Even if you consider yourself more of a city slicker than a rural fan, you still probably like the idea of being close to green spaces. And lucky for you, even the most populated metropolises around the world offer plenty of lush parks to satisfy that desire. Whether it’s a park steeped in centuries of history or something a bit younger, these seven urban parks are gorgeous oases in some of the world’s biggest cities.
Central Park – New York City
One of the most famous is Central Park, located “centrally” in the borough of Manhattan. While it’s not the biggest park within the five boroughs, it’s the most popular in terms of tourism. Central Park is nestled between Columbus and Fifth Avenues and flanked by Museum Mile.
Considering it’s surrounded by all of that splendor, the park is home to a year-round zoo, a seasonal ice skating rink, an amusement park, and countless iconic vistas like Strawberry Fields or Sheep Meadow. In the warmer months, Central Park hosts a popular music concert series and Shakespeare in the Park.
Imperial Palace East Gardens – Tokyo
Tokyo is a bustling city that’s home to more than 20 million citizens. With all of that activity, you can find calm in the city’s Imperial Palace East Gardens. Japan is home to the world’s oldest continuous monarchy, and the royal family lives in the Imperial Palace on the grounds of the former Edo Palace, surrounded by these gardens in the heart of Tokyo.
Edo Palace was built during the Edo period in 1620 and was first the home for the Tokugawa shogun. But Edo Palace was replaced by the Imperial Palace in 1888. While the entire grounds aren’t open to the public, the East Gardens are open year round. Feel your heartbeat relax as you pass by tranquil koi ponds, expertly trimmed grounds and meticulous, groomed walking paths.
Hyde Park – London
Sherlock Holmes might be a mythical character, but Hyde Park—a space in which he often strolled—factored frequently into Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s books. You too can visit this famed park located in the heart of central London. Hyde Park is one of eight Royal Parks in the city and was created in 1536 by Henry VIII. But under Queen Charlotte, the park lost grounds so that she could create Kensington Park. The park is a haven for public events. Even The Rolling Stones performed there in 1969.
Chapultepec – Mexico City
If you prefer truly ancient locales, Chapultepec should be on your list. Chapultepec Park, or “Bosque de Chapultepec” in Spanish, is the oldest urban park in Latin America and one of the oldest urban parks in the world. Once the relaxing grounds of Aztec rulers, this park now serves as an oasis and a critical component to maintaining oxygen levels in the Valley of Mexico.
Chapultepec is actually twice as big as Central Park with just over 200 acres of grounds. The park also contains numerous attractions including a zoo, an amusement park, and nine museums. Chapultepec is a true world treasure and features architectural construction from the Aztecs, such as their aqueduct system.
Summer Palace – Beijing
Royal homes always seem to serve as the perfect anchor for city parks, and Beijing is no different. The Summer Palace was once the domain of the Qing Dynasty rulers. But today it’s the largest royal park in China. It’s also one of the best-preserved parks and can take a full day to fully explore. You can peruse the temples, gardens and pavilions. The Summer Palace became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998, and the organization described it as "a masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design.”
Stanley Park – Vancouver
Imagine a 1,000-acre wilderness set in the heart of a city. If you can’t imagine it, don’t worry because it’s real, and that place is Stanley Park in Vancouver. The Canadian park is a dream come true for outdoor enthusiasts. Whether you prefer running or rollerblading, or just want to spend time outside, the park has plenty of trails and outdoor events to keep you occupied. Stanley Park is also home to Canada’s largest aquarium.
Ibirapuera – São Paulo
Sao Paulo is often overshadowed by Brazil’s popular party town, Rio de Janeiro, but their Park Ibirapuera is as vital to the city as Central Park is to New York. While the manicured grounds are ideal for runners and bikers, the biggest draw for this park are the buildings. Ibirapuera Gymnasium is an indoor stadium that seats 11,000 attendees. But the 500-acre park is also home to a planetarium shaped like a flying saucer and an astrophysics school. If space isn’t quite your thing, spend an afternoon at any of the four museums on the park grounds.
So the next time you plan a trip to a bustling major city, you don’t have to spend all day surrounded by concrete and steel. If you visit any of the places on this list, make it a point to stop by the gorgeous urban parks to soak in the local culture and natural beauty.