Who doesn’t love beautiful gardens? Nature drawn into poetic perfection by human design – gardens have been an expression of beauty for every civilization throughout history. In both private and public landscapes people have created gardens that reflect culture, philosophy and fairytale fantasy. We’ve chosen our ten favorite beautiful gardens for you: all examples of exquisite garden design that we think are the most beautiful gardens in the world.
All these wonderful gardens should be on your travel bucket list for spring travel, or at any time of year. They are romantic, they are creative, they are fanciful, and they are full of stories.
10 of the Most Beautiful Gardens in the World
1 Monet’s Garden at Giverny, France (Featured)
Claude Monet’s gardens at Giverny were both the creation and inspiration of the world’s most famous Impressionist artist. It seems fitting to have one of the most beautiful paintings, be one of the most beautiful gardens.
The family moved to Giverny in 1883 and over the next years Monet developed a garden with symmetry and perspective, with planned colour combinations while remaining quite free. There are great clumps of flowers, riotous climbing roses and prolific fruit trees. He was an enthusiastic botanist, collecting rare varieties plants and spending a lot of money on his garden.
The garden has two parts, divided by a railway line, under which an access tunnel has been built. The Clos Normand flower garden is in front of the charming farmhouse, while the Water Garden was Monet’s personal labour of love.
Monet bought the piece of land across the railway line from his home and converted a small stream into the famous water garden based on prints of Japanese gardens. Here you will find the Japanese bridge loaded with wisteria and the waterlilies that Monet was to paint for over 20 years.
Giverny is open from late March until the beginning of November.
2 The Gardens of the Alhambra, Spain
The Alhambra is a mighty fortress on a hill overlooking the Spanish city of Granada, built by the Moorish medieval rulers of al-Andalus. It is a romantic collection of towers, palaces and dungeons but what really makes it one of the highlights of Europe is the garden.
This is the result of many centuries of development, starting with beautiful Islamic features such as the Lion Fountain and surrounding courtyards. There are long arbors draped with wisteria and wide pools mirroring Islamic archways and palm trees. Always there is the sound of water.
A poet once described the gardens of the Alhambra as almost competing with the celestial beauty of the moon and a walk through the Alhambra’s ‘paradise gardens’ is to be overwhelmed by the simplicity of perfect design.
The gardens of the Alhambra are truly historic as the prime example of eastern Mediterranean garden style that probably influenced the design of central European formal gardens in the Renaissance.
The Alhambra is open all year round, although winter hours are restricted.
3 The Beautiful Gardens of Versailles, France
The Chateau of Versailles, commissioned by the ‘Sun King’ Louis XIV in the 17th century, is one of the most popular tourist attractions in France. But the best part of Versailles is the magnificent gardens. Leave plenty of time to explore the pathways and clever perspectives of what represents the apogee of French garden style.
Landscape architect Andre Le Notre designed the gardens at Versailles based on the principle of imposing order over nature and his work here was to be influential throughout Europe. From the Water Parterre to the Orangerie and the Grand Trianon, this shows how utilitarian medieval European gardens made way for ornamental ones where the buildings and nature combine in a gentle transition.
Try to time your visit with a display of the famous fountains as the sight of water gushing from the Fountain de Latone and glistening on the bronze bottoms of mythical creatures is simply stunning.
The gardens of Versailles are open to the public every day, although winter hours are restricted.
4 The Gardens of Villandry, France
If Versailles is the epitome of French formal garden style, at the Chateau de Villandry in the Loire Valley they have taken French gardening to a new level. Villandry is the last of the great Renaissance chateaux of the Loire and surrounding the elegant castle is surrounded by one of the most beautiful gardens in the world.
They were famed for their beauty in the Renaissance and in the 20th century an incredible restoration project has returned them to their former glory, while reinventing the garden further with features such as the herb garden and the sun garden. The gardens of Villandry have been organic since 2009.
Careful archaeological and literary research allowed the recreation of the decorative kitchen garden, while the original terrace gardens have been made into ornamental salons, including the salon of love and the salon of music. The classical water garden is based on plans preserved in the Napoleonic land register.
The Chateau Villandry is open all year round, with restricted hours in winter.
5 The Butchart Gardens, Canada
This former quarry and cement plant at Tod Inlet on Vancouver Island has over a century been transformed into one of the world’s best floral show gardens. The pioneering Butchart family built a home here next to their business in the early 20th century.
Jennie Butchart went from being company chemist to garden creator in the abandoned quarry, where she developed the famous sunken garden. Later additions include the Japanese Garden, the Rose Garden and an Italian Garden.
Nowadays only tall one brick kiln chimney survives the former cement works. The family have continued to care for the garden over the ensuing years and in 2004 the Butchart Gardens has been designated a National Historic Site of Canada. Carefully planning results in uninterrupted blooming from March through to October and the spring flowers and autumn leaves show are especially popular.
See Butchart Gardens and hours through the year.
6 Sissinghurst Castle Garden
If Blenheim Palace is a great example of the natural English style garden, the garden at Sissinghurst Castle in Kent shows off a more historic English style that is a celebration of garden beauty in every season.
The castle is actually a gatehouse from what would have been a much larger Elizabethan manor house but it is most famous for its garden, which was made by English poet (and sometime lover of Virginia Woolf) Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicolson.
The couple worked together on the design and plantings through the 1930s, rescuing what was a derelict building and farm in a labour of love. The garden is a series of ‘rooms’ separated by hedges or brick walls. Each room has a theme and colour schemes vary depending on the season. Wandering through the gardens at Sissinghurst is a continual process of discovery. The White Garden room, with its rose arbour, is especially well-loved.
The garden at Sissinghurst is not open from Christmas through to early March.
7 The Shalimar Gardens of Kashmir
The gardens created by the Mughal rulers of India are renowned as some of the most beautiful in the world and one of the few remaining examples of such an Islamic garden is the Shalimar Bagh in Indian Kashmir.
Shalimar means “abode of bliss” or “light of the moon” and set beside the beautiful Dal Lake near Srinigar, this has been one of the most famed gardens in the world for centuries.
It was built in 1619 by the Mughal emperor Jahangir to please his beloved wife Nur Jahan, who he called the ‘light of the world’. The royal couple loved Kashmir so much that they made it their summer residence, moving the whole court to Kashmir across the dangerous mountain passes on elephants.
The design of this royal garden is considered a high point of Mughal garden culture. Mughal gardens developed from Persian gardens and the Islamic paradise garden is flat with four sections divided by water running from a central source. Chinar (sycamore) trees line the terraces and have especially beautiful colours in autumn. The garden is laid out around a number of lovely royal halls and reflecting fountain pools, where the spell of beauty past and present fills the air.
The Shalimar Gardens are now a public park.
8 Villa d’Este Garden, Tivoli
The Italian Renaissance garden style emerged in the late 15th century in Rome and Florence, where wealthy villa dwellers, inspired by the classical rules of beauty, developed gardens that encompassed both enjoyment of the sights and smells of the garden itself, and the relationship with the house and the wider landscape.
One of the finest examples is the Villa d’Este in Tivoli. Grand symmetry dominates, with fountains, statuary and grottoes based on Greek and Roman mythology, mostly created to impress visitors. And they still impress day trippers from Rome today!
It was built in the 16th century by the son of Lucrezia Borgia and consists of a series of terraces descending from the villa down a steep hillside, each terrace connected by gates and stairways, all the way down to the Fountain of Dragons.
The Villa d’Este is open all year around except on Mondays and January 1st, May 1st, and December 25th.
9 Blenheim Palace, United Kingdom
Capability Brown is the most famous English garden designer, ever, and at Blenheim Palace you will find one of the best examples of his work.
He earned his nickname because of his reputation for telling clients that their estates had great capability for improvement and in the 18th century the services of Lancelot Brown became highly sought after by aristocrats.
The 4th Duke of Marlborough commissioned him to remodel the gardens at Blenheim Palace in 1763. Brown is famous for the natural look, where vast open spaces are set about with apparently random – actually carefully planned – plantings of trees and flowers.
French architect Achille Duchêne also made his mark on the Blenheim Palace gardens in the 1920s, when he landscaped the magnificent Formal Gardens. The water terraces are fun to walk beside and don’t miss the lovely Secret Garden. These days there are even more features for visitors to enjoy, including a miniature train and an enormous hedge maze.
Blenheim palace and formal gardens are open from mid-February to the end of October. The park is open all year round.
10 Kenroku-en Garden, Japan
It’s well-nigh impossible to identify one garden as the most beautiful in this land of exquisite garden design but Kenroku-en in the city of Kanazawa is widely recognised as one a group of three gardens that are the most treasured in Japan.
Such a group of three gardens is an ancient concept in Japan and the other two members of the ‘three great gardens of Japan’ trilogy are Koraku-en in Okayama and Kairaku-en in Mito, all famed for their lush and intricate beauty.
Kenroku-en was designed to be a garden in which wander peacefully, immersing themselves in the natural and man-made beauty of the landscape. Kenroku-en was originally established in the 1620s as Kanazawa Castle’s outer garden and one of its treasures is the oldest fountain in Japan.
The name indicates a garden combining the six aspects of an ideal garden, being scenery, spaciousness, venerability, serenity, subtle design and coolness.
If gardens really do it for you (and they certainly do for us), then all of these beautiful gardens and their destinations must go on your travel bucket list!