One of the best places to see evidence of the unique cultural heritage of Spain is in its gardens. For many hundreds of years gardens have reflected the cultures settling in Spain from the Romans and their courtyards to the Andalusian patio. Today what we see is the rich mix of European culture with Moorish culture in some of the oldest gardens in Europe.
1) El Generalife (Granada)
The Palacio de Generalife, from the Arabic: Jannat al-’Arif, or the Architect’s Garden) was the summer palace of the Nasrid sultans of Granada. These beautiful gardens have been modified and added onto over the years but they include one of the oldest private gardens in Europe.
2) The Reales Alcazares (Seville)
The royal palace in Seville is a beautiful sight to see but the incredible gardens make it unmissable. The buildings and gardens were created by Muslim craftsmen from the 11th century onwards and reflect all the eras of creativity. This is the largest late-medieval garden in Europe.
3) The Royal Botanical Gardens (Madrid)
Commissioned by Carlos III, these eighteenth century gardens were designed in the popular neoclassic style, creating a more elegant garden with classical designs. Covering about 20 acres these are not the largest botanical gardens in the world, but they do have a huge variety of plants and trees. The greenhouses have stat-of the-art technology and carry out important research into maintaining the ecosystems in the Spanish climate.
4) The Horta Labyrinth (Barcelona)
Created in 1791 by the Marquis Joan Antoni Desvalls I Ardena, this is Barcelona’s oldest park. Although originally the gardens were designed as a neoclassical private Garden, his descendants added to the gardens and yet today it remains an excellent example of neoclassic design. This very beautiful garden was donated to the city of Barcelona when the family could no longer take care of it. The city made it a public park in 1971.
5) Park Güell (Barcelona)
Created by the famous architect, Antoni Gaudi, known for his Modernista style, this garden is a real must see site. Originally part of a housing site and inspired by the English Garden City movement (providing the source of the name ‘park’ in the title).
6) Parque del Retiro (Madrid)
Created as a Royal Park, partially laid out in a formal French style and partially set out in a more natural design, this 320 acre park is a refuge from the city with it’s shady walks and quiet spaces. The park includes the very pretty Palacio de Cristal built after London’s Crystal Palace and a rose garden built in 1912 modeled on Paris’ La Bagatelle.
7) Alfabia (Majorca)
Located in the Tramuntana Mountains, he Alfabia gardens are a rare remnant of Moorish civilisation on the island, dating from the 14th and 15th centuries. They include large, terraced gardens, fountains, pergolas and hidden ‘water tricks’. Astute Moors chose the location of the gardens carefully as the mountains create a microclimate providing year round water and more constant temperatures.