The Best Urban Green Spaces In The World

Cities That are Good For The People And The Planet

Today’s cities are increasingly finding ways to be sustainable, economically strong and encourage biodiversity. Not one has truly balanced people, profit, and the planet but many cities around the world are embracing the revitalising effects of green spaces in their urban places.

The Arcadis Index (from design firm Arcadis and the Centre for Economics and Business Research), ranks cities’ success based on social, environmental, and economic factors. They use a large variety of indicators and aim to incorporate a wide cross-section of the world’s urban areas. A city is then scored on each of the three sustainability factors; its overall score is the average of those. Below are the top cities in each category:

As well as socioeconomic indicators of a city’s sustainability for the people and planet, its ability to ensure a high quality of life for the people living there is vital – here are a few of my favourite places that have fused urban development with the natural world:

Paddington Reservoir: Sydney, Australia

The reservoir was a vital source of water for the rapidly growing population in the 19th century, and it funnelled and processed water from the Botany Swamps. It was transformed into a storage facility for motor vehicles, but suffered damage resulting in the roof collapsing. Major restoration was needed to bring the area back to life.

The result? A green oasis. The roof-top features a stunning sunken garden, and vibrant graffiti art has been preserved in the eastern chamber. The site is fused with contemporary and sustainable elements, an amazing blend of old and new. 

Bern: The Swiss Capital

Bern has over 32% green space, the majority of which is made up of forest and woodland that falls within the city’s limits. The old town was declared a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site in 1983, it’s also home to the first Lindt chocolate factory and where Einstein called home. 

Leafy Green Vienna: Austria 

Vienna is home to over 2000 parks and gardens, including the landscaped grounds of ‘The Belvedere’, which gives the feeling of being in Versailles. Alongside the Botanical Garden within the grounds of the University of Vienna, established in 1754, it is filled with over 12,000 types of plants from across the globe. For a wilder landscape, Vienna’s woods span the northwest and southwest of the city, nicknamed the ‘Green Lung’ these forested areas are a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve – I mean look at those trees!

Zurich: Switzerland

Zurich is ranked #1 in The Arcadis Sustainable Cities Index and it’s not hard to see why. City life and idyllic nature are closely intertwined, its home mountain the Uetliberg, Lake Zurich and two rivers, the Limmat and Sihl, contribute to the vast natural diversity of the city. 

Hampstead Pergola: London

Commissioned by Lord Leverhulme, who decided that his nearby mansion needed an extravagant terrace to host garden parties and lazy summer nights – Hampstead Pergola was born. Though beautiful, Hampstead Pergola suffered in the aftermath of Leverhulme’s death and the onset of WW2. By the time the City of London took it over in 1989, the place was almost falling apart. Still under restoration, but there is endless natural beauty to be found in the faded glory of the pillars and arches.

Arashiyama, Kyoto: Japan

Arashiyama’s atmosphere is one of relaxation and traditional Japanese heritage, with several small temples scattered along the base of the wooded mountains. What drew me in was the bamboo path, an awe-inspiring walkway through the city’s green bamboo forest.  Arashiyama is also home to the Togetsukyo Bridge, its most well-known, central landmark. 

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