Where to Travel on Your First Solo Vacation Abroad

 

 

Rome’s Colosseum

We believe the only things that should limit your choices when choosing your first solo vacation destination are your budget, your interests, and your country’s travel warnings. If you travel safely and use common sense, there is no reason you shouldn’t travel any place your heart desires. However, if you’ve never traveled alone before, you may be a bit nervous about choosing where to go.

We’re here to help! In this post, we are going to look at five European cities that are all great places for a first solo vacation. English is widely spoken in these cities, though you should still make an effort to learn a few phrases in the local language. Second, it’s pretty easy to get around in all these locations, due to their walkability and/or excellent public transport. And finally, all these destinations are jam-packed with things to do. No matter your interests, you can satisfy them in one of these amazing cities.

1. London, England,

United Kingdom

London’s Tower Bridge

Why it’s great for your first solo vacation: First of all, English is the official language. Some words for things may be different (pants here are women’s underwear, for example), but you shouldn’t have any trouble understanding. Another plus is the extensive and easy to use public transport system. This includes the Tube (like New York’s subway), trains, buses and even boats. Get a free Tube/rail map at any station or download a route-planning app to your smartphone (we like this one from citymapper) to help you plan your routes.

What to do when you’re going it alone: If you like Broadway-style theater, try getting tickets to a show (or two) in London’s West End theater district. Since you aren’t trying to get multiple seats together, you can sometimes pick up decent last minute discounted seats. Check out websites like TheaterMonkey to find deals online. If you don’t have internet access, try visiting the TKTS booth in Leicester Square.

Another great option for the solo traveler is to take a guided tour. Our favorite tours are those offered by the London Walks company, with their knowledgeable, local guides. They have a wide range of themed tours on subjects ranging from Royal London to Jack the Ripper and everything in between. Every walk is only £10, and there is no need to book. Just show up at the designated meeting place before the walk begins and join in. These tours are also a great way to meet like-minded travelers if you are feeling lonely.

Where to stay: We are partial to the Grosvenor Hotel, located at Victoria train station. They have a wide range of rooms, from singles to lush suites. The hotel is within walking distance to Buckingham Palace. There is a tube stop adjacent to the hotel, so you don’t have far to walk if you decide to stay out late. If you are flying into Gatwick, take the Gatwick Express directly to Victoria Station.

2. Berlin, Germany

Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate

Why it’s great for your first solo vacation: Although English isn’t the official language, there are plenty of people who speak it. Berlin also has a super-efficient and inexpensive public transportation system (called the U-Bahn and S-Bahn). The citymapper app also comes in handy here. Berlin is also very safe. Just exercise common travel sense and you should be fine.

What to do when you’re going it alone: Take a visit to Museuminsel (Museum Island). You could easily spend a week exploring these five museums located on a small island in the middle of the city. Each museum offers something different, from painting and sculpture to Egyptian artifacts. Decide what you want to see most and spend all day soaking it in, since you won’t have anyone trying to rush you.

Berlin is also a great place to catch a tour, which is a great way to meet other travelers. Original Berlin Walks, one of the oldest and most reputable tour companies in the city, has some great options. You can even catch a tour with them to visit nearby Potsdam (with its erstwhile royal residences and parks) or the former Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp.

Where to stay: We are big fans the 25Hours Hotel Bikini Berlin. With its funky vibe, fun bar, and terrific location near the Ku’damm shopping area and the Berlin Zoo, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more interesting place to stay. Some of the rooms have hammocks!. Half of the rooms have views of the zoo, along with binoculars to use to spy on its animal inhabitants. You can even rent a bike or MINI for free during your stay.

3. Dublin, Ireland

Dublin Castle

Why it’s great for your first solo vacation: This is also a good place to go if the idea of finding your way in a foreign land scares you. The most widely spoken language is English, though Irish Gaelic is the official language. Dublin is also a walkable city, with many of its main attractions located near the city center. This is a great place to visit if you don’t want to figure out a public transportation system on your own. The friendliness of the people sometimes makes this city sometimes feel more like a town. This is great if you’re especially nervous about traveling on your own in a big city.

What to do when you’re going it alone: Dublin is small enough that you can see most of its main sights in less than a week. So take your pick of things to do, from old cathedrals like St. Patricks to world-class museums such as the National Museum of Ireland. It’s also quite relaxing to spend some time with yourself exploring some of Dublin’s lovely green spaces. Go for a walk and find all the sculptural Irish history monuments in St. Stephen’s Green. Or visit the lovely gardens or the zoo at Phoenix Park. These parks are especially nice on a warm summer day.

A great way to get to some of the attractions outside the city center is to purchase a ticket for the City Sightseeing Hop on Hop Off bus tour. For a reasonable price, this bus makes stops at 28 different attractions in the city. The tours are narrated, so you know where you are going and what you are seeing. Just hop off when you get to something you want to visit. When you are ready to continue touring, wait for the next bus to come along (every 15 minutes). This tour makes it easy to get to places such as Kilmainham Gaol and the Guinness Storehouse, which are a bit of a hike from the city center.

Where to stay: Its central location near St. Stephen’s Green and helpful staff make the Shelbourne Hotel a great place for the solo traveler in Dublin. Not only does this hotel boast luxurious rooms, comfortable beds and terrific service, it is also a historical site on its own. Among other events, in 1922 the Irish Constitution was signed here in room 112. A small museum onsite highlights this moment and other ways the hotel has figured in Irish history. Be sure to try afternoon tea in the stately Lord Mayor’s Lounge and have a drink in the historic Horseshoe Bar during your stay.

4. Rome, Italy

DSCN0385

Why it’s great for your first solo vacation: As with all our picks, English is widely spoken here. But what really makes Rome a great place to be alone is the joy of wandering its streets by yourself. There are so many layers of history in this city, it is a learning experience just to walk around. And even though the public transportation system in Rome is quite good, we often use it only for the longest distances. You can miss a lot when you take the underground Metro. Another bonus to this city is that there is so much to see that you will never be bored enough to feel alone.

What to do when you’re going it alone: As stated previously, simply wandering the streets and taking in the charm of this city is an event in itself. But you’re going to eventually want to dig deeper and actually visit some attractions. Rome has everything from thousands-year-old monuments to museums that hold breathtaking amounts of artwork.

Once you’ve walked around and seen the columns, triumphal arches, fountains, and the Spanish Steps, we recommend that you devote some time to a museum. Our favorites are the Capitoline or the Galleria Borghese. Most of the sculpture at the Capitoline is from the city of Rome itself. This gives you an idea of what the decor was like both in and around some of the city’s ancient ruins when they were new. And the Galleria Borghese, with its timed entry tickets that keep crowds small, houses some of the finest art the world has ever known. The setting feels more intimate and personal due to that lack of crowds.

Our top recommendation, though, is to take the Twilight Trastevere Food Tour with the Eating Italy tour company. This tour is one the best travel experiences we’ve ever had. On this tour, you will sample gelato, pasta, Roman pizza, wine, cookies, cheeses, and other delights, all in the picturesque Trastevere neighborhood. Every item you taste is of the highest quality, many of it from very old family-owned businesses. Bring an appetite, as this tour is four hours of eating. Also, since these are small group tours, meeting other travelers is easy. In fact, the style of the tour encourages a distinctly communal feel.

Where to stay: In our opinion, the best area to stay is in the historic center of the city, near the Piazza Navona. If you stay here, there are plenty of restaurants and shops nearby. You can walk to most of the tourist attractions from here. And although Rome itself is safe, this area may feel safer to a lone traveler because it is in a tourist area. Our hotel pick is the Hotel Portoghesi. It affordable and located on a quiet side street. This hotel is not fancy, but it is charming and clean, and it has a very Roman feel to it. There is also a lovely rooftop garden where you can eat breakfast while you enjoy the scenery.

There you have it! You should travel anywhere you want. But we hope this list helps you decide where to go on your first solo vacation abroad. This list is not exhaustive, as there are many other places that would be great for your first solo vacation. We just couldn’t fit them all! Please follow our page for upcoming posts about other travel locations and similar topics. If you have any suggestions of your own, we’d love to hear them.

2 Comments

  • Jack Alldredge February 3, 2017 at 1:01 am

    Any recommendations for Fish n Chips in London?

    Reply
    • Kamie Berry February 3, 2017 at 1:06 am

      The Golden Hind in the Marylebone neighborhood. I eat there every time I go to London.

      Reply

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