Solo Travel Destinations in Europe
Solo travel destinations and tips for:
- The United Kingdom: England & Scotland
- Central Europe: Prague, Vienna, and Budapest
We’ll begin this solo travel guide in London, travel through the English-speaking countries of Scotland, and Ireland, then continue through Western Europe, Iceland, and then finally to Central Europe.
Exploring Europe is an opportunity of a lifetime. You will love Europe if you enjoy history, architecture, food, and culture! If you have lots of time to backpack through Europe, you can visit all the countries I recommend, and then some. If you have less time and/or money, you can visit any of these countries as a solo traveler on individual, week-long trips.
Looking to explore another part of the world? Check out my guides to the United States, Central America, Mexico & the Caribbean, as well as my Solo Travel Guide to South America.
As always, I encourage you to challenge yourself, travel sustainably, and use travel as a vehicle for personal growth!
If you are new to solo travel, don’t forget to check out our Ultimate Guide to Solo Travel.
The United Kingdom
If this is your first time traveling alone, and English is the only language you speak, consider a trip to the United Kingdom. The two main tourist destinations that we’ll be covering in Great Britain are England and Scotland. Wales and Northern Ireland are also part of Britain, but we’ll leave those two countries for a future article.
There are few cities in the world more famous than London, England. There is so much to see and do in London, but unfortunately, it’s one of the most expensive cities in the world. I’d suggest spending your money on good food and drink, while seeing as much as you can on foot, using the London Underground, and visiting the many free outdoor spaces and museums!
But first things first, let’s get you a selfie with the famous Beefeater Guards at the Tower of London! Built in 1078 AD, see the crown jewel and the world’s first tourist attraction--The Line of Kings, established in 1652.
Not far from Tower Bridge, Greenwich Park is the London base of the Royal Navy. Be sure to check out the Cutty Sark, a 19th-century clipper ship. Relax in Greenwich Park and enjoy the rose garden, tea house, and deer park!
Museums in England are free, so take advantage...your travel budget won’t go to waste if you decide to leave! Check out the British Museum, home to the Elgin Marbles and the Rosetta Stone. The National Gallery has paintings from all over Europe dating back to 1260!
There is so much to do in London as a solo traveler… visit Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, The Globe Theater, Camden Town, and more! I really enjoyed Trafalgar Square. Sometimes, in big cities, I like to sit and people watch, practicing non-judgment of course.
Escape the bustling city of London to the small city of Bath, just 1.5 hours away, and see the 2,000-year-old Roman baths, fed by hot springs.
Want to wake up in Europe feeling refreshed? Read my hardcore traveler’s guide to beat jet lag.
The British Countryside
Outside of London, the price of your trip will start to get less expensive. Consider exploring the towns near the coast like Cornwall, Brighton, Weymouth, Dover, or Newquay… if you are from New England like me, you’ll recognize a lot of these names and probably feel right at home!
If you love adventure travel, you’ll want to get to Lake District National Park, home of twelve of the country’s largest lakes. Conquer England’s highest peak, Scafell Pike at 3,210 feet (978 meters) with a 5.7 mile (9.2 kilometer) out and back hike. Rent, or hire, a boat, cycle, and stargaze while you are there. If you visit during the winter, take a one-day winter skills course to learn to use crampons, ice axes, and other mountaineering tools.
Up your outdoor game and read our Beginner’s Guide to Camping.
Finally, no United Kingdom guide would be complete without Stonehenge. Located near the historic city is Salsbury, this prehistoric monument dates back to somewhere between 3000 and 1500 BC, and we know little about how these massive stones got there. This 2.4 mile (3.8 kilometer) hike is the best way to see Stonehenge for free.
Scotland is an incredible country, especially for those who like the outdoors. The scenery looks straight out of Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, and the Loch Ness Monster is just as mythical! The Scottish are fiercely independent, and half of the nation’s citizens believe they should separate from the United Kingdom. Chances are, you will love Scotland!
From London, instead of flying, consider reducing your carbon footprint and traveling to Edinburgh by train. Traveling by train is a great chance to see the countryside and watch the world go by, without the stress of major airports like Heathrow. Edinburgh also has an international airport you can fly into. Glasgow is another city that is popular with young people.
The first thing I recommend doing in Edinburgh is having a whisky (yes, in Scotland they spell whiskey in British English!) Scotland has over 130 scotch distilleries, so if you like to drink, go for a whiskey tasting!
Check out Edinburgh's underground vaults at night--this haunted area of the city was once home to speakeasies, gambling pubs, and brothels.
Shake off the cobwebs the next morning with a 30-minute hike up Arthur’s Seat for a marvelous view of the city below from an extinct volcano. For an easier climb, walk up Calton Hill, which is also great at sunset. Spend the afternoon in the tranquil Dean Village, Old Town, or have a picnic in The Meadows.
If you are into landmarks, Edinburgh doesn't disappoint. Walk The Royal Mile from Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyrood. See the Georgian House Museum, the Scottish National Gallery, the Scott Monument, and the National Museum.
From Edinburgh, motor to Stirling Castle, and then through Glencoe, the scenic glen where Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was filmed. Hike the Lost Valley and look up our friends at Up and Doon Adventures. Stay in a bed and breakfast like the Guisachan House but be sure to make reservations in advance. Peak season is July and August and accommodations across Scotland fill up quickly.
Hike to Steall Falls, one of the most memorable trails in the West Highlands. Have lunch in Glenfinnan and see the Jacobite steam train crossing the 21-arched viaduct, another Harry Potter highlight.
To relax, try another Scotch distillery, enjoy a walk to the Neptune Staircase, or take the UK's only mountain gondola to Nevis Range for a panoramic view of the Scottish Highlands!
Ireland is a magical country for solo travelers. I spent three weeks staying with friends who lived in Dublin and while they were working during the week, I rented a car, borrowed a tent, and explored the countryside. On the weekends we did day trips from Dublin and saw the inside of plenty of pubs in the evening hours. There is nothing like Irish pub banter… it’s good craic!
If you are continuing your Euro trip from London, travel to Wales by train and take the ferry across the Irish Sea to Dublin. I arrived by sea on a foggy day, and it really set the tone of “The Emerald Isle.” When I get to a new city, I always like to take a city tour and get acquainted with the main sites and hear some history and culture from a local. Walking around Trinity College, St. Stephen’s Green, and Temple Bar is a great way to get familiar with Dublin’s tourist areas.
I’ve been to Dublin in the summer and then again in November, and if you don’t mind the rain and cooler temperatures, I’d highly suggest traveling off-season. You’ll quickly see that Grafton Street is packed with tourists during July and August.
For those who enjoy local libations, The Guinness Storehouse and the Jameson Whiskey Distillery are fun ways to get acquainted. The Temple Bar area is one of the main nightlife spots for backpackers, tourists, and stag and hen parties. But don’t forget, Dublin isn’t just a party destination, it’s a UNESCO City of Literature! Take the Dublin Literary Pub Crawl, where you’ll find out that many great works were, you guessed it, fueled by alcohol.
To find some solace outside of pub life, relax in Stephen’s Green, or for a quiet park with more room to walk head to Phoenix Park. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of deer in this park within city limits!
Finally, for day trips from Dublin, see the small coastal town of Howth and hike out onto the cliffs. Or head south to the Bray Head Cliff Walk, both accessible by light rail. One of my highlights of Ireland was my time in solitude in the Wicklow Mountains like the 6th-century monk St. Kevin. Apparently, seven trips to the monastery in Glendalough is equivalent to a pilgrimage to Rome for Irish Catholics. I strongly urge solo travelers to be eco-friendly and safe, so take a bus to Wicklow Mountains National Park instead of renting a car and driving on the opposite side of the road that you may be accustomed to.
The Irish Countryside
There is a ton to explore between Dublin and Galway, more than I could possibly cover in this guide, but I’ll do my best to pull some highlights.
Kilkenny is a great Irish town. Rent a bicycle and see Kilkenny Castle, St Canice Cathedral & the Round Tower. Experience Ireland’s national sport by taking a hurling lesson where you’ll get to go out on the pitch and play the world’s fastest sport. On your way west, stop at the Rock of Cashel to get your fix of 12th-century Gothic architecture.
Cork is a university city in the south of Ireland, full of live music and nightlife. Many people kiss the Blarney Stone, but post-COVID-19 I’m not sure how popular this attraction will be. Skip the slobber for a leisurely stroll around the castle grounds. Whale watching is another popular activity in Cork.
The western coast of Ireland is known as the Wild Atlantic Way. Seeing the sunset over the North Atlantic Ocean from the small town of Dingle was one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen. Drive the Ring of Kerry and the lesser-known Skellig Ring. Take a boat out to Skellig Michael, but don’t camp on the cliffs as I did… my tent snapped in half from the strong winds and I ended up spending the night in one of the monk’s beehive huts!
After Killarney National Park head north to the Cliffs of Moher, part of the Burren and Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Geopark. Arrive early before the coach busses full of tourists and look for over 35 species of birds, including puffins! Visit O’Brien’s Tower, where you’ll be able to view the Aran Islands and Connemara.
For an authentic Irish experience, explore Galway’s live Irish folk music scene, with people playing outdoors on the cobblestone streets. Stroll the Salthill Promenade and pop into some shops and pubs along the Galway Bay. Visit Galway’s modern cathedral, and then visit one of Ireland’s oldest at St. Nicholas’ Collegiate Church. Tour the Kilmacduagh Monastery, or the Galway City Museum.
There is lots to do in the countryside near Galway including hiking Diamond Hill in Connemara National Park. Visit the Sheep and Wool Centre to learn how these traditional textiles are made.
España is a beautiful country to explore as a solo traveler. I’d suggest brushing up on your Spanish, so locals take you a bit more seriously. Fly into the international airports in Madrid or Barcelona, and, from there, take trains to the smaller cities. The food and culture in Spain are incredible and vary greatly from region to region.
The first things to know about Spain from a cultural and logistical standpoint are that there is a siesta, or nap, during the middle of the day, and dinner won’t be served until 9 or 10 PM. This means the party scene doesn’t start until after midnight, so pace yourself!
Your days in Madrid will be full of incredible cityscapes like Plaza Mayor, La Puerta del Sol, and Plaza de Cibeles. Palacio Real is the King of Spain’s official residence and is open to the public. Stop into museums like Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, the Naval Museum, and the archeological museum.
For a local experience pick up a bottle of Spanish wine and some tapas from Mercado de San Miguel, and have a picnic in Plaza Mayor. Do more shopping, eating, and drinking in the Barrio Latina neighborhood. Finally, to earn ultimate bragging rights, try to get tickets to see Real Madrid play in a soccer match!
Take the high-speed train from Madrid to Sevilla, the capital of Andalucía. The main attraction in Seville is the Real Alcázar UNESCO Heritage Site. This royal palace boasts incredible Moorish architecture and is still in use today. Get lost in the historic Jewish Quarter and see how Christians, Muslims, and Jews have populated this part of Spain for hundreds of years. Visit Plaza España, and two incredible churches, Iglesia de San Isidoro and the Cathedral of Seville. Climb the Giralda Bell Tower and walk around Parque María Luisa.
For a more hands-on activity, take a Spanish tile workshop or a flamenco dance class. Enjoy some tinto de verano, Seville’s version of sangria. For nightlife be sure to hit the Alameda de Hercules neighborhood or Almeda as locals call it.
Escape Seville to the coast for a beach day in Cadiz. See the Castle of San Sebastián and the Castle of Santa Catalina.
From Seville travel by train to Granada, another city heavily influenced by the Moors. Stroll around the grounds of the Palace of the Alhambra, and if you want to go inside, be sure to book your tickets in advance. At the base of Alhambra visit Bañuelo, the famous Arabic Bathhouse.
In the center of the city, enjoy Plaza Nueva, see the Granada Cathedral, and buy lunch in Mercado San Agustin. Walk down the whitewashed rows of houses and narrow roads of the Realejo and Albaicín neighborhood. Shop in an active bazaar, and take a night hike with our friends from Sixthrills.
For a more active walk, go to the top of Mirador de San Nicolas for a view of Alhambra during sunset or walk down Paseo de los Tristes. To scale some of Europe’s highest mountains, visit Sierra Nevada National Park, and while you are there visit the quaint alpine villages of Capileira, Pampaneira, and Trevélez. If you travel to this region of Spain during the winter, go skiing or snowboarding!
Like most people, I absolutely love the city of Barcelona. Unfortunately, overtourism has driven up the cost of living for locals who, pre-COVID-19, were fed up with the number of travelers visiting their city. For this reason, and to avoid the crowds, I suggest visiting Barcelona in the off-season. If you are visiting southern Spain on your trip, it’s best to skip the hot summer months, anyway.
It’s important to know that the people of Barcelona are proudly Catalonian, speaking their own language, many of whom think Catalonia should be separate from the county of Spain. People from Barcelona do know Spanish, of course, but prefer not to speak it.
The Gothic Quarter is the most famous tourist area of Barcelona. If you like to walk, I’d recommend walking down La Rambla from Plaza Catalonia and heading for Barceloneta and the beach. This area of the city along the Mediterranean is much more modern and was constructed for the 1992 Olympics. The beach and boardwalk in Barcelona aren’t my favorites, as they aren’t particularly unique like the rest of Barcelona, but it’s not a bad way to spend half a day.
Another walking route to take is from the Arc de Triomf down to Parc de la Ciutadella, where you’ll find beautiful gardens, monuments, and the Gaudí Monument. For more mind-blowing architecture from Antoni Gaduí walk around La Sagrada Familia and then uphill along the pedestrian Avinguda Gaudí before making your way to one of his most famous works, Parc Güell. Gràcia is my very favorite local neighborhood, and I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to stay in an Airbnb and live among Barcelonians.
For an early morning sunrise outside the city center, make your way to the top of Montjuic Hill, by foot or cable car and explore the Castell de Montjuïc, the sprawling parks, and gardens. From Barcelona, consider visiting Montserrat, Girona, or the Pyrenees mountain range between Spain and France.
Bonjour! France is every solo traveler’s gastronomical dream. Get ready for amazing food and wine in every corner of this country. Most travelers will fly into Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, but don’t sleep on Lyon, an incredibly underrated city to explore. Be sure to enjoy the towns in the French countryside and attempt to speak a little French to be polite to the locals. Here are five of the best French foods to try.
I was lucky enough to call Paris home for six months, and it was easy to understand why people around the world envy the Parisian lifestyle. Yes, I tried to eat gluten-free then, but it didn’t stop me from trying the baked goods at the local boulangerie. Be sure to enjoy a café or espresso seated outside overlooking the street. In Paris, people-watching is a serious sport! Bring home a freshly-baked baguette to be consumed that day.
Escargot and steak tartare are two amazing delicacies in France. A few of my favorite restaurants in Paris are Les Fous de L'Ile, Kitchen Galerie Bis, and La Rôtisserie d'Argent.
Now that I’ve made sure you are sufficiently fed, let’s make sure you have a roof over your head at night. Keep in mind that hotels and apartments in France are small and don’t normally have air conditioning, but you probably won’t be spending a lot of time inside.
Paris is broken up into twenty arrondissements, or districts. I’d suggest staying anywhere in the first through the eleventh arrondissements… if you want to avoid being in the most touristy areas, I’d skip the first, second, seventh, and eighth, which are where the Louvre, Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower, and Arc de Triomphe are respectively. If you want to stay in a more local neighborhood where young Parisians eat and drink, stay in the eleventh. Here are some Paris tips from our team in France!
To me, getting lost in the backstreets of Paris is incredibly fun. Everywhere you look there is another magnificent building, and when you ask a Parisian what the building is, they just shrug it off like it’s no big deal, because magnificent buildings are part of ordinary life. Walk up and down the Seine River past Notre Dame, the Louvre, Tuileries Garden, Champs-Élysées Garden, all the way to the Arc de Triomphe. Be sure to wander the Latin Quarter and sit out in one of the many parks on the weekend, and visit museums and world-famous monuments like the Panthéon.
Go on more active adventures including visiting the top of Montmartre, the catacombs of Paris, and walking the gardens of the Palace of Versailles.
Here are the Top 5 Places to Stay in Paris + Tips to Enjoy the City.
While Lyon doesn’t have the world-famous landmarks that Paris has, if you are looking to experience an authentic French city, without the crowds, this town is for you. I found amazing outdoor dining, beautiful architecture, and the distinctly European lifestyle alive and well in Lyon, without the pretentiousness that Paris can be known for.
My favorite adventure was way up on the left bank of the Saône River. From the center of Lyon, we walked uphill through the ancient amphitheater, Théâtre Gallo Romain de Lyon, to La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière, a beautiful church with a hilltop view. The climb was steep, so expect to get some exercise. I took the cable car down, but you can take it up if you prefer.
My other favorite excursion was for lunch at Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse, an incredible French food market. Here you’ll find butchers, bakers, fishmongers, chocolatiers, and yes, plenty of wine! Be sure to try typical Lyonnaise food including Coq au vin, or rooster in wine sauce. Spend the rest of your time in Lyon shopping, wandering the pedestrian streets, and looking for the beautiful murals painted throughout the city.
The South of France
Ready to spend lots of money? Well, you sure can in the south of France! Places like St. Tropez and Monaco, a completely separate country, are known for their lavishness so expect extremely high prices in the summer. Spending time on the Mediterranean is amazing, but you can spend your budget quickly as a solo traveler if you are not careful. Spend a couple of days in each city if you can--the ports and beaches are the main attractions!
I found the town of St. Tropez extremely charming with tiny cobblestone streets in Laponche and enjoyed my time on the beach, but I also felt that too many people were just flaunting their wealth, while the “have-nots” just looked on starry-eyed. In the evening, the Port of St. Tropez was clearly the place to “see and be seen.” Yachts back into their slips and onboard butlers serve the passengers dinner and drinks. The common folk on vacation would literally lick ice cream along the promenade and watch the rich people eat! Not my scene, but my best advice is to go check it out for yourself if you are curious.
In Nice, be sure to check out the Old Quarter and the Cours Saleya Market. Another excellent pedestrian area for shopping and eating is the Promenade des Anglais, a true staple of local life in Nice. Castle Hill, or Parc de la Colline du Château, is a beautiful park above Nice with a waterfall and beautiful views of the French Riviera.
Marseille is another great place to eat french seafood, visit Le Vieux Port, walk a few miles along La Corniche, hang out in Borély Park and see the castle, and visit the small island of Château d'If. The coolest parts of town to explore and find cafés, boutiques, and bookstores are Le Cours Julien and La Plaine.
Close to Marseille is Aix-en-Provence, my favorite town in the South of France. “Aix” has been a small university town since 1409! It also has mostly pedestrian streets, with lots of fountains and musicians playing outdoors, which I absolutely loved. Old Town is where you’ll want to spend most of your time, especially when the markets are going on. For breakfast, the Aix-en-Provence market is open every day of the year. See the bell tower, town hall, and the town library in the center of Aix. For modern art and optical illusions check out the Vasarely Foundation.
Finally, if you haven’t had enough yachts and supercars, head to Monaco, a separate country with absolutely no entry requirements from France. The Port of Monte Carlo is the most famous area, perfect for people-watching and window shopping. Try your hand at the casino, and see the changing of the guard at Palais du Prince. Go in the month of May for one of the world’s most famous sporting events, the Monaco Grand Prix, and then head south to the Cannes Film Festival that same month.
The French Countryside
Rural France is full of incredible little towns and, yes, more amazing food! I highly suggest staying in a gîte, or a rural vacation home. Gîtes were originally huts along the Grande Randonnée, a network of 37,000 miles of walking trails across Europe. I stayed in one in a tiny town called Condom (yes, spelled like that, and no, not where condoms are from!) that my French friends hadn’t even heard of. It was truly magical being oh-so-far-off-the-beaten-path.
If you are headed to the French countryside, one way to determine where to go is by what type of food or wine you like. Bordeaux and Champagne are obvious choices. I have a friend who is obsessed with red wine, so of course, we went to Burgundy. The Route dus Grand Cru is a world-famous vineyard trail in the Côte de Nuits region or Burgundy. Wine enthusiasts seek out tiny towns like Chambertin because of their favorite pinot noir grapes for example.
If you go to this region, be sure to visit the small cities of Beaune and Dijon. You’ve undoubtedly heard of Dijon because it’s famous for Dijon mustard. Follow the Owl Trail through this UNESCO Heritage Site past 22 unique landmarks starting at the Church of Notre Dame. Just down the road, Beaune has a rival mustard Edmond Fallot, whose mustard mill you can visit. Hospices de Beaune, or Hôtel-Dieu, was a charitable hospital for the poor from 1443. Stay in a room at our favorite guesthouse, Château Barbirey, and say hello to the owner, JP, for us!
Believe it or not, France isn’t all about food and wine... there is a magnificent mountain range called the Alps that you really ought to check out! Les Trois Vallées is the ski region, but if you travel to Chamonix in the summer there is still plenty to do. Aiguille du Midi is an incredible gondola ride up to 12,605 feet (3,842 meters). I know I’ve recommended a lot of cable cars in my solo travel guides, but the incredible rock outcroppings make this gondola second to none. Enjoy watching mountaineers, base jumpers, paragliders, and other extreme sports enthusiasts huck themselves off cliffs, and then “Step Into the Void” yourself onto a reinforced glass platform for a photo op. Mont Blanc is a special mountain shared by Switzerland, Italy, and France. If you trek in this area, you’ll actually be able to hike in all three countries! Courmayeur, Italy is a great day trip, accessed by tunnel through Mont Blanc!
Finally, while I don’t have time to cover it in this guide, Normandy should also be on your list of places to explore if you are headed to the north of France. Visit D-Day Beach and Mont St. Michel.
Catch a flight to Rome, Venice, and get ready to embrace the slow food movement. Keep in mind that Venice has been plagued by over-tourism, so try to travel off-season, if possible, to avoid contributing to the crowds. The old world lifestyle in Italy is one that changes people and reminds us what life is all about. The evidence is clear: a slower pace, with emphasis on family, community, and eating well allows people to live longer… Sardinia, Italy is a Blue Zone where people often live to over 100 years of age!
There is so much to do as a solo traveler in Italy, I won’t be able to cover it all in this guide, but the regions of Cinque Terre, the Amalfi Coast, and Naples are truly incredible places as well.
One of the most popular cities in the world to visit is Rome, Italy. Imagine yourself eating authentic Italian food, looking up at buildings that are thousands of years old. Let’s get started, shall we?
The Roman Coliseum, the Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill all sit in the same area of the city. I recommend seeing the most crowded tourist places first while you are excited to be in a new city before you become tired of being around tourists. The Trevi Fountain is another “must-do” in Rome. Go early in the day unless you want to be inundated with couples eating gelato and making out… hopefully not at the same time!
Vatican City has an incredible network of museums including St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel. When I visited the Vatican, I heard the Pope give mass on a hot summer day. I didn’t last long in the heat, and I wasn’t expecting the sermon to be in Latin!
For a more authentic feel, visit the Trastevere neighborhood. It’s full of young people and has cheaper food including the pizza, pasta, espresso, and the tiramisù you came to Italy for! Stretch your legs afterward and head up Gianicolo or Janiculum Hill where you’ll have a view of Rome from above, including the Spanish Steps. There is a ton more to do in Rome including going to an opera, and many more museums and churches.
Get off the beaten path and explore small towns like Perugia and Gubbio, and throw in some active adventures like the Frasassi Caves and Marmore Waterfall.
Read our guide to Rome from Angelo, our Italian Trip Leader!
The romantic canals and beautiful back alleys of Venice are world-famous for a reason. Venice is incredibly charming. Unfortunately, overtourism and climate change have negatively impacted this city. Venice is so expensive that locals can’t afford to live there anymore, and when a cruise ship is in town the crowds are unbearable. That being said, if you must visit Venice, try to wake up early to visit the main attractions before loads of people arrive.
Piazza San Marco is Venice’s main square and is where you can find many of the top sights in the city. Basilica San Marco, Doge’s Palace, Campanile di San Marco, and the National Archaeological Museum are open to the public for tours to get a better look at Venetian history.
Escape the crowds of Venice via ferry to the nearby islands of Burano and Lido. Burano is famous for its colorful houses, art galleries, and boutique shops. Lido is a nice day trip to the beach.
If attending a Masquerade Ball at Carnival is on your bucket-list then check out Venice in the late winter and then head to Turin for some skiing.
Milan is a city that you’ve, undoubtedly, heard of for one thing, and that’s fashion. If you like to shop then you may consider spending a couple of days in Milan. Fiera di Senigallia is a great flea market for vintage shopping. Cultural sites include Duomo Cathedral, Sforzesco (or Sforza in English) Castle, and Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Summer painting and secret vineyard. Though known primarily for fashion, the mountains near Milan are also great for skiing.
This region of Italy is known for wineries, hiking, and beautiful coastal views. The five towns in Cinque Terre are Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso. There is camping, kayaking, churches, and ruins. Sit out with an espresso or glass of wine at the old harbor of Vernazza.
Naples is the gateway to southern Italy and a great place to eat and drink. You have to visit Pompeii, and it is a great stop along the way to Sorrento and Capri. See how well-preserved the ancient Roman city of Pompeii is after Mount Vesuvius erupted and covered the city in ash.
This Mediterranean city will be your stop before the Amalfi Coast and Capri. This is where to experience the winding drives along the coast that southern Italy is known for. Capri has beaches, hiking, small villages, and the Blue Grotto cave to explore. Ischia is another island to visit via ferry. While you are there, tour the 5th century Aragonese Castle.
Obviously, the Leaning Tower of Pisa is the main attraction, but there are other attractions here, too. The Duomo is a nice free cathedral visit, and the Palazzo Blu art museum is also free. Lucca is a nice city about a half-hour train ride away from Pisa that is great to walk around.
Standing atop a glacier, watching the sunset behind the Eyjafjallajökull volcano, this country is the one that changed everything for me and inspired me with the idea to start Under30Experiences. If I sound partial towards the country of Iceland, it’s because it holds such a special place in my heart. Iceland boasts countless waterfalls, glaciers, volcanoes, Viking sagas, and yes, even elves and trolls!
Bring your hiking boots and your best cold weather/rain gear because the elements in Iceland can get intense. Good luck seeing the Northern Lights!
Iceland is one of the most expensive countries in the world, and the currency has fluctuated wildly over the past fifteen years. That being said, with careful planning, it is possible to see Iceland on a budget.
Arriving at Iceland’s Keflavik airport, you’ll immediately be surrounded by black lava rock as you drive to the city center of Reykjavík. Flights from North America usually arrive in the early morning hours, so my first stop is always Egill Jacobsen Kitchen for strong coffee and a hearty breakfast. Walk around Lake Tjörnin, the University of Iceland, the National Gallery, and the President of Iceland’s Office. Stroll around the harbor where whale watching tours depart, past the ultra-modern Harpa Concert Hall, and continue down the promenade to the Sun Voyager historic landmark.
If you’ve seen a photo of Reykjavík, you’ve undoubtedly seen Hallgrimskirkja, the famous church at the top of the hill. Get a picture from the top of the tower for a dramatic view of Reykjavík. Walk up and down the Laugavegur, where you’ll find street art, expensive shops, cafés, restaurants, and bars, including the cult-classic Big Lebowski Bar.
Reykjavík’s nightlife scene is impressive. If you like to go out at night, the weekends in Iceland will not disappoint. During the summer, 24 hours of daylight means the party goes on into the wee hours of the morning.
My top pick for a place to stay in Reykjavík is Kex Hostel. Scandinavians love good design, and this hostel in an old biscuit factory doesn’t disappoint.
Iceland has incredible geothermal hot springs. The Blue Lagoon is world-famous, but in the last ten years, it has become very crowded. I’d opt for the Mývatn Nature Baths as a cheaper, more off-the-beaten-path alternative. If you do go to the Blue Lagoon be sure to make your reservation in advance. I’d suggest doing this before your departing flight and continuing to the airport on the Flybus.
The Icelandic Countryside
The best way to see Iceland is by traveling the country’s “Ring Road”, driving the circumference of the island, 828 miles (1,332 kilometers). I’ve never done it myself, but my local friends say it takes at least ten days. Keep in mind that after a couple of weeks of car rental, lodging, and food, this can add up to be an expensive trip, especially considering Iceland’s prices.
After The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, hitchhiking and camping in Iceland has become incredibly popular. Locals are friendly, but pre-COVID they also had to combat overtourism. I was picked up in a 1941 WWII truck, and the farmer told me that in the summer, “the amount of hitchhikers is a problem.”
If you don’t have time to drive Ring Road, I’d suggest focusing on two areas of Iceland, both within a few hours of Reykjavik--the south coast, and Snaefellsnes peninsula.
On the south coast, you’ll want to visit the waterfalls like Seljalandsfoss, and take the ferry to the breathtaking Westman (Vestmannaeyjar) Islands off the coast of Iceland. Be sure to look for puffins!
Hike Thorsmork, an incredible area only accessible by 4x4, that sits between three glaciers--Eyjafjallajökull, Mýrdalsjökull, and Tindfjallajökull. If you like to trek, check out the Laugavegur trail or the shorter Fimmvörðuháls trail. Say hello to our friends Addi and Björg at the Midgard Basecamp, a great hostel run by Icelanders capable of getting you set up for any backcountry adventure.
While on the south coast, take a short stair climb to the top of Skógafoss waterfall on the way to do an ice walk at Sólheimajökull Glacier. Finally, Thingvellir National Park is a great place to see Viking history, including the world’s first parliament, and snorkel between the tectonic plates. Arrive early at these locations during peak season, as many of these waterfalls are on Iceland’s famous “Golden Circle” and popular amongst tour groups.
The Snaefellsnes is a great place to explore nature on your way to the Westfjords Region. Snæfellsjökull glacier is another popular place for an ice walk, but don’t worry, you won’t need a guide and crampons for all the hikes in this national park. Get your iconic view of Kirkjufell Mountain, and its surrounding waterfalls, the most photographed mountain in Iceland. Any area outside of Reykjavík should be low in light pollution and good for viewing the northern lights during winter!
The birthplace of civilization is a fantastic place for any solo traveler to explore! Greece offers timeless historic landmarks in Athens, and idyllic island hopping through the Mediterranean. Greece is big for European beachgoers, so keep in mind July and August can be more crowded and expensive. Look to travel during shoulder seasons like June and September if you can.
While Athens and the Greek Islands get most of the attention from tourists, don’t forget the rest of Greece has some amazing attractions. Hiking Mount Olympus and going to Sparta are still on my bucket list!
If you like visiting iconic historic sites, then Athens is for you. A handful of highlights include the Greek Agora, Temple of Zeus, Adrian’s Gate, Temple of Poseidon, and the Panathinaikos Stadium. Seeing the Acropolis lit up for sunset from the top of Filopappou Hill was something I’ll never forget. If you like museums, the Acropolis Museum, Kanellopoulos Museum, and National Archeological Museum are great picks!
Plaka is a beautiful hillside neighborhood with cobblestone streets and charming Greek taverns. I swear I could live off feta cheese, olive oil, and hummus!
Hike up Lycabettus Hill and ride the gondola back down for another sweeping view of Athens. If you are feeling more adventurous, head outside the city to hike through Parnitha National Park.
When you arrive in Athens, you’ve, most likely, already been on a plane, so to help your trip flow better, I’d recommend taking a ferry to the Greek Islands, rather than going back to the airport. There are so many islands to choose from, but you really can’t go wrong. Paros is one of my favorite places, with Naoussa being an awesome little town with whitewashed buildings, and winding pedestrian streets. One of my highlights on this island was horseback riding to the beach for sunset--another unforgettable Greek experience.
Naxos is another fun island to explore, including a visit to the Temple of Apollo. Hike through the mountain villages, finishing it off with some kitron, the local liquor.
There is a reason Santorini is so famous, and that’s because everyone who visits says it is absolutely stunning. It’s really hard to beat the sunsets in the village of Oia. Keep in mind that Cyclades is the most popular Greek Island to visit, so expect to pay more than the other islands. While the beaches aren’t as white and sandy as the other islands, Cyclades makes up for it with the Santorini volcano. Go hike the caldera of this incredible, mostly submerged, volcano. Don’t forget to visit a vineyard to taste the grapes of Greece!
Croatia is many people’s favorite country to visit, for similar reasons to why they love Greece. This country boasts beautiful beaches, islands, and historic architecture. Island hopping through the Adriatic Sea is something that is on many people’s bucket list, and it should be! Croatia is a cheaper country than most Western European countries, but because of its popularity with tourists during peak summer months, it’s gotten more expensive in recent years. As I always recommend, try to travel in shoulder season like June and September to avoid the highest prices and largest crowds.
This guide doesn’t cover the cheaper and more off-the-beaten-path Zagreb and Plitvice Lakes National Park, but there is plenty to do in the interior of Croatia.
Old Town Split is a UNESCO Heritage site, so I suggest taking a walking tour through Marmont Street, Pjaca Square, and the traditional markets. Understand the influence of different cultures from the Romans to the Illyrians and the Slavic. Visit the Diocletian’s palace from the 4th century where Game of Thrones was filmed. See Split from above by going up Marjan Hill for a sprawling view of the Adriatic Sea. Cool off with a swim at the beach and go kayaking for sunset.
From Split, I’d recommend any solo traveler take the ferry to Hvar in the Pakleni Islands.
The Croatian Islands
There are over 1,000 islands that belong to Croatia, and most travelers probably have only heard of a handful. Below is my choice for an itinerary through the islands of Croatia.
In Hvar, go out to Pokonji, a beautiful bay where you’ll find a less crowded beach to relax on. Take a short hike up to the Venetian fortress located in Hvar’s Old Town. Hvar is a party town, so please have a good time, but understand that locals need to live here too. Be sure to take a speedboat ride to the island of Vis to experience the Blue Cave.
Continue your journey to Korcula. After you walk around Old Town, head to the small village of Pupant, away from tourists for a traditional family restaurant and homemade wine. Visit a winery in Lumbarda, another small village, and see the influence of Greek settlers. Walk out on Przine Bay, one of the rare sandy beaches on the Adriatic.
Take a ferry to the mainland to visit more wineries and see one of the longest walls in the world in the village of Stona. Taste fresh oysters straight from the farm.
Often referred to as the “Pearl of the Adriatic”, I’d recommend finishing your trip in Dubrovnik. You could also do this itinerary in reverse, flying into Dubrovnik and departing from Split. Walk around historic Old Town with more than 600 years of history that can be seen before your eyes. Visit St. Blaise Church and Sponza Palace. Hike to the top of Mount Srd for another stunning sunset.
Take a day trip to Lokrum, an island with no cars, hang out on the beach, and visit the Benedictine Monastery.
If you want to see more of the Balkans, I’d suggest solo travelers go to Montenegro, including the towns of Kotor, Perast, and Budva.
While this guide to solo travel in Europe can’t cover the entire continent, I’d like to highlight a few cities that are well worth your time. Central Europe is much cheaper than Western Europe and has become a hub for ex-pats and digital nomads seeking a lower cost of living. Most people see a few Central European countries on the same trip, as traveling between them is quite easy on the train. If you get a chance to go to night markets around Christmas, you are in for an unforgettable experience!
Prague, Czech Republic
Fly into the Czech Republic capital of Prague and experience beautiful parks and medieval architecture. Go to the top of the Petrin Lookout Tower, the Prague Castle, and experience one of the many microbreweries. Wander through Old Town Square and feel like you’ve gone back in time to the 10th century! Cross the Charles Bridge and its many replica statues. You can see the real statues in the National Museum. Get your picture taken in front of the John Lennon Wall, where the words “let it be” have been a symbol of peace for nearly 40 years.
Travel to train to Vienna, rich in culture, food, and art. There are tons of amazing gardens and plazas, including Belvedere Palace, the Imperial Palace, and the Hofburg Palace. Admire the Gothic architecture of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and get your fix of museums in Museumsquartier. You can experience fine art in this city like opera and classical music, and be sure to visit the Mozart Museum. Strolling Ring Road is certainly an enriching experience. For some hiking, head out of the city to Vienna Woods (Wienerwald).
For a great day trip head to Bratislava for more castles, cathedrals, and medieval delights!
Head to Budapest by train and explore another one of Central Europe’s best cities for solo travelers.
Explore Old Town and walk along the Danube River to visit Parliament. Castle Hill is a nearby neighborhood, protected by UNESCO, with cobblestone alleys and great views. Next to Castle Hill is Gellért Hill that you can climb and see a great sunset. Be sure to go to the central market for some great Hungarian food. When all that walking gets to you, soak in the Széchenyi Baths in City Park. Check out the Ruin Bars in the Old Jewish Quarter for some of the best nightlife in Europe. Visit the home of one of the most famous Hungarians, Harry Houdini.
Escape the city for a river cruise and see the small town of Etyek for some great cuisine. Check out Margaret Island and Óbuda Island.
What about Scandinavia, Amsterdam, Germany, Portugal, and all the other amazing places for solo travelers in Europe you missed?!
As this article is already 7,500 words, I’ll need to stop here. Bookmark this page and check back for updates soon.
If you want more on solo travel, check out my book: The Millennial Travel Guidebook: Escape More, Spend Less, & Make Travel a Priority in Your Life.