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Disclaimer: In exchange for coverage on this blog, VisitBerkeley was kind enough to host me for two days. As always, all opinions are my own, and it is a priority to discuss my honest experiences.
Without a doubt, I had an amazing time traveling alone all throughout Northern California. San Francisco, in particular, is one of my favorite cities in the United States, so when I had a chance to not only re-visit San Francisco, but also explore the Bay Area, I jumped at the opportunity to do so.
On this blog, I frequently talk about why you should travel alone to San Francisco. With its gigantic hills, sleek cable cars, and famous bridges, San Francisco has always been one of my favorite cities in the USA because you’re able to travel alone with ease rather than stress.
However, after going to California a second time, my advice is for solo travelers to add Berkeley to their itineraries for an independent trip to the Bay Area. Whether you have a weekend or 7 days in Northern California, you don’t want to miss this city.
There are so, so, so many cool things to do alone in Berkeley that you won’t want to leave at the end of your stay.
Solo Travel in Berkeley: Essential Tips
Solo travel in Berkeley is easy with a little bit of planning! Even if it’s your first time traveling alone or your first time in northern California, I wouldn’t hesitate suggesting a trip to Berkeley, especially for travelers who are interested in diverse food, history, and shopping experiences.
Let’s talk specifics.
How to Get Around Berkeley
Want some good news? You won’t have much difficulty navigating Berkeley even if you don’t have a rental car.
First of all, Berkeley’s perfect location on San Francisco Bay is ideal for solo travelers. You’re located close to not one, but two major airports: Oakland International and San Francisco International. Depending on your flight, both of these airports are located on the BART train that goes directly to Berkeley.
Furthermore, you won’t have to deal with too many logistics once you’re in Berkeley itself. Public transportation, taxis, and rideshares are all readily available for you.
Believe me, I know from experience how overwhelming navigating public transit all by yourself can feel. Berkeley is super well-connected, so you have nothing to fear.
Where to Stay in Berkeley
Berkeley has plenty of wonderful accommodation options to choose from. You will find a great place to stay (in spite of your budget).
Personally, I recommend checking out Aiden By Best Western on your solo trip to Berkeley California.
My favorite feature in this hotel, however, is the gorgeous and open rooftop terrace. On a sunny day, you will enjoy clear views of San Francisco Bay and might even see the Golden Gate Bridge peak out of the fog.
I also love how the rooms are decorated. For example, my wallpaper was filled with newspaper-style facts and stories about Berkeley. I could’ve relaxed for a few hours and read all about the city’s history! Highly recommend it.
You can find Aiden By Best Western at 1499 University Avenue.
9 Fun Things to Do Alone in Berkeley CA
Alright, time to discuss what you’ve all been waiting for: all of the wonderful things to do alone in Berkeley CA!
You can pack all these activities into a weekend getaway in Berkeley or even spend an entire week in the city, leisurely eating, shopping, and learning.
Eat Until Your Stomach Explodes
Berkeley has so much incredible food that you couldn’t eat all of it in twelve lifetimes. Seriously, you guys, I would go to Berkeley a billion times just to eat.
And the best part? Berkeley has a lot of restaurants that are friendly for solo diners.
Whether you’re chilling at the bar or enjoying outdoor dining, you won’t feel awkward enjoying Berkeley’s best food without friends or family tagging along!
I’m super shy about asking for a “table for one,” but wouldn’t hesitate to do so in Berkeley!
Food Suggestions for Berkeley
- Cactus Taqueria: This casual Mexican restaurant makes all its meals from scratch and partners with humane farms! It’s the perfect place to hang out with a drink and burrito! Cactus Taqueria is located on 1881 Solano Avenue.
- Gather Kitchen, Bar, and Market: Gather’s menu is packed with organic and nutritious foods. This restaurant truly embodies the phrase “farm to table” through their partnerships with sustainable and local farms. You can also shop at the market to make your own dinner. You can find Gather Kitchen, Bar, and Market on 2200 Oxford Street @ Allston.
- Gaumenkitzel: This family-run German restaurant will make you feel as if you’ve been teleported right to Europe. Gaumenkitzel has outdoor and indoor dining, as well as several takeout options. The German slow-food will steal your heart and stomach! Gaumenkitzel is on 2121 San Paoblo Avenue.
- Standard Fare: Do you want the freshest food that Berkeley has to offer? Then go to Standard Fare! The ever-changing breakfast and lunch menus will satisfy and nourish you. Win/win! Standard Fare is on 2701 Eighth Street.
- Third Culture Bakery: The Original Mochi Muffin is a Berkeley staple that you cannot miss on your solo trip here! Third Culture is a beautiful little bakery inspired by owner’s own experiences as a Third Culture kid. Third Culture Bakery can be found on 2701 8th Street.
Take a Stroll at Berkeley Marina
Another one of the best things to do in Berkeley alone is taking a stroll at Berkeley Marina.
At the marina, you will discover acres of lovely and lush green park space, as well as plenty of trails to roam free on. Just make sure to wear that sunscreen and to stay hydrated with plenty of water!
Not to mention, I think the panoramic views of San Francisco (city and bay!) are best enjoyed alone without any trivial interruptions. Go on a crisp sunny afternoon and savor the sights around you!
Learn All About Berkeley’s Unique History
Without a doubt, Berkeley is historically significant city, especially in recent United States history. Berkeley’s history has transformed the city into a major tourist destination.
Most people know Berkeley as home to the first peace protests that led to the Free Speech Movement in the 1960s and 1970s. Telegraph Avenue was also the focal point of the Hippie Movement. Berkeley is still associated with progressive social politics today.
As a solo traveler, it’s important to learn the history of any place that you’re staying in. In Berkeley, you can visit two incredible buildings to learn about the city’s history on a much deeper level.
Where to Go
These two historical buildings should definitely be added to your list of things to do alone in Berkeley.
- Berkeley City Club: Are you interested in seeing one of Berkeley’s most lavish architectural gems? Well, obviously. Berkeley City Club is not only a pretty hotel that makes you feel as if you’ve been transported to a French abbey, but it’s also a social club that includes access to a Julia Morgan (an incredible female architect who also designed Hearst Castle) designed swimming pool. Visitors are welcome to see a museum about Morgan’s life. You can find Berkeley City Club at 2315 Durant Ave.
- Berkeley Historical Society: Founded in 1978, Berkeley Historical Society is staffed with passionate, brilliant volunteers who collect documentary materials and preserve Berkeley’s history for future generations. Seriously, the volunteers are wonderful, and more than happy to talk to solo travelers. Berkeley Historical Society also has special exhibits, so check their website ahead of time for more details. I was able to see an exhibit called “African Americans in Berkeley’s History and Legacy” that was brilliantly done! You can find Berkeley Historical Society at 1931 Center St in Downtown Berkeley.
Spend Time on UC Berkeley’s Campus
As a solo traveler, nothing makes me feel more like a part of the community than exploring a beautiful college campus!
And, in Berkeley, UC Berkeley (of course) is a historically significant and (very fun) campus for independent visitors to enjoy.
Plenty of life will erupt on campus if you visit Berkeley when classes are in-session. You ought to check the school’s calendar to read about any campus sponsored events that are open to visitors. For example, if you’re visiting UC Berkeley in the fall, then try and go to a football game alone! You’ll make tons of new friends in the stadium!
However, even if you visit in the summer, UC Berkeley’s campus is still inspiring to visit. Just don’t miss it.
Get in Touch with Nature at UC Botanical Garden
Another one of the best things to do alone in Berkeley is a magical visit to UC Botanical Garden.
The 34-acre garden is an absolute wonderland to explore alone. You’ll feel as if you’re in the middle of nature without the same safety concerns as a solo hike into the wilderness. Win/win if you ask me.
The staff at UC Botanical Garden are incredibly friendly and knowledgeable, and more than willing to explain the abundance of flowers, herbs, trees, and other plants to solo travelers.
And you simply cannot miss the Redwood Grove. Admiring the centuries old redwood trees is almost a spiritual experience that’s even more pronounced if you’re all by yourself.
Hike in Tilden Regional Park
Tilden Regional Park, no joke, has some of the best views in the Bay Area. Seriously, I could hang out in Berkeley Hills literally all day and stare at San Francisco’s magnificent skyline.
What’s nice about a solo trip to Tilden Regional Park is that no one will distract you as you connect with nature. Having a quiet moment high above the city of Berkeley is quite magical.
However, as a safety tip, please inform a friend or family member, and your hotel of your hiking plans. It’s just good common sense that other people know about your itinerary whenever you venture in nature alone.
Go Book Shopping at Moe’s
Who doesn’t love spending time alone in a book store? Personally, I could browse a bookstore for hours on end, and I know I frustrate anyone who tags along with me.
Moe’s Books is Berkeley’s iconic bookstore. Explore multiple floors packed with books of all genres. For example, Moe’s has an entire shelf dedicated to the Beat Generation.
Like I said, spending time alone in bookstores is a pastime that I adore. Visiting Moe’s Books is, for sure, one of the best things to do alone in Berkeley. So take your time. Soak in the atmosphere. Buy books. And go to a cool coffee shop afterwards to read and relax.
You can find Moe’s Books at 2476 Telegraph Avenue.
Do Even More Shopping (Make Your Credit Card Cry)
Berkeley is an absolute haven for shopping.
I don’t know about you, but I love shopping on my solo travels, because no one will judge where I go or how much I spend (except perhaps Chase Bank, but whatever).
In Berkeley, you will have plenty of opportunities to support local boutiques, artists, and entrepreneurs.
- Forth Street: This cool district is home to some of Berkeley’s swankiest shops! It’s a lovely place to stroll alone, grab a coffee, and buy some souvenirs if you’ve the money to spare. Even if you’re on a budget, Fourth Street’s shops have plenty of lovely window displays that you may admire for free!
- The Telegraph: This avenue is a long thoroughfare is at the core of Berkeley’s history. The Telegraph is a vibrant street that draws students and artists and vendors, and without a doubt, this is definitely the place to purchase quirkier souvenirs. In addition to the shops, street vendors add a lot of life to The Telegraph, which is a unique “Berkeley” experience. Admittedly, this area is a bit edgy, so I recommend solo travelers come and enjoy during the day!
Make New Friends in Berkeley CA
Last but not least, I felt like the people in Berkeley were very friendly and willing to talk to travelers! I feel like this openness often exists in college towns.
As a visitor, go to any coffee shop or causal bar in Berkeley, and I promise that you’ll eventually strike up a conversation.
Locals adore their city, and as a result, they’ll be more than happy to share Berkeley’s stories with you. These personal experiences are always the best souvenirs you can find on solo adventures.
Without a doubt, there are plenty of things to do alone in Berkeley. It’s the perfect solo travel getaway. What are your favorite things to see and do in Berkeley?