Solo Dining: The Joys of Eating Alone in a Restaurant

I was never afraid of travelling alone, it didn’t occur to me to be scared of packing my bags and heading off somewhere new.  However, there used to be one part of solo travel that terrified me.  Solo dining.  I found eating alone at a restaurant excruciatingly uncomfortable, but after several years of dining solo I gradually learned how to dine alone without feeling awkward, and I even began to enjoy it.  I’ll share here all my tips on how you can cope with your fear of eating alone in a restaurant, advice for finding the best restaurants for solo dining and how to actually enjoy eating at a restaurant alone!

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Why is Solo Dining So Nerve-Wracking?

So many of us find dining alone a traumatising experience.  I can go to a museum alone, travel halfway across the world on my own and wander around a city to my heart’s content, all quite happily by myself.  However, dining alone is a different ball game. 

For me, eating out is one of life’s great pleasures, to be enjoyed, savoured and shared with friends and loved ones.  But when I’m travelling alone, without the sharing part, everything becomes less enjoyable.

When I first started to travel solo, I used to dread eating dinner alone.  I would stress about choosing a place to eat for hours.  Where should I go?  Is it busy enough that it might be good?  Or so busy that they don’t want to seat one person by themselves?  Dining alone.  A table for one.  Because you have no-one to eat with.

When eating alone in a restaurant, it feels like everyone is staring at you, like the waiters pity you, and like you’re committing a most heinous crime by taking up a whole table just for you. 

Well, screw that.  I’ll tell you straight off that that is rubbish.  No one else cares what you are doing, they’re all far too self-absorbed to notice little old you sitting by yourself, so don’t worry.  The only problem now is choosing what to eat!

My Solo Dining Place Setting
My Solo Dining Place Setting

Tips for Solo Dining

There are several tricks I use to help me feel more comfortable dining on my own.  I have now got quite used to walking into a restaurant with my head held high and asking for a table for one, it no longer bothers me.  It did take me a couple of years to get used to it though!!

On my first solo trip, I was 19 and in New York on my own.  I was too terrified to walk more than a block from my hotel after dark and ended up eating dinner at Taco Bell two nights in a row.  So I know how it feels to be nervous, we have all been there!  These are some of the solo dining tips I’ve used to help me feel at ease.

Plan Your Dinner in Advance

There is a saying that failing to plan is like planning to fail.  Wandering around the streets at night hoping to come across a nice place is not a good idea, from a safety or a culinary point of view!  Do some research on restaurants in the area of your hotel, somewhere you can walk to safely or hop in a taxi or an Uber.

Ask your hotel for recommendations, check on Google maps, Tripadvisor, Yelp and on blogs to find decent places to suit your needs.  I usually like to have a couple of different options to go to plan B and C if one place is closed or fully booked.

If you know it is a popular restaurant, call and book a table so the waiters will be expecting you.  That also helps to avoid the risk of moving to Plan B, as you already know that you have a reservation in the bag.

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It’s a good idea to have some cash with you to pay for the meal, just in case the credit card machine doesn’t work.  When you are travelling and eating dinner on your own, you have to think about every eventuality without having anyone there to help you if your card is declined!

Personally, I tend to avoid restaurants which are popular with families as I hate screaming kids running around while I’m trying to eat and I don’t have anyone to roll my eyes to! 

Equally, romantic restaurants filled with gooey-eyed couples irritate me as well, please wait till you get home until you slobber all over each other, nothing ruins my appetite more than seeing a couple eating each other’s faces instead of their meal.

Women eating pizza alone at a restaurant - Enjoying a Meal Alone!
Women eating pizza alone at a restaurant – Enjoying a Meal Alone!

Choosing a Table

If you have reserved a table, make sure you are happy with where the waiter seats you.  Often, tables for solo diners are in the worst locations, next to the bathrooms or drinks station so you have people walking by you all the time.  Don’t be afraid to ask for a better table if you want a different position.

I love to sit by the window so I can watch the world go by, or somewhere where I can see the whole restaurant.  I don’t like sitting with my back to the door, I like to be able to see what is going on all around me.

Some solo diners like to sit at the bar so they can chat with the barman and have someone to talk to.  I prefer to sit alone, but each to their own.  Sushi restaurants or shared tables can be fun as you are automatically sat next to someone and can often strike up a conversation with your neighbour.

Don’t be surprised if someone starts with you, they may feel like you must be lonely and are often surprised to see women eating alone so initiate conversation out of curiosity.

Keep an Eye on Your Bag

This comes from years of living in Barcelona, where pickpocketing is extremely common and bag snatching at restaurants is not unusual.  I usually keep my handbag on my knee or tied to the chair next to me.  Do not put it on the back of your chair or on the floor, as it is too easy for sneaky hands to whisk it away.

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Choosing What to Order

If there is a menu available online, I always like to look and make sure there is something that I know I’d like to try.  This is even more important if you are vegetarian or have any special dietary requirements.  Checking out the menu will also give you a good idea of prices so you don’t have any unpleasant surprises when you read the menu at the restaurant!

Set menus can often be cheaper, and most places will let you take away the leftovers if you don’t manage to finish everything.  The only downside about eating on your own is not being able to choose those delicious sharing platters, unfortunately, they are just too big for one! 

Tapas and sharing platters are a bit difficult too, as I love to try lots of different things but struggle to eat all of the tasty dishes I order.  In Barcelona I hate seeing paella on the menu when it is for a minimum of 2 people, it is so unfair, but there are ways around it like researching where to get paella for one person!

Tasty Tapas in Barcelona - Dining Alone
Tasty Tapas in Barcelona – All For Me!

However, don’t feel bad about ordering exactly what you fancy.  If you want a three-course meal with champagne, damn girl you go ahead and order it!  I love treating myself to a fancy dinner every now and again, and if everyone else can do it, why not you?!

Go Easy on the Alcohol

Unfortunately, as women on our own, getting drunk alone isn’t a good idea unless you’re hitting the hotel mini bar.  A glass of wine might settle your nerves, and I love a drink with my meal but don’t go overboard. 

We all have different limits, but I usually stick to a glass of wine or two maximum, and maybe a digestif afterwards.  That way I can enjoy the dining experience fully, and don’t feel tipsy!

Claire Enjoying a Cupcake and a Glass of Bubbly
Me Enjoying a Cupcake and a Glass of Bubbly – Go Ahead and Treat Yourself!

Filling the Time On Your Own

Once you have ordered and are waiting for your food, it can seem like a lifetime of waiting if you don’t have anything to fill the time.  You could take a book or a journal so you have something to do while you wait.  Plan your next day’s adventures with a guidebook or look through your photos from the day’s sightseeing.

Alternatively, just sit back and relax.  I love people-watching when I’m dining alone, I always look at the people around me and wonder who they are and what they are doing.  Are they on a first date?  Business meeting?  Family celebration?

What you will notice is that no-one is paying attention to you.  There is no need to feel self-conscious.  I find it empowering to sit up straight and proud – yeah I’m eating alone, so what??  Even if you don’t feel confident, if you pretend to be for long enough you will eventually begin to feel more comfortable.

Woman reading a book with a glass of wine beside her
Bring a Book or Something to Do While You Wait

Enjoy Your Meal

Take your time.  Dining alone is not about stuffing food into your mouth as quickly as possible and getting the hell out of there.  You have ordered what you wanted to eat, now is the time to enjoy! 

Savour every mouthful, and if something isn’t right with the order then call over your waiter.  After all the trauma of getting here, sitting down and ordering, eating is the bit you can hopefully enjoy the most – you’ve earned it!

Getting Back to the Hotel

Probably, after dinner, it will be dark and getting late, so if you don’t feel comfortable walking back to your hotel, ask the restaurant to call a taxi for you, or get an Uber. 

Make sure you have the address of your hotel written down, so you can show it to the taxi driver if needed, and check the route on your phone so you can make sure you’re going the right way.

Alternatives to Dining Alone

As much as I love eating alone now, sometimes sharing a meal with other people is just what you need after a day of solo sightseeing.  In fact, I often prefer to spend the days alone and enjoy meeting up with other people in the evening. 

At least then you automatically have something in common and can chat about the food if you run out of things to say!  Here are some alternatives to dining alone for when you’re tired of solo dining and just want some company!

Join a Food Tour

A food tour is one of my favourite things to do in a new city.  I adore trying local food, but if you are on your own it is harder to be brave and try new things and if you order something and you don’t like it you are stuck with it!

However, joining a food tour means a guide will show you around some of the best places to eat in the city, and you will meet other travellers too.  Food tours will stop at various different places so you can try a range of foods, and it’s no big deal if you don’t like something – there will be plenty more to enjoy!

Food tours are available all over the world, so take a look and pick a destination!  Devour Tours has some fabulous food tours in top destinations in Europe and the US, or these are popular options for other food tours on GetYourGuide:



Go to Eat with Other Travellers

One of the reasons I love staying in hostels is having other travellers there to make friends with.  Even if you book a private room in a hostel, spend some time at breakfast or in the social areas and chat with people.  There are lots of solo travellers who are also looking for some company and eating together is a great way to get to know people from all over the world.

Plus, you will have people to walk home with or to share taxi costs.  Win!  Hostels also often have social events within the hostel like BBQ nights or pizza nights.  This won’t be fine dining but makes a nice change to another night eating alone.

Group of People Eating Together - Alternatives to Dining Alone
Group of People Eating Together – Alternatives to Dining Alone

Group Dining Experiences

There are several websites which offer group dining experiences, for example, Eatwith.  Local people cook meals in their own homes and invite other travellers and locals to eat authentic home-cooked food.  What better way to enjoy a meal in a new place than in someone’s home?

I’ve used Eatwith to enjoy meals like this in several destinations, including Budapest, Rome and Barcelona, and I loved every experience!

Take a Cooking Class

Cooking classes are often daytime activities, and usually, I am so full after eating a big lunch I don’t need to go out for dinner at all!  A cooking class is a wonderful way to learn new skills, taste local food and meet other people.  You can find cooking classes on GetYourGuide or Airbnb Experiences, but here are some examples of amazing cooking classes around the world.



Go on a MeetUp

Similar to when you move to a new city and are looking to make new friends, socializing websites like MeetUp and Internations arrange various events from cinema nights to evening meals and after-work drinks.  Joining one of these events wherever you are in the world is a great way to make local people, digital nomads or travellers who are also open to meeting new people.

Try Couchsurfing

Couchsurfing is an online platform for travellers and local people who want to share a cultural exchange.  Often hosts will offer a free couch in their home for travellers to stay overnight, but I prefer to use it just for the social events. 

Couchsurfing members often arrange social events to meet up and make friends.  Before meeting up with anyone you can check their profile and reviews that have been left by fellow couchsurfers so you know more about them.

Join Tinder

Female solo travellers do not have to be lonely.  Many women (and men) travelling alone use Tinder and other dating apps to meet local people and to go out for dinner or on a date so they have some company. 

If you are only looking for a friendly meeting, make that clear on your profile, and follow the same safety procedures as you would do in your hometown and arrange to meet in a public place so you can safely make sure they are who they say they are!

A Note on Safety

Meeting people while you are travelling is no different from meeting new people wherever you live.  I have made some wonderful friends while I’ve been travelling and have also met people I wouldn’t want to see again – just like at home.

When you try any of these alternatives to dining alone, take the same precautions you would do anywhere and trust your instincts.  Don’t be scared to make new friends, but if you don’t get a good feeling from someone you have just met, make your excuses and leave.  Don’t be afraid to appear rude, your safety is far more important than hurting someone’s feelings!

I hope all of these tips have made you feel more prepared and confident about dining alone.  Going to a restaurant alone is not sad or awkward – solo people deserve to enjoy a good meal as much as everyone else, so be brave, and bon appetit!!

1 thoughts on “Solo Dining: The Joys of Eating Alone in a Restaurant

  1. thebangalore dhaba says:

    What a delightful read! This article beautifully captures the essence of solo dining and the joys that come with it. Your insights and personal experiences truly resonate with anyone who appreciates the simple pleasure of enjoying a meal alone. I thoroughly enjoyed this piece and it has inspired me to embrace the art of solo dining with a newfound appreciation. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful perspective!

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