When the snowballing chaos of everyday life in the 21st century gets to be a little too much, be grateful you live in Los Angeles. Our sprawling city has so many places you can escape to for a moment of peace—from secret gardens, to public libraries, to spiritual spaces, there’s always somewhere you can go to catch your breath.
Here are 17 beautiful and quiet places to take some time out in LA.
Everyone needs to visit the LA Central Library at least once. Built in the 1920s, this sprawling building has an Egyptian-inspired vibe and includes some incredible symbolic murals, a high-domed rotunda, and, of course, the tiled pyramid at the summit. It’s a pleasure just to browse the stacks, but the library also has an interesting calendar of events featuring talks, film screenings, and walking tours of Downtown.
Built in 2011, this spacious public library is beloved by local residents and architecture critics alike. Featuring floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the Hollywood Hills, a ground-floor café, a children’s theater modeled after Michelangelo’s Laurentian Library, and a special LGBT area, it’s the perfect place for a little quiet contemplation. The library runs a vibrant events calendar featuring regular talks, film screenings, and art exhibitions. Also, be sure to check out the murals by famed street artists Retna and Shepard Fairey on the parking structure.
The Malibu Hindu Temple is one of LA’s hidden treasures. Nestled in the Calabasas Hills, this majestic temple, built in the traditional South Indian style, is truly breathtaking. The grounds are open to the public, but visitors are asked to be respectful by taking off their shoes and abstaining from bringing any animal products into the complex.
Hollyhock House is often confused with Frank Lloyd Wright’s other Los Feliz masterpiece, Ennis House. While Hollyhock House doesn’t have the same glamorous Hollywood history (Ennis House has appeared in Blade Runner, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Twin Peaks), it was built in the same Mayan Revival style, and wandering the gardens, pergolas, porches, and colonnades of this sprawling, exotic arts complex is definitely a magical experience.
A police academy might be the last place you’d expect to find a lush, heritage-listed garden complete with waterfalls, meandering stone paths, and carved stone benches—but here it is! The site was originally a shooting range, but the LAPD hired landscape architect Francois Scotti to design a rock garden in 1936. Since then, the garden has been the site of many weddings and retirement celebrations, and even served as the set for a couple of Tarzan movies.
Hidden from the street, this urban oasis is a breath of fresh air just moments away from the hustle and bustle of Little Tokyo. You enter via the Japanese Cultural and Community Center and then take the elevator down to level B. After you emerge from the zig-zagging hallway, you’re sure to find a moment of zen among the flowering foliage, tiny streams, and cedar bridges of this miniature Japanese garden. The center also holds regular concerts and other events in the garden, so be sure to check the listings.
If you hike in Griffith Park regularly, you may have seen Amir’s Garden before. As a lush, forested ridge, it’s certainly noticeable amongst the dry desert scrub. The garden was created by Amir Dialameh, an avid hiker and West Hollywood wine seller who petitioned the city to regenerate the area after a fire swept through the park in the 1970s. Dialameh worked on the garden for 12 years, planting over 60 varieties of trees and shrubs and cutting hiking trails into the hillside. You can find directions here.
Built in 1949 by husband and wife design duo Charles and Ray Eames, the Eames House is a classic of modern architecture—but you don’t have to be a UCLA student to enjoy a visit. Situated on spacious, leafy grounds in the Pacific Palisades, the house’s thoughtfully designed, light-filled interior will have you wondering why you still live in a dark, cramped apartment where you always hit your head on the kitchen cupboard.
Is there anything more “LA” than a recreation of an ancient Roman Villa, complete with gardens, nestled in the hills above Malibu? I think not.
RANCHO PALOS VERDES
Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright’s son in the 1940s, this incredible glass-ceilinged chapel is set in a wooded grove adjacent to the ocean. Its unique design makes it popular for weddings, and it has also featured in several episodes of The O.C.
Built in 1911 by Harry and Virginia Robinson of Robinson Department Stores, the Robinson Estate was the first estate in Beverly Hills. Virginia Robinson was a keen gardener, and travelled the world collecting exotic plants from locations like Australia, Africa, and Europe to construct her lush, green garden. The grounds feature winding pathways, patios, fountains, ponds, and outdoor sculptures. Robinson was known for throwing lavish parties at the estate, which generally featured a who’s who of the entertainment, business, and political elites. The garden and mansion are open to the public, but you’ll need to book an appointment to gain access.
Unexpectedly located in the middle of Hollywood, the grassy grounds of this 1907 Mission Revival mansion are the perfect place for a sunset picnic or a relaxed stroll. Recently restored, the grounds feature a community garden, a Japanese garden, lush lawns, and views of Palos Verdes and Catalina Island. For more adventurous hikers, there’s even a trail that connects to Runyon Canyon.
Officially known as Vincent Lugo Park, this retro playground features a series of incredible giant concrete sculptures of serpents, dragons, and sea creatures (including a worried-looking whale and a gangly octopus) built by artist Benjamin Dominguez in the 1960s. It’s a perfect place to take the kids, but the amazing designs are sure to impress people of all ages.
Part of the European-inspired Pasadena Civic Center District built in the 1920s, the stately ambience and high ceilings of this library make it the perfect place to finish off some homework or get started on that novel that’s been sitting on your bedside table for months.
You don’t have to necessarily be a fan of the Pope to appreciate the architecture of this majestic Catholic church built in 1925. Featuring an exquisite dome, vibrant stained glass, and intricate, gilded altars, it has all the trappings you’d expect. Light a candle for the Virgin Mary and kick back on one of the immense wooden pews for a little contemplation.
It took Italian outsider artist and immigrant Sabato Rodia over 33 years to construct these incredible towers out of steel, concrete, porcelain, and glass. The strange and beautiful sculpture really is something you have to see to believe.
Built by architect John C. Austin (whose other work includes the Griffith Park Observatory), this Gothic-Revival-style building is nestled amongst lush green lawns and large trees, and includes a gorgeous stained-glass World War II memorial.