One of the best parts of solo travel is how it helps you to ruminate, and conjure up bold, my-life-may-change-in-this-moment ideas.
And some cities are better fuel for these musings than others.
Here we’ve picked five cities around the world that make you feel truly alive from the get-go. Places that are brimming with bags of feel-good pep to charge your reset moment.
Dive in for inspiration galore, and start a brand new chapter:
Rio de Janiero, Brazil
From the moment you hit Rio’s Avenida Atlântica – the pulsating artery of the city flanked by a string world-famous beaches – you’ll feel its infectious energy. This is a place where the sun rarely stops shining, volleyball players come ten to the dozen, and swimwear is all but mandatory. It’s like the entire city is swaying to a sweet samba beat.
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Join the crowd of cyclists and joggers on the palm-fringed walkway, stopping for a fresh fruit smoothie on Ipanema or Copacabana en-route. The surf action is often amazing to watch (and take part in!) but don’t forget to look up now and again, to catch glimpses of the iconic Sugarloaf Mountain and Christ the Redeemer statue lingering on the horizon.
Want to make friends? Put Rio Scenarium on your radar; a colonial townhouse filled with antiques that also happens to be the hottest samba joint in town.
Bologna is known by locals as “‘la dotta, la grassa, la rossa” (the learned, the fat, the red) – a nickname that hails its university roots, incredible food and red archways/left-leaning politics. The large student population here give the city a distinct feel-good air, and you won’t have to look far to find great bars, jazz clubs and open-air cinema.
No wonder everyone’s happy, too; they’re all so well-fed. Bologna is home place of Bolognese sauce, but its maze of neighbourhood trattorias also serve up the likes of buttery tortellini, tagliatelle al ragù and bruschetta heaped with olive oil. To experience the city at its zenith (and meet new people), head out in its capillary of arched rose-red walkways at aperitivo time, and see the streets come alive over the crackle of aperol spritz.
Also pop Piazza Maggiore (above) on your hit list: it’s the beating heart of the city, and a wonderful place to hang out in come evening.
The traffic system alone will hit you for six when you arrive in Hanoi. Road rules aren’t immediately obvious here, and it’s not unusual to see scooters piled high with goods or livestock weave around dumper trucks/cyclos/pedestrians with just a hair’s breadth to spare. Get used to that, and you’ll soon settle in to the singular appeal of Vietnam’s capital – combining genteel charm with a booming drive towards economic growth.
Wander the narrow streets of the Old Quarter to feel an entrepreneurial spirit alive and kicking in trendy cafés, gadget shops and backstreet Bia Hoi stalls. Then, you have the frenetic buzz of Hanoi’s markets, with exotic fruit, fish, and women carrying pole baskets loaded with colourful flowers. For a slower pace of life, hang out around the serene Hoan Kiem lake, where the city’s elders practise t’ai chi at sunrise, or head to the elegant French Quarter, lined with leafy avenues and gabled buildings.
Want to make friends? Grab a pew at one of the many pavement restaurants for a bánh mì sandwich; you’ll soon be chatting away…
San Francisco, USA
It’s not hard to see why Tony Bennett left his heart in San Francisco. Even the non-crooners among us may be moved to song in this most rousing of landscapes. America’s hippie heartland has moved on from the Summer of Love, but it still has a distinct spirit of liberalism at its core. And this, along with a palpable sense of romance, makes for a potent mix.
San Francisco is a place that speaks to the soul, whether you’re mooching through Chinatown or gazing out at the Golden Gate Bridge, with lingering mist and the sound of fog horns in the distance. Don’t dismiss the tram as a touristy thing; it’s still one of the best ways to see the city, and your stomach will pit a little as you make your way down those dizzying hills (with the Pacific glittering in the distance).
Want to meet people? Check out the city’s Urban Adventure Club, which arranges everything from yoga to cocktail-making and street festivals, as a means of making new friends.
If you love that energy of old-meets-new, you can’t beat a visit to Hong Kong. This is a place that houses towering corporate giants and designer malls alongside steep, winding parks and ancient hillsides. It’s intoxicating just to walk around.
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Get your fill of flashy bars around Central before hitting the dai pai dongs of Kowloon for sauteed pork, clay pot rice and other delicacies. Then, chug-chug your way across the evocative harbour-front on Hong Kong’s legendary Star Ferry service, before climbing up through the Mid-Levels to Victoria Peak (and smashing views of the city). For an added dash of adventure, take a traditional junk boat out to Stanley village, for laid-back restaurants and beach life.
Want to make new friends? Check out Facebook and Meetup for local networking events, including Hong Kong’s thriving language exchange community.
Images: Shutterstock, Amogh Manjunath on Unsplash