Judge a city by its parks

Throughout my travels, I’ve found parks are what I enjoy checking out the most in a new city. I can’t be bored in a destination with a good park; it’s the best break from museums and the endless tourist stops that wear you out. Some of my favorite moments traveling are from people-watching and meandering around parks.

Crystal Palace at Buen Retiro Park – Madrid, Spain.

When I went to Madrid, Spain, I was in complete awe over Buen Retiro Park. On my first venture into it, my friend and I came across a book festival, which for a nerd like me, was way too cool. Even with only one booth having books in English, it was so fun strolling through endless rows of book sellers. The park seemed to have hidden surprises as you moved farther into its wooded paths. We turned a corner to find a lake and then a glass palace. Couples rented paddle boats, kids kicked around fútbols and musicians played their hearts out. Walking deeper and deeper into the park, you begin to feel like you’re not in the heart of downtown Madrid anymore.


Santiago, Chile features two of my favorite parks, the Santiago Metropolitan Park and Santa Lucia Hill. The spots give views of both the city and snow-covered Andes Mountains. If you’re lucky, a stray dog will keep you company as you wind through the trails in the metropolitan park, which includes a hike to the Virgin Mary statue at the top of San Cristóbal Hill. I spent my first day in Santiago at Santa Lucía Hill, comprising of fountains and stairways winding to its top. The lookout gives you a 360-degree view of the city and mountains that surround you. These areas were the best way to really see the uniqueness of Santiago.

Santiago Metropolitan Park, Chile
View from the Santiago Metropolitan Park.

London, England is another place with impressive parks. St. James’s Park, located near Buckingham Palace, is a great break from sightseeing to enjoy a nap on the lawn, people-watching or a snack. The park features a lake and views of famous tourist spots, like the London Eye surrounded by trees. I could go back to London just to get lost in all the beautiful parks spanning its city limits.

Don’t overlook the cheap entertainment of parks when traveling. Sometimes they’re even the best spots to see the city or people-watch.

7 thoughts on “Judge a city by its parks

  1. Parks in a big city is mostly a place where you can calm down from the hustle and the bustle of large cities. I lived in Madrid and loved spending time in el Buen Retiro. You meet so many people, everyone is peaceful, musicians are playing. Just love the atmosphere 🙂

  2. Parks are the perfect places to study local cultures and traditions. To that extent, I prefer relatively smaller ones preferably located off-the-beaten-path. Well-known parks, like The Central Park in NYC or Hyde Park in London, are too crowded with tourists. Oddly, they are not my favorites. My warmest memories are of some old-fashioned parks of Palermo and Montevideo in Uruguay: huge overgrown trees and palms, colorful flowers, whimsical benches occupied by young couples, retirees, parents with kids. It was fascinating to witness how their habits and routines varied from country to country.

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