The Most Beautiful Botanical Gardens in the World
Any traveler looking to be immersed in nature while abroad would do well to look up the nearest botanical garden.
Like an encyclopedia brought to life, botanical gardens offer a little bit of everything: history, culture, geology. Some focus on native species, while others cultivate immense collections of exotic plants, flowers and trees from around the world.
But most of all, botanical gardens are designed to be enjoyed—so sit back, and scroll through a dozen of our favorites.
Adelaide Botanic Garden
If New York’s Central Park decided to migrate south, sprout a few rare and endangered South Australian plants, and set up in a new city, it might look something like Adelaide’s prized Botanic Garden. Welcoming 1.5 million visitors per year, the sprawling grounds offer diverse landscapes—from wetlands to rose gardens to a mini rainforest housed inside the southern hemisphere’s single largest conservatory—and a sense of calm in the midst of bustling downtown Adelaide.
In the slopes of South Tyrol, about halfway between Trento and Innsbruck, a medieval castle boasts one of Europe’s most intricate gardens. The vegetation here is divided into 83 (yes, really) different landscapes, ranging from oak forests to olive groves, plus vineyards, semi-desert gardens with cacti, and a water lily pond sprinkled with lotus flowers. Mountain peaks surround the entire site, so wherever you look, the view promises to be spectacular.
This royal garden in the city of Lahore is the culmination of four centuries of careful maintenance. The traditional layout has been preserved: a high brick wall encloses three terraced gardens, linked by a series of fountains and pools. Once you pass through the entrance, you’ll be transported into a serene oasis with cool, polished marble, intricate stone pavilions, and pathways shaded by chinar, gulmohar, and cypress trees. It’s a perfect spot for a romantic picnic—the name shalimar, after all, is Sanskrit for “abode of love.”
Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Tucked behind bustling Eastern Parkway in now-trendy Crown Heights, this 52-acre garden kicks off the season each year with a massive cherry blossom festival known as Sakura Matsuri (they even offer a “Cherrywatch” function on their website, so visitors can track the progress of each tree). By June, visitors are flocking to the Cranford Rose Garden, where over a thousand varieties can be found; also worth checking out is the Bonsai Museum, an indoor facility with the biggest public display of Bonsai trees outside of Japan.
Lautaret Alpine Botanical Garden
Need a change of perspective? The Lautaret Alpine Botanical Garden will have you gazing up at snow-capped peaks from an altitude of nearly 7,000 feet. The region's dry climate and exceptionally bright sunshine drew the interest of University of Grenoble botanists in the late 1800s—now, over 150 years later, its rolling meadows, speckled with vivid yellow, pink and purple wildflowers, beckon to summer travelers in search of Alpine flora.
Exotic Garden of Monaco
Get a bird’s-eye look at Monaco’s dreamy coastline from inside its most underrated attraction. Opened in 1933, the Exotic Garden is a unique maze of towering cacti, African and Arabian succulents, and bright bougainvillea bushes—and it’s all built on a slope, so as you meander down, each step reveals a different perspective on the glittering harbor. At the end, savor a few moments inside an ancient limestone cave that descends 300 steps to sea level.
Buenos Aires Botanical Garden
French architect Charles Thays certainly left his imprint on Argentina: after being appointed as Buenos Aires Director of Parks in 1891, he worked tirelessly to bring harmony and sophistication to the city’s open spaces. His most valued contribution, however, was the Buenos Aires Botanical Garden, an opulent creation that captivates locals and visitors alike to this day. As you wander the footpaths bounded by dense foliage, you get the sense Thays had something bigger in mind than just a public park—with its marble statues and weathered Art Nouveau greenhouses, it is a place where art, nature, and science all collide.
Singapore Botanic Gardens
Sometimes dubbed the “city in a garden,” Singapore’s commitment to greenery borders on the obsessive. At Changi Airport, travelers can choose from one of six leafy oases, while downtown, 160-foot-tall “super trees” bring the skyline to life. But it’s the Singapore Botanic Gardens—opened in 1859, and recently declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site—that truly steal the show. With soaring tropical rain forests, shimmering lakes, and a huge orchid garden organized into four “color zones,” travelers can easily spend several days just exploring the site.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
If ever a part of the world had botanical garden potential, it would be South Africa’s Cape Floral Kingdom. The lush region, containing vast scrubland flecked with vivid pink and yellow and red, hosts 20 percent of Africa’s flora. A fat chunk of those blooms can be found at the superb Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, which are impeccably laid-out, and easy to navigate—for an invigorating experience, head up to the “Boomslang,” a 40-foot-high tree canopy walkway that swerves around, over, and through dense foliage, flowers, and trees.
Kew Royal Botanic Gardens
Set along the Thames, the formidable Kew Royal Botanic Gardens are the largest collection of living plants in the world, not to mention one of the most historic, having been founded in the mid 1700s (it runs a pretty sweet Instagram account, too). Its 14,000 trees and exotic flower collections—look out for monster-size orchids and the infamous “corpse flower”—are interspersed with elegant domed temples, a striking 19th-century glasshouse, a treetop walkway, and hidden forest paths that weave around the lake.
Perinaya Royal Botanical Gardens
By figures alone, Sri Lanka’s largest public garden deserves a spot on the map; but it manages to win the hearts of travelers through its exceptionally lush, well-balanced collection of flora. The Avenue of royal palms is the grand centerpiece; there are also fragrant medicinal plants, an orchid house, and a rich collection of exotic trees—like the Giant Bamboo of Burma, which soars up 130 feet, or the comically tangled, labyrinthine Javan fig tree.