There is no vision more welcome, more flush with giddy excitement at the possibility of pure relaxation, than the oasis that is a city park. When urban sprawl has run roughshod on your soul, sweet escape is mandatory to maintain your sanity. The best city destinations in the world have large parks within plain view, the most notable of which serve as actual attractions that demand an explicit visit.
Vacations can be tough on the feet, especially when you have drawn up a schedule more ambitious than Napoleon’s to conquer Europe. Even with a reliable pair of shoes and bottles of water in tow, city pavement is harsh to negotiate, what with the incessant call of attractions, museums and shops. In our quest to pack every possible experience into a narrow timeframe, we lose sight of our initial purpose to get away and enjoy. Fortunately, some of the most popular tourism destinations also boast some of the best parks in the world. Set amid skyscrapers and noisy streets, these green confines offer splendid contrasts.
Here then is our list of the best city parks in the world, which exist not only for residential recreation but tourist delight as well.
The most famous Royal Park of London is a household name and major tourist attraction in a city where they run rampant. Once a deer park under the domain of Henry VIII, notable sites at Hyde Park now include Speakers’ Corner, Holocaust Memorial, Crystal Palace and Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial.
On the border of beautiful downtown Vancouver, Stanley Park is a major reason why the city is famous as a premier destination for outdoor zealots. Over 8 million people visit the park each year to a participate in a number of pursuits, walk the seawall paths, lounge on the beach, photograph the massive trees that dot the landscape or gape at the native totem poles.
With one of the most magnificent backdrops in the form of the Golden Gate Bridge, the park of the same name is a big draw with locals and tourists. At over 1,000 acres, the space receives over 13 million visitors a year. Top attractions include the Conservatory of Flowers, AIDS Memorial Grove, De Young Museum and Botanical Gardens.
Built on the former site of a Tokugawa shogun temple, Ueno Park in Tokyo is now sacrosanct as the primary destination for rest, relaxation and recreation in the massive capital of Japan. Replete with Shinto shrines and home to the city zoo, the National Science Museum, the Tokyo National Museum and the Museum of Western Art, Ueno Park is the ideal getaway.
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At almost 10 km square, Monsanto Forest Park is a giant. The park represents a best effort by the government to reclaim endemic tree and animal populations and as a result, now serves as a beacon of conservation. For those in search of recreational activity, Monsanto has world class bicycle trails and at certain times of year, offers yoga and tai chi in the park.
A model urban park at over 1,200 acres on the border of Lake Michigan, Lincoln has a surfeit of green space for visitors to The Windy City. With a zoo, beautiful gardens, nature museum and loads of sports, from a golf course to tennis courts to basketball, volleyball and baseball, Lincoln Park is indispensable to city life in Chicago.
People familiar with Bangkok know very well that the city exacts a lot of your energy. Lumphini Park is a wonderful calm in the storm of the city and exceptional in Bangkok. On former royal property, the park has a large artificial lake, bicycle paths and the first public library in the city.
The iconic father figure of Barcelona, architect Antoni Gaudi looms large on the city skyline. From the Sagrada Familia to familiar facades in the posh Gracia district, his master work is omnipresent. The best vestige of Gaudi’s legacy however, may be the mystical and unusual Park G?ell, which blends structure, architecture and natural landscape in magical fashion.
With a metro population of 20 million people, Sao Paolo needs good parks more than most. Ibirapuera Park is the most important one in the city with attractions that include a modern art museum, convention centre and planetarium.
Since 1862, residents of Melbourne have known Flagstaff Gardens as the prime location in the city to experience nature. Near Queen Victoria Market and the Flagstaff railway station, the park is ideal for visitors who want to see wonderful eucalyptus and elm trees, flower gardens and endemic wildlife.
Home to historic Imperial gardens on the perimeter of the Forbidden City in Beijing, Beihai Park is famous as the site of the Winter Palace. Before 1925, the park was private ground for the Emperor and the Imperial Court. Now open to the public, the park serves as a gorgeous escape from the hectic pace of modern Beijing, with a number of Ming Dynasty attractions.
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The name Central Park elicits indelible visions of Manhattan. The city park of record in the world, Central Park cuts a rectangular swath amid the skyscrapers of New York City. Made famous in film, television, literature and as host to world record rock concerts, one could spend a day here and not suffer from boredom. With a picturesque network of paths, playgrounds and open spaces, Central Park is the best congregation point in the Big Apple.