I moved abroad at the age of 18 and have lived as an expat for 8 years in separate countries to my family. Simply put, I’ve become accustomed to a very independent lifestyle, which has lead to a love of solo travel. When you work full-time (like I do), you sometimes just want to go for a quick break somewhere and you might not always find someone to travel with. This is why I think European solo travel is so brilliant (at least if you live in Europe)! It’s close to home, so you’re not spending loads of time getting to your destination and Europe is packed to the brim with amazing activities and food. Below I’ve listed 5 of my favourites, but the possibilities for solo travel in Europe are endless!
Call me biased, but I genuinely think that Sweden is an easy country for solo travellers. A law that permits you to walk across privately owned forests and land makes outdoors activities very accessible. Try a range of activities such as hiking, skiing, fishing etc. If you’re not outdoorsy, Stockholm is famous for its trendy inhabitants and high class museums, such as Fotografiska (photography museum). For history buffs, the island Gotland’s Viking remnants are famous. Vogue recently published an article about Skåne (Scania), which is the southernmost part of the country and beautiful in the summer. I grew up next to this region and can vouch for the local produce and beauty of this county’s wide open fields.
For solo travellers, travelling around Sweden is fairly easy with a good train network. The only thing you might struggle with is the countryside and if you want more freedom, I’d recommend renting a car. English is widely spoken across the country, especially among the younger generation. The country is also safe for solo travellers, especially outside of the cities.
Riga makes this list as the locals are incredibly friendly and always willing to help. You can get by with English as it’s fairly widely spoken, especially among younger people. The easiest part about Riga is the size though. There is no need to memorise a complicated metro map or bus network, as all the main sights are within walking distance. The prices make Riga a cheap destination for solo travellers, as singletons could easily afford a hotel stay.
If the above wasn’t enough, Riga also has a plethora of great activities! Get vertigo at the top of St Peter’s Church, visit the festive Christmas market or get your cultural fix at the opera. The architecture of the city is beautiful and perfect for solo afternoon strolls to admire it all. I went in winter, which was magical, but I can only imagine how beautiful it must be in summer.
I spent 24 hours solo in The Hague as part of a trip between Amsterdam and Brussels. I hadn’t really heard much about the city and didn’t do lots of research before my trip either. What a pleasant surprise this city was! The Hague is the administrative capital of the Netherlands and the vibe was a perfect balance between city buzz and small town cosiness.
Whilst it may fall under many travellers’ radar, it boasts some pretty famous art. Ever heard of the Girl With a Pearl Earring painting? If not, you might have heard of the namesake film in which two of my favourite actors played. Hey Scarlett Johansson and Colin Firth. This famous painting is housed in Mauritshuis, which is a beautiful building in its own right. You should also check out the Escher museum and Binnenhof area.
There wasn’t too much of a language barrier in The Hague and I could make myself understood in most situations. I found the city easy to get around, with no need for public transport. There are also excellent train links to Amsterdam, other Dutch cities and Belgium. The price level is the main disadvantage. I found The Hague quite expensive (along with Amsterdam) and went for the cheapest available accommodation at 40 euros a night.
There are so many reasons to visit London and if you love city travel, this is the ultimate European destination. I’ve been to London several times over the last few years; for fun, by myself, with others and with work. There are so many activities available that it’s difficult to decide where to start! You obviously have the classics; Big Ben, Tower of London, Buckingham Palace and so on. On my visits I’ve also enjoyed the Shakespeare Globe Theatre, Angel Stand Up Comedy and Natural History Museum.
The reason I’ve put London down as a great solo travel destination is the navigability of the city. London is a big city but the metro makes it simple to get around and the oyster card (a travel card you top up) makes transits very convenient. In addition, English is obviously spoken throughout the city so makes it easy to ask for help. Admittedly, the city is pricey but it’s also big enough to find good deals.
One of the best surprises I’ve come across in my travels is Belgium. I think Belgium, with Brussels in particular, gets an undeserved reputation for being boring. Maybe I have boring taste but I found Brussels a lively city at night with great activity options in daytime. Because of the reputation I had only booked one night in Brussels and feel like I need to come back for more in the future. Some activities that I would recommend include Atomium, Mini-Europe and Grand Place.
The size of the country makes intercity travel very quick and convenient, so you could easily base yourself in one city. The train service is good and student volunteers helped me to buy tickets at the station, which was very handy. I travelled by train to Bruges, which is a stunning town. Everything was within walking distance and there is so much history packed into such a small space. I really enjoyed the architecture and walking around all the churches (including one with a statue by Michelangelo). I felt safe everywhere I went and would love to go back for a longer tour of the country.
Of course there are plenty more great solo travel destinations, but these are some of my favourites. Please share your favourite solo destinations in the comments below!