How Green is That City?
Online travel company TravelBird (travelbird.nl) has published its 2018 Green Cities Index revealing the best urban destinations for eco-conscious travellers. We checked out its 10 of the best.
Presented in terms of square metre per person, Iceland’s capital Reykjavik – with almost 10% made up of nature reserve – tops a new list of the world’s greenest cities. Prague has the highest percentage of green space at almost 57%, and Edinburgh tops the UK list with 41%. The research analysed data from 50 popular cities, evaluating the types and number of green spaces such as parks, golf courses, meadows, vineyards and farms.
Other cities that get a nod include Auckland, Bratislava and Sydney. But steer clear of Tokyo if you yearn for an urban escape as it records both the smallest percentage of green space and the lowest number of square metres per person.
“The World Health Organisation has reported urban green spaces help individuals feel more relaxed, reduce stress and also helps protect against harmful pollutants,” says TravelBird’s Fiona Vanderbroeck.
“With many travellers seeking refuge from the daily grind, the thought of a city break might have once seemed contradictory to the idea of a relaxing holiday, but this index proves otherwise.
“Many cities have made significant strides towards both preserving and manufacturing green spaces. With these findings we aim to inspire travellers to see them differently – inviting them to connect with nature whilst also enjoying the vibrancy and culture.”
The good folk at Prague’s tourist board have created a series of walks taking you off the beaten path. They include a two-mile route connecting two of Prague’s contrasting districts and ending at the ‘secret gardens’ recently renovated and opened within the grounds of a convent. Another (three-mile) walk goes from the Baroque Brevnov Monastery and its gardens, through a tidy Communist-era housing estate to a charming village and around an old vineyard farmstead.
Tour operators www.thomascook.com; www.superbreak.com
The Italian capital is characterised by a significant presence of green spaces, parks and gardens. Many are named after aristocratic families such the Borghese and the Doria Pamphilj. During the 15th and 16th centuries, these families lived in gorgeous villas surrounded by stunning gardens. Rome has gone through many transformations over the years but some gems have been perfectly preserved, allowing visitors to ‘the eternal city’ to marvel at present and past Roman glories.
One of the most noted spots in which to relax in this modern – and family-friendly – city on the Danube is the 22-hectare Horsky Park. Its forest setting is perfect for young ones, whilst the Bratislava Forest Park in the Little Carpathians is a treasure trove of tree-clad trails, modest waterfalls and soft adventure. Also with families in mind, head for Fit Park where you can jump on trampolines or discover a genuine insect hotel, or make for the most unusual of sandpits in which, under many layers, children can become junior scientists as they look for various former inhabitants of Bratislava’s unique nature such as a fossilised grandfather seal, rhinoceros and a precious blue butterfly.
Gothenburg is encircled by rocky shoreline, deep forests, tranquil lakes and surging sea. Experience a flourishing green city with some of the best parks and gardens in northern Europe as well as historic castles and fortifications. Adventure is never far away – there is always an island waiting to be explored, a mountain to be conquered, a trek to enjoy from the saddle of your bike, a walk to be savoured, and parks that are a popular choice amongst green-fingered connoisseurs.
Stroll across rolling grassland, trek through dense native rainforest or take in the views from a rugged clifftop. Auckland has numerous parks across the region – 13 to be exact – that blend working coastal farms with botanical gardens, native forest with harbour-facing horticultural splendour and the city’s oldest park with perfect walks typified by cherry trees in spring and golden leaves in autumn. The city prides itself on offering thousands of walking tracks and hiking trails that encompass pristine native forest, the bush-clad Hunua Ranges and the wild beauty of Great Barrier Island.
Australia’s harbour city boasts the noted Royal Botanical Gardens, home to the dinosaur tree – although only discovered in 1994, its evolutionary lineage dates back 90 million years. Beyond Sydney are remarkable World Heritage wilderness areas such as the Blue Mountains where you can join a guided tour for an introduction to the area’s unique flora and fauna, the Gondwana Rainforests contains many plant species while, in outback New South Wales, is Mungo National Park, a place rich in Aboriginal history.
Reykjavik may be the world’s most northerly capital but you don’t have to go far to reach some great nature. Perlan is the place to see the city from above, and around this hill are many paths through thick forest as well as a number of other green areas, with Ellioaardalur regarded as one of the nicest. This valley has a river (Ellioaa) cutting through it where you’ll find a couple of waterfalls. Granted there are more impressive ones in Iceland, but it only takes minutes from downtown to reach a little seclusion.
Bern’s Gantrisch Nature Park extends across hilly terrain just outside the city. The area features large expanses of forest with idyllic villages and intermittent canyons, shielded by the prominent Gantrisch Range with plenty of rare flora and fauna, good hiking and cycling routes. If you’re feeling a little more energetic then the Gurbe Valley Panoramic Trail – with its one-of-a-kind view of the Alps – is especially popular among hikers and the views are pretty impressive.
Bastion Hill is one of the most romantic places in Riga with narrow paths, alleys of trees and a stone garden as well as artificial waterfalls and colourful flowers. With the city’s canal running through it, Kronvalda Park has a history dating back to the 1880s and was later enlarged by architect Georgs Kufalts to feature some 2,000 rosebushes. But there is greenery just about everywhere you turn in the Latvian capital from Vermanes Garden Park (the city’s second oldest) to the Viesturs Garden Park, where you can also play games of tennis or sit back and enjoy concerts and theatre performances.