The world's most spectacular urban parks

Tamara Hinson

Who says cities can't be green? We take a look of some of the world's best urban parks

While we're huge fans of getting off the beaten path, some of the world's best parks can be found in the heart of the planet's busiest cities. Here are some of the world's most amazing urban escapes.

Domino Park, New York, US

Domino Park is one of a number of recently-created green spaces breathing new life into the Big Apple. Perched on the Williamsburg waterfront, this six-acre park, which opened in June, was designed by the team behind New York's High Line.

Features include an urban beach (complete with sun loungers), artefact walk, urban farm, volleyball court and children's playground.

A walkway will connect Williamsburg's newest green space to nearby Grand Ferry Park, once the neighbourhood's only waterfront park.

 

Park Güell, Barcelona, Spain

Perhaps Europe's most recognisable urban park, Park Güell is a sprawling, colourful sculpture-filled park which dates back to 1900.

Designed by entrepreneur Eusebi Güell and legendary artist Antoni Gaudí, the UNESCO-listed park is full of surprises, whether it's the snake-like, mosaic-covered benches dotted throughout, the dragon-shaped fountains or the rows of twisting rock pillars designed to resemble tree trunks.

 

Ibirapuera, São Paulo, Brazil

Ibirapuera Park opened in 1954 and covers a whopping 1,000 square miles.

It's home to over 500 plants, including the carvalhos brasileiros (Brazilian oak), and has some of Brazil's top museums (including the Afro Brazilian Museum, the Contemporary Art Museum and the Modern Art Museum). Although the abundance of art shouldn't come as a surprise, as the park was designed by Roberto Burle Marx, a Brazilian landscape artist who was passionate about both botany and cubist design.

Make sure you check out the marvellously monochrome pavilion designed for the city’s art biennial.

 

Lumpini Park, Bangkok, Thailand

This Bangkok park has a fascinating history. Created by King Rama VI in the 1920s, it became a Japanese army camp during WWII.

Twitchers flock here to spot the park's rare birds, but it's also famous for its lizards. That rustling in the undergrowth? It might just be one of the local water monitors, which grow up to seven feet in length.

Other highlights include the imposing statue of King Rama near the southern entrance, and the friendly catfish in the park's lakes—throw them the leftovers from your picnic and they'll thrash excitedly in the murky water.

 

Nan Lian Garden, Hong Kong

There's a lot crammed into this Tsang dynasty-style park, whether it's the priceless Buddhist relics and beautiful wooden seating, or the lotus ponds and elegant temple halls, filled with golden statues representing various divinities.

Every boulder, pond, bench and plant has been placed according to strict rules, so it's ideal if you're the kind of OCD-prone gardener whose ideal of hell is an off-centre pot plant.

When hunger strikes, head to the garden's beautiful teahouse.

 

Stanley Park, Vancouver, Canada

A totem pole-filled paradise, Stanley Park has thick tracts of rainforest, an extensive network of walking trails and Canada's largest aquarium.

Lay out a towel on one of the beaches or tour this urban paradise on the tiny Stanley Park Train, a replica of the Canadian Pacific Railway Engine which first chugged into Vancouver in the late 1880s.

The park's home to a huge range of wildlife, including 500 species of birds,1400 species of mammals and 400 species of fish.

 

The Presidio, San Francisco, US

Looking for spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge? You've come to the right place. This gorgeous waterside park is one of the largest in California.

It's another place with a fascinating history—it first opened in 1776 as a military base and one of its most famous visitors was the Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia, who was briefly imprisoned here after going AWOL in the 1960s.

Today, the park's home to several museums, including the brilliant Walt Disney Family Museum. It's a popular hiking and cycling spot, and we also recommend checking out the park's San Francisco National Cemetery, the beautiful and thought-provoking final resting place for thousands of servicemen and women.

 

Shinjuku Gyoen, Tokyo, Japan

Trust Japan to come up with what might just be the world's prettiest urban park.

In spring, this is one of the best places to see Japan's famous cherry blossoms, although there's plenty to see throughout the year, whether it's the lily pad-filled ponds, connected by impossibly ornate bridges, or the beautiful Kyu Goryotei pavillion, built to mark the wedding of the Showa Emperor.

There's also a cherry tree-filled English Garden and a impossibly symmetrical French Garden. Visit in November to admire the annual chrysanthemum exhibit held at the start of the month.

 

Central Park, New York, US

The world's most famous urban park, Central Park in New York has had a starring role in hundreds of blockbusters, including one of our favourite Christmas movies, Elf.

Thousands of years ago it was covered in glaciers, a remainder of which are the large boulders dotted throughout the park, left by the glaciers as they receded.

Another fascinating fact? Its huge size of 843 acres means it's larger than the world's smallest countries—six times bigger than Monaco and slightly larger than the Vatican.