European gardens have enjoyed quite an evolution over the times, sometimes formal, sometimes imitating the informal tangle of nature. Then there are vegetable gardens, found everywhere food can be grown. There are gardens, like Monet's at Giverny, which have achieved fame among the traveling public for many years. Here is a list of our favorite gardens; it's not a comprehensive list of all the gardens worth visiting. In fact, if you have a favorite garden that's not listed here, you're invited to add details about it at the end of this list.
Giverny is a small village in Normandy, 75 kilometers northeast of Paris. Claude Monet spent lots of time painting in it, and many of his most popular works come from the gardens you can still visit. Giverny, a small town with a large parking lot for buses, is a major tourist destination in France. Giverny is best visited in spring, but there is also a September festival here.
Padua's Botanical Gardens, begun in 1545, are the oldest in Europe.You'll find bug eating plants and a garden for the blind, as well as historical medicinal and poisonous plants (sometimes they're the same, you know).
How about a lush garden with lots of water in the Azores? There's a hotel in the gardens, where you can stay to enjoy them to the fullest while eating and sleeping well. There's also a geothermic pool to enjoy while you're there. You can't beat that. See the pictures and dream.
Mainau Island, Lake Constance, Germany
Like formal gardens? The gardens on Mainau Island surround a palace built in 1853 by Grand Duke Frederick I of Baden. There's also a butterfly refuge on the island. Like Dahlias? There were an estimated 20,000 dahlia plants in full bloom when we were there in October.
If you like your gardens tropical and full of art and water works, this is the garden for you. Just outside Funchal, the capital city, you can get there by aerial cable car and return in a wicker basket on rails, a bonus you won't get on any of the other gardens in our list.
Like Tulips? Well, here's the place. Best to go in April, usually. You can get there easily by train from Amsterdam. The gardens are part of an interesting corner of the Netherlands called "Noord-Holland" or North Holland.
How about visiting an island of monasteries and prized vegetable gardens? Really, the vegetable gardens and the displays of the vegetables in the churches in fall are works of art on Reichenau Island.
A palace begun in the 1300s and 180 acres of formal baroque and rococo gardens are some darned nice eye candy, especially in spring when the trees and the daffodils are in bloom. See how royalty liked their foliage. Schwetzingen is in southwestern Germany, near Heidelberg.