10 Best Urban Public Parks Around the World

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10 Best Urban Public Parks Around the World
Sure, cities are more often associated with honking cars and chaos than fresh air, open space, and stretches of nature. But amid subway delays and high-rise apartment buildings, public parks offer both tourists and locals a green oasis—without sacrificing the comfort of city living. From artistic epicenters to historical city centers, scroll through the slideshow to discover the 10 best urban public parks around the world. Because sometimes you really do just need a breath of fresh air.
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    Central Park (New York City, NY)
    In a city known for its harsh winters, gritty streets, and fast-paced lifestyle, Central Park is a social, cultural, and artistic retreat. Unlike Times Square or the Empire State Building, it is one of the rare attractions in NYC beloved by both tourists and locals. It doesn’t hurt that the almost 843-acre park offers a smorgasbord of entertainment, including ice skating at Wollman Rink, viewing the sea lions at the Central Park Zoo, picnicking in Sheep Meadow, and channeling your inner knight at Belvedere Castle. Central Park also hosts a range of tours, races, festivals, performances, sports competitions, and more; before visiting, check the calendar for upcoming events.
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    Golden Gate Park (San Francisco, CA)
    Although often touted as the Central Park of the West Coast, it’s important to recognize that what makes Golden Gate Park so special—and incomparable—is its ability to capture the heart and soul of San Francisco. The city’s creative, liberal, and eco-friendly spirit is perhaps most evident in hippie hill, known to draw drum circles and wafts of marijuana. The park is home to many art and cultural museums, including the De Young Museum and the California Academy of Sciences, and a myriad of stunning gardens. Fun fact: It’s the largest urban park in the United States (that’s right—it’s bigger than Central Park).
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    National Mall and Memorial Park (Washington, D.C.)
    The epicenter of Washington, D.C., the National Mall and Memorial Park is more than just a green space in the midst of a city—it’s also one of the most historically, politically, and culturally relevant places in the world. The main drag stretches between the U.S. Capitol Building and the Lincoln Memorial and includes the Washington Memorial, 11 of the 19 Smithsonian Museums, and the Constitution Gardens. We can thank the National Mall and Memorial Park (and the National Park Service that protects these historic landmarks) for keeping U.S. history alive—and keeping it all within walking distance.
    Photo by YoTuT/Flickr
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    Parque Ibirapuera (São Paulo, Brazil)
    In its complex of arts pavilions, soccer fields, and waterways, São Paulo’s Parque Ibirapuera is the ideal balance of leisure and entertainment. Designed by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, the buildings reflect his affinity for curved lines and abstract shapes that both harmonize with and add an artistic dimension to the surrounding natural landscape. Park highlights include the Professor Aristóteles Orsini Planetarium, the Japanese Pavilion, and the Oca, which houses the folklore and air force museums.
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    Jardin du Luxembourg (Paris, France)
    Also known as the Luxembourg Garden, the Jardin du Luxembourg was built as part of the construction of Luxembourg Palace, the residence built in 1612 at the request of Marie de’ Medici following the death of her former husband, Henry IV. Although the palace has since been converted to a legislative building, the garden’s many statues, greenhouses, and flowers are as well-maintained and impressive as ever. Today, this family-friendly attraction in the Sixth arrondissement also offers free programming, including outdoor concerts and art exhibitions.
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    Parque del Buen Retiro (Madrid, Spain)
    At the 350-acre Parque del Buen Retiro in Madrid, flora and fauna take center stage: The space includes more than 15,000 trees, a bald cypress tree estimated to be 400 years old, and a series of manicured gardens in various styles. The park also features an outdoor pond, ruins of the former Buen Retiro Palace, the Velazquez Glass Palace exhibition halls, and the Paseo de la Argentina (or Paseo de las Estatuas), a scenic lawn lined by statues. In 2005, the park added the Forest of Remembrance, a memorial dedicated to the victims of the 2004 terrorist attack on the local commuter train system.
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    Beihai Park (Beijing, China)
    It’s only been open to the public since 1925, but the Beihai Park has more than 1,000 years of history since its construction under Emperor Qianlong during the Qing Dynasty. Years spent as a private imperial garden are evident in the park’s many preserved historical and cultural landmarks, including Buddhist temples and statues. Other prominent features include Qionghau Island (also known as Jade Flower Island) and its iconic White Pagoda, the lake covering more than half of the park acreage, and the Five-Dragon Pavilions, built in the Ming dynasty.
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    Englischer Garten (Munich, Germany)
    Whether you’re cruising along a bike path, grabbing a brew at one of the two beer gardens, stretching out on Schönfeldwiese (Schönfeld meadow), or admiring the vistas from the hilltop Monopteros, a trip to Munich wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Englischer Garden. At more than 900 acres, it’s one of the largest—and best-kept—urban parks in Europe, and it features an amphitheater, Japanese teahouse, and Kleinhesseloher Lake. But one of Englischer Garten’s unique attractions is a bit more surprising: The Eisbach, a man-made river through the park, attracts groups of wetsuit-wearing surfers hoping to traverse what has become an internationally known wave break.
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    Hyde Park (London, UK)
    London’s 350-acre Hyde Park—one of the capital’s eight Royal Parks—is the largest in a network connecting Kensington Palace and the Horse Guards Parade. Located between Green Park and Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park encompasses a series of memorials, fountains, statues, and eateries, supplemented by a calendar of music, tours, and historical events. Visitors should also be sure to check out the Serpentine Lake, rose garden, and the Speakers’ Corner, a hotbed of social activism, protest, and public speeches since the 1800s.
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    Vondelpark (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
    Even among competition from the Anne Frank House, Red Light District, and Dam Square, Vondelpark remains one of the top attractions in Amsterdam—and the perfect place to kick back with goodies from a local coffee shop. The 120-acre park’s waterways, open-air theatre, and cafés attract more than 10 million visitors per year; a trip through Vondelpark is the ideal addition to a day exploring the nearby Van Gogh Museum and IAMSTERDAM sign and is easily accessible by tram or foot from the city center.
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