‘This is where lo­cals flock and flop on a sum­mer’s day’

The Sunday Telegraph - Travel - - Front Page -

It’s a cu­ri­ous para­dox: es­cap­ing the city dur­ing a Euro­pean city break. But rest­ing blis­tered feet in the leafy cool­ness of a lo­cal park af­ter a hec­tic morn­ing of mu­seum hopping is a quin­tes­sen­tial part of the ex­pe­ri­ence. Funny how we make pil­grim­ages to cul­tural icons such as the Trevi Foun­tain and the Lou­vre – but then re­mem­ber with equal fond­ness a gelato nursed un­der a ch­est­nut tree af­ter­wards.

This doesn’t make us park-lovers philistines. They are po­tent seats of cul­ture in their own right, af­ter all. The Tui­leries in Paris was the back yard of both Marie An­toinette and Napoleon. Madrid’s rose-per­fumed Re­tiro once be­longed to Span­ish monar­chy. Parks are also noble pre-

It cer­tainly cov­ers a lot of ground. Where else would baroque man­i­cured box trees open a view to a mas­sive con­crete air de­fence tower from the Sec­ond World War? Where else could you ad­mire fine porce­lain just af­ter coming out of a fra­grant lime grove? Vienna’s oldest baroque gar­den, just 15 min­utes’ walk from the cen­tre, is a nat­u­ral habi­tat for his­to­ri­ans, na­ture lovers, mu­sic afi­ciona­dos, and cineastes.

Tour the his­toric porce­lain man­u­fac­tory on the grounds, fol­lowed by cof­fee at the ad­ja­cent café; lis­ten to the Vienna Boys Choir per­form­ing at their con­cert hall, but do book in ad­vance; in the sum­mer, join the lo­cals at the open-air cinema. Chil­dren will also love the park’s five play­grounds.

In keep­ing with Au­garten’s his­toric neigh­bour­hood feel, the nearby Grät­zl­ho­tel Karmeliter­markt is housed in a se­ries of erst­while shops has a nicely con­tem­po­rary feel. (rooms from £86; 0043 1 2083904; tele­graph. co.uk/tt-gra­zl­ho­tel).

Türken­schanz­park on the out­skirts of the city, where the Ot­toman army en­trenched it­self some 330 years ago, is a neigh­bour­hood jewel. Most en­tic­ing are the hilly sur­round­ings, mag­i­cal ponds, view­ing tower “Pauli­nen­warte”, a mon­u­ment to an al­lied Ukrainian Cos­sack, and the park’s quaint café.

Orig­i­nally the gar­dens of a royal palace, the Re­tiro is now Madrid’s main play­ground and is par­tic­u­larly pop­u­lar with lo­cals on Sunday morn­ings. Take a row­ing boat out on the lake, which is dom­i­nated by a statue of Al­fonso XII. The mon­u­ment has just opened to the pub­lic, so you can go up to the top for panoramic views (free but reser­va­tion re­quired; reser­vas­pat­ri­mo­nio.es). Don’t miss the Ros­aleda rose gar­den, with more than 4,000 bushes in flower un­til early July, or the Ver­sailles-in­spired parterre.

Look out for the Àn­gel Caído foun­tain, which de­picts Lu­cifer’s de­scent to Hell and is one of the few stat­ues cel­e­brat­ing the devil. Rest your feet at Florida Re­tiro, a re­vamped pav­il­ion with tapas bar, deli mar­ket, roof terrace and restau­rant.

The fash­ion­able Only You Atocha, five min­utes’ walk from the Re­tiro, has a run­ning club and pro­vides maps of routes around the park (rooms from £91; 0034 914 09 78 76; tele­graph.co.uk/tt-atocha)

El Capri­cho was cre­ated in the late 18th cen­tury as the coun­try es­tate of the Duke and Duchess of Osuna – back then Goya and other lu­mi­nar­ies were reg­u­lar vis­i­tors. Wan­der­ing around the ro­man­tic gar­dens (next to a res­i­den­tial area close to the air­port), you come upon fol­lies, a lake and a maze, as well as a bunker from the Civil War.

Nick­named “Am­s­ter­dam’s Green Lung”, the Von­del­park is in­deed lung-shaped, and of­fers huge va­ri­ety – from the chil­dren’s play­grounds and ten­nis club, to jog­gers’ high­ways and a Thir­ties café that re­sem­bles a grounded fly­ing saucer. Laid out in the mid-19th cen­tury in the highly fash­ion­able English style, the 120-acre park also has green nooks aplenty, an el­e­gant rose gar­den, a lake with a no-hu­mans wild patch, and even a meadow with a ne­glected sculp­ture by Pi­casso. This is where Am­s­ter­dam flocks and flops on hot sum­mer days.

An open-air the­atre stages con­certs and other shows day and night through the sum­mer; the Blauwe Thee­huis has a terrace where you can sit back over lunch, drinks or cock­tails, and the Groot Melkhuis café has a chil­dren’s play­ground at­tached.

Just five min­utes from the Von­del­park, The Neigh­bour’s Mag­no­lia is a sim­ple, cheer­fully run fam­ily ho­tel, with a dog you can “bor­row” to take for walks (rooms

Lo­cated in the west of the city, the beau­ti­fully main­tained Jardim da Estrela – over­looked by the Basil­ica da Estrela, one of the cap­i­tal’s most or­nate churches – has been a favourite hide­away for city res­i­dents since the 1870s. Boast­ing a wrought-iron band­stand, a duck pond and a pop­u­lar chil­dren’s play area, it has some­thing for ev­ery­one.

Al­though the largest, most cen­tral and ar­guably most ob­vi­ous park to choose, Berlin’s Tier­garten has it all, from his­tor­i­cal mon­u­ments and cul­tural in­sti­tu­tions to art in­stal­la­tions and beer gar­dens. Once a for­est and hunt­ing reserve for the Kaiser, it was trans­formed into a land­scaped park by famed ar­chi­tect Peter Joseph Lenné in the 1800s. Stroll the park’s network of wind­ing path­ways to dis­cover the many high­lights dot­ted through­out.

The oys­ter­shaped Haus der Kul­turen der Welt of­fers a con­sis­tently high-qual­ity ar­ray of ex­hi­bi­tions, con­fer­ences and events. Café Am Neuen See has frothy beers, a proper restau­rant and a pretty lake with row­boats for hire; climb the Siegessäule (Vic­tory Col­umn) for stel­lar views.

Das Stue is a five-star de­sign ho­tel lo­cated right on the edge of the park. Some suites over­look the Tier­garten’s zoo (to which the bar en­joys a pri­vate en­trance). There is also a Miche­lin­starred restau­rant, a spa and pool (rooms from £181; 0049 30 3117220; tele­graph.co.uk/tt-dasstue)

Nes­tled against the Spree in the for­mer East, Trep­tow Park is known for both ta­ble-ten­nis-play­ing hip­sters and fam­ily bar­be­cues. Sun­bathe on the banks of the river, ad­mire the out­size Soviet Memo­rial or rent a kayak from the nearby Insel der Jü­gend.

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