readers’ favorite gardens in Europe

Lake Como scented with citrus and herbs

Varenna is the perfect Italian village, from the hilltop castle to the shores of Lake Como. It is easily accessible by train or ferry and is home to a spectacular botanical garden. The winding Passeggiata degli Innamorati – the Lovers’ Path – takes you from the ferry to Villa Monastero in 20 minutes (entrance €10, open from March to November). With pillars and pergolas, palm trees and pines overlooking the deep blue lake and mountains beyond, perfumed by citrus and herbs, the garden is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. And there is a bar. Perfect happiness.
Maartje Scheltens

Dutch mastery near The Hague

From Piet Oudolf’s garden at the back of Museum Voorlinden near The Hague, you can watch people enjoying the exhibits from grassy hills and wide borders, designed by one of the world’s most influential garden designers. From the museum, large windows frame the naturalistic flowers and grasses swaying in the wind. It is a garden that showcases the Dutch style of integrating design, planting, art and architecture to create beautiful, relaxing and fun spaces. There is so much more to the Netherlands than Amsterdam, and the Voorlinden brings together the modern Dutch masters of garden design and contemporary art. The entrance fee is €19.50.

Tips from Guardian Travel readers

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An artist’s dream, Madrid

The gardens of the Museo Sorolla were a beautiful find in the north of Madrid. The museum was home to artist Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida – who also designed the gardens. Andalusian in style – with Moorish influences from gardens in Seville and Granada – the lush plantings, fountains, pools and patios make a trip worth it for the gardens alone. Of course there are also beautiful paintings inside. A bargain at €3.

A green corner of Lisbon

Tapada das Necessidades in Lisbon is full of wonders. It is the backyard of a majestic 18th-century palace, one of the few major buildings left standing after the great earthquake of 1755. It has a cactus area with strange succulents that the Portuguese brought back from their epic overseas voyages. The gardens offer beautiful views of the Tagus River and there are old buildings such as a Victorian greenhouse, a pond and peacocks wandering around. It is an example of climate resilience, because the location has high temperatures. Entrance is free.
Joana Simoes

Glade I came, Gothenburg, Sweden

Just a 10-minute tram ride west of Gothenburg city center, past Slottsskogen Park, full of summer families, is the city’s botanical garden. The 200 hectares (500 acres) of Zen Japanese dells, Korean glades, conifers, herbs and bamboo forests are free to enter and easy to enjoy, away from other tourists. Better yet, a walk to the end of the garden leads to Änggårdsbergen, a vast nature reserve with quiet lakes, pine forests and rocky Swedish highlands with panoramic views as far as the islands of Gothenburg.
Matthew Walsh

Japanese Zen on an island in Nantes

When a friend took me to L’île de Versailles – a Japanese-style garden in Nantes – I was enchanted by the delicate configuration of waterfalls, rockeries and pruned trees. Located on an island in the Erdre River and with paths decorated with lanterns and blossoming cherry trees, the Zen Garden, which opened in 1987, is the perfect complement to Nantes’ charming energy. The garden is open all day, closes at sunset and is free to enter.
Ishaan Alex Dalal

Padua, the oldest botanical garden in the world

Orto Botanico of Padua dates from 1545 and is the oldest botanical university garden in the world and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Featuring a charming circular layout and home to more than 6,000 species, it is both educational and attractive. Since 2014, it has included a Biodiversity Garden, exploring the relationship between humanity, the climate and the world’s plants. Entry is €10, with discounts for students and pensioners. It is a stone’s throw from the spectacular St. Anthony’s Basilica, which is free to enter, making it a good option for a combination of sightseeing. A cool, green retreat on a hot summer day.
Berni G

Baroque and botanical splendor, Hannover

My favorite are the Royal Gardens of Herrenhausen in Hannover. When I visited my girlfriend in 2019, she took me to this beautiful baroque space. It was April and the flowers were starting to bloom. It was such a peaceful place, and my friend and I sat on an old wooden bench in what they called the Grosser Garden and I could just feel the atmosphere of the 17th century, when this garden was a meeting place for artists and politicians throughout Europe.

Water lilies in Bratislava

After a week of hiking in the Tatra Mountains, we enjoyed a quiet afternoon of relaxation in the botanical garden of Comenius University in Bratislava. It’s a short tram ride from the center to the university district, bordering the Danube, a place with relatively few visitors. We almost had the garden to ourselves as we wandered through the 6.6 hectares watching red squirrels, lizards and frogs going about their day among the plants and ponds. The highlight were the greenhouses with their enormous water lilies and cacti. Entry is only €4.50 per adult.

Winning tip: cheerful buzz in a garden village on the Loire

In the Loire Valley near Tours, between Chateau de Chenonceau and the town of Loches, the residents of a small village have transformed their houses and streets into a Jardin Remarquable. The quiet, winding streets of the lovely garden village of Chédigny are each more beautiful than the next. We walked around in a daze, admiring the beauty on every corner, and then happened upon a tea house, La Closerie du Tilleul, where we were served tea and homemade apple pie on a shaded terrace overlooking the rectory garden, full of medicinal and rare plants. It felt like we had arrived in paradise.

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