Coping with the cacophony of city living can be challenging, especially as life adjusts back to pre-pandemic rhythms. Things often aren’t any better when we’re on vacation in other cities, and travellers must go out of their way to find respite. As silence becomes an increasingly rare commodity – especially for urbanites – organisations such as Quiet Parks International and Noise Pollution Clearinghouse are stepping in to identify and preserve places of peace and quiet around the world.
Here are five places that you can find respite in when everyday construction and crowds get to be too much:
1. Yangmingshan National Park, Taipei
The world’s first Urban Quiet Park
Acoustic appeal: Though Yangmingshan National Park isn’t entirely silent, its sounds are almost entirely natural despite it being just 10 kilometres north of Taipei. The Soundscape Association of Taiwan has worked with park authorities to preserve both the low noise levels and so-called bio-acoustics, creating designated Quiet Trails where visitors can enjoy the chorus produced by frogs, birds and cicadas (which rarely exceed 30dB, the equivalent of a low whisper). The park’s quietest spot is perhaps Menghuan Pond, whose lush landscape is as much a sight for sore eyes as it is a balm for the ears. But don’t just take our word for it: Quiet Parks International, which designates Urban Quiet Parks around the world, certified Yangmingshan as the world’s first Urban Quiet Park in 2020.
While you’re there: Stop by Cama Coffee Roasters, a gorgeous café with a lovely Japanese-style garden a short drive south from Yangmingshan – the perfect pit stop before heading back to the city.
2. Zurich, Switzerland
The quietest city in the world
Acoustic appeal: When it comes to cities, it doesn’t get quieter than Zurich. That’s according to German company Mimi Hearing Technologies, which compiled statistics from the World Health Organisation as well as data drawn from 200,000 participants in 50 locations worldwide to find the city with the least incidence of noise pollution. Recently, new speed limits were introduced in Zurich’s centre to reduce noise levels, and noise-reducing asphalt and sound barriers can now be found throughout this city, with its mediaeval old town, forested parks and backdrop of snow-capped peaks.
Stay at: Book a room at the Dolder Grand, a five-star hilltop hotel surrounded by forests where you’ll enjoy spectacular views of the Swiss Alps.
While you’re there: Pair your peace with a dose of serenity at the city’s beautiful Grossmünster church, which was built in the 1200s and is famous for its stained glass and Romanesque crypt.
3. Hampstead Heath, London, United Kingdom
Where peace and quiet is enforced by the police
Acoustic appeal: Hampstead Heath became Europe’s first Urban Quiet Park in 2021. This sprawling expanse lies just kilometres from London’s bustling city centre and was once Henry VIII’s hunting grounds. Thanks to the Hampstead Heath Act of 1871, which decreed that “the Board shall forever keep the Heath open, unenclosed and unbuilt on,” it’s an idyllic grazing ground that Londoners have enjoyed for centuries. Its most famous fans have included writer CS Lewis, for whom the park was inspiration for The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. Covering 320 hectares of meadows, woodland, hills and ponds, it’s home to several rare species (including the iridescent jewel beetle). It’s also large enough to have its own police force, which is tasked with enforcing various noise-reducing laws, including bans on drones and motorised vehicles.
Stay at: Cosy La Gaffe Hotel, a charming family-run guesthouse mere minutes away from Hampstead Heath that’s also well connected to central London.
While you’re there: Indulge in some quiet reflection at Kenwood House, an English Heritage property in the heart of Hampstead Heath. Head inside to admire masterpieces by big name artists the likes of Vermeer, Rembrandt and Constable.
4. Parc del Montnegre i el Corredor, Barcelona, Spain
The ultimate forest bathing destination
Acoustic appeal: Parc del Montnegre i el Corredor is best described as quiet, with a hint of animal acoustics, courtesy of the wildlife which lives in this 15,000-hectare chunk of greenery wedged between two massifs in the Catalan coastal mountain range. The trees in Spain’s first Urban Quiet Park, 30 kilometres north of Barcelona, can take some of the credit – 95 percent of the park is forested, and these vast swathes of cork oaks and stone pines muffle noise. Not convinced about trees’ sound-smothering qualities? Consider this: researchers at North Carolina State University recently placed a 30-metre-long row of 13-metre-tall trees alongside a highway. The result? Noise levels were reduced by 50 percent.
Stay at: Barcelona’s El Palace Hotel, which features a gorgeous rooftop garden full of secret hiding spots and a solarium from which to take in a stunning view of the city.
While you’re there: Take the time to explore Parc del Montnegre i el Corredor’s hiking trails. For something easy, we recommend the 2.1-kilometre Les Planes del Corredor circular route, which has stunning mountain views. For hardcore hikers, there’s the 9.8-kilometre Can Bosch route, lined with ancient fountains and mediaeval ruins.
5. Olympic National Park, Washington, United States
The most silent square inch in the world
Acoustic appeal: Olympic National Park is so quiet that sound recording specialist Gordon Hempton, who travelled around America recording noise levels, declared it to be America’s quietest place. The exact location, dubbed One Square Inch of Silence, is marked with a red stone. You’ll find it in the centre of the park, which is an easy two-hour drive from Seattle. Hempton created the One Square Inch of Silence project to raise awareness of our need for silence, and to ensure the park stays free from noise pollution. And it’s working – aeroplane pilots whom Hempton spoke to shared that they’ve made minor increments to flight routes in order to avoid flying over the One Square Inch of Silence.
Stay at: The Olympic National Park Log Cabin Resort. You’ll avoid the crowds and have easy access to the park’s best bits.
While you’re there: Keep an eye out for the park’s Roosevelt elks. Named in honour of President Theodore Roosevelt, they are North America’s largest elk subspecies.
To learn more about Singapore Airlines flights to the abovementioned destinations, visit the official website.