Updated: January 23, 2023Published: November 18, 2022
Born from the need of human beings to bring their houses closer to nature, Gardens offer us a place for calm and serenity where one can reflect and relax.
The most recognized heritage by the general public is the architectural heritage, which includes monuments, buildings, and gardens.
I know gardens might sound less famous, but they are not less important! In Europe, 35 gardens have been listed as World Heritage by UNESCO, and Spain is the third European country with the highest number of recognized gardens. If you’re curious about the name of those gardens, you’re in the right place.
Here is the list of the gardens and parks you definitely can’t miss if you come to Spain:
The Laberint d’Horta park is a unique site in Barcelona!!. As you can guess, and as the name indicates, it locates in the district of Horta-Guinardó. It was built at the end of the 18th century. Do you know what this means?! It means that it is the oldest park in Barcelona!! The park was designed and created by the Italian gardener Domenico Bagutti and commissioned by the Marquis Antoni Desvalls. It was on his property until it became public in the 17s.
What can we find in the park? In this park, you can find Tuscan-style columns, mythological sculptures, symmetrical landscaping, a waterfall, moss, and wild plants. It consists of two central gardens: a neoclassical one from the 18th century, which extends over three terraces, and the main theme is love. And the other garden is the romantic one, which is from the 19th century and revolves around “death,” and locates on the left side of the park.
Okay, and hear me out - There is also a labyrinth!! Anyone who enters the labyrinth of cypress trees in the middle of the park, which has made it an emblematic site, finds a final reward: the famous statue of Eros, and very close by, at the exit, the route of Echo and Narcissus. We have many famous sculptors and magical sculptures made in Spain. To learn more about them, you should visit the following post:
Access to the park is free, but the entrance to the labyrinth costs €2.23 (a weird and particular price, I know). It is free every day for residents of the Horta district. And for the rest of us, on Wednesdays and Sundays, admission is free of charge.
2. Retiro Park, Madrid
The heart of Madrid has the most beautiful and visited green lung: The Retiro Park. I’m sure you’ve heard at least once about it.
What can I see while visiting the Retiro park? As I’m from Madrid, I go very often to have a walk, go for a picnic, and disconnect from the chaos of the city… It’s the most important park in Madrid and one of the favorite places for locals and tourists. It’s an ample green space with more than 118 hectares in the heart of Madrid.
This urban park was built in the 17th century for the enjoyment of King Philip IV. However, it was partially destroyed after the war of Independence. The Retiro recovered all its charm and elegance as the years passed, becoming a public park!
It has many activities to enjoy with the family and little kids, such as puppet shows, musicians, book fairs and, palm readers, fortune tellers (although we are not superstitious by the way)
If I had to choose the things you cannot miss if you visit the Retiro Park, are:
The pond: the artificial pond is one of the first images we will see if we enter through Puerta de Alcalá. In the pond, you can rent rowboats or take a small group tour.
Monument to Alfonso XII: This is an impressive monument on one pond bank. On Sundays, many people near the monument play timbales, the Spanish guitar, and other instruments. In case you want to get familiar with the topic, I have an article explaining everything about the Spanish Guittar and why it is so unique and special in Spain:
The Crystal Palace: It was built in 1887 next to the pond. The Crystal Palace is the site of many temporary exhibitions and was initially used as a greenhouse.
Paseo de la Argentina: commonly called “Paseo de las Estatuas” (promenade of the statues in English), it’s a promenade where we will find statues dedicated to all the monarchs of Spain. Ferdinand VI originally commissioned them to adorn the Royal Palace.
3. The Royal Botanical Garden of Madrid
The Royal Botanical Garden was initially founded next to Manzanarez in 1755, and it was later moved to its current location next to the former Museum of Natural Sciences, where years later, the Prado Museum would be installed (one of the most important museums in the city, you should check it out if you are visiting Madrid). All of this was under the order of Fernando VI. In the beginning, the Royal Botanical Garden had the primary function of medicine. However, during the spring and summer months, it became a cool and pleasant place frequented by the high society, who tried to escape during the hottest days.
Later, during the War of Independence, the garden suffered years of abandonment. In 1974 restoration work began to restore it to its original appearance, and it became an Artistic Garden and National Monument.
Currently, the Royal Botanical Garden of Madrid has more than 5.000 species of plants and trees and offers numerous exhibitions and activities in its facilities. I invite you to learn more about nature in Spain in the following posts:
The garden has four terraces with different ambiances. In the upper area, special collections, such as the bonsais donated by Felipe Gonzalez, can be seen. The second terrace has a more romantic style, a pond, and two greenhouses, while on the next terrace, there is a plant collection that shows a journey from the most primitive to the most evolved plants—finishing with the lowest and broadest level of the garden where the most colorful and medicinal plants are located, as well as aromatic and fruit plants.
It is definitely worth a visit!
4. Alcázar of the Christian Monarchs in Córdoba
We have to go back in history to understand the context in which the Alcazar of the Christian Monarchs in Cordoba opened. Alfonso XI ordered the construction of the current Alcazar in 1329 on the site of an old Caliphate Alcazar, which had previously been the residence of the Roman governor. The most important historical moment in Alcázar was in 1486 when the Catholic Monarchs met with Christopher Columbus to discuss their new route to the Indies. There is a sculpture in the gardens of the Alcazar represents this iconic moment that laid the foundations for Columbus’s discovery of America!
The royal gardens of the Alcazar were built in the 20th century on the former Alcazar Gardens of the palace. It is an area of 30.000 m2 full of fountains, ponds, and species such as palm trees, cypresses, oranges, and lemon trees.
The show “Magical Nights at the Alcazar” is performed some nights of the year. It’s a show of music, water, and lights. I recommend it only if you have already seen the Alcazar during the day because at night, you can see the colors of the fountains, but you must see the bright, beautiful colors of the vegetation and flowers during the daytime!
The unique beauty of this place also had incredible historical importance. Queen Isabella the Catholic used to walk through the gardens of the Alcazar while reading. So, walking through the gardens of the Alcazar of Cordoba is like walking through cypress trees, orange trees, pools, wildflowers, and shrubs. The vegetation is well-maintained, and the paths are impeccable. This is considered the best part of the Alcázar de Los Reyes Cristianos.
5. The Generalife, Granada
The Generalife does not means “the life of a general”, it’s a villa with gardens next to the Alhambra in Granada!!
The origin of its name comes from the Arabic “Yannat al-Arif,” which in Spanish means “Gardens of the Alarife” or Generalife.
This Spanish garden was built between the 12th and 14th century. During the reign of the Catholic Monarchs, they allowed a mayor on the estate, and the villa became private property until 1921 when the State recovered it. The purpose of this villa in the past was for the rest of the Muslim kings of Granada.
This small palace is surrounded by orchards and fruit gardens that were undoubtedly used in the Nasrid period to supply the Alhambra. The oldest orchard is called Huerta Colorá and is the only one that has remained intact over time. This garden locates to the left of where the gardens end, and there are two central patios:
Patio of the Acequia: This patio is the first of the two main ones. It owes its name, as is logical, to the irrigation ditch that crosses its rectangular floor plan. Next to it is a gazebo that used to be a place for meetings and conferences.
Patio of the Sultana: It is a beautiful courtyard, 25m long by 15m wide, confined between walls and a set of stairs. It has a central water pond along with 38 jets on the edges and a central peninsula with two vegetation squares and a stone fountain over a small main pond. This second patio got its name because, Morayma, Boabdil’s wife and a noble knight abencerraje, used to have amorous affairs under the cypress in this patio.
6. Parque Grande José Antonio Labordeta
This park is in the city of Zaragoza, was inaugurated in 1929, and is located in the University district.
Since its inauguration and for 81 years, it was officially called Primo de Rivera park, and people started calling it “Grande park.” After the death of the singer-songwriter and politician José Antonio Labordeta in 2010, the City Council of Zaragoza gave his name to the park.
The park has a lot of different monuments, like the Fuente de la Princesa, the first fountain installed in Zaragoza at the beginning of the 19th century.
Activities to do on Parque Grande Antonio Laborea:
Visit the museums: You can visit two museums that belong to the Museum of Zaragoza. They are located at the edge of the Puente de Los Cantautores. There are the Casas Pirenaica and Albarracin, which have exhibitions all the time of ceramics and ethnology of the most important museum of Zaragoza.
Ride the train: this activity is perfect if you are traveling with children and arrive during the train’s season.
Rent bicycles: there are several points where you can rent them, available for children and adults with different models according to your taste.
Visit the Viewpoint of the Cabezo de Buenavista: which is next to the monument of Alfonzo el Batallador, where you can enjoy beautiful views of the city.
Chill on a terrace: six terraces are available to refresh yourself, have a drink, and recharge your energy to continue visiting the beautiful corners of the park.
7. Park Güell, Barcelona
Park Güell, one of Antoni Gaudí’s most emblematic works, is a monumental site unique worldwide. This park is a symbol of Barcelona. If you didn’t know, Gaudí is the most well-known Spanish architect who has done many other works in Barcelona City! Here’s everything about him and other emblematic architects that have marked history:
Gaudí was inspired by the forms of nature, giving the park an impressive ornamental creation. This park is unique in the world since it was conceived as a monumental enclosure where the natural environment connects with architectural elements. In 1969, Park Güell was declared a historic-artistic monument of national interest. And later, in 1984, UNESCO announced it as a World Heritage Site.
-If you were still waiting for a better reason to visit this beautiful park, now you have it!
Park Güell has more than 17 hectares and is covered with undulating forms, tree-like columns, animal figures, and geometric shapes. Most of the surfaces are decorated with mosaics made of small pieces of colored ceramic. Getting into detail, this is a public park that you have to pay to get accessed. It’s equipped with all the facilities and services that make it suitable for children and adults. In 2006, the park was renovated, and today they even offer a guiding service to facilitate tourists and visitors to get knowledge of the park.
8. Royal Palace of La Granja of San Ildefonso, Segovia
The Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso began its construction in 1721 under the reign of King Philip. Teodoro Ardemans started the construction of a small baroque palace around the old cloister of the Hieronymite Monks of El Parral de Segovia, currently the Patio de la Fuente, with the intention that it would serve as a retreat once his functions as the king had ceased.
The fantastic façade facing the Gardens is the work of Filippo Juvarra and Juan Bautista Sachetti, and the interior was decorated according to the taste of the time and the image projected by the monarchy.
The garden highlights the Museum of Tapestries in the old House of ladies. Here, an enormous collection of varicolored iconography shows the Flemish tapestries. It was made in honor of King Charles I and Philip II, with the Gallery of the Statues on the first floor and the Throne Room on the top floor.
After the fire of 1918, the paintings of the vaults got lost, although a very important set is still preserved. I highly recommend you visit this garden as it is a beautiful place. There are also some typical restaurants close to it where you can eat the Judiones de la Granja, which is a delicious dish specific from there.
9. Jardí de Montfort, Valencia
There is only one example of preserved historical gardening in Valencia: The Monforte Garden, or Jardí de Montfort. It has an area of about 12.000 square meters and is an ideal garden for rest in the middle of a big city.
The layout of this Garden is of neoclassical style, and its origin goes back to one of the existing orchards outside the city walls, specifically the orchard of Don José Vich. In 1849 it was sold to Don Juan Bautista Romero, Marquis of San Juan since he wanted to transform it into a garden of romantic inspiration. Then, he commissioned the Valencian architect Don Monleón Estellés to build the Garden.
The Gardens are used for celebrating civil weddings, where the bride and groom use the space to take traditional photos, surrounded by the extraordinary beauty of the place.
It is divided into three distinct areas. On one side is the Old Parterre, trimmed hedges, and statues on pedestals. Another area is the New Parterre, with cypress and myrtle hedges surrounding the courtyard of fountains forming figures and quadrants. And finally, the area of the copse with a more naturalistic aesthetic.
10. Botanical Garden of Málaga
The Historical Botanical Garden La Concepción, popularly known as the Finca de la Concepción, is one of the most beautiful and exciting parks in Malaga city. Trust me, you can’t miss it!!
This garden house has more than 25,000 plants of 2,000 different species and various buildings, archaeological remains, statues, ponds, waterfalls, and greenhouses. Located at the northern entrance of Malaga, it is one of the few gardens with subtropical climate plants in Europe.
The history of the Botanical Garden of Malaga dates back to 1855 when the couple formed by Jorge Loring Oyarzábal and Amalia Heredia Livermore decided to convert this agricultural estate into a beautiful botanical garden in English style. That is why they decided to plant trees from all over Europe. The couple ordered the construction of several buildings and the placement of various archaeological remains on their property. After the acquisition of the property by the City Council of Málaga, different gardens were created with the modern characteristics of a botanical garden. These were gardens with collections arranged in such a way as to have a more systematic and academic study than was possible in the historical Garden, conceived initially as a garden for strolling.
11. Maria Luisa Park in Seville, Spain
Maria Luisa Park is the most famous park in Seville. It was inaugurated in 1914 and was part of the private gardens of the Palace of San Telmo, later designed by the French landscape designer Jean Claude Nicolas Forestier in 1914.
In 1848, the Dukes of Montpensier settled in Seville and acquired the San Telmo Palace in 1850. They also bought two properties to be used as gardens for the palace: La Isabela and San Diego, which contained the remains of the old Franciscan convent of San Diego.
In 1893, they gave the city an essential part of the gardens of San Telmo, which were incorporated into the urban patrimony in 1911.
The most outstanding trees in this Garden are Ciprés de Los Pantanos, in the Becquer traffic circle and planted around 1850. And the Araucaria bidwillii, located around the Hermanos Machado traffic circle. It is the only existing specimen in the city of Seville.
This is a park of free access!!! It is a good place in Seville for picnics, rent some fun pedal carts and have a great day. And it’s also very wide, which makes it ideal for strolling on foot or bike!!
The park houses the Archaeological Museum and the Plaza de España, which has a beautiful history linked to 3 women: Isabel II, Maria Luisa, and Maria de las Mercedes. It has a waterfall area where children love to spend time. It hides small squares, monuments, and sculptures of great beauty.
12. Garden of Pazo de Mariñán, A Coruña
A Pazo is a name for a typical Galician house. In the Pazo de Mariñán, the architecture and its gardens are complemented by the typical landscape of Las Mariñas.
The 17 hectares occupied by the Pazo de Mariñan divide into three areas:
The ornamental Garden
The horticultural area
The wooded area
There are also three levels of terraces that remain today: the upper level, where the main building is located; the intermediate level, which contains the geometric boxwood parterre garden, with a pergola and a central fountain. The lower level houses the cultivated fields and extends down to the estuary.
These places offer marked green contrasts that open to the Betanzos estuary, formed by the Mandeo river. It’s located in the region of A Coruña in Mariñas dos Condes.
The origins of Pazo de Mariñán date back to a military fortress built in the 15th century. The period of splendor of the Pazo de Mariñán took place during the second half of the 18th century, during the time of the Marquises of Mos. They gave it the current U-shaped structure, typical of many Galician Pazos. During this period, the villa acquired its “palace” appearance, with numerous architectural motifs linked to the Baroque style of Santiago de Compostela.
Have you been to any of these gardens and parks before? How was your experience?
And if you haven’t, I encourage you to plan a visit to the one that has surprised you the most. You will not regret it! Let yourself be surprised by the magic of Spanish gardens. They are designed for recreation, enjoyment, and visual delight!
Jimena Bolívar is a seasoned travel writer with a unique passion for Spanish Food & Recipes. With a background in business and marketing, she brings a strategic and innovative approach to her writing, making her the perfect guide for those looking to truly experience the Authentic Spain. Jimena is also a Mother of 4, and is a huge fan of knitting her own clothes.