12 Welcoming Places To Find Quiet While Traveling

Our short term rental in Coimbra, Portugal looked very promising on Airbnb, with its beautiful views of not one but two balconies. The host even provided breakfast! But after we arrived, we realized we were on a narrow cobbled street, amplifying the crackling sound of traffic. Even worse, the next morning, we were woken up by the ringing of a jackhammer. “Ah, the sound of playful construction,” my ex-engineer husband sighed.

Sound and noise are technically the same – both are vibrations in the air or in the water that we perceive with our ears. The difference is perception. Sound is neutral – all we hear – while noise is what we don’t hear Wants to hear. I love the sound of rain crackling on the roof and the banter of birds, but the groan of traffic and construction machinery is an annoying noise.

I have lived in some of the most interesting North American cities, including New Orleans; Vancouver, British Columbia; Seattle. and Boston. But as I got older, I got drawn to quieter places because I react more to noise. It turns out I’m not alone – a Canadian study found that many people become more sensitive to noise as they age.

The sound of the world rises wherever we are, and the noise is hard to escape, even in places like the pristine wilderness, where drones flying overhead can disturb the calm we hope to find. Unlike rubbish or graffiti, noise is invisible and leaves no trace, so it is easy to reduce.

The good news is that low volume environments are there if you know where to look. Here is a list of favorite quiet environments to look out for while traveling.

Iowa Law Library (Nagel Photography / Shutterstock.com)

1. Libraries

The public library is one of the best places in any community to find not only quiet but comfortable seating for reading, writing, or daydreaming. Also keep an eye out for branch libraries, state libraries, children’s libraries, and university libraries. And many of them are pleasing not only to the ear, but also to the eye. A recent issue of . has been released Town and Country The magazine included an article titled “The 50 Best Libraries in the US” highlighting one great library in each state.

reserve jug handle case;  North Mendocino, California
reserve jug handle case; North Mendocino, California (Photo Credit: Luisa Rogers)

2. Outdoor

Unless you’re walking down a busy, wide street, your chances of finding tranquility are better outdoors than indoors. Most towns and cities have parks of various sizes, from small pocket parks to huge parks such as Balboa Park in San Diego, Stanley Park in Vancouver, and Central Park in New York.

Quiet Parks International (QPI), a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to “keep calm for the benefit of all life,” awards prizes to terrestrial, urban and marine environments that meet their qualifications, including Yangmingshan National Park in Taiwan, Hampstead Heath in London, and several From the gardens in Stockholm and the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

In addition, QPI has identified more than 250 locations around the world that could be designated quiet spots, among them The Rambles, a wooded area in New York City’s Central Park, Idaho’s moon pits, Utah’s Canyonlands National Park, and the Great Smoky Mountains Park National. Gordon Hempton, founder of QPI, considers the Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park to be some of the quietest in the United States.

When you’re outside, find water. Antonella Radici, an acoustic landscape scientist and architect at the Technical University of Berlin, has found that quiet areas tend to be found along waterways such as rivers and canals.

Salisbury Cathedral in Wiltshire, England
Salisbury Cathedral in Wiltshire, England (Kevin Standage / Shutterstock.com)

3. Churches

You don’t have to subscribe to the church’s faith to enjoy its quiet atmosphere. I like to walk around the church, inhale the musty smell, sit on a bench, and admire the stained-glass windows and how the colors refract on the walls. The only hitch is that most churches in the US are closed except for worship hours, so you’ll have better luck outside.

Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah lobby
The lobby of the Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah (Stanislav71 / Shutterstock.com)

4. Hotel lobbies

In large hotels you can often find comfortable chairs in the lounge, where you can relax and leisurely people-watch. There is no rule forbidding sitting there – just go in, sit back, and act like you belong. You may find a company there. according to New York timesSome hotels encourage people to use their lobbies as workspaces, so you may see people using their laptops.

Courtauld Gallery entrance
Courtauld Gallery entrance (pxl.store / Shutterstock.com)

5. Museums

If you’re looking for tranquility, you need to pick your own museum, because famous people tend to attract crowds and tour groups, and are often led by a guide who speaks loud enough for the group to hear. I’ve found more success with smaller museums, such as the Frick Collection in New York City, the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., and my lesser-known favorite, the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. Museum restaurants are good bets, too.

Kew Gardens in London
Kew Gardens, London (Brett Andersen / Shutterstock.com)

6. Japanese tea gardens, arboretum, and botanical gardens

There are more than 200 Japanese tea gardens in the United States With rock carvings, waterfalls, graceful bridges, paving stones, koi ponds, and lanterns, these aesthetic gardens impart a sense of calm and silence. Some serve ceremonial tea at specific times during the month. You can find Japanese gardens all over the country, from Tampa and San Antonio to Seattle and Portland.

Gardens and vegetable nurseries are other havens of tranquility. Kew Gardens is one of the largest, outside of London, and is home to the world’s largest collection of live plants. If you’re visiting British Columbia, spend an afternoon at the gorgeous Butchart Gardens, located near British Columbia’s capital Victoria, on Vancouver Island. The Botanical Art And Artists website includes a partial list of parks around the United States, but there are hundreds more.

Harvard University campus
Harvard University campus (Marco Rubino / Shutterstock.com)

7. Campus

The campus is like a small town, but only better—complete with little squares, quads, plazas, ivy-covered historic buildings, walkways, arches, ponds, viewpoints, and walking paths.

A book store in Hay-on-Wye, Wales
A bookstore in Hay-on-Wye, Wales (abcbritain / Shutterstock.com)

8. Libraries

Perhaps because reading is a quiet activity, bookshops tend to be quiet, unhurried and silent, and many have comfortable chairs to peruse at the books and cafés attached. The city of Hay-on-Wye in Wales, famous as a center of antique and second-hand libraries, has inspired other book cities around the world, which you can read about here.

Turkish marble bathroom
Turkish marble bath (Kusbakisi Production / Shutterstock.com)

9. Saunas, saunas and baths

It originated from different cultures, such as Japanese sorryFinnish saunas, Turkish baths and baths provide not only calm, but also sensual pleasure for the body. For example, when I went to Kabuki Springs in Japantown in San Francisco, I spent two happy hours soaking and sweating in various heated pools and saunas. You can find hammams in different parts of the United States as well as in Berlin, Budapest, Reykjavik, and Istanbul. If you are humble, be prepared! Many of these places are clothing optional.

Outdoor seating restaurant in Breda, Netherlands
Sitting in an outdoor restaurant in Breda, Netherlands (Hung Chung Chih / Shutterstock.com)

10. Restaurants

Good luck finding a quiet restaurant! Restaurants are noisier than they used to be, mainly due to design changes. However, you can go early before the restaurant gets crowded, request a quiet table, and ask to turn down the music. Download the SoundPrint app, called the Quiet Restaurant Scream, to find a quieter place to eat.

Cemetery in Crescent City, California
Cemetery in Crescent City, California (Photo Credit: Barry Evans)

11. Cemeteries

Cemeteries are globally quiet, and many in the United States are historic and beautiful. The tombstones at Savannah’s Romantic Bonaventure Cemetery, for example, are covered in Spanish moss. Wherever we are, my husband and I love to visit the city cemetery, read historical signs, and occasionally enjoy a picnic among the departed.

Airport lounge in Boryspil, Ukraine
Airport lounge in Boryspil, Ukraine (M101Studio / Shutterstock.com)

12. Areas inside airports

With the constant barrage of TSA announcements, airports are hardly without noise. However, you can usually find oases of calm. Most hubs now offer an interfaith chapel where you can sit or kneel. Others offer yoga studios and outdoor areas. And the airport terminals are quieter than other airports. If you don’t want to spring for an annual membership, you can often find a one-day pass on eBay.

Additional Tips for Finding Calm While Traveling

Besides searching for locations, I find calm by choosing timing. Same place at a different hour (early morning especially) could be quieter.

Speaking out loud also helps. Just before the pandemic, while traveling through San Francisco airport, I was so annoyed by the endless intrusive ads that I wrote a complaint on their site, only to receive a response from Guest Services soon after, in agreement with me. Since then, the airport has put together a Fly Quiet program, eliminating more than 90 minutes of ads each day.

Finally, I adjust my position. For example, I’ve noticed that my reaction to noise depends a lot on context. Near the end of the trip, when I’m tired and ready to stop, the sound of car traffic – a noise that usually annoys me – is very welcome. I almost came out!

One of the few things I miss about the pandemic is how calm life is. But this wasn’t a normal condition, and in fact, pure calm isn’t normal either. There is no such thing as complete silence, unless I’m in outer space, and I don’t plan on traveling there anytime soon. So I remind myself that the palpitations, the gurgling, the crackling, the buzzing are all signs that we’re living life, and I’m also part of the symphony of sound.

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