The 14 Best City Parks In The World
By Robert James, Hi Consumption, 1 August 2014.
By Robert James, Hi Consumption, 1 August 2014.
What would we do without our urban city parks? They provide an oasis from the rush of train and traffic, an escape from the sirens and horns that are an indelible part of life in the metropolis. In stark contrast to their surroundings, they keep us connected to a natural, and possibly more sane environment. Amazingly, like the Rambles in Central Park, they are often home to a variety of bird life, or a rest stop on a long journey of migratory peregrinations. We come to them for some quiet space, a leisurely stroll beside a lake. They are for runners, joggers, riders and bikers. We reach out to them for their music, for plays performed in open-air theatres, the museums that line their edges. They are as diverse as the cities we’ve built around them. Here are 14 of some of the very best parks in the world.
1. Central Park, New York
Central Park is a swathe of green, 778 acres of refuge from the glass and concrete of Manhattan, home to cyclists, skateboarders, joggers, and roller bladers. If you really want to be the tourist, take one of the city’s iconic horse and carriage rides through the park. Be sure to carry a map and look up with your mouth open. You could also go boating in the park, visit the zoo, take in Shakespeare in the Park, or a free concert at Summer in Central Park. In 1981 Simon and Garfunkel performed a free benefit concert in front of 500,000 people.
2. Hamarikyu Gardens, Tokyo
Some three hundred years before it was a park, Hamarikyu was a home of the Tokugawa family, the last of the Japanese feudal lords. Surrounded by a seawater moat and with seawater ponds which rise and fall with the tides, it has similarities to Central Park in that it is an oasis surrounded by skyscrapers. At the centre of the park there’s an island teahouse where you can kick back and take in the surrounding ginkgo and maple trees.
3. Phoenix Park, Dublin
Phoenix Park in Dublin is a large park about three miles from the centre of town. Surrounded by seven miles of wall, which keeps the roaming wild Fallow deer inside from roaming too far, it is one of the largest walled parks in Europe. The deer descend from the original herd, introduced around 1660. If you want more than just deer, visit Dublin Zoo, it’s the third oldest zoo in the world, behind Vienna and London. Like many city parks, it has been the site of numerous concerts, with performances by Coldplay, Tom Waits, and Snoop Dogg, among others.
4. Park Guell, Barcelona
Named after Eusebi Guell, Park Guell was originally a housing project that didn’t work out, and inspired by parks in England, hence the use of the English word. It was built between 1900 - 1914 and designed by Antoni Gaudi, who also created the Sagrada Familia. The park is best known for its monumental precinct, an area of the park devoted to stone structures and buildings, often using mosaics and coloured tiles in the design.
5. Englischer Garten, Munich
Or if you prefer, English Garden. Englischer Garten is the first public garden in Europe, believed to be the biggest city-owned park in Europe, and one of the largest urban parks in the world. In addition to some pretty awesome urban surfing, other attractions include nude sunbathing, a Japanese teahouse and gardens built on an island in the park to celebrate the 1972 Olympic Games. The teahouse was a gift from a tea school in Kyoto. Only in Japan would there be a tea school. Well, maybe England, too. There’s also the Chinesischer Turm, a pagoda inspired by London’s Great Pagoda, which has the second largest beer garden in Munich and seating for more than seven thousand people. Welcome to Germany.
6. Chapultepec, Mexico
Chapultepec is one of the largest city parks in the west, knocking on the door of two thousand acres. Think twice the size of Central Park. Take that, New York. Originally a retreat for Aztec rulers, now its abundance of trees is an important factor in maintaining oxygen levels in the Valley of Mexico. The oldest section of the park sees the most visitors, probably because the zoo, the anthropology museum, and the Rufino Tamayo Museum of Art are all here. If you’re a bird watcher, you’ll have somewhere around fifty different species to look for.
7. Hyde Park, London
There are eight Royal Parks in London, and Hyde Park is one of them. They used to be hunting grounds for the Royals, but now they’re all public spaces. Hyde Park was created in 1536 by Henry VIII between wives. At 350 acres Hyde Park is big, but nowhere near the biggest. It would be bigger if in 1728 Queen Caroline hadn’t drawn a line through it and turned the western end into Kensington Gardens. Today, Hyde Park is perhaps most famous for Speakers’ Corner, where you can go air your opinions in public, large demonstrations, and rock concerts going back to 1969 and the Rolling Stones.
8. Grant Park, Chicago
Grant Park - Chicago’s welcome mat, the front stoop. Wipe your feet and come on in. Police and demonstrators fought here in 1968, the Bulls celebrated their championship victories here during the 1990s, and on November 4, 2008, newly-elected Barack Obama gave a victory speech that had no other choice than to go down in history.
9. Park Ibirapuera, Sao Paolo
In terms of its importance to Sao Paolo, Park Ibirapuera has been compared to New York’s Central Park. As well as a leisure area for joggers, cyclists and walkers, the park contains a number of different buildings and structures, many designed by architect Oscar Niemeyer, who also created the cathedral of Brazilia. The Ibirapuera Gymnasium is here, which is an indoor sporting arena seating 11,000, as well as the Astrophysics school, and the Planetarium built in the shape of a flying saucer. Or probably more accurately a not flying saucer.
10. Bois de Boulogne, Paris
The Bois de Boulogne makes Central Park look like a vegetable patch. It’s a green blob that oozes over Paris, though in an attractive, non-blobbish way. It’s huge, one of the world’s great parks. If you go back far enough, more than a thousand years, it would have been part of the oak forest of Rouvray, a former royal hunting ground. The Bois was created in the 1850s by Napoleon. No, a different one. A nephew and heir to the one you’re thinking of. It is a rich and diverse setting, home to the main racetrack of Paris, the Hippodrome de Longchamp, and the State de Roland Garros, which holds the French Open tennis each year.
11. Vondelpark, Amsterdam
Compared with the likes of the Bois de Boulogne and Chapultepec, Vondelpark is a mere slip of a thing. In a city anything larger than Amsterdam, you’d need a magnifying glass to find it. Originally named Het Nieuwe Park (rough translation, The New Park), it changed to Vondelpark after a statue of the writer and playwright Joost van der Vondel was erected. People simply began referring to it as Vondelpark. It has an open-air theatre, a rose garden, and the circular Blue Tearoom. During the hippy movement, it was symbolic as the place where practically anything was permissible. Rough translation, sex and space cakes.
12. The High Line, New York City
The High Line is a mile of elevated train track on the lower west side of Manhattan that has been turned into a park. To escape the madness of the streets, you simply climb upwards, rising into an area where all is tranquil and quiet. Apart from the tourist hordes, that is. For this beautiful use of old space, thank the non-profit Friends of The High Line, formed by Joshua David and Robert Hammond in 1999. The creation of the park has prompted other neighbourhoods and other cities to look at more imaginative uses for previously abandoned spaces.
13. Imperial Gardens, Tokyo
The Imperial Gardens are the back yard of the Imperial family home. The inner grounds, those closest to the bedroom windows, are generally not open to the public, with the exception of January 2, and December 23, which happens to be the Emperor’s birthday. The East Gardens, however, are open to the public. They were once the site of Edo castle. Edo is Tokyo, the name the city was known by before 1868. None of the main castle buildings remain today. At the foot of the castle hill, where the second circle of defense once stood, the Ninomaru Japanese garden has been created.
14. Golden Gate Park, San Francisco
The fifth most visited city park in the US, Golden Gate Park is larger than Central Park, which seems to have become the urban park measuring standard. Unlike Central Park, San Francisco’s park has bison in it, though they’re not running wild. Other features of the park include two windmills that supply water to the park, a carousel, natural lakes, and the Polo Fields stadium, from where in 1967 Timothy Leary encouraged people to “tune in, turn on, and drop out.”
[Source: Hi Consumption. Edited.]