The Best Cities for Solo Travellers to Explore in 2019
From Seville to Guanajuato City, there’s plenty to do—and see—if you’re flying solo in these locales.
Sometimes one must press pause on the chaos of everyday life and take a break just for themselves. And what better way to run from your problems than to, well, literally run from them? In my humble opinion, taking a trip is the best form of self-care, and travelling solo is great option when you choose the right destinations.
So, peruse our list of single-traveller-friendly cities, pack a suitcase, book a flight and treat yo’ self.
What to do: London is a vast labyrinth of the historic and contemporary—you’ll be hard-pressed not to stumble across something worth your fancy during your time in the city.
Refrain from yelling out “London, baby!” à la Joey from Friends while you haggle for unique trinkets and fashion items at the city’s multiple street markets, from Spitalfields to the infamous Camden Market. If designer options, like Chanel and Tom Ford, are more your cup of tea, then opt to explore the glass-domed piazza of Covent Garden instead.
Then have an actual cuppa at the Ritz during an afternoon of traditional high tea. If you’re up for a climb, head to the very top of St. Paul’s Cathedral for a sweeping view of the city. Or take an elevator up to Sky Garden, an actual garden situated on the top floors of a skyscraper that overlooks the London skyline, instead.
For the literature lovers, a trip to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre is a must. And for those with a dark curiosity, a Jack the Ripper walking tour through Whitechapel might be up your alley. Escape the city for a day and explore the neighbouring countryside towns, like the quaint cottage-dotted town of East Sussex, and count how many sheep you spot on the way there.
Where to eat: A trip to London is not complete without visiting one of the many curry houses, like Cinnamon, in the historically Bangladeshi-settled Brick Lane for what will probably be the best curry of your life. For a traditional British Sunday roast, choose the rustic ambiance at the Culpepper. And for great sushi with a side of chic décor, head to Sticks ‘n’ Sushi in Covent Garden.
Where to stay: Located in the centre of Clerkenwell, the aptly named Clerk and Well Pub and Rooms offers a modern twist on traditional London accommodation. On the ground floor is a Pan-Asian gastro-pub serving fusion Thai food and London-style lagers, while above are six boutique rooms with contemporary décor, cozy double-beds and “mood lighting” amenities.
New York City, U.S.A
What to do: New York is so famous that you could spend your entire time in the city simply pointing out recognized spots from various movies and TV shows.
But here are some more productive things you could be doing instead: see a play on Broadway and finally understand all the Hamilton references that have been flying over your head. Comedy lovers won’t be able to visit the Big Apple without making a visit to the legendary brick-lined Comedy Cellar, where names like Aziz Ansari and Jon Stewart kick-started their careers.
The bookworm will probably lose their mind at the sight of Strand Books, a mammoth store carrying so many books, including rare and out-of-print titles, that they’d cover nearly 30 kilometres if laid side by side. Navigating the city’s vast subway system is a feat in itself, so reward yourself by indulging at Smorgasburg, the weekly food festival boasting strangely delicious items like ramen burgers and spaghetti donuts.
Where to eat: New York City is famous for many things, but none more so, perhaps, than its traditionally greasy pizza. And no other pizza joint is more renowned than Joe’s Pizza—you might remember it as the pizza place Peter Parker delivered pizza for in the second Spiderman movie (the Tobey Maguire one, of course). But if greasy pizza isn’t your thing, then head over to Momofuku Noodle Bar, the birthplace of David Chang’s contemporary Asian-Amercian eatery empire, for Chang’s legendary ramen.
Where to stay: Tucked on the quieter Upper West Side, Arthouse Hotel, previously known as NYLO NYC, is both central but peaceful. Nearby attractions include the Museum of Natural History and the Lincoln Center, and it’s only a short walk away from the subway, so the rest of the city is close at hand. The modern rooms are surprisingly spacious for New York standards, and the elegant lobby has its own Prohibition-themed cocktail bar.
What to do: Skip the big-city vibes of Barcelona and Madrid and head to the south of Spain to Seville. This small Andalusian city is seeped in history and culture.
Wander about gazing at the mix of Gothic and Moorish architecture at the Plaza de España, hop from tapas bar to tapas bar, see a Flamenco show and, if you’re feeling especially languid, visit a hammam, like AIRE Ancient Baths Sevilla, for royally relaxing Turkish baths that range from hot and cold temperatures.
Game of Thrones and history lovers alike will squeal with delight at the Real Alcázar, a UNESCO Heritage site recognized as the palace in the fictional land of Dorne on the HBO show. Hop on a Spanish high-speed train and take a day trip to the numerous surrounding cities, from the mountaintop locale of Ronda to the riverside city of Cordoba.
Searching for an adrenaline rush? Head to nearby Malaga to hike the Caminito del Rey, which translates to King’s Walkway for King Alfonso XIII. Its namesake opened the path in the 1920s. Previously, the trek—a steep and narrow route through a gorge in the Malaga mountains—was known as the most dangerous hikes in the world. But recent renovations have seen the installation of wide-paneled walkways and handles to make the once menacing hike a more pleasant stroll through the mountains with some striking views.
Where to eat: A trip to the south of Spain calls for as much Jamón ibérico as one can indulge in—find some of the best at Casa Morales, a family-run tapas-and-wine bar. Afterward, walk off your meal and head to El Commercio Bar for traditional Spanish churros con chocolate, deep-fried pastries dipped in rich, melted chocolate.
Where to stay: Located in Seville’s former Jewish quarters of Santa Cruz, Casa del Poeta—a 17th-century mansion restored to luxurious glory—is right in the heart of the city. With only 18 rooms, the boutique hotel is small enough to offer a personalized experience but big enough to make you feel like a Spanish aristocrat.
Guanajuato City, Mexico
What to do: Deemed the “most beautiful city in Mexico,” Guanajuato is a far cry from the tourist-filled beach resorts of Cancun, so you’ll need to brush up on your Spanish before visiting. Located in a valley in central Mexico, the city is said to be the birth of Mexican independence from Spanish rule and boasts many monuments alluding back to the Independence movement.
You could probably see the entire city in a day and you’d have to try really hard to get lost, but it’s worth a lengthy visit just for the beauty alone. Explore the maze of cobblestone streets, gaze at the array of brightly coloured buildings and lounge at street-side cafes while sipping on a cerveza. Cheques won’t be brought to you until you ask for them, so sit back and people watch from your table while you order a second or third drink.
Art lovers can visit the Museo y Casa de Diego Rivera—the childhood home of artist Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo’s husband. Clamber up to the top of the city to the Monumento El Pipila, a statue of an Independence hero who may or may not have been real, and gaze back down for a panoramic view of the colourful city.
Where to eat: Wake up early to enjoy breakfast at Santo Café, which is famous for providing seating on a tiny bridge above a busy street. Try to nab a table here, so you can people watch while digging into your huevos rancheros. Afterward, grab a drink at La Clave Azul, a cantina hidden deep in the maze of tiny cobbled streets and which is recognized for its signature deep-blue-painted walls.
For Mediterranean-Mexican fusion, head to the Canadian-owned Los Campos for one-of-a-kind tapas. However, some of the best food can be found on the streets of Guanajuato themselves. From stuffed gorditas during breakfast to late-night, post-bar-hopping tacos, street food is a big part of Mexican culture. Just keep an eye out for hygienic practices, like the use of gloves and a separate cash handler by hawkers.
The locals advocate drinking pulque, an alcoholic drink made from fermented agave, to settle stomach issues. It’s richness in vitamins—and, at the very least, will get you drunk enough to forget your stomach problems.
Where to stay: Modern meets traditional at the elegant Edelmira Boutique Hotel, a 19th-century home refurbished as a small 27-room hotel. It’s located right in the city centre, so you’ll be steps away from the Teatro Juarez and Jardin da la Union.