land's end labyrinth at dusk by water

San Francisco’s Lands End Labyrinth at dusk offers a particularly peaceful setting. (Photo: Getty Images)

San Francisco

Solace in San Francisco: Where to Find Peace and Quiet in the Golden City

San Francisco’s winding streets, steep hills, stately Victorian homes and densely populated neighborhoods create an exciting city unlike any other in America. A spirit of acceptance invites fabulous forms of expression, immigrant communities bustle with energy and the city fairly pulses with homegrown art, theater and music.

Bicyclists race alongside the bleating flow of traffic, markets teem with shoppers haggling for fresh California produce and skyscrapers soar above packed downtown squares. There’s always a happening, well, happening here, but even San Franciscans crave soothing spaces to chill out and relax.

Looking for places to unwind in San Francisco? These magical hideaways allow you to unplug even in the busy City by the Bay.

As always, make sure to check for travel restrictions and closures before finding your slice of solitude.

Enjoy the Beachy Delights of Sea Cliff

Just south of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Sea Cliff neighborhood hugs the city’s northwestern coastline. China Beach offers gorgeous views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Marin Highlands; aim to visit at low tide so you can stroll between Baker Beach and Lands End, exploring tide pools full of anemones and starfish along the way.

Follow signs to the trail for Mile Rock Beach (known for its stacks of stones), but at the bottom of the stairs, turn left to follow the trail under the trees to the Lands End Labyrinth.

Built of stone by local artist Eduardo Aguilera and set against the sweeping backdrop of the Pacific, this seven-circuit labyrinth allows you the solace of contemplation with a stellar ocean view.

Revel in the Beauty of Golden Gate Park

san francisco botanical garden windmill
Find a moment of quiet in the botanical garden. (Photo: Getty Images)

With about 1,000 acres of urban park to discover, you’re sure to find your bliss in Golden Gate Park.

Within the sprawling San Francisco Botanical Garden, you can lose yourself in a world’s worth of greenery. Or surround yourself with more than 2,000 exotic blooms, including pools of water lilies and a jungle of orchids, in the Victorian-era Conservatory of Flowers.

At fairy-tale Stow Lake, you can stroll across a bridge over a waterfall, gazing out at a Chinese pavilion, far-off Mount Tam, and birds, turtles and butterflies along the shore.

The Japanese Tea Garden is a tranquil spot for meditation amid a river of smooth stones, a trickling waterfall and a five-story pagoda — and in March and April, a flowering sea of cherry blossoms.

Climb Mosaic Staircases, High Above the Fray

16th avenue steps
The mosaic handiwork on the 16th Avenue Steps is a wonder. (Photo: Getty Images)

By necessity, hilly San Francisco is studded with dozens of public staircases, but several are collaborations between ceramicist Aileen Barr and mosaic artist Colette Crutcher that feature vivid, trippy designs of the city and natural world.

The art nouveau–style Lincoln Park Steps are a stunning blaze of greens, oranges and yellows, like glazed rays of sunshine. A ceramic seascape is woven throughout all 163 stairs of the 16th Avenue Steps in Golden Gate Heights, and gardens run alongside, including succulents and a butterfly habitat.

A couple of blocks away, the brilliant Hidden Garden Steps are dotted with tiny images of flora and fauna, inviting you to slow down and take a closer look.

Take a Forest Bath on Mount Sutro

sunset at mount sutro
Catch a sunset from Mount Sutro. (Photo: Getty Images)

After striking it rich in the gold rush, millionaire Adolph Sutro became famous in San Francisco for serving as mayor, buying up land and lending his name to lovely spots all over town.

The highest of these is Mount Sutro, where five miles of trails rise steadily (and descend) through a sprawling eucalyptus forest that rings the Rotary Meadow, a garden of California native plants.

You can hardly see the city for the towering trees here, making it a refreshing haven that feels both mystical and soothing on a foggy day.