Why Central Europe is the perfect destination for solo travelers
Perhaps wanderlust has you dreaming of getting out to see the world again, but being a solo traveler is holding you back. If that sounds like you, just take solo traveler Cheryl’s advice: “Don’t let being solo stop you from seeing this beautiful world!” Now’s a great time to join like-minded solo travelers to see the cities and sights of Central Europe. With all the details handled for you, and the best cities to visit in Central Europe on your itinerary (from Vienna to Zurich to Munich), you’ll explore castles, follow in the footsteps of The “Sound of Music,” enjoy the culinary delights of three different countries, and make unforgettable friends and memories. Read on to see all the reasons why Central Europe is the perfect destination for solo travelers.
Why solo travelers should visit Central Europe on a guided tour
Touring three countries (Austria, Switzerland, and Germany) on one trip makes Central Europe solo travel exhilarating. But it can also be exhausting to take care of so many details by yourself. We understand. Our Tour Directors know Central Europe inside and out, and will help you uncover the best of each location you visit. Just ask those who joined us on our inaugural Central Europe for Solo Travelers tour in 2021. They enjoyed private single rooms and peace of mind knowing we were there for them every step of the way. “I would definitely recommend any single friends that I know to book a trip with EF,” said solo traveler Joe, who joined us for his Central Europe solo travel. For Carole, going on tour as a solo traveler didn’t mean being alone. “I was the only one on tour who didn’t know anybody else, and everybody was so sweet to me,” she said. “They took me under their wing and looked out for me.”
Solo traveler Karen appreciated how much ground she could cover. “This tour is a great educational opportunity along with a wonderful visual trip and introduction to the countries visited,” she said. “Our tour guide was a huge source of history and also current information about countries visited.” Whether you prefer to travel solo, or can’t find the right traveling partner, Central Europe solo travel on a fully guided tour is the way to go!
Read the 6 important lessons Cheryl learned as a solo traveler →
When’s the best time to visit Central Europe solo?
One of the best things about visiting Central Europe is that it offers so many wonderful things to do in each season. If you love sunshine and warm weather, summer is your go-to season. The cities will be more crowded, but they’ll be livelier, too. This is high season for cultural festivals in Central Europe’s big cities and small villages. (And you can always beat the heat in the milder summer climate of the snow-capped Swiss Alps!)
Winters will be cold (and you can expect snow), but the festive Christmas markets of Munich, Salzburg, and Vienna will help make the holidays even more special. “Towns and cities are dressed in their festive finery, everyone is in a great mood, and it is just a fun time to see Europe,” said traveler Carol, who went on our Christmas Markets of Budapest, Vienna & Prague tour.
Many travelers prefer to tour in the shoulder seasons of spring and fall, when the weather is mild and there are fewer tourists. The fall foliage is spectacular, too! You won’t be able to avoid the crowds during Oktoberfest in Munich, however, but it’s all part of the fun. “Octoberfest more than met our expectations,” said traveler Jill. And while tourist season doesn’t heat up until late spring, you’ll find plenty of occasion to meet locals as cities and towns all over Central Europe welcome the blossoming of a new season.
What should I pack to visit Central Europe as a solo traveler?
With a wonder-filled itinerary that takes you through three different countries, from bustling cities to Alpine landscapes, from cobblestone streets to cultural performances, the key to packing successfully for your solo trip is comfortable, layerable clothing.
- Lightweight, loose-fitting clothing that can be easily layered to accommodate varying temperatures is important for traveling comfortably.
- A light jacket or rainwear is a must so you don’t get caught off guard if temperatures drop or showers are in the forecast.
- A packable down jacket will be a lifesaver if you travel during the late fall to early spring months.
- Good shoes are a must. Walking shoes or sneakers are recommended. If you’ve got room for a pair of both, all the better.
- A reusable water bottle that you can fill at the hotel each morning and carry with you throughout the day. Staying hydrated is key!
- Something a little dressier than your everyday sightseeing attire is recommended for special occasions, like visiting high-end restaurants and enjoying evening performances.
- Keep in mind that bare legs and shoulders are not always welcome inside churches. One tip? A light scarf that will cover your arms comes in handy in a pinch!
Ready to see Central Europe? Explore our tours.
What are the best Central European cities to visit as a solo traveler?
There’s intrigue, incredible beauty, and splendor in all the Central European cities to visit. You simply can’t go wrong following the fascinating history of this culturally rich region. From the medieval heart of Munich to the baroque architecture of Salzburg, there is always something new to discover. Whether it’s your first trip here or you’re returning to get reacquainted with places you love, you’ll find the best cities to visit in Central Europe are warm, welcoming, and worth every moment you can give them. Here are some of the top places to visit in Central Europe as a solo traveler.
1. The Swiss Alps: charming towns & decadent chocolate
Discovering the world and meeting like-minded people go together like “The Sound of Music” and the Austrian countryside. Whether you’re excited to see Bavarian castles or sample Swiss chocolate, you’ll enjoy all the perks of a guided tour as you travel through Switzerland, Germany, and Austria—and make new friends along the way. “The trip was utterly amazing as I saw such stunning scenery in Switzerland,” said traveler Brendan. With landscape that’s beautiful in every season, Switzerland also wows with the charms of its can’t-miss-Alpine-cities. It’s a must-visit for your trip to Central Europe.
Things to do in the Swiss Alps as a solo traveler:
Enjoy a dinner of traditional Swiss fondue. No trip to Switzerland is complete without dining on the country’s national dish—fondue! What’s in that fondue pot? Typically a mixture of two different cheeses, depending on what part of Switzerland you are in. The communal dish is the perfect way for solo travelers to get to know the fellow members of their tour. That’s precisely why a welcome dinner of traditional Swiss fondue kicks off our Central Europe for Solo Travelers tour. “The food was very good and the service was great,” said traveler Joe of the meal at Fondue House Du Pont - Unter Der Egg. The number one rule of sharing the communal fondue pot? Double-dipping is a no-no!
Stroll the cobblestone streets of Lucerne’s Old Town. While the soaring Swiss Alps, capped with snow even in summer, are a major draw for travelers to Central Europe, the charming villages and towns of Switzerland will captivate you when you’re not looking skyward. The ancient town of Lucerne, filled with markets, picturesque squares, and countless restaurants serving traditional Swiss specialties, is a joy to stroll. While you’re meandering about Lucerne, a walk across Kapellbrücke, the oldest wooden covered bridge in Europe, is a must. “Lucerne is a charming walkable city, on a crystal-clear lake, surrounded by the Alps,” said traveler Virginia, who toured on our Germany, Switzerland & Austria trip. Do ride the cog train up to Mount Pilatus for thrilling views and fun hikes around the mountaintop!”
Sample decadent Swiss chocolate at a local shop. There’s no better place in the world to indulge your love of chocolate than in Switzerland. You’ll find craft chocolate boutiques and artisanal chocolatiers in nearly every city, village, and town, but Zurich tops them all. It’s worth using your free time on tour to travel to the Lindt Home of Chocolate, located in Kilchberg, just 20 minutes from Zurich by boat. There you can experience the spectacular Lindt chocolate fountain, take an interactive chocolate tour, and visit the biggest chocolate shop in the world. Or take a cue from staffer Everett, who said, “One of my favorite memories from my time in Zurich is sitting lakeside on a fall day snacking on truffles and cranberry chocolate from the Laderach chocolatier shop.”
2. Munich: home to the world-famous Oktoberfest
From medieval castles to beer gardens to Christmas markets, Munich is full of wonders for the solo traveler. The Bavarian capital is home to the world-famous Oktoberfest (held in September, not October!), and is teeming with history, food, and culture. Read our Munich, Germany travel guide to discover the top things to eat, beers to try, most authentic souvenirs to buy, and the best things to do in Munich, Germany.
Things to do in Munich as a solo traveler:
Watch surfers ride the waves in the center of Munich. One of the great rewards of travel is encountering the unexpected. Who knew that surfers from around the world, including some of the sport’s international stars, travel to surf the manmade Eisback River in Munich’s English Garden? The intersection of two rivers form a consistent standing wave that surfers ride for fun throughout the year. This is great spot to grab a unique snapshot for your social media.
Explore Marienplatz and the world-famous Glockenspiel show. Of Munich’s 11 city squares, Marienplatz (Mary’s Square) is the medieval heart of the city and one of the most beautiful in the country. There’s plenty to see here, but nothing’s more enchanting than the Glockenspiel show in the New Town Hall. This must-see clock show, featuring dancing, jousting, and twirling figurines, takes place three times a day (11am, 12pm, and 5pm). This show isn’t available during the winter months, but be sure to check it out if you’re on a spring, summer, or fall tour of Munich.
Rest your feet and enjoy the drink Germany is famous for: beer! When you have a little free time on tour in Munich, do like the locals do: Enjoy a traditional Bavarian beer at one of the city’s many beer halls or beer gardens. You’ll enjoy the people watching as much as you enjoy the refreshing beer. “This is a very German thing to do throughout the afternoon and into the evening,” said staffer Cayleigh. So don’t be surprised if the waiter thinks you, too, are a local.” Check out our Beers of Germany guide to navigate which of the 5,000 brands of German beer you want to sample. And don’t hesitate to ask your server for their recommendation!
3. Salzburg: the setting for “The Sound of Music”
Get ready to step back in time when you visit the well-preserved and lyrical city of Salzburg. Sure, it’s the birthplace of Mozart and the setting for The Sound of Music, but that’s not all that makes Salzburg sing. Hohensalzburg Fortress, Central Europe's largest medieval fortress, looks much as it did in the 1500s. Salzburg's Old Town, with its baroque architecture, is one of the best-preserved city centers you’ll find anywhere. A couple of days of exploring here will leave you in awe!
Things to do in Salzburg as a solo traveler:
Learn the secrets behind the Trick Fountains at Hellbrunn Palace. In a city famed for its churches and musical history, Hellbrunn Palace is… something completely different. Built in the early 1600s by Salzburg’s Prince-Archbishop Markus Sittikus as an oasis of fun and leisure, the palace and its grounds are a unique cultural experience. There’s trickery at every turn in the palace gardens! You’ll encounter mystical grottoes, a mechanical theatre, and trick fountains where you least expect them. (No worries. You might get sprayed by the trick fountains, but you won’t get soaked!) It was all good fun 400 years ago and remains to this day. All in all, a pleasurable option for your free time on tour in Salzburg.
Ride the Mönchsberg Lift sky-high over Salzburg. Get your camera ready! The most impressive panoramic views of Salzburg, its Old Town, and the Hohensalzburg Fortress are found at the top of the Mönchsberg plateau. Best of all, you can zip up there in less than 30 seconds. The Mönchsberg Lift travels nearly 200 feet through solid rock to get you to the top of the mountain. Once there, you’ll find a viewing platform and a restaurant where you can enjoy a cool drink before stepping back in the elevator for an express trip back to Old Town.
Slide down chutes in the depth of the Alps in search of “white gold.” Looking for something cool to do during free time while in Salzburg? A short bus ride from the city, they’ve been mining salt deep in the mountain for over 500 years at the Berchtesgaden Salt Mine. The temperature in the mine is a constant 53°F, making it a great escape on a hot summer’s day. On your guided tour, you’ll be outfitted in special overalls to slide down the mining chutes and take a boat ride across the subterranean Mirror Lake. “After days of touring and countless steps, taking a break to go underground at Berchtesgaden was a blast,” said traveler Bob. “It was absolutely fascinating!”
4. Vienna: the City of Music
With a long tradition of classical composers (think Mozart, Strauss, and Beethoven, to name just a few), Vienna is known as the City of Music. But Vienna’s endearing charm can also be found in its eclectic mix of old and new: cozy coffee houses, grand palaces, cobbled streets, and world-famous Weiner schnitzel. There’s so much to explore and enjoy as a solo traveler, including Vienna’s hidden gems. You can also make good use of your free time on tour exploring the city’s charms not included on your itinerary. “You will not be disappointed!” said traveler Wendy. “Vienna is beautiful and I enjoyed the local walking tour.”
Things to do in Vienna as a solo traveler:
Watch horses perform to classical music in a baroque riding hall. Even if your heart doesn’t thrill to horses or classical music, the magic created by the legendary Lipizzaner stallions at the Spanish Riding School is a can’t-miss experience. Lucky for you, a guided tour of the Winter Riding School and summer stables is included on our Central Europe for Solo Travelers tour. You’ll learn all about the history, tradition, and training of the Lipizzaner horses at the oldest classical horse-riding school in the world. Lipizzaners were bred by the Hapsburgs almost 500 years ago specially for the art of classical horse riding.
Find your way through The Lost Garden labyrinth. Are you up for adventure? Surprisingly challenging to navigate, The Lost Garden at the opulent Schloss Schönbrunn palace is one of the best-kept secrets in Vienna. You’ll feel you’ve really accomplished something if you make it to the finish of this topiary maze that was originally created in 1686 to amuse the Habsburgs. While the maze may be a hidden delight, the over-the-top, 1,440-room summer palace of the Habsburgs is Austria’s most-visited sight.
Go sky-high on the Prater Ferris Wheel. While Vienna is a delight to explore from its cobblestone streets, there’s nothing like the view of this beautiful city from 212 feet up in the air! Fans of James Bond movies will recognize the Prater Ferris Wheel from “The Living Daylights” starring Timothy Dalton. You can spy the city on the Danube for yourself by taking a breezy ride to the top. Built in 1897, the ferris wheel’s famous silhouette can be viewed from all over Vienna.