Top 10 city parks

It’s all very well spending much of your business trip cooped up in an air-conditioned office, with only the view from the 34th floor window to remind you of exactly where in the world you actually are. But with an hour or two to spare, consider getting outside to clear the mind and exercise the calf-muscles in some of the world’s city’s best outdoor city spaces.

1. Central Park, New York

Iconic, endearing, cinematic; Central Park’s anything but just central. It’s here Harry and Sally strolled and the Fisher King roamed. Overlooking the park, Mia Farrow’s Hannah laughed and her Rosemary screamed. Walk the park’s shady avenues, visit Strawberry Field and its resident eccentrics, and laze on the Great Lawn to transform from business-tripper to native New Yorker in one fell swoop.

2. St. James’s Park, London (tube St James’s Park)

No less than three royal palaces – Westminster, St. James’s Palace and Buckingham Palace – bound small but perfectly formed St. James’. Spot pelicans on the lake, stop for a sandwich beneath a tree, then drag your colleagues out for an al fresco meeting on the deckchairs set out between April and September. If skies are less than blue, retreat to Inn the Park for a hearty bowl of soup or an afternoon cream tea.

3. Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris (Blvd St. Michel, metro Luxembourg)

Its groves and terraces beloved by Parisians young and old, this is the place to launch a model sailboat at the Grand Bassin, stroll with locals amongst the chestnut trees, and visit the ruches (bee hives) that have graced the park since the mid 19th century.

4. Park Güell, Barcelona (Carrer d’Olot 7, North Gràcia, bus 24)

Just the place for sensory revival, visit the Pavelló de Consergia, home to a display on the history of the park and Gaudi’s building methods, then head up to the main terrace and the park’s famous Banc de Trecandís, the serpentine, curving mosaic-tiled bench, for people-watching amongst Gaudi’s fantastical forms.

5. National Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC (9th St & Constitution Ave NW, National Mall, underground: Archives-Navy Memorial)

This romantic, sculpture-studded six acre garden offers you the opportunity to get up-close to the works of such artistic heavyweights as Roy Lichtenstein, Louise Bourgeois and Claes Oldeburg, whilst revelling in the fresh air and – if you’re visiting in winter – a quick whiz around the central fountain’s ice rink.

6. Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Singapore (177 Hindhede Dr, Butik Batok, bus 75)

Escape the city heat completely with a venture into primary rainforest at Bukit Timah, complete with resident pythons, long-tailed macaque monkeys and tropical birds; pack your camera for snaps from the Fern Valley, North View or South View paths, but avoid heading on up to the summit (at a cool 163 metres) if you’re still in your business suit.

7. Volkspark Friedrichshain, Berlin (Am Friedrichshain & Friedenstrasse, Friedenshain, bus 200)

Head out to Berlin’s oldest public park – founded in 1840 – to relax on the lawns, examine the abundant socialist monuments, and perhaps catch an outdoor film in summer. Step back into childhood with a gaze at the cute Märchhenbrunnen (Fairytale Fountain), built in 1913 for the children of Berlin, and comprising more than 100 stone fairytale figures.

8. Parco Savello, Rome (Via di Santa Sabina, Testaccio, bus Lungotevere Aventino)

Small but perfectly formed, this fragrant little park known to modern Romans as the Giardino degli Aranci (Orange Garden) offers gorgeous city views from its terrace. On summer evenings, plays are often performed beneath the fragrant boughs as the sun sinks slowly over Rome.

9. Beihai Park, Beijing (bus 5)

Set around a vast, over 30-hectare lake, this Imperial garden makes a great place to watch Beijingers going about their daily dose of recreation. Believed to have been the ancient site of the Great Khan’s palace, watching calligraphers working their magic on paving slabs with just water and brushes will quickly see you transported back to an earlier era.

10. Bondi Beach, Sydney (Campbell Pde, Bondi; bus 380)

It might not be a park exactly, but who needs shrubbery when you’ve Australia’s most famous beach instead? Surf, skate, indulge in an outdoor work-out at the North Bondi Surf Club, pick up a cooling portion of gelato, and go for a dip in a saltwater swimming pool to leave the corporate world far behind.