The Christmas Markets – for me solo is the way to enjoy them.

solo singles travel

Bright lights, warm drinks and holiday festivities.

The magic of the European Christmas Markets cannot be denied. But the last time I went to one I was not solo because I was not single and regrettably, it wasn’t a magical holiday event.

It was 2002 in Montreux, Switzerland (part of my family’s 10-month trip through Europe). I was with my husband and youngest son who was eleven at the time. We ended up buying a single gift, a Razor scooter for him. Not exactly the kind of Christmas market holiday shopping I had in mind.

This year will be different.

This year, I’m going on a solo holiday. I’m taking a river cruise from Nuremberg to Vienna which I will reach on November 17th, opening day of their Christmas Market.

It’s not that I didn’t love traveling with my husband and son. It’s just that the Christmas Markets were not their thing.

This year, 10 years on, I will be able to do them my way.

solo singles holiday

Single or not, a solo holiday is needed once in a while.

Single or not, solo holidays are a necessity sometimes.

Had I the opportunity to take a solo holiday on that family holiday, had I thought of doing so, I think I would have taken in the Christmas markets. They beg to be explored leisurely. They are for shopping and exploring and just drinking in the holiday atmosphere.

The Christmas Markets began in the late Middle Ages in what is now Germany. Records show that Dresden and Bautzen are the sites of the oldest Markets dating back to 1400 – give or take a couple of decades. However, the Vienna “December Market” dates back a further hundred years to 1300. It is considered to be the forerunner of the Christmas Markets.

The markets are held outdoors. All the vendors have wooden stalls and sell food, drinks, Christmas items and crafts. There are also performances of traditional singing and dancing. Soaking in this holiday atmosphere, viewing the crafts and delicacies on offer then reviewing them for what to buy is, for me, an experience best lived solo.

So Vienna it is. But first my solo holiday on The Danube.

Single on a River Cruise Holiday

My upcoming trip has many stages. I will start with the intensity of London with the launch of The Traveler’s Handbooks on November 1st. (Here’s a link to an invitation for anyone who will be in London at the time.) Then I’ll attend and speak at the World Travel Market the following week – this is now an annual event for me.

From London I will go to Nuremberg for the cruise of The Danube. I have been looking forward to this trip for months. It has been an incredibly busy fall and I look forward to relaxing on the cruise, exploring towns and villages along the way and taking in their “Go Active” program. I have heard so many great things about river cruises, I really want to check them out for myself.

Finally, I’ll end up in Vienna, one of my favorite European cities where, refreshed from the seven days cruise, I’ll be ready to take in the Christmas Markets right.

My thanks to go Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection and Premier River Cruises for this opportunity. I suggest you take a look at the Premier River Cruises site as they have deals specifically for the readers of Solo Traveler.

I look forward to reporting on the cruise and the markets in coming weeks.


  • Ele Pranaityte

    I have just returned from a Christmas market in Tallinn, where I went solo. I am a Christmas market junkie from now on and I can’t wait to start putting a trip to see another one next year. Maybe I should make a point of visiting several markets because travel and accommodation are reasonable due to the low season. What 2-3 places you would suggest doing in a week’s time or so?

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  • vasanti

    Thank you for this quick reply. i will keep these points in mind….more power to you janice for showing us the way :)

  • Janice Waugh

    Hi there,

    I’ve asked Rick, our cruise expert, to jump on here and give you some information regarding the cruise question. Concerning Vienna. I LOVE Vienna. It’s such a wonderful city. I”m not sure that I’ll manage to write all the posts I want on this fabulous city before you leave so I’ll give you my highlights now – but keep in mind that everyone has different interests. For a first time visit to Vienna I would include St. Stephan’s Cathedral (doesn’t take long but it’s fantastic so worth dropping into), a tour of the State Opera House and seeing an opera there (even if you have to stand, the experience is worth it) the Music Museum is really interesting and very interactive (one of my favorite museums), the Spanish Riding School performances though I have an ethical problem there concerning how they train the horses (I dropped by at the right time and for 23 Euros had standing room and a better view than people who booked months in advance), the Vienna market is a must as it is how the Viennese live, a coffee shop where you can have Sachertorte, a Viennese specialty and the Klimt mural in the Secessionist Museum. Of course, there’s way more to do in Vienna, like simply look at the wonderful architecture. Go an explore and use the subway, it’s clean, efficient and safe.

  • vasanti

    hello janice, cant begin to tell you how my confidence level is surging ever since i discovered your blog. i am traveling to vienna solo from 12 – 14 december. would appreciate help on things to do. i would love to do a river cruise and a friend suggested bratislava. does it make sense to take the cruise during mid december? and if yes, should i book ahead online through any operator? would appreciate insight and thanks again for this fantastic blog. Vasanti, 53.

  • vasanti

    hi karina! i am traveling solo from dubai to innsbruck, salzburg, vienna mid december. i have two days in vienna. does it make sense to travel to bratislava by river during this season? any other tips are welcome. this is the second time i am traveling solo, slightly nervous!

  • andyhiggs1969

    The Christmas markets are probably one of the best things in Europe, especially in December :-) I’ve yet to try the one in Vienna, but love the German ones. Even more of a revelation were the Scandinavian versions – Copenhagen and Stockholm are fabulous.

  • Kate

    Thank you! I love to hear from a local who tells how to experience the culture versus tourist locations. Is there a website you would suggest to see Schönbrunn online? Appreciate any suggestions.

  • Karina

    Hey! I live in Vienna ( I’m Austrian) and rest assured that it is very safe to go there. I’ve been to a lot of places so far but Austria is def. one of the safest…maybe because I live here, I don’t know. Check out Naschmarkt as well for some fabulous food. Also there are lots of Christmas markets around. Seeing them every year, I am not a big fan of the big ones, like the one on Rathausplatz (in your picture) as there are mainly tourists- and they charge you more. Go to Schönbrunn, which is the most beautiful in my opinion and infront of the castle, there you can also wander around the park oh and if you are looking for artistic things go to Spittelberg market, which is a favourite among the locals. I hope you enjoy your time in Vienna!

  • EuroTravelogue

    You are going to have such a fabulous time seeing the Christmas Markets! It’s been a dream of mine for years and can’t wait for the day that I too can experience these enchanting markets! Bon Voyage with Uniworld – I hear wonderful things about them – and this time, you’re going to have a great holiday!

  • Janice Waugh

    Very cool. Have fun!

  • Janice Waugh

    Thanks Betty. And I hope you enjoy Prague.

  • Anita Mac

    While not solo – last year was my first of what i hope to be many, European Christmas Market experiences! We travelled to Prague and it was heavenly! Mind you, we split up for a few hours so that we could each enjoy at our leisure which was perfect! I couldn’t get enough – I thoroughly loved it!

  • Betty George

    Last November was my first experience with a Danube River Cruise from Budapest to Nuremburg, I travelled solo as well and had no problems at all. The cruise also stopped in Vienna and I enjoyed the Christmas Market very much. The Nuremburg market was opening the 24th so missed it a couple of days but did see where it was set up and it looked like a large one. Vienna’s market was beautiful but the weather was cold and damp; dress in layers and you should be o.k.(just remember to take so good lined gloves). I will be going year to Prague the first week of December; so can’t wait. Have fun.

  • ChelleDuran

    Hi there!! I will be there too starting Nov. 16th! It should be wonderful…popular time to travel it seems

  • Janice Waugh

    I hope you enjoy yourself. :) j

  • Kieu – GQ trippin

    I’ll be in Vienna this winter in time for the Christmas market! Looking forward to it because I’ve never experienced a European Christmas market before and I can’t wait. Won’t be going solo though.. but maybe next time. ;D

  • Janice Waugh

    That’s great to hear. I’m really looking forward to it.

  • bree

    River Cruising is great for Solo travelers. I took this cruise with Uniworld in 2010 and loved every minute of it! I think you will too and I look forward to reading your reports. Enjoy!!