The local park is one of my favourite places to visit in a new city. A bit of green space is a reprieve from the haste, and if you're feeling tired, it offers the perfect mix of relaxation and exploration.
Here are 10 of the nicest parks I've chilled out or walked around in. Let me know your favs in the comments.
1. Hampstead Heath, London. I love England's penchant for letting nature do its thing. Every one of the London parks I've visited (and there are many I haven't) allows at least a small pocket of overgrowth. Hampstead Heath, though, could pass for The Wind and the Willows' wild wood, it's so forest-like. Despite its location in the middle of one of Europe's largest cities, the long grass, muddy tracks, and deer crossing signs make you feel as if you've stumbled into a rural fairyland.
2. Audubon Park, New Orleans. For some wild animal action mid-metropolis, Audubon is the place to go. Feeding the ducks is so 1992, here it's all about feeding nutria (no, I hadn't heard of them either) and turtles. There are also gorgeous mansions to imagine yourself living in as you stroll.
3. Park Güell, Barcelona. Barcelona's favourite son, Antoni Gaudi, saved Park Güell from property developers in the early 20th century. Like all his works, his park is a magical world of mosaics and rock like structures that blend in with the natural world. Despite the hundreds of visitors, the harsh Spanish light, the abundant cacti, and the sandy ground give the park an eerie, desert-like feel.
4. The Peak, Hong Kong. Most of us associate Hong Kong with jungles of the concrete variety. But Hong Kong Island boasts a network of country parks, the most spectacular of which (for views at least) is at Victoria Peak. The trail, surrounded by lush rainforest, overlooks the city's smog-hazed high-rises.
5. The English Garden, Munich. Whatever you look for in a park, you'll find it here. Thirsty? Bike to the beer garden for a stein then walk it off with a stroll along the river. Like getting down with nature? Join the nudists at the garden's centre. Is surfing your thing? Mingle with the artificial-wave riders at the park's entrance. Or you could check out the Japanese tea garden, watch the ducks or take a bush walk along the park's edge.
6. Belgrade Fortress, Belgrade. From atop centuries-old ruins watch the Sava and the Danube rivers meet, then stroll around landscaped gardens, checking out an open-air photography exhibition and greeting "Victor," the statue who looks over his city with a falcon in one hand and a sword in the other.
7. Mount Royal, Montreal. In winter it's a snow bunny's paradise, in summer Montreal's mountain is a leafy wonderland that provides shade from the oppressive heat. If you're into walking, there are tracks up to a sweeping view of the city, but if you feeling like sun basking, lush grass abounds.
8. Central Park, New York. No list of parks would be complete without Manhattan's mid-city green space. Whether looking down on it from the top of the Rock, or running around the skyscraper-rimmed water reservoir, Central Park is a quiet retreat amid the manic New York City pace.
9. Gellert Hill, Budapest. Make sure you bring money for water when you reach the top of Gellert Hill. It is steep! But when you do make it, the stunning 360-degree views over both Buda and Pest are well worth it.
10. Melbourne Botanic Gardens, Melbourne. These are the gardens that keep on giving. Eat a picnic near the Shrine of Remembrance before catching an open-air summertime movie. Or join the throngs of runners around the "tan" track, watch the bats fly overhead at dusk, or chill out on the grass with your book.
Where's your favourite park?
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