With summer here, our thoughts have turned to gardens.
We love visiting gardens on our travels. And we’ve been fortunate to stroll through some stunning examples, including in England, Hawaii, France, Mexico, South Africa – and also closer-to-home where we live in British Columbia, Canada.
So today, we spread our wings to bring you 21 of the most beautiful gardens in the world.
Most beautiful gardens in the world
Note that the following gardens aren’t covered in any particular order (we’ve grouped them by country or continent only).
Most beautiful gardens in Europe
1) Claude Monet’s Garden
Monet Gardens | Website
A quick train ride from Paris takes you to these romantic gardens that feature in the famous artist’s paintings. And like his paintings, Claude Monet’s gardens at his home in Giverny aren’t “manicured” or contained. Rather, they flow like brushstrokes in a profusion of textures and color.
There are two parts to the Monet Gardens – a flower garden in front of his pink house and the famous Japanese-inspired water gardens across the road. (Try not to visit on a holiday weekend, however! We rubbed shoulders with hordes of other visitors all shuffling through.)
2) Gardens of Versailles
Versailles Gardens | Website
Some 600 fountains, 370+ statues, 55 water features, 21 miles of canals and hundreds of acres of flower beds. It’s impossible not to be dazzled by the magnificent gardens of the Palace of Versailles! This is formal French-style gardening at its best.
Created by King Louis XIV, the “Sun King,” the Versailles Gardens took 40 years to complete. Together with the palace, the estate is a UNESCO World Heritage Site today and the second most visited monument in the world.
Keukenhof | Website
One of the world’s largest flower garden, Keukenhof is famous for its tulips, hyacinths, crocuses, daffodils and other spring flowers. More than 7 million flower bulbs are planted every year!
The Keukenhof Gardens are only open for two months in spring, and they’re hugely popular. To avoid the crowds, plan your visit for the late afternoon.
Tip: Several river cruises feature spring tulip cruises – a lovely way to see the gardens.
4) Generalife Garden
Generalife | Website
You’ve heard of the Alhambra – the Moorish palace and fortress in Granada, Spain? The Generalife is a former sultan’s summer palace and estate that’s part of the Alhambra complex.
Meaning “garden of paradise” or “garden of feasts,” the Generalife is perhaps the most charming part of Alhambra, thanks to its water garden courtyard (with a long pool framed by flowerbeds and gorgeous archways), fountains, pebbled walkways, groves of orange trees, colonnades and pavilions.
5) Villa d’Este Gardens
Villa d’Este | Website
Villa d’Este is a sumptuous 16th century mansion about an hour outside of Rome, famous for its breathtaking Italian Renaissance garden.
And oh, these terraced hillside gardens – one of the best gardens in Italy – are magical! Sculptures of frolicking nymphs along with more than 500 fountains catch the eye. The most marvelous water feature is the Fountain of the Organ, complete with a 1571 water organ installed inside that trumpets and plays Renaissance music. It’s little wonder that the villa and gardens are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Beautiful English gardens
6) Kew Royal Botanic Gardens
Kew Gardens | Website
Founded in 1840, Kew Gardens in southwest London are the most famous English gardens.
Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the gardens are home to the world’s largest collection of living plants. Spend the day exploring the enormous Victorian glasshouses and wandering the miles of paths leading to rose gardens, one of the world’s largest herbariums, a tranquil Japanese Garden with stone lanterns and a dripping water basin, and more.
7) Alnwick Garden
Alnwick Garden | Website
Once part of the estate of Alnwick Castle, these spectacular gardens in England date back to 1750. Reinvented by the current Duchess of Northumberland, they are today a source of inspiration for all lovers of gardens. Delight in water sculptures that bring science to life, quirky antique furniture in the country garden, one of the world’s largest treehouses (the lunch restaurant), a cherry orchid, the vegetable garden and the popular bamboo maze.
Must see: The deadly Poison Garden behind black iron gates showcases some 100 toxic plants (only open on guided tours).
Beautiful gardens in Canada
8) Butchart Gardens
Victoria, British Columbia
Butchart Gardens | Website
The Butchart Gardens are the most famous gardens in Victoria, BC – dubbed the “City of Gardens” (where we live). Jennie Butchart, the wife of a wealthy miner, wanted to beautify a limestone quarry, and so, in 1912, she started turning the abandoned pit into a garden.
Today, the family-run gardens include a rose garden (with 2,500 rose bushes), Italian garden (with a flower-studded pond), sunken garden and Japanese garden (with bamboo and fiery Japanese maples).
9) VanDusen Botanical Garden
Vancouver, British Columbia
VanDusen Botanical Garden | Website
In the heart of Vancouver, this 55-acre botanical oasis boasts over 7,500 plant varieties from around the world. Discover an Elizabethan hedge maze, rose garden, rock garden and other themed gardens. Artfully arranged pathways make it easy to stroll about. And by the café, you might even see hummingbirds feeding!
When we lived in Vancouver, we’d take out-of-town visitors to VanDusen. Needless to say, they loved it.
Best gardens in the U.S.
10) Allerton and McBryde Gardens
Allerton and McBryde Gardens | Website
One of our favorite gardens in the world, the Allerton and McBryde Gardens are two side-by-side gardens on the lush “garden isle” of Kauai. And visiting them is one of the best things to do in Kauai. The Allerton Garden, in particular, enchanted us with its whimsical garden “rooms” and fascinating history. (Jackie Kennedy Onassis loved her visit – partly because of the owners’ collection of ballet slippers!)
Read more about the Allerton and McBryde Gardens: These botanical gardens in Kauai are worth ditching your beach chair to visit!
11) Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
Coral Gables, Florida
Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden | Website
South Florida is home to one of the best gardens in the U.S. Named after plant explorer and botanist David Fairchild, the 83-acre Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden showcases a collection of including a palm tree collection, a tropical fruit collection and rare tropical plants around the world, like the “Pride of Burma” with its orchid-like pink flowers.
Its butterfly conservatory with thousands of exotic fluttering butterflies from Central and South America is especially magical to visit. You can even watch caterpillars inside chrysalises turn into butterflies.
12) Atlanta Botanical Garden
Atlanta Botanical Garden | Website
Do you have a crush on orchids? Well, the orchid conservatory at the Atlanta Botanical Garden will set your heart aflutter. These gardens, in the center of Atlanta, are home to one of the world’s largest collections of orchids. Shady woodlands, rose gardens, winding trails, sculptures and a 600-foot-long canopy walk also add to the garden’s appeal.
Beautiful gardens in Africa
13) Le Jardin Marjorelle
Majorelle Garden | Website
It took French painter Jacques Majorelle 40 years to create these beautiful walled gardens surrounding his villa and Cubist art studio in Morocco. He created a labyrinth of alleyways that crisscross on different levels and planted exotic plants from around the world. He also patented the deep cobalt blue color used on the buildings throughout the garden – called “Majorelle Blue.”
In 1980, fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Berge bought the property and restored and added to the gardens. When Saint Laurent died, his ashes were scattered in the rose garden.
Today, the non-profit Majorelle Garden is open to the public and comprises the gardens – complete with burbling fountains, towering palms, crimson bougainvillea and interesting cacti – plus a Berber Museum.
14) Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens
Cape Town, South Africa
Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens | Website
Regarded as one of the best botanical gardens in the world, Kirstenbosch spreads out over 1,300+ acres at the base of Table Mountain in Cape Town.
You’ll find landscaped gardens along with two hiking trails up Table Mountain, winding through natural forest. It showcases more than 7,000 native South African species unique to the region – the magnificent King Protea flowers are the crowning glory. Also popular is the Tree Canopy Walkway (known locally as “The Boomslang” or “tree snake”), where you walk along a raised curved bridge high above the treetops.
Recommended reading: Check out these 12 unmissable things to do in Cape Town!
Beautiful Asian gardens
Kenrokuen Garden | Website
Once the outer garden of Kanazawa Castle, the spacious Kenrokuen gardens were created over two centuries to be the “perfect” garden. Indeed, the name “Kenrokuen” means the garden containing the six elements of a beautiful garden – spaciousness, tranquility, artificial construction, antique elegance, water features and a magnificent view.
One of the three most beautiful landscaped gardens in Japan, these gardens feature almost 9,000 trees, man-made winding streams, the oldest fountain in Japan and a teahouse built in 1774.
16) Singapore Botanic Gardens
Singapore Botanic Gardens | Website
Take a walk on the wild side. Spreading out over 200+ acres, these world famous gardens are made for walking or jogging in a forest-like setting in the heart of the go-go city of Singapore. There’s the tropical rainforest. And a ginger garden. And a children’s garden.
We were particularly fascinated by the carnivorous plants. And we were wowed by the orchid garden with its incredible collection of beautiful orchids in a rainbow of colors.
17) Nong Nooch Tropical Garden
Nong Nooch | Website
A blend of Thai landscaping and European-style gardens, these beautiful 500-acres gardens are like a theme park, encompassing restaurants, hotels and cultural shows. See everything from cacti, bonsai, orchid nurseries and a French garden modeled after Versailles. The gardens are huge, so you might want to rent a bicycle to pedal around.
Beautiful gardens in Mexico
18) Vallarta Botanical Gardens
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Vallarta Botanical Gardens | Website
Just 11 miles south of Puerto Vallarta, the Vallarta Botanical Gardens feature more than 3,000 different species of plants. Registered with Botanic Gardens Conservation International in England, the gardens also include roses and orchids, a field of 6,000 blue agaves and a carnivorous plant collection.
Much of the gardens consist of natural tropical forest with short hiking trails to a river where you can swim. Walking past tangled vanilla vines, we were amazed by the symphony of birdsong and cicadas and the variety of butterflies flitting about.
Be sure to have lunch on the outdoor deck of the gardens’ La Hacienda de Oro restaurant. We loved the mojitos, made with basil and mint (picked fresh from the gardens), avocado stuffed with shrimp salad and organic wood-oven flatbread. It’s delightful to watch all the colorful birds from the deck too.
Getting to the 250-acre preserve, nestled 1,300 feet above sea level in the Sierra Madre Mountains, is part of the fun — the drive by taxi (or local bus, which is inexpensive and easy to catch) winds along lush mountainous coastline.
More great things to do in PV? Puerto Vallarta is also a hot spot for art and fine dining
19) Floating gardens of Xochimilco
Near Mexico City, Mexico
Think a mix of the gondolas on the canals of Venice and Thailand’s floating markets, and you have Xochimilco – but with a Mexican twist.
A series of waterways about 45 minutes south of downtown Mexico City, Xochimilco means “Place of the Flowers” in Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs.
In wetland areas, the Aztecs built floating gardens called chinampas for growing corn and other food crops. Weaving sticks together, they created large rafts, which they anchored to the bottom of the lake, then piled weeds and soil on top to form raised garden beds. On the edges, they planted willow trees so the roots could help contain the beds.
Today, Xochimilco is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And the chinampas are used for growing flowers.
Here, you can float down the canals on a brightly colored flat-bottom boat like a gondola (called a trajinera), which the boat driver propels using a long pole. As you ride around, you’ll come across other trajineras with food sellers and mariachis to serenade you with music.
Note: Xochimilco is popular with Mexican families on weekends, which can make for a joyous outing. But if you want a quieter experience, visit during the week.
What else to do in Mexico City? There are oodles of cultural activities in Mexico City (and other surprises)
Beautiful gardens in Australia
20) Brisbane Botanic Gardens
Brisbane Botanic Gardens Mt Coot-tha | Website
For a breath of green life on the edge of Brisbane, step out into these lush subtropical botanic gardens, previously known as “Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens.” Spreading out over 138 acres, they feature a standout Japanese garden, waterfalls, fern house, arid garden with aloes and succulents, bamboo grove and the largest collection of Australian native rainforest trees in the world.
Don’t miss the new Spotted Gum Trail, a 1.5 mile scenic hike (one way) through eucalyptus forests and across bridges spanning deep ravines.
21) Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria
Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria | Website
These gardens in Melbourne are home to two sets of gardens: Melbourne Gardens and Cranbourne Gardens.
Dating back to 1846, the inner-city Melbourne Gardens span 94 acres of garden beds, sweeping lawns and lakes blanketed with water lilies. Among the 8,500 plant species from around the world? Camellias, stunning roses and succulents. Walking through Fern Gully – an oasis of rainforest – is a highlight.
Set in native bushland, the vast Cranbourne Gardens celebrate Australia’s flora and landscapes. There are walking trails through eucalyptus woodlands, picnic areas and bird lagoons. And chances are excellent you’ll see lots of cute wallabies!
Your favorite gardens?
So there you go – an introduction to some of the best gardens in the world.
Do you like visiting gardens on your travels? Have we included your favorite gardens? If not, let us know! See the Comments section below.
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Photo credits: 3 and 49 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase | 47, 48, 50 and 51 Vallarta Botanical Gardens | 57 to 59 Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria