Going on a guided tour as a solo traveler gives you the best of both worlds. Seeing the sites alongside local experts? Check. Time to explore each destination however you wish? Double check. And for those days when you do have some free time, here are our favorite solo travel activities.
1. Fill up at the local markets
One of the top solo travel ideas (and the easiest way to get to the heart of a country’s culture) is by sampling all of the sweet, savory, “I’ve-never-even-heard-of-this” foods that a destination has to offer. That’s where the local markets come in. Sure, you could head to a restaurant and sit down for a meal, but visiting a market in Europe is one of the best solo travel activities because you can take yourself on a mini food tour and meet the locals.
Some markets, like Time Out Market in Lisbon or the top floor of Mercato Centrale in Florence, are known for having an airy, modern feel. Inside, beer hall-style tables fill the middle of the room while a range of local storefronts line the outside perimeter.
Others, like Rialto Market in Venice and Naschmarkt in Vienna, are loved by locals for being the places to buy all those fresh ingredients that find their way into that evening’s dinner. No matter which style market speaks to you, be sure to test your language skills out on the local vendors as you sample a little bit of everything.
2. Picnic in the park
Who said picnics are limited to turkey sandwiches and lemonade? Traveling is the time to take your menu from DIY to DILAMSC (do it like a Michelin-starred chef). All those markets we were talking about are the best places to pick up your picnic essentials. Grab any combo of fresh fruit, charcuterie, a sweet treat, and a crisp glass of beer or wine, and you’ve got yourself the perfect meal.
A picnic is nothing without a park, though. No matter which city you find yourself in, it’s a sure bet that there’s a green space where you can enjoy your market finds. Some of our favorite picnic spots are ones located in the heart of the city, but offer a welcome reprieve from the buzz of downtown, like Fitzgerald’s Park in Cork or Villa Borghese in Rome.
3. Museum-hop the day away
Getting lost isn’t just reserved for when you’re accidentally holding the map upside down and end up taking a wrong turn (although that is a good way to stumble upon a destination’s underrated gems!). It’s also for when you’re blissfully unaware of how long you’ve been exploring the exhibits at a museum.
If you don’t know which museums to visit in Europe, just know you can never go wrong with the classics. While in Salzburg, stopping by Mozart’s Birthplace or Residence will give you a peek into the city’s history and the life of one of the world’s most revered composers.
If ancient artwork makes you feel like you’ve been there, seen that, there are plenty of museums for you, too. Get a crash course on the history of Germany’s famous luxury car brand during a visit to the BMW Museum in Munich. In Dublin, stop by the Jameson Distillery to learn about the world-famous Irish whiskey and enjoy a tasting (which is definitely the best souvenir).
4. Enjoy a drink with a view
You’ve been walking all day, took too many pictures to count, and now you want to kick your feet up and relax. We hear you. To us, the best way to do so is by enjoying a glass of beer or wine from a picturesque viewpoint on the water.
When it comes to where to watch the sunset in Sicily, the city walls surrounding the island of Ortygia in Syracuse offer spectacular views (and after sunset you can pop into one the many local restaurants for dinner). If a bird’s-eye view is more your speed, the Public Gardens are one of the best places to go in Taormina. It’s a stones throw from the main shopping street and overlooks the Mediterranean Sea.
You don’t need to be near the ocean to enjoy a sunset, though. You can also watch from the shores of the Douro River in Porto’s Foz do Douro neighborhood or from Galway’s South Park, which overlooks the River Corrib—and is the place to be at the end of the day.