Ah, the big solo trip. Whether it be to London or Lithuania, Paris or Panama, there will always be something a little special about a trip abroad alone- even if it’s your first or fortieth time. It can also be overwhelming, exhausting and lonely if you’re not quite prepared.
London is a frantic hub full of life, and has a reputation for being slightly less than friendly to visitors. It’s bursting with pop-ups, hipster bars and weird little coffee shops that are always out of good coffee but full of moustaches. However, I’ve learnt from experience that travelling alone in this great city can also prove joyful and the city as happy to see you as a room full of puppies – the key is knowing how to handle it, and what to look out for.
Clink Guide: How To Enjoy London when Travelling Solo
1. Embrace the Freedom
You may be used to travelling with friends, for work, or not travelling at all. It doesn’t matter. The number one ‘must-do’ to enjoy your London trip is embrace the fact that you have made it to one of the world’s greatest cities, and you can now do whatever you want! The joy here comes from knowing that whether you want to sit on Primrose Hill and watch people all day, take a turn around the Institute of Sexology or join in an entertaining arts and crafts evening at Drink.Shop.Do. you can. With so much to do and see, London is one place you don’t want to have compromise on. Take your time and explore.
2. Hit the Markets
London has many fantastic markets on offer, from fresh Farmers Markets in Borough to the blooming flowers of Columbia Road Flower Market, and the eclectic yet delightful Camden Markets. The pros of exploring a market solo? The crowds are teeming, the atmosphere is buzzing and happy and best of all, EVERYONE looks slightly lost as there’s just so much to see. If you’re feeling chatty there’s a stallholder every two metres who will be happy to share their love for their chosen craft with you.
3. Take a Tour
Free tours are available for almost every interest, from art to architecture, history and bloody murder (literally). When travelling solo, joining one of these walking tours is a great way to gain some truly insightful knowledge of the city, see beautiful sights, and be part of a group that’s happy to have you along – no awkward social contact required. Not to mention that you can miss out the selfie arm in your pictures and finally have your ENTIRE BODY in a photo of a national monument. Some of our favourite London tours are Sandemans Free Walking Tour (the capitals best bits), Street Art tours (for all things graffiti) and Unseen Tours for something a little different (as a social enterprise, all guides for UT are homeless/formerly homeless or vulnerable adults with a touching and unique view of the city that they love to share).
4. Find Your Tribe and Hit a Bar
If you’re looking to socialise while out in London, it’s a good idea to go where your people would be- if you like blues, hit up Blues Kitchen in Camden, if you’re a rocker then give The Old Queens Head in Angel a go. It’s important to try different things and embrace new cultures, but when all you need is a beer and a friendly face, it’s a good bet that you’ll find one where there are hobbies/passions in common. Backpacker bars are a go-to for those who just want to have a good time with like minded travellers. ClashBAR at Clink 78 is a haven for the solo traveller, with fine drinks and new friends on offer every night of the week.
On that note, if you are looking to enjoy a drink by yourself, 69 Colebrook Row is for you. Quiet, out of the way and famous for the quality of it’s bartenders, this little bar with no name is perfect for solo relaxation. Or check out Clink’s Guide to Night’s Out in London (especially these secret bars).
5. Final Advice – Look Up & Have Fun
You’re by yourself, you’re in a foreign city and you need to remember three things. Look Up- a lot of the most beautiful sights in London only come once you put your phone down and lift your head. When you’re feeling a little low, sometimes all it takes is a stray bit of intricate street art to make you smile. And don’t forget- there’s no wrong way to travel. So whatever you do, just have fun doing it.
P.S. Londoners ARE NOT as grumpy as they seem.