SECRET CITY HAVENS Find peace and sanctuary in unexpected places.
Find bliss amid the chaos by following the locals and searching out peace within the metropolis
T here’s no denying that life in the city can be demanding. From overly crowded streets to the hectic pace ingrained in capitals all over the world, escaping the stress, pollution and tra c is on the majority of city dwellers’ minds. Covering only three per cent of the planet’s surface, cities are home to more than half of the world’s population – a statistic alone that can make you feel claustrophobic. Fortunately, every city has a place where you can transport yourself from the buzzing metropolis to a peaceful haven. One thing that the people who live in big towns often have in common is their love of discovering new peaceful spaces.
With researchers nding that nature not only helps us to relax, but also helps improve our memory and increase our attention span, city dwellers are tapping into the power of heading outdoors. They are nding that they can boost their mental health and reap the bene ts of being outside just like those living in rural areas by heading to the lush city parks, forests and gardens, as well as secret corners amid the chaos that o er those few moments of much-needed tranquillity.
For many urbanites, it’s not just where you spend your time that counts, but what you do with it that can make a huge di erence. In Singapore, locals like to head to the parks and gardens to practice tai chi, building their inner core strength while fostering a healthy mind in serene and overlooked settings such as Telok Blangah Hill Park. For the Japanese, the natural environment is so bene cial that doctors prescribe the practice of shinrin-yoku (forest bathing), to stressed or depressed patients. Even visitors to cities like Tokyo (one of the busiest in the world) can experience this healing therapy in tranquil retreats like Arisugawa-no-miya Memorial Park.
Moving towards the west, being active outdoors is an essential way of de-stressing in the city. In
LA, Angelenos escape the buzz with their strong work/life balance that takes them to the multitude of neighbourhoods that o er varied landscapes, from canyons to coasts. They make the most of their surroundings by hiking, stand-up paddleboarding and meditating in places only on the locals’ radar, including Marina del Rey, the Ballona Wetlands and the Kyoto Garden at DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Los Angeles Downtown.
For Londoners, escaping the hubbub of the city can be as simple as indulging in a pub lunch along the canal or relaxing with a stroll in undiscovered, picturesque parks such as Kyoto Garden in Holland Park. Meanwhile, Parisians are unlikely to be found queuing with the crowds to visit the Ei el Tower to get their outdoor x and instead love to stroll, or ‘ âner à Paris’, ambling along the banks of the Seine or enjoying little-known parks such as the beautiful Parc des Buttes-Chaumont (pictured left).
Truly nding peace in the city is about avoiding the crowds and discovering the secret corners you don’t have to share with the hordes. While many natural spaces o er respite from the chaos, it’s always the ones favoured by the people who know their city that really allow you to escape and indulge in the quieter side. Seeing a city through the eyes of its residents is vital to any mindful traveller who wishes to get under the skin of a place – it allows you to experience a di erent perspective on the city and its people. With a little research before a trip, any traveller can discover the locals' favourite places and get to experience these hidden sanctuaries – they are usually free and easily accessible. Thanks to the internet, there is an ever-growing wealth of resources available to help travellers to delve into the hidden gems of any given city they might come across on their journey. Airbnb’s Experiences, for example, are tours led by natives that provide you with the chance to get a closer look at nature and try o beat activities. You could nd yourself out exploring a forest in Oregon’s largest city, Portland, or hiking in Barcelona’s nature spots with those who live and breathe the air. Spotted by Locals, too, is an excellent source and app for insider information on the secret havens where urbanites spend their spare time, whether it’s calm places to relax or soothing spots to enjoy a co ee. And for a real taste of culture in cities from Istanbul to Rio de Janeiro, the Like A Local Guide app can be downloaded to your phone for tips and bookable tours that show the alternative, lesser-known sides of your holiday destination. Read on for some of our favourite local tips from around the world.
“Every city has a place where you can find a peaceful haven"
Wave Hill's lush green
space offers quiet
tranquillity in the
middle of the bustling
streets of New York.
Sit awhile in the
secluded ruins of
London's St Dunstan
in the East