Summer is almost here, and nature is at its peak! Don’t miss the chance to check out a botanical garden nearby, or if you happen to be traveling in Europe, see their local, natural wonders. Here’s a list of just some of the most amazing living museums across Europe.
The Gardens of Versailles—France
This is a timeless, grand marvel that stretches across 800 acres (3.2 square kilometers) and was 40 years in the making. Developed by Andre le Notre, often referred to as the ‘the king of gardeners’, the landscape was designed in the now popular French formal garden style incorporating symmetry, geometric shapes, fountains, labyrinths, and mythological themes. Versailles also contains an orangery with over a thousand orange trees, 386 sculptures inspired by Roman and Greek mythologies, perfectly shaped parterres and lawns, and the Grand Canal made larger than life due to a distorted optical perspective.
Kew Gardens—United Kingdom
Founded toward the end of the 18th century, Kew Gardens is a World Heritage Site that’s considered to be the largest botanical garden in the world. It has one of the world’s biggest herbarium collections, a library with more than half a million books, and over 500 thousand plant illustrations. If you decide to pay a visit, make sure to take a stroll on the canopy walkway that stretches above a dense canopy of trees, wander in the Palm House that contains a vast amount of tropical and subtropical plants, and stop by the modern Alpine House specifically designed to maintain temperatures below 20C (68F) for cool-loving plants. Last but not least, drop by the Princess of Wales conservatory that has 10 temperature-controlled climates zones. From the desert to the tropics, you’ll marvel at giant water lilies, hundreds of succulents, the stinkiest flower on Earth (Amorphophallus titanum), and even a few animals which include piranhas.
Keukenhof Gardens—The Netherlands
If you want to enter a 7-million tulip paradise, look no further. From March to mid-May, Keukenhof opens its doors to host a tulip festival with a unique weekly theme. Although this is the world’s largest tulip farm, it also has plenty of other flowering plants to feast your eyes on. Check out the 9-mile (15-km) trail where you can take a look at the ponds, manicured terraces, greenhouses, pavilions, sculptures created by local and international artists, and several restaurants to catch a break.
If you happen to be in Milan, don’t miss out on this grand island that’s just an hour’s ride away in Lake Maggiore. Bought by Italian aristocrats, this grandiose project had multiple setbacks and took almost 400 years to complete. Today, Isola Bella is used to host an annual music festival and comprises a small village, a luxurious palace, and a breathtaking garden divided into 10 terraces. Many parts of the Borromeo palace are open to tourists, so make sure to take a look at its Baroque-styled design. But the star of the show is the garden— a perfect union of nature and art. A plethora of ponds, fountains, and statues are surrounded by rare and exotic plants, century-old trees, trimmed lawns, and wandering peacocks—you’ll feel as if you’re on a movie set.
Botanical Garden of Valencia—Spain
This historic garden belongs to the University of Valencia and started its roots in the 16th century for medicinal purposes, becoming an official botanical garden in 1802. Although it had to overcome poor soil, difficult construction, floods, and the Napoleonic invasion, today, the site is thriving. The garden’s noteworthy collection of tropical trees and desert flora, as well as over 3,000 tree species, makes an impressive collection worth visiting. As part of its origins, the garden still serves as a beautiful classroom for the University’s curriculum for science, botany, and medicine, while conducting conferences and expositions for the public.
Berlin-Dahlem Botanical Garden and Botanical Museum—Germany
Initially made to preserve plants from Germany’s former colonies, the Berlin-Dahlem Botanical Garden is considered to be the biggest of its kind, spanning over 106 acres (43 hectares) with 22,000 plant species. Filled with rare and exotic tropical plants, most of the 16 display houses were made in the Art Nouveau style. Visit the Italian Decorative Garden to gaze at art sculptures, enter the 42-acre (17-hectare) Arboretum for woody specimens and roses, stop by the giant water lily in Victoriahaus, and don’t forget about the museum which houses with over 3 million preserved specimens. This park also has a Fragrance and Touch garden with strongly scented plants that can be touched, giving the visually impaired an opportunity to experience nature through their other senses.
Linz Botanical Garden—Austria
You’ll find this hidden gem in Linz, Austria. Covering over 103 acres (41.7 hectares), the garden is divided into different ecosystems with 5 large greenhouses, a 14-acre (5.7-hectare) arboretum with over 700 species of trees, and an impressive cacti collection. Check out the local alpine flowers in the Alpinum, the fragrant roses in the Rosarium, and some exotic specimens in the Tropic House. Exhibited in a way they’d grow in their natural habitat, the plants create a beautiful, thought-out landscape. Keep an eye out for outdoor concerts, shows, and exhibitions which are usually held in the summertime.
Although most botanical gardens started out as a place of education and conservation, they’re arguably the most important participants in promoting local biodiversity that allow us to get in touch with nature and its beauty. Even if you don’t get to see these particular botanical gardens, check out whatever you have nearby for some ‘green’ tourism.