Do you want to know what to wear in Europe in Winter? Winter in Europe is classified as December, January and February is diverse in terms of weather, activities and styles. In this guide we tell you EXACTLY what to pack for Europe in Winter no matter your destination.
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Although peak season in Europe tends to be Summer there are lots of great reasons to do a Europe Winter trip. From the reduced crowds to the special events such as beautiful Christmas markets and lights to the amazing Winter sports, Europe in Winter is a magical destination.
However the weather can prove a little challenging to pack for. Therefore we will first look at the weather in Europe in Winter to see how it affects your packing list.
Weather in Europe in Winter (December, January and February)
The weather in Europe is varied depending on the region you are traveling to. In Northern Europe and Eastern Europe you can expect cold weather , wind and rain. And depending on the month you are visiting will depend on how much snow you can expect to see.
While in Southern Europe the winters are much more mild and temperate.
As the requirements for this parts of Europe are quite different we have split the packing list up into universal items to pack no matter where in Europe you are visiting, and then items specific to Eastern, Northern and Southern Europe.
But if you would like more specific country guidance be sure to check out our country level posts:
- What to wear in France in Winter
- What to wear in Germany in Winter
- What to wear in Iceland in Winter
- What to wear in Italy in Winter
- What to wear in Italy in January
- What to wear in the Netherlands in Winter
- What to wear to London in Winter
And if you plan on going skiing or doing Winter Sports in Europe then check out our skiing packing list.
Note: Winter travel in Europe is always liable to some outlier weather. For this reason we always recommend checking the weather forecast at your destination(s) 7 days out from travel to make sure there are no expected weather fronts i.e. heatwaves or cold snaps.
Note: if you want to know what to wear to the airplane and airport in Winter check out this post.
How do local people dress in Europe in Winter?
Outside of Southern Europe, most Europeans will stick to classic Winter wardrobe outfits. This means Winter coats and layers are going to be your best friend. For more information on how to pack Winter Coats for travel check out this post
Also European Winters are often rainy which means that you will find that lots of waterproof items are required for your European Winter packing list, or at least the inclusion of a compact travel umbrella.
Generally speaking most Europeans tend to dress practically but stylishly in Winter. So if you want to dress like locals in Europe you should prioritise dressing for the weather but looking stylish rather than scruffy.
Also, there is no one best color to wear in Europe. However you can never go wrong with neutral colors or starting with a monochrome color pallette when putting together your capsule wardrobe.
For tips on putting together a capsule wardrobe (a capsule wardrobe is a method of preventing overpacking by making every item you pack work in multiple different outfits) check out these posts:
What to Wear in Europe in Winter
Layers are the most important thing to pack for Europe in Winter no matter the region of travel. 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.
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 in Europe.
That is because it provides extra warmth as they are an insulating fabric but is also compact unlike a thick knit. Therefore it is easy to pack and doesn’t take up a lot of space in your case.
And as an added bonus, wool actually doesn’t absorbs smells as much as other fabrics which can certainly help when trying to pack light / carry on only.
A coat is absolutely an essential wherever you are traveling in Europe. It is just the thickness and style that will change dependent on your destination.
In Northern Europe, Scandinavia and Iceland you will want a thick insulated thermal coat, that is both waterproof and wind resistant.
Some of our favorite brands of coats for Northern Europe include:
However in Southern Europe, where the winter is milder, a puffer jacket is more suitable.
Also it is worth noting that you will find that locally, there is a difference in style of coats worn depending on where you are in Europe. For instance when in cities such as Berlin or Amsterdam, you will find people wear more practical coats.
While in more fashion conscious cities such as Paris and Vienna you will find many people will opt for more tailored coats.
Winter accessories are a must for Europe in Winter. They are a very practical item for being outdoors in Europe strolling around the Christmas markets, hunting for the Northern Light or just strolling through beautiful cities. But on top of that they can stylishly finish off your Winter Coat outfit.
But be sure to get gloves that are touch screen compatible so as you are likely to be taking lots of photographs.
For especially cold locations you may also want to to add some ear muffs into the mix.
Depending on where you are traveling to in Europe and what activities you are doing once you get there will depend on what type of trousers you require.
For instance if you plan on going in hiking in cold weather destinations we recommend taking either walking trousers, ski trousers or some thicker lined thermal leggings depending on your how long your Europe itinerary is and where it includes.
For cities we recommend a combination of thicker trousers such as jeans, cordouroy trousers or even some thick wool pants.
Also jeans are perfect for sightseeing during the day. I would recommend picking smarter jeans such as black jeans or dark blue jeans that are more fitted or skinny jeans as these are most popular across all European countries.
If you want a smarter pant then we love a regular black pant (we love the Athleta Brooklyn ankle pant for travel) or a thick wool pant.
Skirts and Dresses
In most parts of Europe it is probably too cold to be wearing dresses and skirts for sightseeing. However I personally like to change into a dress for dinner.
As the nights can be very cold, I recommend wearing a sweater dress or a jumper dress. It is a good idea to pair this with thick tights and boots with a good sole that can cope if there is ice on the ground.
A loose blouse works for the evenings or days layered with a cardigan or sweater in most places across Europe. And is a smart enough item that can meet dress codes for high end restaurants and will work in most religious settings too.
T Shirts are a great base for Europe no matter what season you are visiting in. For Winter, and for Northern and Eastern Europe in particular, we recommend packing more long-sleeve tops over short sleeve tees.
However for Southern t shirts we recommend a mix of lengths.
Also, the style of t shirt you will see on the streets of Europe will vary by country. However the most useful will be plain, dark t shirts or lightly patterned t shirts as these will work no matter the destinations.
I also try to avoid a Breton t shirt (striped t shirt) in places such as Venice and France as I think these look a little cliche. However this is just a personal style choice.
It doesn’t matter where I am traveling to in Europe a pashmina is always on my packing list. A pashmina can be used as a scarf or lovely accessory but can double up as an added extra layer.
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.
Firstly if you plan to hike and are wearing hiking boots, then hiking socks are required. However if you walking around cities I would recommend packing thermal socks such as those made of merino wool.
Again, these aren’t as bulky as the hiking boot counterparts but a more thermal and insulating which means your feet should be kept toasty no matter where you are.
What to wear in Northern Europe
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 where you are traveling, how long you are spending outdoors and how much you feel the cold.
Personally I always pack thermals for Europe in Winter, especially for visiting Christmas Markets and going to hunt the Northern Lights.
It may seem counterintuitive to pack swimwear for a Europe trop in Winter. However in many places in Northern Europe in particular there will be activities revolving around spas, saunas and of course geothermal pools i.e. the Blue Lagoon in Iceland.
If you plan on visiting one of these types of attractions we recommend packing swimwear.
However it is unlikely you will use swimwear on any beach vacation in Europe in Winter.
A microfibre fleece should be on the packing list for those planning on spending time outdoors and hiking. For instance I would never contemplate visiting Iceland, Norway or Sweden in Winter without a fleece.
They hold in the heat and they dry quickly which can be essential if you are visiting a cold weather location and don’t have access to a dryer.
What to pack for Europe in Winter
Lip balm is an essential for any Winter vacation. Lip balm will protect your lips from cold air and keep them moisturised. I always keep my lip balm in my carry on bag too to use to combat the dry air on the plane.
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.
For more information on traveling with toiletries check out this post.
A cross body Bag is an essential for women and men in Europe no matter what month you are visiting. Unfortunately any massive tourist attraction in Europe attracts pickpockets so you need to protect your belongings by having a crossbody bag with lots of zips. We love the travelon brand as it is very practical but also comes in a wide variety of colors.
A backpack is an essential for storing items on your longer day trips in Europe.
Most places in Europe uses the traditional European plugs (though the UK has a different plug). So if you are coming from the UK or USA etc you will need an adapter to make your electronics work.
Click here to shop Travel adaptor
Europe in Winter is 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
Compact Travel Umbrella
Anywhere in Europe can be rainy in Winter. And Europeans particularly in the North and East will always carry a compact travel umbrella with them.
No matter where we go we never travel without a travel first aid kit which includes all required medication blister plasters. As nothing will ruin your European Winter vacation quicker than sore feet.
Including but not limited to passports, travel insurance, vaccination certificates, visas etc.
For our essential toiletries packing list click here.
What to wear in Europe in December Considerations
Although there is definite overlap between what to wear throughout the Winter months in Europe, there are a few considerations you may want to take into account depending on the month you are traveling.
Firstly if you are visiting Europe in December it is likely that you will be visiting a Christmas market. If you are doing so we recommend wearing lots of light layers and potentially having some thermals with you.
And don’t worry about packing a festive jumper, you will see Christmas jumpers all over the Christmas markets throughout Europe.
What to wear in Europe in January and February
January and February tend to be the coldest and wettest months in Europe. Therefore be sure to have plenty of layers with you but always keep an umbrella with you in case you get caught in a downpout.
Best Shoes for Europe in Winter
Ankle boots are my number one pick no matter where you are traveling to in Europe in Winter. 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 likely snow and ice, we recommend picking something like a Chelsea boot or Dr Martens with a thick sole with good grip.
Note: hiking boots / snow boots are only really necessary in Europe in Winter if you plan on going on hikes outside of the cities or are in Scandinavia where you may encounter more snow and ice than regular boots can cope with.
For tips on how to pack boots in a suitcase check out this post.
Sneakers are a great shoe for Europe in Winter especially outside of Northern Europe. Comfortable shoes are important for Europe due to the amount of walking you will be doing, even in Winter. And I don’t think sneakers can be beaten on the comfort front.
We like to wear sneakers in the cities for walking and visiting museums and other cultural sites during the day.
My favorite sneaker brands for travel are Hoka and All birds. I also love the versatility of a white sneaker (my favorite ones are Addidas Cloud Foam). I only wear these in places where I am not concerned about heavy rain though.
For rainier city breaks, I tend to go with a waterproof sneaker such as the Ecco brand.
For what not to wear in Europe check out this post.
Europe Winter Packing List
So just to recap here is our complete list of what to add to your Germany Winter Packing List
- Waterproof and Wind resistant Coat or down jacket
- Scarf, Gloves, warm hat and ear muffs
- Thermal base layers – preferably merino wool (optional)
- T shirts
- Thicker weight trousers such as a pair of jeans, woolen trousers or corduroy trousers.
- Merino Wool Themral socks
- T shirts
- Layers such as sweaters, fleeces, jumpers and hoodies
- Warm Nightwear
- Ankle Boots with a good sole for icy conditions.
- Medication and Documentation
- Back Pack
- Travel Adaptor
- Battery Pack
- Travel first aid kit including blister plasters
- Lip Balm
FAQs About Europe in Winter
Do you need boots in Europe in winter?
Boots are my number one shoe for Europe in Winter. I personally usually pick an ankle boot over a knee high or thigh high boot as these are easier to pack. And usually I pick a flat boot or one that only has a thick heel as these are safer in Europe on cobble stone streets and can cope with bad weather more.
Do I need gloves in Europe winter?
Yes, if you are visiting Northern or Eastern Europe in Winter then gloves are an absolute must.
We recommend packing a pair that are compatible to use with your touchscreen phone so you don’t have to take them on and off repeatedly.
Can you wear jeans in Europe in Winter?
You can absolutely wear jeans in Europe in Winter. In fact they are an essential on any Winter packing list for European cities.
However for days when you are outside more / hiking I would recommend fleece leggings, walking trousers or ski trousers as these cope better when wet.
Have you been to Europe in Winter? What did you wear? We would love you to tell us in the comments below!