Flying Solo

Travel writer, Anna Hart, on her favourite spots for a weekender-for-one

As the British explorer Freya Stark put it, “To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the most pleasant sensations in the world.” I’m also of the belief that there is no greater luxury than having a new city waiting for you to discover. Whether you want to immerse yourself in culture at art galleries and museums, wander around historical districts, tuck into the highlights of the local food scene or shop hard at vintage and design stores, the freedom to do whatever you please whenever you feel like it becomes addictive. But it’s important to choose your destination with care, and avoid overpriced and stuffy cities. Here’s my pick of the very best spots to make your own, alone, all reachable direct from Birmingham Airport.

Naples: get there with Jet2.com or TUI

I use Naples as a means of judging potential friends and lovers. Some travellers bang on about the piles of rubbish and edginess of the city, compared to slickly-packaged and touristy Italian cities like Rome, Venice or Florence. Others, like myself, are entirely charmed by the chaos of Naples, won over by the friendliness of the locals, and heartened by how affordable the good life is in this town. Staying at the luxurious Weekend a Napoli villa immediately thrusts me into a friendly family atmosphere, but this is a city where you’re never really alone. It’s entirely normal for solitary Neapolitans to pop into a bar for an espresso, Aperol Spritz or Peroni, and the £3 pizza at Da Michele is served in a buzzy, informal atmosphere that swallows up solo diners. Venice draws the culture-craving crowds, but Naples’ wealth of cultural treats has me just as awestruck, with royal palaces, castles and ancient ruins, plus the city’s fascinating Museo Archeologico Nazionale, showcasing Pompeiian frescoes and mosaics. Jet2.comTUI

Edinburgh: get there direct with Flybe

Some cities take a bit of trial and error to get right, but an independent traveller can tumble off the train or coach in Edinburgh and immediately find themselves surrounded by melodramatic castles, quirky vintage stores and cosy, den-like pubs. STAY Central puts me right in the thick of it in the lively Cowgate area, the perfect place to embark upon the combined vintage store/pub crawl itinerary I have planned for myself. I join the lunchtime hoards eating pizza at shared benches at The Three Sisters pub next door, before pillaging Armstrongs Vintage for woollen knits. The next morning, I pull on my trainers for a sprint up Arthur’s Seat, for dreamy views of the city I just made my own. Flights

Dubrovnik: get there direct with TUI or Jet2.com

Nothing really prepares you for the sheer beauty of Dubrovnik’s old town, except, perhaps, having seen its turn as King’s Landing. But even as a repeat visitor to Dubrovnik, the limestone streets and vast city walls take my breath away. For unencumbered travellers, this bewitching locale offers serious cultural and historical heft alongside a friendly and informal beach culture. Villa Sigurata puts me right at the heart of the old town, from where it’s a short stroll along a winding residential street and through a hole in the wall to the cliff-hugging Buza Bar, where I sip a cold Ožujsk and leap into the Adriatic sea. The next morning I hop on the regular ferry to the nearby island of Lokrum, to laze on the flat volcanic rocks, before heading back to the big smoke for an outdoor cinema screening at JadranTUIJet2.com

Budapest: get there direct with Wizz Air

As a solo traveller, choosing the right hotel is the key to the city, and as soon as I set foot in Brody House, a sprawling mansion of 11 rooms decorated by different local artists, I know I'm onto a winner. Staff are ridiculously friendly and knowledgeable, and before long I'm being shown around the bars and restaurants in Brody Studios, a sound and artists' complex down the road. With affordable studio space and a bohemian spirit, Budapest is beloved by young, creative international sorts, and after a couple of beers in the studios, I find myself swept up in a crowd headed to Szimpla Kert, one of the most famous of the city’s ruin bars, taking over a dilapidated factory. The next morning, I join the naked masses at the Gellert Spa to steam away the sins of the night before. Flights 

Istanbul: get there direct with Turkish Airlines

Few cities offer the dazzling diversity — culinary, cultural, architectural — of the Turkish capital, which has been at the crossroads between East and West for centuries. I splash out on a room at Soho House Istanbul which immediately immerses me in the city’s lively international creative set, and chatting to “digital nomads” at breakfast, I pick up a few tips for the day ahead. A three-minute walk gets me to Istiklal Caddesi, Beyoğlu’s lovely pedestrian avenue running north up to Taksim Square and south down to the historic Galata Tower. The street functions as an architectural walking tour, and I wander past buildings reflecting at least seven different types of design styles, from Neo-Gothic to Art Deco. And Istanbul’s robust informal dining scene is another bonus when searching out a table for one. Just off Istiklal Caddesi is Çiçek Pasaji, a web of streets lined with meyhane, simple bistros where locals snack on mezze. The spectacular interiors of Ikinci Bahar give me plenty to look at as I polish off a dish, before heading to Bubble Pub on Nevizade Sokağı for a nightcap. Flights

Anna has written a book and it's really rather good. Get 'Departures: A Guide To Letting Go, One Adventure At A Time' right here.

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