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Best Urban Parks in the World

Millions of people around the world either live in a huge metropolis or plan to visit one on holiday. Cities can be fascinating: the hustle and bustle, the sky scrapers, and the numerous food options make them ideal for those who crave constant stimulation, and must-see locales on many traveler's wish lists. But even the most urbane of urbanites needs a respite from the chaos and noise now and then. Enter city parks. With their beautiful landscapes, serene vistas, and often fascinating history, millions of city dwellers and visitors alike delight in making use of these spaces. Here are 11 of the best urban parks in the world.

Park Güell, Barcelona

One of Anotoni Gaudí's masterpieces, Park Güell (Parc Güell in Catalon), is located atop Carmel Hill in Barcelona, Spain. The intriguing buildings at the main entrance resemble huge Hansel-and-Gretyl gingerbread houses, and a large mosaic dragon-lizard leads the way up. The park features a stunning view of the city, along with footpaths into the surrounding woods. Access is limited to a certain number of people every 30 minutes, so it's wise to book ahead online!

Hours: Vary. The Park Güell is open year-round, and features extended summer hours of 8:00 - 21:30

Admission: Adults € 8.50, Kids and Seniors € 6

For more info on location and ticketing, visit the official website here

photo: @bos1811

Ueno Park, Tokyo

Over 1000 Cherry Blossom Trees (Sakura or in Japanese) line the enchanting pathway through Ueno Park (上野公園, Ueno Kōen) , creating a glorious pink and white canopy above you. Hanami, the Japanese word for cherry blossom viewing, attracts massive crowds during sakura season, which falls around March or early April. Evidence of Ueno's former life as a temple are still in the park, with many shrines and pagodas found throughout.

Hours: 5:00 - 23:00

Admission: Adults ¥300, Kids and High School Students ¥100

For more info on location and ticketing, visit the official website here

Stanley Park, Vancouver

photo seawall: @erikanderson

Unlike other large urban parks, Stanley Park wasn't designed by a landscape architect; instead, it's an evolution of forest and urban space together, over many, many years. Huge ares of the park are just as densely forested as they were in the 1800s with nearly half a million trees, some of which stand as tall as 76 metres (249 ft) and are hundreds of years old. Perhaps the park's most famous feature is the Vancouver Seawall, a bike/foot path that stretches 9 km, bordering the park and protecting it from erosion. Stanley Park also features forest trails, beaches, lakes, and children's play areas.

Hours: Always open

Admission: Free

For more info, visit the official website here

Ibirapuera Park, São Paulo, Brazil

Ibirapuera Park (Parque Ibirapuera in Portuguese) is one of Latin America's largest urban green spaces, and with over 14 million visits a year, it's the most visited park in South America. In its 158 hectares, you'll find the usual leisure ares, as well as signature buildings designed by a team led by World-renowned Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, including museums, auditoriums, and more.

Hours: 5:00 - Midnight

Admission: Free

For more info, visit the official website here

Lumphini Park, Bangkok

photo aerial: @imjunjuneff

A haven of tranquility, fresh air, and shade in the unrelenting Thailand heat, Lumphini Park (sometimes Lumpini or Lumpinee; สวนลุมพินี in Thai) offers you a chance to reconnect with nature. Named after the birthplace of the Lord Buddha in Nepal, the park is more than half a million square metres large, and visitors can use the bike and running lanes, paddle boats, picnic ares, or join a fitness class like tai chi. But beware: reptiles, about the size of teenage crocodiles, sometimes wade out of the pond to sunbathe! Certainly not dangerous, but not a good idea to try and feed them, either.

Hours: 4:30 - 21:00

Admission: Free

For more info, visit the official website here

photo lizard: @jenn_jenn_11

Hibiya Park, Tokyo

Bordering the southern moat of the Imperial Palace, Hibiya Park (日比谷公園 Hibiya Kōen in Japanese) was originally the estates of the Samurai Clan Lords in the Edo period (1603-1868). During the Meiji Era, the area served as military parade grounds, and in 1903, the space was converted to a public park. Hibiya is very popular for momijigari 紅葉狩り(literally "red leaves hunting"). The Cherry Blossoms spring may get all the glory, but the brilliant displays of deciduous trees set ablaze with shades of red, orange, and yellow are surely not to be missed!

Hours: Always open

Admission: Free

For more info, visit the official website here

Central Park, New York

Between 1821-1855, NYC's population nearly quadrupled, and the need for a public space to escape the hustle and bustle of the city arose. In 1857, the state held a contest for park designs, and construction began that year. Central Park first opened to the public in 1858, and expanded to its current size in 1873. Over the last 150+ years, it has risen and declined in popularity a few times, but is the most visited urban park in the United States today --and for good reason! All the bike and foot paths, woodlands, sprawling lawns, and ponds aside, Central Park also has countless activities, tours, and classes you can take, as well as incredible events and shows. Theatre buffs: be sure not to miss the annual theatre tradition, the famous Shakespeare in the Park.

Hours: 6:00am - 1:00am

Admission: Free

For more info, visit the official website here

photo: @212sid

The Scarborough Bluffs, Toronto

The Scarborough Bluffs (affectionately known as "The Bluffs" to locals) is nowhere near as famous as it should be. The area has many connected city parks that feature a swimmable beach, volleyball courts, woodlands with recreational walking and hiking trails, a large marina and boating club, picnic areas with tables and fire pits, and if you're brave enough, even steep cliff trails that offer spectacular views. The Scarborough Bluffs are an escarpment that formed by wind and water erosion from Lake Ontario over 12,000 years ago. They're featured in the 1788 plan of Toronto as, "The Highlands," and Bluffers Park wasn't an official city park until 1975. The Bluffs run 15 km along the Lake Ontario shoreline and are as high as 90 meters (300 ft) at some points. Beware: if you're hiking the cliffs, stay behind the fences. Erosion is an ongoing issue, so use your common sense!

Hours: Always open, but trails are not maintained in winter

Admission: Free

For more info on this group of parks, visit the official website here

Parc des Buttes Chaumont, Paris

Another park more popular with locals than tourists, Parc des Buttes Chaumont doesn't even have an Anglo-fied name. Thanks to the composition of the park's soil, it was once almost bare of vegetation, earning the name "Chauve-mont," or bare hill. From the 13th C -1760, the area had a sinister reputation thanks to its proximity to the Gibbet of Montfaucon, the notorious place where bodies of hanged criminals were displayed. After the 1789 revolution, it was a garbage dump for nearly a century. It wasn't until 1864 that the grounds got a huge makeover: 200,000 cubic meters of topsoil were brought in, explosives were used to sculpt a grotto, arches, and a 50m mountain, and hydraulic pumps were used to create an impressive waterfall. Parc des Buttes Chaumont opened to the public in 1867, and has been popular with Parisians ever since.

Hours: 7:00 - 21:00

Admission: Free

For more info, visit the official website here

photo: @rcpopart

Keukenhof, Lisse, Netherlands

Keukenhof (Dutch for, "Kitchen garden") is located on the grounds of a 15th-Century castle formerly occupied by Jacqueline, Countess of Hainaut. The grounds were used as an herb garden for the castle, hence the name. These days, visitors flock to Keukenhof for the annual flower display where over 7 million bulbs bloom every spring, with 800 varieties of tulips. While the castle grounds are open year-round, Keukenhoff itself is only open between mid-March to mid-May. Keukenhof visitors can expect a variety of garden styles, such as English or Japanese, as well as pavilions, petting farms, and plenty of other family-friendly activities.

Hours: 8:00 - 19:30. See website for up to date information.

Admission: Adults € 18, Kids € 8

For more info, visit the official website here

Shinjuku Gyoen, Tokyo

photo cherry blossom tree: @adventure_with_ana

Yes, Japan is on the list three times. The Japanese know a thing or two about urban parks! Shinjuku Gyoen (新宿御苑 in Japanese) is another former residence of a Samurai Lord. The grounds became an Imperial Garden in the 18th Century that was destroyed during WWII, then restored and reopened as a public space in 1949. Shinjuku Gyoen features more than 20,000 tress including over 1,500 cherry blossoms, making it a very popular hanami (cherry blossom viewing) site. The prevalence of maple and other deciduous trees, though, make it a spectacular place to visit year-round.

Hours: 9:00 - 16:30.

Admission: ¥200

For more info, visit the official website here

photo garden pond: @wanderfallworld

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