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What to Pack for Christmas Market River Cruise

What to Pack for Christmas Market River Cruise

Are you wondering what to pack for a Christmas Market River Cruise? In this guide we cover what to wear on a Christmas Market River Cruise for the weather, dress code and terrains as well as essential non clothing items for visiting Winter in Europe.

Important Note: This post may contain affiliate links which means if you click through and make a purchase I will make a small commission at no extra cost to you. 

Considerations for what to pack for Christmas Market River Cruise

River in Hamburg with Christmas tree as seen from a Christmas Markets River Cruise
What to pack for Christmas Market River Cruise

Before we get onto our Christmas Market river cruise packing list, we thought that it would be worth pointing out some of the things to consider before putting your packing list together.

River Cruises are Different to Ocean Going Cruises

The first thing we want to point out is that river cruises are very different to ocean going cruises in term of shore excursions, dress codes and also the size of cabins

Therefore even if you are seasoned ocean cruisers you will find that there are different requirements for packing.

Pack Light

All cruise cabins, river, sea going and even world cruises are small. Therefore it is really important to pack light and not overpack. Lots of clothes and large luggage will quickly fill up your river cruise cabin. Therefore a river cruise capsule wardrobe is an essential.

For tips on how to pack a capsule wardrobe generally without having to worry about laundry service check out the below posts:

Best Luggage for a River Cruise at Christmas

We also recommend taking the smallest luggage you can possibly get away with. For instance if you can do carry on only that is great but if not we recommend taking soft sided luggage like this as it is easier to store under your bed or in the wardrobe.

Overall I would say the smaller the luggage the better for a river cruise.

River Cruise Dress Codes

Whenever we talk about cruises, the most frequent questions we get are around dress codes. And river cruises are no exception.

Now obviously for a Christmas Market River cruise the most important thing to pack for is the weather. However what about when you are on board?

The good news is that the river cruise dress codes tend to be a lot less formal than ocean going cruise ship dress codes. In fact I would say on some the dress code is actually quite casual which means you can leave the evening formal wear at home.

However there are differences depending on the line you are traveling with. For this reason we have summarised the main river cruise line dress codes in their own posts:

  • Viking River Cruise Dress Code
  • Saga River Cruise Dress Code
  • Emerald Waterways Cruise Dress Code
  • Avalon Waterways

What to wear on a river cruise formal night

This is a great question and actually the answer is that most river cruises don’t tend to have a formal night like ocean cruises.

Dress codes on river cruises even in the evening tend to be casual to smart casual and not everyone will change after a river cruise shore excursion.

Personally we always prefer to change for dinner but a sparkly top, or a blouse and smarter bottoms would be perfect – we will go into more detail in the next section.

What to wear on Christmas Market river cruise shore excursions?

Strasbourg Christmas MArket in France in December
What to wear on a Christmas Market River Cruise / What to wear to Christmas Markets in Europe

River cruise excursions tend to be more city orientated and this is very true for a Christmas Market River Cruise. As obviously the primary purpose of the excursions is to visit the Christmas Markets, usually along the Rhine.

Generally speaking for these excursions I would recommend wearing what you would do if you were on a city break in that place normally. Some common places you visit on a Christmas Market River Cruise are

But in essence I would say the key is comfort. There is lots of walking on river cruise excursions so having comfortable walking shoes is an absolute must. As well as having lots of light layers that you can take on and off easily as well as a thick winter jacket paired with winter accessories.

What to wear on Christmas Market River Cruise

So now you know the dress codes involved in a Christmas market river cruise it is time to turn our attention to what to wear on a Christmas market river cruise with our handy packing checklist.

couple at christmas market
what to pack for christmas market river cruise


A coat is absolutely an essential for a Christmas Market River cruise. For a Christmas Market cruise we would recommend packing a thick coat with some insulation that also has some waterproofing and wind resistance.

People at Christmas markets, both locals and tourists will be dressed for the weather and practically before anything else. Therefore pick the warmest coat you have instead of being led by a style. For more information on how to pack Winter Coats in suitcases check out this post

Some of our favorite brands of coats for Northern Europe include:

Click here to shop coats for Northern Europe. 

Winter Accessories

Winter accessories are a must for European Christmas Markets. They are a very practical item for being outdoors in Europe strolling around the Christmas markets but on top of that they can stylishly finish off your Winter Coat outfit. Ear muffs are also advisable.

And be sure to get gloves that are touch screen compatible so as you are likely to be taking lots of photographs.

Click here to shop winter accessories


Layers are the most important thing to pack for a Christmas Market River Cruise. Now the key to a successful Winter outfit for Europe in my opinion is having multiple light layers with you rather than chunky sweaters and bulky jumpers for top layers.

Firstly these are bulky and are hard to pack, especially if you are trying to pack a minimalist capsule wardrobe and not overpack.

Instead you want to have lots of lighter layers that can be combined as part of a sudoku packing list, and that can be taken on and off as extra layers are required.

I personally never travel in Winter without a merino wool sweater. Merino wool is one of my favorite fabrics to wear in Winter for Christmas Markets. That is because it provides extra warmth as it is an insulating fabric but is also compact unlike a thick knit. This means it is easy to pack, and everyone knows Winter is hard to pack for.

Also merino wool doesn’t absorb smell as quickly as other fabrics.

We also would always pack a festive sweater / festive jumper for a CHristmas Markets River Cruise to help get you in a festive spirit.

And sparkly and glittery sweater wise as this is a nice top to wear for dinners on river cruise.

Click here to shop layers for Europe


Warmer trousers are definitely required for Christmas Markets. Jeans are a great choice as are other heavier weight pants such as cords and wool.

Note: I would personally avoid dresses for visiting Christmas Markets on a river cruise shore excursion due to the weather. However a dress such as a wrap dress or a sweater dress is perfect for on the ship.

T Shirts

T Shirts are a great base for Christmas Markets. We recommend packing more long-sleeve tops over short sleeve tees. And if you feel the cold you may want a thermal base layer too.


For those traveling to Europe in Winter we always recommend packing thicker, flannel pjs no matter the destination.

Underwear and Warm Socks

Goes without saying really. However I think socks are worth talking about in a bit more depth. There is nothing I hate more than having cold feet. Therefore picking the right socks is a really important part of my packing list for Christmas Markets.

I would either pack some thick hiking socks or merino wool socks to make sure your feet stay warm strolling around the stalls at the Christmas Markets.

Shop merino wool socks here.

Thermal Base Layers / Thermal Underwear (optional)

A thermal base layer comprising of leggings and a long sleeve top don’t need to be on everyone’s packing list. It really depends on how much you feel the cold. My husband never packs them for Europe in December however I always have them.

Shop thermal base layers here.

Best Shoes for a Christmas Market River Cruise

Ankle Boots

Ankle boots are my number one pick for visiting European Christmas Market. They are easier to pack than knee high boots and if you select the right pair are waterproof and come with good soles.

To cope with the weather, we recommend picking something like a Chelsea boot or Dr Martens with a thick sole with good grip.

Click here to shop ankle boots.

For tips on how to pack boots in a suitcase check out this post.


After boots, sneakers are the next best shoe for Christmas markets. Comfortable shoes are important for Christmas Markets as you will be doing a lot walking. And I don’t think sneakers can be beaten on the comfort front.

My favorite sneaker brands for travel are  Hoka and AllBirds. Although I love the versatility of a white sneaker these can get discolored quickly on Christmas market river cruises.

I also love the Ecco brand of sneakers for comping with rain.

What to pack for a Christmas Market River Cruise (non clothing)

Travel documents 

A Passport and/or identification is always required. On top of that remember also your travel insurance, vaccination certificates and visas as well as any other line or country specific documentation.


Pack any meds you need in your carry on and be sure to have prescriptions with you.


Most new ships will have USB charging ports next to the bed however this is by no means on all ships. Don’t get caught out and take a charger with you and a spare cable.

Travel Adaptor

Depending on where you are from, who you are sailing with and where you may need to take a travel adaptor with you to ensure that all your electronics will work.

I personally never travel anywhere without my trusty Universal travel adaptor that works in pretty much all locations.

Click here to shop universal travel adaptors.

Cross Body Anti Theft bag

Pickpockets are found anywhere that there are tourists. And unfortunately this includes Christmas Markets. Therefore you will want to protect yourself from pickpockets while on a river cruise and the sites you are visiting.

Out favourite pick pocket deterrent is to wear a cross body anti theft bag like this. I prefer these to a fanny pack as these can often mark you out as a tourist in Europe.

Click here to shop anti theft bags.

A backpack is also useful for Christmas Markets.

Compact Travel Umbrella

Rain can happen whenever you are traveling in Europe however Christmas Markets can be particularly rainy. So be sure to keep a compact travel umbrella with you at all times.

Click here to shop travel umbrellas.

Lip balm

The cold weather in Europe can dry out your lips very quickly so we recommend always having a lip balm with you when visiting Christmas Markets in Europe.

Click here to shop lip balm for cruise ships.


Although most ships provide toiletries I will always pack some on my own as I think they are better quality than those you get on board most cruise ships.

For more information on the best toiletries to bring on a cruise check out this post.


As your lips can dry out in Winter, so can your skin when face with cold, wet and rainy weather. So on top of lip balm I always carry moisturizer with me. My favorite moisturizer for Winter is this one.

Reusable Water bottle

You will be doing a lot of walking on river cruise excursions and it is good to stay hydrated. To stay healthy and save the environment we recommend always cruising with a travel water bottle.

And there are lots of great cruise themed water bottles out there too! Click here to shop reusable water bottles for travel.

Power Bank

European Christmas Markets are beautiful and you will want to be taking lots of photos. Couple this with using your phone for transportation, maps and other travel essentials your battery will drain quickly. Therefore you will want to have a battery pack with you at all times


Many people find a lanyard is the best way to keep their cabin key safe and on them at all times on a cruise. You should keep your cruise card with you at all time as this acts as identification on board the ship and also as your payment method.

When looking for a cruise lanyard we think that the best ones are waterproof so can be used on shore excursions where you will be spending a lot of time in the water and can also be used to keep small amounts of cash and a government issued id. 

Click here to shop the best lanyards for cruise travel.

And there you have it our full European Christmas Market River Cruise packing list! We hope this has answered all of your questions but if there is something you still have a question about just pop us a comment below!