris. Once the home of the famed Impressionist painter, the estate was turned into a public, nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the beauty of Monet’s vision. Visitors can tour the charming home and stroll the two gardens: the Clos-Normand and water garden. Spring is an especially wonderful time to visit, with a colorful array of tulips and dripping wisteria.
Honorable Mentions: Chicago Botanic Garden, The Butchart Gardens, Montreal Botanical Garden, Gardens at Versailles, Padua Botanical Garden.