The 10 Greatest Urban Park Retreats in the World

Sometimes the most peaceful retreats are right in the middle of a bustling city. These special hideaways are the perfect escape for anyone in need of a little zen.

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Tank Hill, San Francisco

Don't pass up this overlooked spot on your way to Twin Peaks, the beloved outlook famous for its views of downtown San Francisco and the Bay (on a clear day). Tank Hill may not compare in altitude, but this hilltop, lined with eucalyptus, is surely the better choice for a meditative afternoon.

Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, Paris

Far from the crowds at the Jardin des Tuileries or Jardin des Plantes, Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, a former gypsum quarry, is full of hidden grottoes, caves, and picturesque waterfalls. Situated on the characteristic slopes of the Montmartre neighborhood, the park also offers a lookout point in its hilltop temple.

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Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool in Lincoln Park, Chicago

Get your zen on at the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool, a meditation garden modeled after a Midwestern prairie. The National Historic Landmark may take a little while to find, but once you're sitting in the stone enclave listening to the trickling waterfall, all your worries will quickly fade away.

Japanese Roof Garden at the University of London, London

If you find yourself packed among the crowds of central London, steal away to the Japanese Roof Garden at the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies. Dedicated to forgiveness, the garden is a pristine and peaceful hideaway replete with wisteria-trimmed walls and minimalist planters.

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The Ravine in Prospect Park, New York City

The pleasant spring at the Ravine in Brooklyn's Prospect Park is just steps away from the popular Long Meadow where so many picnickers and frisbee-throwers congregate. Tucked away in Midwood (an actual forest!), this spot will make you feel like you're lounging in the Adirondack Mountains.

Milk Beach at Hermit Bay, Sydney

If fishing or snorkeling are more your speed, Milk Beach is one of Sydney's best-kept secrets. Located in Sydney Harbour National Park, you'll have to find your way there through the limited-access roads and trails—but, once you do, this serene, isolated beach awaits.

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Fauntleroy Park, Seattle

A densely wooded forest, Fauntleroy Park is the ideal escape if you're looking for some alone time. If you visit on a weekday, when it's often quite empty, you'll feel like you're in a vast national park, with your very own private trail network at your disposal.

The Waterside Pavilion at Purple Bamboo Park, Beijing

While Purple Bamboo Park is a lively spot for family outings, it's easy to hide away on the hillside by the park's lake. Set up shop at the waterside pavilion, a shady spot with bridges and gazebos where you can watch boats pass by.

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Reserva Ecológica Costanera Sur, Buenos Aires

Even though this reserve is just a few blocks from the city's financial center, it's the closest you'll come to finding local flora and fauna. It can get crowded on the weekends, so mid-week is the best time for an afternoon visit—and don't forget your binoculars: the park is home to 307 species of birds!

Park Boulevard Overlook, Austin

Skip the crowded city parks—this secluded spot nestled between two houses off Park Boulevard in the city's Hyde Park neighborhood is the ultimate secret hideaway. Overlooking the trickling Waller Creek, and with open stretches of green grass, it's the perfect place to be alone with a good book and have yourself an afternoon.

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