A city trip doesn’t necessarily mean a visit to a dense metropolis – many destinations have their fair share of green space, too. Recently, the World Cities Culture Forum conducted research that calculated the greenest cities across the globe, based on the percentage of each urban centre that’s covered in public parks and gardens. The cities that ranked most highly in this research offer visitors green spaces that range from blooming botanical gardens to bamboo forests where you can spot pandas. Read on to discover the highlights of these green cities, to help you in planning your own refreshing break.*
Explore the Rock Garden and Palm House in the Botanical Garden
Almost two-thirds of the Norwegian capital is made up of parks and gardens, making it a veritable paradise for those in search of an urban jungle. For visitors, one of the main draws is the Botanical Garden, which is the oldest of its kind in Norway. Home to over 7,000 unique plant species, a wooden medieval manor house known as the T?yen estate and a collection of gnarled willow sculptures, there’s a bounty of flora and historic features to be found here. To see more enigmatic sculptures, visit the Vigeland Installation in the rose-filled grounds of Oslo’s Frogner Park; a park that contains a collection of over 200 bronze and stone sculptures designed by celebrated Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland. There’s plenty to admire here but for those who want to get out of the city centre, head south to the palatial Palace Park or the popular picnic spot, Sofienberg Park. As of 2019, the European Commission has awarded Oslo the title of European Green Capital, giving it ambassador status for promoting best practices in the areas of sustainable urban development, meaning there’s never been a better time to enjoy the city’s many wooded enclaves. Stay at Camillas Hus just across from the Palace Park.
The Cloud Forest is home to the world's largest indoor waterfall
Nicknamed ‘The Garden City’, Singapore lives up to its name. Celebrated for its cleanliness, nearly half of the city is dedicated to green space – all the more impressive when you consider that it’s also one of the most densely populated places in the world – with said greenery reflecting the city’s reputation for innovation. Gardens by the Bay is one such example; a park spanning 250 acres of reclaimed land, it’s home to the futuristic-looking, solar-powered Super Trees, towering solar-powered specimens (some almost 50 metres high) that are meant to mimic real trees. There’s plenty of real greenery, too – head to the Flower Dome for a galactic arena that is the world’s largest greenhouse, or the Cloud Forest, a self-contained glass structure home to the largest indoor waterfall in the world and mountains of vegetation shrouded in mist. Beyond the indoor gardens, the 82-hectare Botanic Gardens and its National Orchid Garden is a dignified and beautifully landscaped retreat. If you’d like the illusion of sleeping among the flowers, the Shangri-La Hotel Singapore is found within 15 acres of tropical gardens.
Take in the sunset from Centennial Park
Sydney has what feels like an endless number of green spaces but it’s not just a feeling – almost half of the city area is carpeted in greenery. The largest expanse is the Centennial Parklands – comprising of Centennial, Moore and Queens Park – which neighbours Sydney’s Central Business District. Moore Park is home to a gorgeous strip of gnarled Moreton Bay fig trees that provides pockets of shade for picnic-goers. While Centennial Park is the largest of the three, a sweep of green that’s dotted with ponds, sculptures and horse riders. Further to the north of the city, more spectacles await; the ethereal Chinese Garden of Friendship is a manicured tangle of bamboo and waterfalls, modelled after the traditional gardens of the Ming Dynasty. Its ornate Dragon Wall and tiered tea house are both highlights. End the day at either the Royal Botanic Gardens right on the harbour next to the Sydney Opera House,. Or cross the Sydney Harbour Bridge to visit Clark Park for searing, crushed orange sunsets. You’ll catch them at Pier One Sydney Harbour, too.
Climb to the top of the Braunsberg Hainburg and catch Vienna at its greenest
With his Blue Danube Waltz, Austrian composer Johann Strauss made sure everybody knew how blue the river cutting through Vienna was, but there’s a wave of green in the Austrian capital that’s equally deserving of a song and dance. Vienna has a total of 2,000 parks, including the Volksgarten, where 400 unique species of roses bloom in the springtime. Better yet, city statistics suggest that there’s about 100 square metres of green for each of Vienna’s 1.8 millions citizens. Get a taste of this when you head out west to the ripple of woods that is The Vienna Woods, or far east in The Lobau (or ‘water forest’). In the city centre, look no further than The Prater, a park where you can waltz to your own tune under canopied paths or across velvety lawns, all the way to this hotel located at the park’s edge.
Spot Giant pandas at the Breeding Base in Chengdu
The capital of Sichuan province and a city long famed for its sizzling culinary offerings, Chengdu’s greenery is something to behold, too. And recent investment in urban green spaces has led Chengdu’s ascension towards the top of the green cities list. Between 2010 and 2015, the city created 31 wetland parks and by 2020 it aims to turn one-third of the urban area into green space. Better yet, there's aspiration to create an inner-city forest on Longquan Mountain that will be almost twice the size of Chengdu’s urbanised space. For the time being though, there’s plenty of greenery to revel in, with hushed teahouses and tranquil gardens which are the ideal antidote to the unending verve and buzz of Chinese cities. There’s also the ever-popular Giant Panda Breeding Base, where you can expect long wanders among the bamboo as well as glimpses of one of the world’s rarest and most vulnerable creatures. Stay at the restful Temple House.
**The data used was taken from a report conducted by the World Cities Culture Forum 2019 that looked into the % of public green space (parks and gardens) across a selection of the world's global cities.