Nowhere in the world is blessed with picturesque gardens quite like Europe. From the tulip-drenched Keukenhof in The Netherlands to the surreal sculptures in Oslo’s Vigeland Park, here are some of the most famous gardens in Europe you need to see to believe:
1. Vigeland Park: Oslo, Norway
The heart swells as the legs wander through this love-filled park, a world-record-breaker at that. Vigeland Park is the largest ever sculpture park created by one single artist: Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland (1869-1943) dreamt up the unique and often surreal garden, filling it with more than 200 of his incredible works. Forged with bronze and granite, hundreds of sculptures punctuate the boulevard of Oslo’s Frogner Park. It’s human and family life at its purest: couples embracing, parents playing with children, naked women dancing. There’s even a toddler having a tantrum.
Where to stay: Tucked just behind the Royal Palace, Camillas Hus is within walking distance of the mesmerising Vigeland Park. The centuries-old hotel and restaurant is one of Oslo’s oldest wooden buildings in the Swiss-chalet style. Book one of seven beautiful rooms, packed with all the gizmos a modern traveller could need, and enjoy Scandi-Mediterranean fare during your Norwegian break.
2. Château de Villandry: Loire Valley, France
Yin and yang. Tom and Jerry. Wine and cheese. There are some things that are simply destined to go hand-in-hand: French chateaux and gardens are one of them. Loire Valley is home to some of the best castle gardens in Europe, stuffed with masterly green details and preened precision that cannot be compared to. The Villandry Gardens are one of the finest examples of Renaissance beauty – perfectly manicured designs that gives a unique insight into 18th-century refinement.
Where to stay: While exploring the region, it would be criminal not to spend a night inside an actual chateau. Chateau de la Cazine is a couple of hour’s drive from Villandry, adorned in Louis XIV style and fabulous freestanding bathtubs. The four-star castle hotel in Limousin has its own surrounding park and countryside packed with glimmering lakes and lush green forests.
3. Keukenhof Tulip gardens: Lisse, The Netherlands
Tulips paint this park in more hues of colour than the brain can take in. Every autumn, hordes of gardeners plant seven million flower bulbs that bloom into a rainbow of designs and gardens that make up glorious Keukenhof. In addition to the tulip gardens, Keukenhof has one of the loveliest Japanese gardens in Europe, an English landscape garden, spring meadow, a beautiful maze and historic gardens throughout. Take your camera and all of your senses – this is a heady experience not to be missed.
Where to stay: Move from the 19th-century flower garden to a slightly younger Dutch beauty – Kasteel Kerckebosch. The 20th-century building sits in a lush woodland on the outskirts of Zeist. Book out the Tower Suite – the four-poster bed will have you feeling like royalty.
4. Powerscourt House & Gardens: County Wicklow, Ireland
From its fish-speckled pond to its enveloping walkway of beech trees, nature is in abundance at 18th-century Powerscourt House, with one of the most beautiful gardens in Europe. There’s 47 acres of greenery, florals, grottos and trees to explore. Closeby is Ireland’s tallest waterfall – pack a picnic and enjoy a serene hike to see it yourself.
Where to stay: Less than a half-hour drive away is the dream base to explore “The Garden of Ireland” itself. Hunter’s Hotel is the country’s oldest coaching inn, with its own delightful garden to savour a famous afternoon tea from the infectiously cheerful hosts.
5. Bodnant Garden: Conwy, Wales
From the moment you step into this 80-acre wonderland, the blossoming Bodnant Garden gets to work on your weary mind. An astonishing amount of globally sourced plant collections, serenely shaded woodlands, incredible architecture (including a breathtaking mausoleum) and even a waterfall. Heavenly views of the Carneddau and Snowdonia mountains keep you company as you stroll the Zenned-out paradise.
Where to stay: Your hosts at Conwy-based Bodysgallen Hall & Spa will be happy to ply you with ingenious, reviving meals in its former coach house. Fill up your belly and walk it off through the extensive rose gardens, terraced lawns and a rare 17th-century knot garden box filled with the heady scent of sweet herbs. It’s small wonder this bolthole is now a National Trust property through donations.