Europe is home to a long tradition of horticulture and botany-related academic research. From the days of the earliest plant hunters (and continuing to the modern day), Europeans have craved new species and exciting new varieties of plants to enjoy in the garden and greenhouse. Keen adventurers would set out on long and dangerous sea voyages with the hope of finding new plants that would satisfy the botanical appetites of their patrons. Many of these were collected for purely ornamental reasons, but the medical use of plants was the original purpose of many of the Botanical Gardens still in existence today.
As a result of this long tradition, Europe boasts some of the finest Botanical Gardens in the world. We have compiled a short list of some of the highlights, picking out the best Botanical Gardens out there. While some have substantial plant collections, others are simply nice gardens to take a stroll around.
Lisbon Botanical Garden (Jardim Botânico de Lisboa), Portugal
Construction of this Botanical Garden began 1873, at the height of the plant-hunting craze. Now home to some 18,000 species, this garden includes many species which are rare. Although not a very large garden, it is certainly worth a visit if you are in the city. The garden is home to plants gathered from around the world, mainly from areas colonized by Portugal over the centuries. The main attractions of this garden are the many rare species in the living collection, a vast array of Ferns and Cycads, and a variety of other trees and shrubs.
Jardin des Plantes de Paris, France
A substantial garden of 28 hectares set in the heart of the French capital. The garden incorporates many exhibits and collections falling under the curtilage of the natural sciences including minerology and zoology. Planting began in 1635, for the original use as a garden of medicinal plants. The garden is set out in a grand formal style with a mind-boggling array of species on display.
The Plantentuin Antwerp (Den Botaniek)
Created in 1825, this relatively small botanic garden (just under 1 hectare) includes an officially protected herb garden, many decorative tree and fern species and a water garden originally used to raise leeches for medicinal purposes. Well worth a visit if you happen to be in the city.
The Horticultural Garden, Florence (Giardino dell’Orticultura)
Florence (and the surrounding area) boasts several fantastic gardens. The Horticultural Garden is one of the best. Founded in 1852, this Botanic Garden features an impressive antique greenhouse built in the characteristic style of the time. This garden is set in 2.39 hectares, and is located right in the heart of Florence. Both the manageable size and location make it an ideal venue for a leisurely walk. It may not have as large a collection as some other Botanical Gardens, but there are still many beautiful plants that can be found growing here, including orchids and tropical plants of various kinds.
(no website found, but the Tripadvisor Page is interesting)
Austrian Botanic Garden, University of Vienna
These gardens are an active part of the University of Vienna, and only the tropical greenhouse is open to the public. Founded in 1754, this garden covers some 8 hectares in total, and is home to 11,500 species of well-documented plants including many bromeliads. The greenhouse covers some 1500m2.
Botanic Garden – Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna
The Palace itself is a massive attraction, and you could easily spend several days here. The gardens were first opened to the public in 1779, and much of the gardens are still free to walk around, with some special exhibits requiring the purchase of a ticket. Schönbrunn Palace is Vienna’s most popular attraction, hosting over 3 million visitors annually. The grand scale of this sumptuous estate is beyond description, with formal gardens, palm house and even fake roman ruins to boot.
Berlin Botanic Garden
An impressive garden of some 43 hectares of varied plantings and greenhouses, including a superb cactus collection, tropical orchids and much more. The greenhouse space alone covers a generous 6000m2, and features a giant bamboo.
Real Jardin Botanico in Madrid
This substantial attraction consists of some 8 hectares of beautifully landscaped garden, divided into 7 major outdoor gardens and 5 impressive greenhouses. This glorious garden contains some 90,000 plants and flowers, and 1,500 trees. Originally founded in 1755 as a royal garden, the site was extensively restored in the late twentieth century, and reopened in 1981.
This botanical garden has grown somewhat from its original plot size of 1400m2 in 1593. Although still not massive, the Leiden Botanical Garden is still more impressive than the Hortus in Amsterdam and is just the right size for spending a whole day at. The landscaped gardens are a pleasure to walk around, and the greenhouses have a variety of tropical plants and cacti to enjoy.
Utrecht Botanic Gardens
This is a large garden, located out of the city centre in the Utrecht Science Park. It is a part of the University of Utrecht, and is open to the public provided you can find the place. It is a substantial modern botanic garden, stretching over 9 hectares of varied garden plantings, organized by themes. There are also several large greenhouses and a fantastic rock garden, which alone could take half a day to really take in. The gardens are open from March 1st to December 1st, and you may want to spend a couple of days looking around – or just one very full day.