As an avid traveler, I love pounding the pavement in a city I’ve never visited before. Urban architecture and artwork never ceases to impress and inspire me. But there’s one non-negotiable must-do that’s always at the top of my trip list: botanical gardens. Below are a few of my all-time favorites any wanderlust should add to their itinerary.
Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, Melbourne, Australia
Walking distance from Melbourne’s bustling central business district – known as the CBD to locals – lies 90 acres of open air space. Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria is filled with an array of lawns, lakes, pavilions, and paths. Several entrance gates lead to a vast range of collections from bamboo to ferns and palms to roses, with many rare species of trees and foliage. You don’t have to be a botany buff to appreciate the Australian Forest Walk or Water Conservation Garden, but the Garden does have an education team that offers programs for those who want to learn more. It may take multiple visits to soak in all that Melbourne’s garden has to offer; luckily it is completely free of entry. Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria hosts wellness experiences, family activities, art exhibitions, guided walks, and more throughout the year. Or you could simply bring a picnic and soak in your surroundings before hitting the nearby beach or city.
Innsbruck University Botanical Garden, Innsbruck, Austria
Two hours outside of Salzburg is the small, charming town of Innsbruck. Tucked away in the Austrian alps, Innsbruck is a prime location for year-round sports like hiking, skiing and mountain biking. But plant lovers are also in luck: the University of Innsbruck happens to have a lush park with three gorgeous ‘gram-worthy greenhouses. Each steamy greenhouse houses orchids, ferns, cacti, and more tropical plants. The real stunner is the indoor pond flecked with giant lily pads, surrounded by luxurious palms. The greenhouses are open every Tuesday, Thursday, and first Sunday afternoon of the month and cost just two euros to enter. Wander the rest of the botanical garden for free and explore over thousands of plant species from around the world.
Malahide Castle and Gardens, Dublin, Ireland
A peaceful outdoor retreat can be found thirty minutes outside of Dublin’s city center. Malahide Castle is a popular tourist destination, and daily tours of the medieval home fill up fast. The grounds around the 800 year old castle are equally as impressive: 260 acres are filled with gardens, greenhouses, the Republic of Ireland’s only butterfly house, and a fairy trail that’s perfect for kids. You may run into brightly colored peacocks who call the gardens home, which was originally created to grow vegetables and herbs for the castle kitchen decades ago. The last owner of Malahide Castle was enthusiastic about exotic plants and rare flora, and transformed the kitchen gardens into the existing landscape. Explore a rose garden, Victorian Conservatory, a geometric greenhouse and much more. Malahide also screens movies and hosts concerts, yoga and more events when weather allows. P.S. – their onsite cafe and food market is insanely delicious as well. Tickets for the gardens, butterfly house and fairy trail are 7.50 euro for adults, and are included in the 14 euro guided castle tour ticket.
Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, Missouri
Not only one of the oldest botanical gardens in the United States, the Missouri Botanical Garden was also awarded National Historic Landmark status. 79 acres of indoor and outdoor space with more than 20 individual gardens make up this serene space. Historical structures, including founder Henry Shaw’s townhouse built in 1849, make this botanical garden unique. Victorian era architecture – like a stone cottage from the late 1800’s and a brick greenhouse constructed in 1882 – give a glimpse of the past, while newer builds like the Climatron geodesic dome conservatory are equally impressive. Multiple museums, a maze, koi fish pond and more round out the garden grounds. The Missouri Botanical Garden hosts events throughout the year, including the jaw-dropping nighttime Garden Glow with over one million lights; the only tradeoff being chilly temperatures. The garden is open daily with free admission for kids 12 and under, and $14 for adult visitors.
Denver Botanic Gardens, Denver, Colorado
It may be relatively small, but it’s substantial. Denver’s botanic garden on York Street, near downtown, is 24 acres of diverse plant life from around the world. Explore Gardens of the West, highlighting greenery that’s native to Colorado, and international gardens with foliage from China to South Africa and beyond. Colorful ornamental gardens with fan-favorite annual blooms, shady low-light gardens and water gardens with aquatic plants make up the rest of Denver’s collection. While Denver may be known for breweries and sports teams, the Mile High city makes outdoor space a priority with over 200 parks: the botanic garden being the most memorable. The York Street gardens are open all year with $12.50 entry fee for adults, with weekly events ranging from sunrise yoga to botanical illustration for an additional fee. There is a second Denver Botanic Gardens location at Chatfield Farms in nearby Littleton on working farm and native plant refuge.