I’m in San Francisco this week for work, and it’s a magnificent city. The moments I get to explore after work have been great. Last week, I gave tips for traveling solo and I’m following it up with some of the best cities I’ve visited alone.
I chose places based on relative safety, things to do and/or beautiful sites, and how easy it is to get around. I cross-referenced my list with women that I know that have traveled alone to make sure these were safe for both genders.
I’ve listed them by country in alphabetical order.
Honestly, you can anywhere in Australia as a solo traveler; it is an extremely tourist-friendly country with so many things to see and do. For this post, I’ll highlight Melbourne.
Things to do: Australia has fantastic beaches, and Melbourne is no exception. Take advantage of the beautiful surroundings to stay active and hike, kayak, bike, and swim; check out the Royal Botanical Gardens. It also has a large arts scene, including impressive street art. You can walk or bike around to see some of the art or take in a show. Another advantage, you’ll find yourself in the middle of a foodie hotspot. One place to check out Lentil As Anything, a not-for-profit, food without borders, vegan restaurant that allows guests to pay what they can, based on their financial ability.
Cost: It’s a major city, so it’s a bit on the pricey side. Most of the things you want to see and do won’t cost you much.
Getting around the city: Walkscore.com gives Melbourne a 57 walk score. I found it easy to walk or bike anywhere, and public transportation was also reasonably priced.
Safety: Australia as a whole is considered incredibly safe for international travelers, and Melbourne is no exception. As always, take the usual precautions.
Honorable mention: Queensland. It is also a solo traveler’s paradise for women as ranked by my colleagues.
As I spend a lot of time in this city, I had to include it on the list. It’s a thriving city with lots to do if you’re on your own.
Things to do: If you stay downtown, you’re around some of the main attractions like the St. Lawrence Market, one of the worlds top fresh food markets, or The Distillery District, that has collections of art, restaurants, and shops. There’s also the CN Tower, a few beaches, and Queen West for cool shops. You can try different food flavors by checking out Little Italy, Portugal Village or Greektown (these are a small sample). Toronto has a large arts culture. Hop on a ferry from downtown to escape the city for a day and explore the Toronto Islands.
Cost: Prices in Toronto are comparable to Chicago or parts of NYC. If you stay downtown, you are in walking distance to many great city features so that you can save money there.
Getting around the city: Walkscore.com gives Toronto a score of 71, and their public transportation system a 78. If you’re downtown, walking or biking is enough.
Safety: Downtown Toronto is considered pretty safe. But some sites recommend that travelers avoid straying too far from the downtown core into the outer neighborhoods. I haven’t found that yet, but suggest that you take the usual precautions and when out later, stick to well-lit, main streets.
Vancouver is a beautiful mix of city, water, and mountain views.
Things to do: Vancouver has different districts that offer you different experiences. You can check out Gastown for great food and drinks, Granville Island for First Nations artwork, regional wine, and a fresh food market, or Robson street for lots of shopping. The waterfront and Stanley Park are must sees in the city.
Cost: Prices in Vancouver are comparable to Toronto. I prefer to stay downtown on Robson Street. If you stay downtown, you can walk to many great city features, which helps save money.
Getting around the city: Walkscore.com gives Vancouver a score of 78, and their public transportation system a 74. Vancouver is relatively small compared to some of the other places on the list. If you’re downtown, walking or biking is enough, and you can always hop on a bus if you’re tired.
Safety: Vancouver is considered pretty safe. You want to stay away from Hastings Street between Gastown and Chinatown at night, some people will say during the day as well, but it’s hard to for me label it that way since I haven’t been bothered there. Take the usual precautions and when out later, stick to well-lit streets.
Honorable mention: Montreal. It is a beautiful city with fantastic food and a vibrant culture. I didn’t know any women that went to Montreal alone with enough time to explore, but I would recommend it.
San José City
San José City has excellent temperatures year-round, and it’s beautiful place to explore.
Things to do: Take in their impressive culture. Visit one of the many museums and open air markets to see the indigenous arts and crafts. The nature is also spectacular, especially the Parque Nacional Volcán Poás.
Cost: San Jose is one of the most expensive cities in Central America. That being said, it’s still cheap by North American or European standards. You can keep costs low by walking and eating at local restaurants instead of touristy ones.
Getting around the city: Walkscore.com doesn’t rate the country but I found walking to be the best option. Taking the bus would be second best, but it can be a hassle. I wouldn’t advise renting a car, and I can back up this statement from others that have done it.
Safety: It is a relatively safe city. Take the necessary precautions as always and stay in lit areas as it gets dark.
I will say upfront that Reykjavik is expensive, but pictures and words cannot do it justice.
Things to do: There is so much beauty in the city’s natural wonders to see no matter what time of year you go. The Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa, just outside of the city, the national park, geyser, and waterfalls are all sites to see. You can go whale watching, and may even spot some dolphins or seals. When you want to relax, take a walk on the waterfront.
Cost: Reykjavik is notoriously expensive. Alcohol is especially pricey, but as I mentioned, the experience is worth it if it’s in your budget.
Getting around the city: Walkscore.com doesn’t track the country, but I found it easy to walk around Reykjavik, and it has a pretty good public transportation system.
Safety: Iceland is considered one of the safest places in Europe, but using safety precautions is always advisable.
I traveled to Dublin for a photoshoot and then spent the rest of the time touring by myself. I preferred exploring it on my own.
Things to do: Dublin has a rich culture. Check out one of the museums, a show or the famous Guinness Storehouse. I was happily surprised by the food. I will just say this; you will not be disappointed. It’s even one of the most gluten-friendly places in the world.
Cost: It is relatively expensive, including some of the more famous attractions. There is a lot to see in Dublin that won’t break the bank.
Getting around the city: Walkscore.com doesn’t track the country, but I found it easy to walk or bike around Dublin. The public transit is extensive, and you can jump on the coastal train to explore outside of the city.
Safety: Dublin is a safe city, especially considering it’s a major city. Take the usual necessary precautions.
With so much to do, Amsterdam is a fantastic place for solo travelers.
Things to do: There’s so much to do from seeing the historic sites, parks or going to the beach. Blijburg is a man made beach where you can swim, eat and hang out at one of their beach parties. If you’re looking something quieter, check out Vondelpark in the heart of the city.
Cost: Amsterdam is cheap for a European city. You can also easily find cheap options for food.
Getting around the city: Walkscore.com doesn’t rank the country, but it is one of the easiest places to get around. You can walk and bike anywhere in the city. You may want to take transportation at night depending on the time, or where you are in the city.
Safety: It’s known as a safe city. But, as with any city, there can be dangers of robbery so avoid talking to street peddlers.
Honorable mention: Rotterdam. It’s less than an hour away from Amsterdam by train and is a more modern part of the country. I suggest both in one trip.
The United States of America
New York City
I live here so what can I say? It has so much to offer it’s impossible to see it all, but you can stay in one area and see so much and always come back again!
Things to do: You can do everything. World class museums, art, fashion, and restaurants can fill your time easily. Including doing things that don’t make the tourist lists. But you can also visit Central Park, Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, One World Trade Center, The Guggenheim, well you get the idea. You will not be short on things to do, making this such an easy place to visit alone.
Cost: Finding a place to stay will be your biggest expense. Look well in advance if you want to couchsurf or use Airbnb. You can keep costs lower on food, attractions, and transportation.
Getting around the city: Walkscore.com gave New York City a score of 89, the public transportation system 84, and biking a 65. You can walk or bike depending on where you stay. If you stay in Manhattan, it is incredibly easy to see so many sites that are within walking or biking distance. The city’s public transportation is one of the best in the world.
Safety: New York City is considered pretty safe for a major city, and especially for its size. Stick to main streets after dark and take precautions as you would anywhere else.
San Francisco has a great laid back vibe.
Things to do: Brunch is big. There’s plenty of cafes and restaurants to meet your needs. From there, check out The Haight, where the hippie movement was born. Golden Gate Park is spectacular and what would a visit to San Francisco be without a wine tour or two?
Cost: It is a little pricey, but doable. Bring comfortable walking shoes and use public transportation to get around. Avoid expensive brunches and wine tours by checking them out on Yelp first.
Getting around the city: Walkscore.com gave San Francisco a walk score of 86, the public transportation system 80 and biking a 75. It’s just an easy city to get around.
Safety: It’s considered a relatively safe city. It is my first time here for longer than a two-day work event, so I was given some pointers. The Mission District is an area I was warned to stay away from at night.
I wanted to give an honorable mention to Rome, Italy, Lisbon, Portugal and Madrid, Spain. While I found them safe, as did some others I know, I couldn’t find any women I knew to back me up.
Some other places I heard were very safe, but I haven’t visited yet include Copenhagen, Denmark, Taipei, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Glasgow, Scotland. I haven’t visited anywhere in Africa yet either, or much of Asia.
These are some of my top spots for solo travelers. What are some of yours?