We looked at safety rankings and accessibility to determine our list of the top cities for a solo female traveler.
Three years ago, I sat on the wooden chair in the back of Randi Bjellands’ kitchen in Norway, waiting. And waiting. A gentleman walked in and sat down. She quickly emerged from the back room and greeted him in Norwegian with a plate of food.
I don’t speak—or understand—Norwegian, and couldn’t tell if she understood that I was hungry, too. Did she think I was sitting here waiting for a travel companion to join me? Did she not realize my feet were aching from winding up-and-down the San Francisco-like streets of the Nordnes neighborhood, in Bergen, trying to find Bjellands Kjøkken (Bjellands’ Kitchen) before she closed shop?
It was clear Randi wasn’t to be disturbed. I had stumbled upon the recommendation online, stating that Bjellands, who is in her late 70s, single-handedly ran the restaurant and had her own methods.
When I first entered, all she said to me in broken English—a bit brusquely—was: “You hungry? You want fish? Cod?” I had nodded with every question and sat down, a good 20 minutes ago. She hadn’t acknowledged me since, while several locals had entered and been served immediately.
After another 15 minutes of clanking in the back, she appeared in front of me with plate, piled high with battered cod, potatoes, and slaw—and the heartiest grin on her face. Even though we couldn’t carry on a conversation, her expression said it all. She wanted to impress the one tourist—and only other female —in the room and had gone out of her way to prepare my meal with an extra dose of care.
The beauty of solo travel is the ability to immerse yourself in the community and to stumble upon those moments of international connection organically on your own. But as a woman, fears—sometimes innate—over the silliest things can spin into overdrive, especially in a foreign environment.
While the destination you choose should be somewhere you’ve always wanted to go, being in a safe location where it’s easy to navigate both the transportation and culture alleviates major worries and lets you focus on being present. And the more hotels, activities, and sights you’re able to find in a centralized, accessible area, the simpler it is to blend in, and allow yourself to experience those special travel moments that you’ll remember for a lifetime. Here, our list of the best places for women to travel alone.
Barcelona is an extremely walkable city, and you’re unlikely to get lost as long as you have a map of some kind. In the city, you can window shop along Las Ramblas, stroll down the beach boardwalk, and or wander through the Gaudi-designed Park Güell. And the dining options are great for a solo traveler too—you can eat al fresco at waterfront paella restaurants (people-watching is built-in entertainment) or opt for a counter seat at one of the city’s many incredible tapas bars.
Thanks to the omnipresence of the Seattle’s coffee culture, a solo diner (or drinker) is commonplace in Seattle. Plus, the profileration of cafes means there’s a rest stop around every corner in between visits to Pike Place Market, the Space Needle, or the funky EMP Museum. The compact downtown area made it easy for me to zip between sights, restaurants, and shopping on foot—and anything that was slightly farther was accessible by the easy-to-use Link light rail, which just expanded to stations in Capitol Hill and the University of Washington this month.
The jolly German mentality shines in this Bavarian town, where on each of my visits, locals welcomed tourists with a grin, whether it was at a small ma-and-pop bakery or the touristy Olympiapark tower. The best way to immerse yourself in the Munich lifestyle? Grab a pint at a local biergarten or scour the aisles of the Christmas markets for a glühwein (hot mulled wine) stand. Since a mug requires a deposit, Germans hang around the stand, ready to chat (or give recommendations), while warming up over the traditional drink.
Austin’s festival culture makes it really easy to get pulled in multiple directions. But it’s also a great way to meet new people. As soon as I arrived, I wandered over to one of the many food truck trailer parks to line up for the indulgent Gourdough’s doughnuts truck, which still had a long line well after midnight. The next day, I juggled sessions at the ATX Television Festival and concerts at the X Games Austin. When you do need a little quiet time, head downtown for a walking tour, or find a spot to see the Congress Avenue Bridge bats soar.
The Netherlands-owned five-square-mile island is only a 15-minute flight from St. Maarten. Within hours of my arrival, the tight-knit diving and hiking community made me feel right at home. Even though I’m scared of fish (seriously), they convinced me to try scuba diving, and I was so glad I did. The Dutch Caribbean island has the most translucent waters, where I spotted turtles and schools of fish among the untouched reefs. Another highlight: I challenged myself to summit the 2,877-foot peak, Mount Scenery—aptly named for the stunning views.
The manageable size and easy layout of the nation’s capital makes it a simple solo stomping ground. In between exploring the iconic memorials along the National Mall, take in the exhibits at your own whim at the 17 Smithsonian museums (plus the zoo!), all with free admission—for more free things to do in D.C., click here. The 6,184 docks of the Capital Bikeshare stretch into Arlington, Alexandria, and Montgomery County, as do the 91 stations of the DC Metro, making day trips into the nearby areas accessible. And if public transportation doesn’t get you to your destination, book an Uber: D.C. was one of Uber’s first cities, and I’ve never had a canceled or unreliable driver in the area during any of my many annual visits.
Kripalu Center in the Berkshires, Massachusetts
Escape to the nestled sanctuary of this 300-acre all-inclusive center tucked in the BerkshireMountains between the forest and peaceful Lake Mahkeenac. While the 40-year-old nonprofit is technically a yoga and health retreat, the true focus is on self-discovery, whether through guided kayak trips, walks through the meditation labyrinth, or solitary hikes in the woods. The structured programs make it an easy getaway for first-time single travelers, while the R&R Retreat option offers just as many activities a la carte. During my summer weekend there, I was paired with another female traveler in a double room, and also ventured out to catch the Boston Symphony Orchestra playing under the stars at Tanglewood music center across the street.