Solo travel in Europe can be a daunting thought if you've never done it before. After countless trips to Europe as a solo female traveler, these are my five favorite cities.
Some view solo trips as reckless and scary. Others view it as eye-opening, thrilling, and perfect for self-discovery or a way to "reset". Before you take your first trip alone, it can be a bit overwhelming.
I remember very clearly my first solo trip. How, after arriving to my hotel, I had to take a deep breath and buck up the courage and take to the streets alone.
Which was odd because I'd spent plenty of hours and days wondering on my own when on trips with others. Or like when I spent two weeks doing a photography project in Trier, Germany...roaming the city solo in search of photo opportunities for the better part of the day.
But there's something different to when it's just you...beginning to end. No schedule to keep to (unless it's your own schedule).
Once I made it through that door and got my rhythm going it was incredible. The feeling of complete independence. Choosing exactly how to spend your time and what to do. Being 100% responsible for your trip and your experience. I wouldn't trade my solo trips for anything.
Enough about my thoughts on solo travel, let's get into solo travel in Europe and some of the best cities for a trip alone.
Best solo travel destinations in Europe: Criteria
There are a few things that make a solo trip in Europe more comfortable and less daunting.
Walkability and ease of public transportation is a must for a solo trip in Europe, especially a first time solo trip. I avoid places where a rental car is needed. I don't know about you but the thought of trying to navigate unknown roads on my own or how terrible it would be if I got lost or in a wreck...no thank you.
Cities that are entirely walkable or have an easy to use (and safe) public transportation system make solo travel so much easier. In fact, each of the five cities I recommend are entirely walkable.
Day trip options via tour or train are another ranking factor for the best solo travel destinations in Europe. While exploring a city in full is wonderful, it's nice to have some day trips to choose from so you can explore another area without having to move hotels.
Safety...obviously...is another factor. Europe, in general, is much safer than the United States, which is why it's such a popular destination for solo travelers. The cities I've chosen are all very safe. These are places I've visited multiple times and have never once felt unsafe.
Cost is another factor when choosing the best solo travel destinations in Europe. When you travel alone, hotel costs, Ubers, meals, etc., are all on you. For those of us without unlimited funds, going to a city where you can't find a nice, safe, clean hotel for under $300+ a night just isn't an option. Or it means your solo trip will need to be very quick and short.
If you're going to solo travel in Europe, why not pick a city where you can live it up a little and not feel like you're throwing your life savings to the wind? The cities I've included are all very affordable. If you're coming from the US, they'll feel like an absolute bargain.
Enough of the preamble, let's dive into the best destinations for solo travel in Europe!
1. Seville, Spain
One of the cheapest solo travel destinations in Europe that is beyond picturesque and offers incredible food.
Seville, Spain is hands down one of my favorite cities in the world. If you've been following along on Abroad with Ash, this will come as no surprise. It's one of my most written about cities and I love to gush on it.
Seville is one of the best places for solo travel in Europe because it's 100% walkable, is beyond picturesque, and feels very safe. Three days in Seville will ensure you see all the sights, though I would happily bake in extra days to relax and take things slow.
Seville is one of the cheapest cities listed in this post. You'll find a wide price range when researching where to stay in Seville and won't have a hard time finding something within your budget. I can easily book a hotel for $130 or less a night and find plenty of Airbnbs for under $80 a night.
Dining out is also extremely cheap. €2.50 for a sangria, a meal of tapas for €10 to €15, €1.40 for an espresso. These are prices you'll find in the heart of the city center. Venture further and the prices will be even lower.
There are some places where you feel like you're pinching pennies to not blow through your budget...not so in Seville.
I also appreciate that most restaurants have a bar area to eat. I never felt awkward eating alone in Seville and always had an easy time grabbing a seat at the bar, even on the busiest of nights.
A few worthwhile day trips to consider would be:
- Full-day Skip-the-line Granada, Alhambra Palace and Albaicin tour from Seville - if you have time, two days in Granada is ideal. This city is another fantastic place for a solo trip in Europe.
2. Edinburgh, Scotland
One of the best cities for solo travel in Europe for nature, Harry Potter fans, and friendly locals.
Harry Potter fans visiting Edinburgh will feel right at home. This medieval city did, after all, inspire much of JK Rowling's writings about the "boy who lived".
Visit the cafe where the story of Harry Potter came to life and the hotel where Rowling finished the final book. Wander through Greyfriars Kirkyard, a spot Rowling often visited, and find graves with familiar names...William McGonagall (Professor McGonnagall), Elizabeth Moodie (Mad Eye Moody), and Margaret Louisa Scrymgeour Wedderburn (Rufus Scrimgeour, Minister of Magic), and Thomas Riddle.
Harry Potter aside, Edinburgh is a photographer's delight. A city split between two hills, an imposing castle, narrow alleyways and stairways leading to hidden views, adorable coffee shops, and lush green parks. Add the sound of bagpipers throughout the city and you've got one magical place.
I always joke (though I'm actually dead serious) that I would love to have a little home here to escape the brutal Texas summers. Collectively, I've spent about six weeks in this charming city and yet, it's never long enough and I leave hoping to return soon. If that doesn't speak to how much I love this city, I don't know what else will.
Edinburgh has enough to keep visitors busy for a minimum of three days. Add in all the incredible day trips and you could easily spend a week here.
Need I also say that if you're a whiskey or golf lover, you'll feel right at home in Scotland.
While Edinburgh is one of the more expensive cities listed for a solo trip in Europe (especially if you visit in the summer during festival season), the long list of Airbnbs help in finding reasonably priced lodging.
Visit during shoulder season and you shouldn't have a hard time finding a hotel for under $150.
As long as you stay in the city center, you'll be walking distance to everything. Nothing is more than a 15 to 20 minute walk away.
The University of Edinburgh keeps the city young. I also feel this helps with costs as there are plenty of cafes, restaurants, and bars with prices to attract student budgets. This also means I've never had a hard time finding a coffee shop to work in.
All in all, Edinburgh ticks all the boxes for being one of the best places to travel alone in Europe.
3. Florence, Italy
Food, wine, and art lovers will want to choose Florence for A solo trip to Europe. There are also plenty of incredible day trip options and tours.
Foodies will not be disappointed in Florence. One thing I love about Florence, and why I prefer it to Rome and Venice, is there seem to be fewer tourist trap restaurants. This is one city where I'm ok not spending hours of research figuring out where to eat. Honestly, everything is amazing here.
What's even more amazing, my bill is usually €20 for a delicious pasta and glass of wine. The gelato in Florence is especially good and cheap!
The city center is 100% walkable. Yes, it can get crowded around popular sights like the Duomo and Ponte Vecchio, but just keep walking and it won't take long to find a quiet street.
Other reasons that make Florence a wonderful choice for a solo trip to Europe are that it feels very safe, offers a number of wonderful coffee shops to hang out or work, and while there may not be as many restaurants bars to eat at like Seville, I never feel uncomfortable dining solo and it's not uncommon to see other solo travelers.
Art enthusiasts will appreciate the art and museum scene in Florence. You could keep busy for two solid days just visiting the top museums.
The day trip options are endless and I've always been pleasantly surprised to find other solo travelers on group tours. I recommend joining a tour for these day trips as it makes things easier. Most of the best day trips are tricky or impossible to do via public transportation:
- Cinque Terre - five colorful fishing villages strung together along the Mediterranean coast. It's popular to hike between the towns and the views are incredible.
- Small-Group Wine Tasting Experience in the Tuscan Countryside - 4-hour tour visiting two wineries + olive oil tasting and snacks.
- Taste of Chianti: Tuscan Cheese, Wine and Lunch from Florence - full-day wine and food tour. Travel through the Tuscan hills by a 4x4 off-road vehicle, stopping to visit a wine estate and historic villa, and a cellar specializing in bottles of Chianti Classico, finish with a 3-course meal.
- Full Day Tuscany Wine Tour - made with 18 - 39-year-olds in mind.
- Tuscany in One Day Sightseeing Tour from Florence - see it all with this tour; Siena, San Gimignano, Pisa, and lunch at a Chianti wine estate.
One day trip you could easily do on your own via train or bus is Siena, a smaller version of Florence that feels a bit more medieval. If you choose to join a tour, I recommend fitting in more than just one city. This tour visits both Siena and San Gimignano. This one combines Pisa, Siena, and San Gimignano.
4. Bruges, Belgium
One of the best cities for a solo trip to Europe for Fairytale vibes and streets made for wandering.
Bruges, nicknamed the Venice of the north, is an absolute joy to wander. My favorite memories of Bruges are not visiting certain tourist sights or museums, but walking along the canals with no agenda and ditching my Google Maps. Seriously...I never tired of it.
Bruges is small enough that you really can't get lost. If you look at Google Maps, you'll notice the city center of Bruges is surrounded by a large water canal and green parks (called De Vesten, aka city ramparts). This makes it quite obvious that you're leaving the city center, meaning it's very hard to wander too far and get lost.
My fellow joggers will appreciate the parks circling the city filled with walking and cycling paths.
Many knock this city because it can become inundated with tourists, especially during the summer. But similar to Venice, wander a few minutes from the tourist hot spots and you'll find peace and quiet.
Those with an interest in architecture will adore Bruges. Flemish architecture, found primarily in The Netherlands and Belgium, is unique and very different from what you find elsewhere in Europe. A hallmark of this style is the stepped gable (look at the horizontal picture above with the triangular, stepped roof).
Visit Burg Square and Markt Square early in the morning before all the tourists arrive. You'll feel like you traveled back in time. Bruges is well preserved and the city's original grandeur has not been lost over the years.
Bruges is well connected via train. Take a day trip to Ghent (my favorite), Brussels, or Antwerp. Those up for a long day could even add another country to their trip. Paris, France is a 2.5 hour train ride away.
Fill up on the best waffles, chocolate, mussels, frites (fries), and Belgian beer while you're here. Foodies will appreciate the selection of Michelin-star restaurants.
5. Barcelona, Spain
A great choice for a solo trip in Europe for those looking for fantastical sights, great weather, and delicious tapas.
Spain is easy on the budget, and that includes its most visited city. While Barcelona may not be quite as inexpensive as Seville, it's still a great bargain when it comes to hotels, meals, and experiences.
For those planning a solo trip in Europe and trying to keep costs down, but still hoping to visit one of the most popular cities in the world, Barcelona will fit the bill.
Barcelona has it all; ocean views, famous sights and museums, incredible food, a variety of day trips to choose from, a legit coffee shop scene, easy connections to other top cities via train, a walkable city plus an easy metro/bus system, a charming medieval Gothic quarter, and so much more.
There's a reason I've chosen to spend several birthdays in this thriving city. There's an energy to Barcelona that can't be beat.
One thing I absolutely love about Barcelona is how memorable and unique some of its top sights are. Antoni Gaudi plays a big role in that...his creations are why so many visitors make their way to Spain's second largest city.
The Sagrada Familia is one of the most well-known sights in the world. For those not familiar, the Sagrada Familia is a church like no other that's been under construction for the last 140 years. When finished, it will be the tallest religious building in Europe.
There's also Parc Guell with its wavy mosaic bench overlooking the Barcelona skyline and the residential buildings scattered throughout Barcelona including Casa Mila and Casa Batlllo. His designs really do feel like they're from a fairytale and are truly one of a kind.
Barcelona's other popular sights include the Picasso Museum, Las Ramblas (popular pedestrianized street), Gothic Quarter, Barcelona Cathedral, Barceloneta (beach), Montjuic and the Magic Fountains, and Ciutadella Park.
If you're looking for a city that could easily fill four days, Barcelona is it. Add in a few day trips and you could spend a week here.
A day trip to Girona from Barcelona is my top pick. Game of Thrones was filmed here and it doesn't take long to see why. It's picturesque with ancient city walls and cobblestone streets. When you find yourself alone on a street resembling Westeros or Braavos (from Game of Thrones), you'll feel transported to another world.
Other worthwhile day trips from Barcelona include the beach town of Sitges, a combined tour of Montserrat and surrounding wineries with a tapas lunch, and the city of Figueres with the Dali Museum.
Another perk with Barcelona is it's a great city to visit year round. The coastal location makes for a pretty temperate climate. My personal favorite month to visit is October.
Honorable Mentions for solo travel destinations in Europe
London is another one of my favorite cities in Europe to travel to as a solo female traveler. The only reason it doesn't make the top 5 is because you have to be comfortable using the Tube (aka metro system). The city is too massive to get around on foot and relying on taxis/Ubers will eat up too much time spent in traffic not to mention cash.
While the Tube doesn't take long to get the hang of, if it's your first solo trip to Europe, I would save London for a second trip.
Venice is also high on my list of favorite places to travel solo in Europe. Honestly, I had a hard time deciding between whether to include Bruges or Venice.
A big perk with Bruges is how close it is to other cities and countries. Also, pretty much all the locals have been priced out of Venice. You really don't feel like there are any locals left on the island. While touristy, Bruges doesn't seem quite as extreme in that regard.
Vienna is clean, easy to get around, safe, and don't get me started on the afternoon coffee and cake tradition. Music lovers will adore this city where Opera reigns supreme.
While Vienna is wonderful for solo travelers, it doesn't have quite as much to keep the average traveler busy. Its location also means you'll have to travel a bit farther if you're hoping to include other European cities on your trip.
I'm so glad you're thinking of taking a solo trip to Europe. These are the cities I go to again and again when I travel alone. I've always felt safe in these places, had plenty to do, and didn't feel awkward being on my own. Each of these cities would be a great place for a first solo trip in Europe!