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Grant Park Rose Garden
Photograph: Shutterstock

The 8 most beautiful gardens in Chicago

Soak up nature's beauty with the help of these verdant urban oases

By Emma Krupp
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Chicago isn't called the city in a garden for nothing. Home to more than 8,800 acres of green space, the city's rich tradition of landscape architecture—pioneered by the likes of Daniel H. Burnham, Jens Jensen, Frederick Law Olmsted and more—provides pockets of nature even in the densest urban corridors. And if you take a peek into some of the best Chicago parks, you'll find gardens of all shapes and sizes, teeming with flowers and plant life native to Chicago and (far) beyond. Whether you're an amateur naturalist or you're just looking to explore some new Chicago attractions, take a minute to unwind in these beautiful gardens throughout the city. 

RECOMMENDED: Discover more of the best things to do in Chicago

The most beautiful gardens in Chicago

Garden of the Phoenix
Garden of the Phoenix
Photograph: Shutterstock

Garden of the Phoenix

Attractions Parks and gardens Hyde Park

Tucked away between two lagoons on Jackson Park's Wooded Island, the Garden of the Phoenix—oftentimes referred to as the Japanese Garden or Osaka Garden—is a traditional garden space dedicated to the U.S. and Japanese relationship, complete with a century-old pavilion gifted to Chicago by the Japanese government for the 1893 Columbian Exhibition. For best results, visit in the spring, when the garden's 160 cherry trees bathe the premises with blush-colored blooms.

Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool, Alfred Caldwell, lily pool, lincoln park, garden, secret garden, outdoors
Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool, Alfred Caldwell, lily pool, lincoln park, garden, secret garden, outdoors
Photograph: Courtesy the Lincoln Park Conservancy

Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool

Attractions Parks and gardens Lincoln Park

If you're reminded of Frank Lloyd Wright wandering through this quiet garden and lily pond, know that the effect is intentional—landscape architect Alfred Caldwell designed its limestone-studded features in the 1930s in the Prairie School style pioneered by Wright. The garden boasts an abundance of prairie wildflowers and other native plants beloved by local wildlife, making it an ideal destination for birdwatchers and other amateur naturalists.

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lurie garden, lurie gardens, millennium park, skyline, park, outdoors, nature, downtown, chicago
lurie garden, lurie gardens, millennium park, skyline, park, outdoors, nature, downtown, chicago
Photograph: Shutterstock

Lurie Garden

Things to do Millennium Park

Located at the south end of Millennium Park, the Lurie Garden was designed to evoke nature's beauty during all four seasons. Come by in the spring for a mind-bending array of tulips and delicate anemones; in the summer and fall for butterflies drifting among bee balm and calamint; and in winter to watch snow and ice interact with the dormant plants. Chicago literature enthusiasts will also appreciate the 15-foot hedges ringing the garden's perimeters, a shoulder-like allusion to Carl Sandburg's poem "Chicago."

South Garden at the Art Institute of Chicago, South Garden, Art Institute, Shutterstock
South Garden at the Art Institute of Chicago, South Garden, Art Institute, Shutterstock
Photograph: Shutterstock

South Garden at the Art Institute of Chicago

Museums Art and design Grant Park

Step away from the bustle of Michigan Avenue and into this peaceful garden on the side of the Art Institute, which the museum commissioned in the 1960s from landscape architect Dan Kiley. Honey locust trees drape overhead to create an intimate, canopied effect; in the center of the garden, a rectangular pool leads up to the towering and sculpture-bedecked Fountain of the Great Lakes, originally built in 1913.

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The Clarke House Museum at Chicago Women's Park and Gardens
The Clarke House Museum at Chicago Women's Park and Gardens
Photograph: Shutterstock

Chicago Women’s Park and Gardens

Attractions Parks and gardens Near South Side

This South Loop park and community garden pays homage to women's history with a fountain and a statue honoring the Chicago activist and social worker Jane Addams. In addition to housing the Clarke House Museum, which showcases Chicago's oldest home, the garden's 3.2 acres of green space is home to tons of city programming, like Night Out in the Parks event and day camps for kids.

Grant Park Rose Garden
Grant Park Rose Garden
Photograph: Shutterstock

Grant Park Rose Garden

Things to do East Garfield Park

An ever-popular destination for wedding photos, this picturesque garden is lined with rows of pillowy roses and hedges backgrounded by the skyline, like a mini English estate transported right into downtown Chicago. (Its proximity to the stately Buckingham Fountain only strengthens the comparison.)

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Chicago Botanic Garden, nature, garden, botanic, botanic garden
Chicago Botanic Garden, nature, garden, botanic, botanic garden
Photograph: Courtesy Chicago Botanic Garden

Chicago Botanic Garden

Things to do Literary events Suburbs

Take a trip out to Glencoe to wander (or take a tram) through dozens of sub-gardens housed on the sprawling grounds of the Chicago Botanic Garden, which is visited by more than one million people each year. Here, you can experience greenery from across the world (there's a Japanese Garden, an English Walled Garden and a Bonsai collection, just to name a few options) as well as take a deep dive into our own backyard with several gardens dedicated to plants hailing from Illinois and the Midwest. Real plant enthusiasts can also check out the Lenhardt Library, home to one of the country's largest collections of rare botanical books.

Garfield Park Conservatory, Shutterstock
Garfield Park Conservatory, Shutterstock
Photograph: Shutterstock

Garfield Park Conservatory

Attractions Parks and gardens East Garfield Park

It goes without saying that the indoor greenhouse rooms at Garfield Park Conservatory are pretty spectacular. Come summer, though, you can't beat its 10 acres of outdoor garden area, which features a kid-friendly sensory garden, onyx-colored lily pools and an artist's garden replete with the favorite flowers of famous painters. Plan to come for an entire afternoon to make sure you catch all the highlights.

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