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What to Pack for Europe in Winter The Essential Packing List

Europe in winter is no joke. I thought I knew what I was getting myself into when I decided to visit Poland, the Baltics, and Scandinavia in January for 3 months, and boy I wish I was more prepared.

Europe covers a massive area with more than 50 countries under its wings. The continent is extremely diverse with 33 majority ethnic groups and more than 54 ethnic minorities. Each ethnic group has its own language, culture, tradition. You never really know what to expect when you visit these countries on their own.

One thing that you can expect in Europe though is its crazy cold weather during the winter months of November to March and if you planning to visit Europe during this period, maybe to go skiing or to their famous Christmas market, you will have to be extra prepared for what is to come.

Based on my experience visiting Europe in winter, heck, I even visited Murmansk, a Russian city in the Arctic Circle in winter for the Northern Lights, I have decided to write up this packing guide to help you pack and prepare for an incredible trip in Europe during the wintertime.

Within this guide, you will find all the information you need to help and prepare you for the journey with a comprehensive packing list for Europe in winter. Without further ado, let’s begin with the most important packing question of all, “what to wear in Europe in winter?”.

3 Months Itinerary for Europe

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What to Wear in Europe in Winter

Doesn’t matter where you are visiting in Europe, during the months of November to March, you can expect the temperature to be between -5 to 5°C (23 – 41°F) on average with Northern, Western, and Eastern Europe being on the low-end and Southern Europe being on the high end.

In the midst of winter, the temperature in Europe can go below the freezing point, and sometimes even down to almost -20°C (-4°F) if the wind from Siberia decided to visit Europe while you are there. Simply put, winter Europe is no joke and you are better to be prepared for it.

Here is a list of things to wear in Europe in winter for both men and women. Keep in mind that this is only an example list of things you should pack for Europe and I am only listing the essentials so be sure to bring what you think is necessary for you as well and use this as a guideline to see what things you might have missed from your packing list.

Thermal Shirts: This is the first base layer that will help wick your sweat out to be insulated by the second layer of your clothes when it is cold outside. It is also great to wear around heaters when you are indoors.

Since you will be wearing these shirts every day, be sure to pack a few thermal shirts of various colors just in case. The shirts don’t have to be the prettiest as you will be wearing at least 2 more layers on top once you are outside so if you are looking for photogenic clothes to wear in winter Europe, focus on picking the best one for your outer layer instead.

Thermal Long Pants: If it gets really really cold outside, it can also help if you have a thermal long pant underneath another layer like jeans or trousers to keep your legs warm. For women, leggings are perfect for this as you can wear them with dresses or even go hiking with them.

Jeans: Jeans are great in cool weather. They are tough, durable, and look great on anyone. I highly recommend you get Levi jeans. They last forever and can keep you rather warm in winter.

Waterproof Rain Pants: If it is raining outside or it heavily snowed the day before and you do not want to get your jeans wet (jeans can take a while to dry especially in wintertime), I highly recommend you pack a lightweight waterproof rain pant that you can easily put on over your jeans any time you need to keep your pants dry.

Fleece Jacket: This is the second layer that you can wear on top of the thermal shirt. The fleece jacket will act as insulation to help maintain your body heat and keeps you warm during the winter months in Europe. I highly recommend you pack one or 2 of these for your trip to Europe.

Waterproof Outer Shell Jacket: It can get quite drizzly in Europe during the wintertime and I highly recommend you pack a waterproof outer shell to be worn on top as your outer layer to keep you dry and protect you from strong wind.

I highly recommend you get this orange Columbia Watertight Jacket which is lightweight, waterproof, and will protect you from strong winds. Combine this with a breathable shirt as your first layer and a fleece jacket as your second layer and you have quite a lightweight hiking setup that will keep you warm and let you swap around as you like.

Down Jacket: The down jacket is going to be the third layer that goes over the fleece jacket. This is going to be the layer that will protect you from the cold the most and so make sure you pack one that is warm enough for -5°C (23°F) temperature.

Down Jackets can be extremely massive and hard to pack, but fortunately, they are pretty lightweight and you can save your bag’s space if you compress it with a compression bag into a smaller size so you can pack it easily.

Travel Shoes: Since you will be walking a lot in Europe as there are many tourist attractions to see, especially in the old towns, you will need to pack a good comfortable shoe that you don’t mind wearing and walking/hiking with for 3 to 6 hours a day.

I highly recommend this Timberland shoe for guys or this walking shoe for women if you are looking to buy a new one on this trip. Make sure to break into your shoes before getting on that plane. You do not want to be stuck with shoes that give you blisters when you are on your trip.

Wool Socks: When it is cold outside, your body heat will often escape from your peripherals first and the best material to prevent that from happening is wool. To keep your feet warm during winter in Europe, I highly recommend you pack some wool socks to wear outside when the temperature goes below freezing point.

Wool Gloves: Again, to keep your hands warm, get wool gloves to prevent the heat from escaping from your peripherals in the winter months of Europe.

Wool Beanie: Your ears are also one of the places on your body that will easily get cold so be sure to pack a wool beanie so you can wear them outside when you are out exploring Europe in winter.

Neck Gaiter: Last but not least is a wool scarf. With long pants, a wool beanie, socks, and gloves, the only area left where your body heat can escape is through your neck so get a wool scarf and wear them when it’s cold outside.

With this setup, you should only have your face exposed to the element and all the other parts of your body should be kept nice and warm under layers and wool when you are outside during the winter months in Europe.

Swimwear: Swimwear? In Europe in winter? Really? Yes! It is always a good idea to pack swimwear just in case especially if you are planning to visit countries like Finland, Iceland, and Hungary in winter where going to saunas and thermal baths are part of the local experience, so be sure to pack one for your trip just in case.

How to Pack for Hiking and Camping

What Backpack to Bring To Europe in Winter

A Large Backpack: If you are planning to visit Europe in winter for more than a week, I highly recommend you carry at least a 40L backpack to carry all the travel essentials while you are on the move.

I highly recommend Osprey backpacks. They are durable, very light, and have a lifetime guarantee. Get the Osprey Atmos AG Backpack for men and Osprey Aura AG Backpack for women if you are looking for a high-quality backpack that will last you a lifetime. I have the Osprey Atmos myself and I love it!

A Daypack: You are also going to need a daypack to carry all your travel essentials for the day such as a water bottle, camera gear, jackets, etc., and depending on how much you want to carry I found 25L to be a good capacity for a daypack.

I personally use Herschel Supply’s Little America bag as my daypack and I love it. They are pretty affordable, very comfortable to wear, and they are stylish as hell. If you are looking for a stylish daypack to go with your trip, get the Herschel Supply Little America backpack.

7 Best Herschel Backpacks for Travelers to Buy

Should I Get a Travel Insurance for Europe in Winter?

Yes! Sometimes, they even force you to get one before you can enter the country. That is definitely the case for us third-world passport holders where we won’t get our entry visa if we didn’t provide proof of travel insurance for the entire duration of our stay in Europe.

Travel insurance is not expensive and if things go wrong, which is often the case when you travel, at least you will have the insurance to cover the cost that may arise in the unforeseeable future. For which travel insurance to get, I recommend you browse through options on WorldNomads.com, which is what I often use to look for travel insurance that fits my kind of adventure.

Don’t forget to Get Travel Insurance

If you are looking for travel insurance to go along with your trip to Europe, I would recommend WorldNomads.com, which is what I use to look for travel insurance that fits my kind of adventure.

Instantly turn your travel photos into beautiful work of art in one click. Available for both mobile and PC.

What Other Travel Essentials to Bring To Europe in Winter

A Rail Pass: If you plan to travel around Europe far and wide without selling your kidneys, the best way to do it is with a Rail Pass where you can travel around Europe freely by train as many times as you like for the entire period of your visit.

Eurail Pass is hands down, the best European Rail Pass to get for your trip. You can plan your trip out, map your destination, and pick the pass that fits best with your itinerary.

If you are like me and do not have any plans, you can go with their Global Pass which allows you to travel to over 33 countries with one pass for only 185 EUR. Getting the Eurail Pass in Europe is a no-brainer and it will save you a ton of money in the long run so be sure to get one prior to your backpacking trip in Europe.

Packing Cubes: Packing cubes are a life-saver for backpackers and light-travelers out there. I used to travel without one and it is often a mess in my backpack and I often find something I was looking for and couldn’t find 3 months later after I came back from a trip.

With packing cubes, that is no longer a problem as everything is nicely organized into its own cubes and I can take things in and out of my backpack without messing up other things in my backpack. I highly recommend you buy 4 packing cubes for your trip.

Microfiber Towel: They are easy to dry, lightweight, and small enough to pack in your daypack and they are great to pack for when you plan to go to saunas in Finland or thermal baths in Hungary.

Water Bottle: It is always important to keep yourself hydrated when you go travel and you would do mother nature a great favor if you bring your own water bottle instead of buying a plastic water bottle every time you are thirsty.

I highly recommend the Lifestraw Filter Bottle which will also help filter the water for you to make sure the water is safe to drink. Tap water is ok to drink in Western Europe but elsewhere, it is hard to know where the water has to go through to get to you so it is better to be safe than sorry and filter your drinking water with Lifestraw Filter Bottle.

Padlock: If you are planning to stay in hostels in Europe, you will be sharing a space with other travelers and you are going to need a padlock to secure your belongings in a locker at a hostel when you are out and about. Most of the time, the hostel will provide a locker for free if you have your own padlock so it is best to pack one just in case. I highly recommend Master Lock Padlock.

50 Travel Essentials You Should Pack For Your Travel

What Camera Gear to Bring To Europe in Winter

Sony a6600: This camera is what I carry for most of my trips around the world. The Sony a6600 is very compact and light while the capabilities are more than enough to take excellent photos and videos for my travels. With a combination of lens I use below and you have one hell of a capable yet lightweight camera gear you can carry anywhere with you.

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The Best Cameras for Travelers To Buy

Sony 16-55mm F2.8 Lens: This lens stays on my Sony a6600 camera 90% of the time. The focal length of 16mm and 55mm allows to capture wide shots for landscape as well as up-close street shots of the local people respectively and if you are looking for one lens to rule them all, this is it.

Sony 10-18mm F4 Lens: This is also another lens I often carry on my trip. The 10mm minimum focal length gives me an ultra-wide field of view which allows me to take some really nice photos of the interior of churches in Europe. If you want nice pictures of architecture around Europe, this lens is the one to get.

Sigma 56mm F1.4 Lens: When I travel, I often like to do street photography and take photos of the locals, and one of my favorite lens to use for travel portraits is the Sigma 56mm F1.4 lens which comes with a wide aperture of F1.4 allowing for me to shoot some really beautiful people with stunning bokeh. I love this lens and I highly recommend you get it if you like taking photos of people.

DJI Mavic Mini 2: For a travel drone that is lightweight and highly capable, you just can’t beat a DJI Mavic Mini 2. It weighs only 249 grams and it is smaller than an iPhone while collapsed. If you are looking for a travel drone to carry with you in Europe, you will love the DJI Mavic Mini 2.

7 Best Drones For Travel to Buy

GoPro Hero 9 Black: If you plan to go skiing in Europe in winter, having an action camera like the GoPro Hero 9 will allow you to capture some really cool skiing shots where it might not be a great idea to bring an expensive camera so be sure to pack one with you.

7 Best GoPro Alternatives You Should Buy

What Electronics to Bring To Europe in Winter

Macbook Air: If you are looking for a laptop to travel with that is lightweight but highly capable, I highly recommend you get the new Macbook Air with the powerful M1 chip. It is not too expensive, extremely compact and light, and you can do everything from browsing the web to photo editing all on one machine.

Just don’t go around sitting in front of a McDonald in a place like a train station in Cologne and leaving your bag out of sight for 1 second, otherwise, you are going to have a bad time as I did .

My Bag Was Stolen in Germany

Power Bank: In this day and age, you will most likely be relying on your phone a lot more than you think when you travel from navigation to booking accommodations and you are going to need to keep your phone and other electronic juiced up with a power bank.

Plus, the lithium batteries used in your cameras and phones can be drained out much faster in cold weather so having a power bank should help keep these devices juiced up for when you need them. I highly recommend the Anker PowerCore 20,000 mAh power bank for your trip here which should be enough to keep all your electronics charged throughout the day.

Travel Adapter: No matter where you are from, you are going to need a travel adapter that will allow you to adapt your electronics to the power outlets in Europe. I highly recommend the Unidapt 61W Universal Travel Adapter which should cover most types of power outlets out there.

iPhone 12 Pro Max: If you do not want to carry a camera around while you travel and are looking for a phone that has the best camera you can get, buy the iPhone 12 Pro Max. The phone is extremely powerful and you can do everything on it from navigation to taking excellent photos with their 3-camera setup. You just can’t beat the iPhone when it comes to phone cameras.

What

Toiletries Packing List:

Do not forget to pack all the toiletries you need for your trip. Most of the time, you can buy them in convenience stores in Europe for cheap but things like sunblocks can be quite pricey here so you will probably be saving more buying them beforehand.

  • Shampoo
  • Soap
  • Chapstick to prevent dry mouth
  • Moisturizer to prevent dry skins
  • Toothbrush & toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Hand Sanitizer (very important during this COVID time)
  • Wet Wipes
  • Nail Cutter
  • Travel Medical Kit (pain killers, band airs, etc.)
  • For Men: Shaver
  • For Women: Make-up, menstrual cup, and other lotion if you need.

And there you have it, a complete packing list and all the travel essentials you will need when you are traveling to Europe in winter. Are you planning to visit Europe in winter for the famous Christmas Market in Germany or skiing in Switzerland and have questions about what to pack? Do not hesitate to ask me in the comments below.

Now that we have all the information we need, it’s time to plan your trip to Europe! Here are some resources to help you get your trip going:

What to Pack: To help you get started on packing, here are 60 essential travel gear I carried with me on my trip to Europe.

Flights: Skyscanner and Expedia are the best places to start looking for cheap flights and great deals from your home country.

Accommodation: Hostelworld, Booking.com, and Agoda.com are the ultimate go-to platforms to search for amazing hostels and hotels at an affordable price.

Homestays: Vrbo is the best platform to look for a more local experience staying in Europe. This way, I get to meet a local first-hand and have access to local information I wouldn’t have otherwise.

Transportation: For bus, I always go with Busbud when traveling in Europe while for trains, Omio is my go-to place to book all my train travels in advanced.

Internet: Airalo is the best way to get a sim card and have reliable internet access for your trip to Europe. All you need is an esim compatible smartphone, install it on your phone prior to your trip, and you are all set.

Day Trips & Tours: Viator, GetYourGuide and TripAdvisor are great platforms to search for activities to do in Europe.

Tickets & Deals: Klook is always my go-to website when I want to find cheaper deals for entrance tickets to tourist attractions in Europe.

Are you planning to travel to Europe independently? Be sure to check out my guide on How To Plan A Backpacking Trip here.

Further Reading for Europe

I hope you found this Europe travel guide useful. If you want to read more about Europe, I have a ton more articles you might like:

  • Traveling in Europe can be cheap, really cheap. These are the 8 Cheap European Countries to Visit.
  • Looking for a complete backpacking itinerary for Europe? Here is the 3 Months Itinerary for Europe.
  • Packing for a trip to visit a region as big as Europe is extremely daunting. Here’s a packing guide to help you: What to Pack for Europe – The Essential Packing List.
  • Spain is a great place to start your European journey. If you are looking for a complete travel guide and itinerary for Spain, check out our 10 days itinerary for Spain.
  • France is a big country that requires great planning if you wish to maximize the things you see with limited time. Here’s a complete itinerary and a travel guide for spending 2 weeks in France.
  • Switzerland may be expensive but hiking is free and camping is often cheap. Check out my Switzerland travel guide page for complete travel and hiking guides in Switzerland.
  • Germany is not all about beers and Schuhplattler dance. It is so much more than Bavaria and you will need a good travel guide to see Germany in its true self. Check out my 2 – 3 weeks backpacking itinerary for Germany here.
  • Poland has it all with beautiful architecture, cheap cost of travel and full of important European history for you to learn about. Visit my 2 weeks backpacking itinerary for Poland for more info.
  • The Baltic Countries are often forgotten when it comes to traveling in Europe but that makes it even better to visit the there are more untouched places waiting to explore, considerably fewer tourists, and remain cheap. If you are heading north, be sure to check out my one-week itinerary for the Baltic Countries.
  • There is a ton more to do in Northern Europe, all can be done in a week such as a day island-hopping in Helsinki, 3 days exploring Stockholm, and spending one full day in Copenhagen.
  • Not convinced by my words? Here are 125 photos that will inspire you to visit Europe.
  • Looking for more travel guides for Europe? You can find more on my Europe Travel Guide page.
  • For more of my travel guides like this, visit my Destinations page.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links.

More Europe Articles

Looking for more Europe articles? You will find plenty more under our Europe Travel Guide section where you will find suggested itineraries, things to do, and everything you need to plan your Europe trip.

Tips for travelling to Europe in winter

Bled Slovenia in winter

Many Australians and those from the southern hemisphere are keen to experience a European winter vacation but are unsure whether travelling in winter is a good idea. Don’t let chilly temperatures, possible snowstorms and shorter opening hours of many attractions put you off visiting Europe over winter.

After travelling Europe in winter, I can recommend it as a great time to visit and the following tips will help you to be prepared and to get the most out this wonderful experience.

What’s in this Article

Europe in winter travel tips

So, you’ve decided you are ready to visit Europe in winter. There are a few things you should know so that you can plan your trip to make the most of your precious holiday time.

Check opening hours

In most European cities the major tourist attractions remain open over the winter season, albeit often with shortened opening hours. The website of the attraction/s you want to visit will show you opening times for when you plan to visit so check this out before you leave home so you can organise your sightseeing accordingly.

Winter is often a really good time to visit some attractions as crowds are often smaller and therefore, queues shorter.

Once you get into rural Europe, though, many attractions will be closed for the winter months.

If you are travelling to a regional area, again, visit the tourist association’s website and check out opening hours for places you want to visit. That way, you won’t be disappointed if you get there and find out that longed-for visit to the local attraction is not possible.

Limit your luggage

Wheeling suitcases in the snow

Travel as light as possible. Wheeling suitcases in the snow whilst carrying assorted other bags isn’t fun!

Having as little luggage as possible is always a good idea as it makes things a lot easier when travelling. (See my tips on packing for winter in Europe below.)

I’m definitely not a ‘carry-on only’ traveller – I always take a suitcase which I check into the aircraft’s luggage hold – but always limit myself to just one additional bag such as a handbag.

Having one hand free makes it so much easier if I need to use an umbrella whilst out and about.

Limiting the amount of luggage you carry is also essential if you are travelling around Europe by train. Getting on and off trains – which usually only stop at the platform for a couple of minutes – is difficult enough with one suitcase.

Platforms can be covered in snow, too, so maneuvering multiple suitcases through snow can be a real test of nerves.

Travelling around Europe in winter

Unless you plan on joining an escorted coach tour for your Europe in winter experience, you’ll most likely by travelling by car or train. Both methods of transport have their advantages and disadvantages so below you’ll find a number of things to consider when planning your European winter travels.

Click here for ideas on European White Christmas and winter itineraries by car and train

Driving in Europe in winter

Snow lined street with cars

Be well prepared if you plan on driving in snowy conditions in Europe.

In many countries it is compulsory to have your vehicle fitted with winter tyres from December to March (inclusive). Check with your rental company that winter tyres are included in the cost of your car hire if you will be driving your rental car during this period.

If not, you may have to pay an additional fee for winter tyres on collection of your vehicle.

Major roads and autobahns, as well as city streets, are regularly cleared of snow by snow ploughs but extra care should always be taken when travelling in wet, snowy and icy conditions.

If you are at all apprehensive about driving in Europe during winter, I recommend you hire an automatic vehicle – not having to change gears is one less thing you’ll have to think about.

Travelling by train in Europe

Europe is well known for its efficient rail network but in particularly bad weather conditions services can be disrupted. Make sure you allow for some flexibility in your itinerary in case of delays.

If your rail journey requires a change of train en-route, allow plenty of time to transfer from one train to the next. Platforms can be snow-covered – and very slippery – so transferring from one platform to another can take longer than usual.

Where to visit in Europe in winter

Dresden Christmas market

Christmas markets are the reason many travellers visit Europe in winter.

Choosing which countries to visit on your winter holiday to Europe will depend on a number of things. If your main focus is to experience the European Christmas markets, then countries like Germany, Austria and Switzerland should be in your itinerary.

Skiers and snowboarders will find the mountain resorts in Italy, France, Switzerland and Austria (amongst others), the place to be.

And those who just want to soak up the convivial winter atmosphere in rural villages surrounded by snowy fields will have no shortage of destinations to choose from.

In southern Europe, some countries, particularly those on the Mediterranean, enjoy a milder winter climate, so if you’re not particularly fond of cold weather, there are warmer destinations that you can head to.

I’ve written a number of destination-specific posts about visiting Europe in winter. Click here to browse all the articles.

What to wear in Europe in winter

It goes without saying that you are likely to experience some pretty cold weather during your Europe trip in winter. Many of the northern and central European countries frequently have daytime temperatures below 5° Celcius so knowing what clothes to take to Europe in winter is vital.

Layering is the key

One of my biggest tips for deciding what to pack for Europe in winter is to layer, layer, layer. Shops, restaurants and museums are well heated and as soon as you enter you’ll be stripping off clothes.

Wear clothes on top that are easy to remove, or if your coat is super-warm, only wear a couple of light layers underneath.

You’ll be surprised how few clothes you need to wear indoors so once you’ve removed your coat, gloves, scarf and hat, you’ll probably be warm enough inside with just a light jumper or sweatshirt and long pants.

Essential items to pack for winter in Europe

Thermal underwear is great for layering. Don’t dismiss thermals as being just for skiing trips – they are fantastic insulators and reduce the amount of other clothes you need to wear.

And even though they might remind you of grandma, consider taking a pair of thermal long johns – I swear by mine when travelling in Europe in winter.

Read Post  Cheapest Way to Travel Europe by Train

I’m often asked which are the best thermals for European winter travel. I’ve only personally tried the Kathmandu brand (I buy them when they are on sale) and Uniqlo and I have found them both to be excellent.

Hats really make a difference when you are outdoors – it’s amazing how much warmer you feel when your ears are warm – so grab a beanie or woollen hat and wear it every time you go outside.

Whilst we might associate woolly hats with skiing and football games in Australia, in Europe you’ll see the locals wearing them whenever they are outside – to work, going shopping or out to dinner. You definitely won’t be the odd one out if you’re wearing a warm hat.

Scarves (the woollen variety) and gloves are two more things to take to Europe in winter. Both are easy to carry, quick to put on or take off and great for added warmth.

Scarves can also add a bit of that European chic to an outfit – an added bonus!

What to wear in Europe in winter

Essential items of clothing for a European winter holiday include a waterproof coat, sturdy shoes and a warm scarf and gloves.

When choosing the best shoes for Europe in winter, put comfort and practicality ahead of fashion. Rain, snow and ice can make footpaths slippery and wet so having the correct footwear is essential.

I’ve worn both a soft adventure/hiking style shoe from Merrell as well as long leather boots during my winter travels in Europe.

The Merrells were great for everyday sightseeing whilst the boots were perfect for evenings out and for the occasions when I wanted to feel a little more dressed up. European winter travel doesn’t have to mean dressing down!

When packing your shoes and boots, don’t forget warm socks. I love Explorer socks that we can buy in Australia and always have a few pairs with me.

The bulkiness of coats and jackets can be a nuisance when planning your European winter packing list but your outer layer doesn’t have to be squashed into your suitcase.

Why not carry your jacket or coat onboard the flight with you? It might even come in handy as a blanket if you get cold on the flight. Keep this in mind when considering coats or jackets for European winter travel.

If you are shopping especially for winter coats for Europe, look for ones that are waterproof, windproof and are made from a breathable, insulating fabric.

Winter packing list for Europe

Now that you have assembled all the necessary pieces of clothing and footwear it’s time to pack for your winter trip to Europe. A lot of travellers tend to stress about how to pack for Europe in winter – and I’ve been guilty of this too – but the thing to remember is that whatever you forget to take, you can buy in Europe.

Below is a list of the main items I pack for a winter trip to Europe. You may wish to change it around slightly (perhaps you’d prefer to sub out a pair of bottoms for a warm skirt and leggings or tights) but these are the basic items that will see you through a week.

Packing list for winter Europe travels

3 x bottoms (jeans, pants, etc.)
5 x lightweight long sleeved t-shirts or shirts/blouses
3 x jumpers/cardigans/sweatshirts
1 x waterproof jacket or coat
Gloves
Scarf
Hat/beanie
2 x pairs of boots or shoes
2 x thermal tops
1 x pair thermal pants (long johns)
Underwear
Socks
Pyjamas and slippers
Foldable umbrella

Unfortunately carrying sturdy footwear and coats is going to add bulk to your luggage. My biggest tip for how to pack light for winter in Europe is to make sure that all the clothes you pack earn their place in your suitcase.

Can you wear at least two of your jumpers or cardigans with each pair of pants? Can each pair of shoes or boots be worn with at least two of your pants? If you can change up your outfits by wearing the same pieces in different combinations you’ll go a long way towards packing light.

Things to do in Europe in winter

I’ve written numerous articles on things to do in winter, particularly at Christmas time, including:

Now that you’re armed with all these tips it’s time to start booking your holiday to Europe over winter. Enjoy!

What to Wear in Winter in Europe: Packing List

I remember my first time spending the winter in Europe. The year was 2009, and my semester living in Prague was coming to a close. The Christmas markets were in full swing, the snow coating the houses of the Old Town was straight out of a fairy-tale — and I was freezing my ass off, mostly because my California-addled brain had never learned to dress properly for the winter.

If it weren’t for the many cups of piping hot cups of svařák (Czech mulled wine) I was drinking at inappropriately early hours, I likely never would have survived.

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Fast forward nearly a decade and several winter trips to Europe later, and I’ve finally mastered the art of packing for Europe in winter without wanting to die.

It’s a combination of not giving a crap if you look like a fat, fluffy dumpling and layering with actual winter-specific layers rather than what I was doing… which was piling some summery clothes on top of a pair of leggings and cute pea coat and wondering why I was still cold. California, guys. Growing up there does things to you.

After all that trial and error, here’s my full winter inn Europe packing list, detailing exactly what I recommend you wear for winter in Europe.

Table of Contents

What to Pack for Europe in Winter

What to Pack Everything In

If you’re visiting Europe in winter, my number one recommendation is to travel with a backpack rather than a suitcase. While it is definitely possible to travel with a suitcase, and there are times when it is more convenient – I can also assure you that there will be times when you regret it hard, such as when you’re trying to lug your bag across snowy cobblestones and cursing your life. Take it from an idiot who brought a rolling suitcase to Finland in November.

I prefer to travel light with a backpack that fits carry-on restrictions because I hate paying for baggage fees and waiting at the airport. Even traveling Europe in winter, I’ve found that having a 44L backpack is perfectly fine, and there’s no need for a massive backpacker-style backpack unless you truly love clothes and want a jillion options. I’ve used and sworn by Tortuga Backpacks for the last three years – this is the one I’m carrying now. I’ve traveled around Europe in winter for the last few years and never truly needed a larger bag.

One thing that makes packing for winter in Europe so much easier is using packing cubes – having an organized system, especially with all the layers you need for winter travel – makes your life a lot easier, especially if you are traveling to more than one city or country. This packing list for Europe in winter includes a few of the things that I swear by all year round, not just winter, for helping me organize my clothes and belongings when I travel.

Abisko train station

How I packed vs. how my friend packed for winter in Europe. Trust me – leave the rolling suitcase behind. She ended it dragging it more than rolling it!

Travel backpack (carry on size or check-in size)

While rolling suitcases can be great for in summer and fall weather, they aren’t a great idea for winter travel. For one, there will likely be snow or ice on the ground – meaning that you will have to drag, not roll, your suitcase… which kind of defeats the purpose of having a rolling suitcase.

Trust me, you’re way better off with a travel backpack that you can easily carry across snow, cobblestones, and other various obstacles that are the hallmarks of traveling Europe in winter. I am a light packer, so the Tortuga Backpack is the main backpack I need. I’ve spent two 5 month trips through Europe with it, including winter months, plus I take it on all my short term travels.

Why do I recommend Tortuga so much? Here’s why: this bag is 45L and has got three main compartments: one for a laptop and other flat objects, one giant rectangular compartment perfect for packing cubes stuffed with clothing, and one smaller compartment with pockets for passports, pens, odds and ends, etc. that I stash all my extras in – plus one small outer zipper pocket for anything you want quick access to.

It also has a water bottle holder on the outside as well as buckles so that you can strap something like a yoga mat to the outside. Plus, it’s quite comfortable to wear, with a padded hip belt and comfort-molding shoulder straps complete with a chest strap so that you can distribute weight perfectly across your body in the event that you need to wear your backpack for longer than usual. Check out more specs and details here.

Does it pass European budget airline requirements? I’ve never once had to check it in on a budget airline flight, and I’ve taken probably 50+ Ryanair and Wizzair flights at this point. I just buy priority boarding so that I have a guaranteed spot on board for my bag (plus a second personal item bag), which adds about $5 onto my total flight cost instead of the $20-40 or so that a heavy checked suitcase or backpack would. This adds up massively over time – with a bigger bag, I would have paid $1,000+ extra in baggage fees over the past few years. That’s massive savings.

Need a bigger backpack? Despite these long term trips, I haven’t personally used a bigger backpack (mostly because I have the back of a 90 year old woman). That said, I’ve heard great things about the Osprey system. If I ever were to upgrade my backpack capacity, that’s what I would choose. But I’m cheap and hate paying baggage fees, even at the expense of having less clothing options, which is why I prefer Tortuga. When flying budget airlines, I never check the bag, but I just purchase priority boarding for a few dollars (usually around $5) so I can have this bag on board with me, plus another personal item.

Packing cubes

Packing cubes will save your travel sanity. These easily zippable bags are wonderful when it comes time to pack and organize your clothing. It keeps everything contained when you open your backpack, so if luggage clothing explosions drive you half as crazy as they drive me, investing in packing cubes will save you some serious therapy costs down the line.

I use these packing cubes and love them more than a logical person should love a simple zippable bag. Especially when packing for Europe in winter, when you have tons of accessories and layers to organize, this becomes extra essential.

Laundry bag

If you are traveling Europe in winter, your clothing will take a beating. Wet, dirty, covered in snow – basically, prepare to change your clothes at least once a day. I love having a laundry bag with me in addition to my packing cubes so I can keep dirty stuff separate and ready to go on laundry day.

You don’t need anything fancy – any bag will do – but I like having a cute one like this one from Kikkerland though, because I’m impractical and easily won over by a cute design. In a pinch, some plastic grocery bags will do as well.

Hanging toiletry bag

Packing for Europe in winter means you’ll need a few special toiletries (hint: bring ALL the moisturizer). After struggling to find a good way to organize my toiletries, I stumbled across this hanging toiletry bag and purchased it on a whim to give it a try… and I promptly became a product evangelist.

It’s perfect for organizing your travel toiletries like shampoo, moisturizer, make-up, hairbrushes, tweezers, etc. It has a lot of organizers and seperators so you can really maximize your organization without taking up much excess space. It fits quite a bit – it’s like the Mary Poppins bag you always needed but never knew existed. It’s wonderful for girly girl travelers like myself who have a hard time leaving make-up behind when they travel.

It comes in a large size – I do just fine with the regular size, but those with lots of toiletries and odds and ends to organize will probably want to size up.

Cute travel daypack

I always use a daypack rather than a purse when I travel because it’s so much more comfortable, especially because I often carry lots of camera equipment with me. That said, I don’t want to look like an American bum (though I often do anyway) so I splurged on this adorable PacSafe Citysafe backpack.

This bag is so amazing that I basically wrote a love letter to it here. My favorite feature about this travel backpack is that it has tons of awesome security features (locking zippers, slash-proof mesh on the inside of the bag, RFID blockers, etc.) but it looks adorable and not at all horrendous.

I use it pretty much every single day whether I am traveling or not. It’s one of the crucial things I bring with me on every trip, and it’s key when packing for a trip to Europe in winter because it’s the perfect size for squeezing in layer upon layer of cozy winter clothing.

5 Most Essential Things to Pack for Europe in Winter

When it comes to what to pack for winter in Europe, it’s best to bring all your essentials from home and try to minimize what you need to buy abroad. Most of the time, you won’t save any money by shopping in Europe. Prices tend to be a little higher than in, say, North America because 20% VAT is often rolled into the prices.

Also, depending on where you travel, in many countries the currency is currently quite strong compared to the US/Canada/Aussie dollar, so you won’t be at an advantage when it comes to shopping. For that reason, I recommend planning your winter in Europe packing list beforehand, and buying all your winter travel necessities before arriving in Europe.

A good, waterproof parka

While Europe’s weather can vary dramatically in the winter, it’s best to prepare for the worst and risk being overdressed than the alternative. I am a huge fan of The North Face because they guarantee all their products for life and will fix or replace literally anything you send to them — which I’ve tested by sending in a much used-and-abused down jacket that was returned looking like new.

Their jackets aren’t exactly budget-friendly, but they’re a great investment if you’re looking for a winter coat that will last a lifetime. This is the parka I own and I’ll use it for life (unless North Face cuts me off for how badly I abuse my clothing). If you don’t have a lot of money to spend on a new jacket but still want to ensure warmth in the winter, try buying a down jacket liner like this one and layer it between your warmest coat and winter layers.

Thermal layers

A good winter parka goes a long way, but unless you’re matching that down jacket with proper layers underneath, you won’t be maximizing your potential warmth. Everyone raves about wool’s warmth-retaining properties but I can’t tolerate it – it makes me so itchy that I want to tear off all my skin. If you can stand wool, something like these merino wool leggings paired with a cashmere sweater layer will serve you very well. Personally, I constantly wear these 32 Degrees thermal layers during European winters — I have about 5 tops that I rotate during the winter between laundry days. On bottom, I wear these fleece-lined leggings. I bring about 2-3 pairs of fleece-lined leggings on a winter trip since I can wear them several times before they start to feel gross. You’ll definitely want at least 2 pairs so you can change them out if they get wet from snow or bad weather. With thermal layers and a parka, you’re nearly set for any kind of weather in Europe.

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Waterproof boots and warm socks

I’ve never really felt like snow boots are entirely necessary unless you really are planning on spending a lot of time in deep snow, like if you’re staying in a cabin in the woods or spending a significant amount of time in Lapland or ski resorts around Europe.

When it comes to packing for winter in Europe, if your trip is mostly in the cities, you just need two things in your boots: they need to be waterproof and have good traction. I first bought a pair of Blondo waterproof leather boots in 2008… making this my longest-term relationship ever, eek, and one of my favorite travel shoes ever.

Despite many years of abuse and New York winters, I only had to get them resoled once in the last nearly 10 years. I’ve worn these in every European winter and they’ve always held up great – even in the Arctic Circle of Sweden.

If you plan on doing a lot of hiking in the snow, you may want a proper snow boot. The Elsa snow boot by KEEN is waterproof, insulated, and looks super cozy, and comes highly recommended as one of my friend’s favorite hiking boot brands.

Finally, no matter how insulated your boots are, you need proper socks to match – sad, thin cotton socks won’t do the trick. I bought these excellent Smartwool socks after hesitating because of the price, but I’m glad I did. Although I generally hate wool, the skin on my feet is thick enough that I don’t mind wearing wool socks at all and can get all the lovely warm wool benefits without the itchiness. You don’t need that many pairs – two or three will do – because wool is really odor-absorbent and dry really fast, you can stretch out a few pairs whereas you’d need a fresh pair of cotton socks for each day.

Reusable water bottle

The tap water in Europe is drinkable almost everywhere so make sure you bring a reusable water bottle. I’ve been to nearly every country in Europe and it’s super rare that I can’t drink the water, even in the Balkans. The only major city I can think of where I wasn’t able to drink the tap water was Kiev, Ukraine.

If you don’t already have one, try one from Klean Kanteen. If you drink a lot of hot beverages like tea or coffee, I recommend bringing a Thermos that will keep your drinks (and hands!) warm during the cold.

Moisturizer with SPF

If there’s one thing you don’t forget to pack for Europe in winter, let it be this. The cold in Europe is brutal on your skin, especially when combined with super-drying heating systems. Make sure you fight back with a heavy duty moisturizer. For the daytime, I use Aveeno moisturizer as I have sensitive skin but also want SPF protection.

Remember you need to use SPF even – if not especially – only cloudy days as UV rays are always lurking, even in the winter, ready to prematurely age your skin. (I’m super melanin-challenged, so perhaps I’m a bit paranoid). I don’t want to wear SPF at night, so I have a thick Olay night cream that I use while I sleep to put some moisture back into my dry skin.

Finally, travel insurance

Yes, I know this isn’t something that you physically pack for Europe – but it is just as essential to consider during the packing process.

Personally, I think it’s extra important to have travel insurance in winter. European winter weather is hard to predict, so it is best to be prepared and protected in case of trip cancellation/delays, lost luggage, illnesses, or accidents. I recommend buying travel insurance as far in advance as you can, as I’ve found it’s always cheaper that way than booking shortly before departure.

I have been a paying customer of World Nomads for years and use them to cover me when I travel. The contract is very clear as to what it covers, the prices are affordable, the excess/deductible is very low, and if you find yourself extending your trip it’s very easy to modify your insurance on the go.

What to Wear in Europe in Winter (Quick Checklist)

In a word (well, three): Layer, layer, layer!

I went into more detail above, but basically, here’s how I dress for winter in Europe. I start with a base layer – for me, that’s my fleece-lined leggings and thermal top, but many people prefer wool base layers. On top of my thermal layers, I usually wear just a simple acrylic sweater and jeans.

To seal in all the warmth, I add wool socks, waterproof leather boots, a scarf, a hat that covers my ears, gloves, and of course – my ridiculously warm parka. That will usually keep me warm enough for just about any winter situation in Europe.

Here’s a quick packing list plus a few product recommendations for what to wear for winter in Europe:

2-3 thermal tops

I use these 32 Degrees thermal layers – I recommend having a few to swap between as they tend to get kind of sweaty during the day.

3 warm sweaters to layer on top

I love H&M for their non-itchy acrylic sweaters, but wool/wool blends also work great

2 pairs fleece-lined leggings

I am obsessed with my favorite fleece leggings – they are insanely warm!

2 pairs jeans

I wear these as an extra layer over my leggings. You can skip the leggings if it’s not that cold.

1 heavy jacket

Above, I recommended my North Face parka. While that’s my favorite, any warm jacket will do. What to look for: down or synthetic down lining, hood, waterproof, and windproof.

2 bras

Or however many you want, you do you.

7+ pairs of underwear

This depends on how long your trip is, but I prefer to have a week’s worth of underwear and do laundry on the road.

Bathing suit

If you plan to go to any thermal baths or saunas or the like while in Europe. If not, skip.

Flip flops

For walking around in your hotel/hostel when you don’t want to put on your boots.

1 or 2 knit hats

Since I’m addicted to fleece in the winter, this fleece-lined knit hats is a favorite

1 pair of gloves

I recommend a pair of touchscreen-friendly gloves so you don’t have to constantly take off your gloves to use your phone.

1 super-warm infinity scarf

I love infinity scarves like this one that you can wrap super close to your face and not have to worry about the wind with.

What to Pack for Backpacking Europe in Winter

There are a few special things you should bring if you are staying in a hostel or dorm in Europe in winter, which you can find below.

1 pair flip flops

I mentioned it above, but it goes double if you staying in a hostel!

1 travel towel

Most hostels in Europe don’t provide towels to guests and charge you to rent one. This can add up quickly if you are staying in multiple cities throughout Europe, so I recommend just bringing your own. Make sure you get the largest size or risk flashing everyone!

1 eye mask

I lived in hostels for the better part of a year and I swear by this contoured eye mask- it completely blocks out light, without putting annoying pressure on your eyes.

Some earplugs or good noise-canceling headphones

I love Hearos — they’re the gold standard for ear plugs. Alternately, if you listen to music to help you sleep, noise-canceling headphones can work wonders at drowning out inconsiderate roommates

Travel-sized toiletries

Most hostels don’t provide shampoo, body wash, etc. so make sure you bring your own. Instead of buying travel-sized toiletries, I recommend buying reusable GoToobs so you can pack your favorites from home.

Combination locks

I always check reviews of hostels to ensure that they have lockers available, as the risk of theft from fellow travelers is not something to take lightly. It’s really easy to just travel with a combination lock in case your hostel doesn’t offer their own locks so you can keep your valuables safe at all times.

Toiletries to Pack for Europe in Winter

Even though it is generally pretty easy for me to find all of my preferred brands in Europe, I do recommend bringing them from home if you can. For one, it’ll likely be cheaper. For another, it’s good to continue using the same products as back home as I find that travel and cold weather really stresses my skin and it’s nice to have continuity in the products that I use.

Here is a basic list of toiletries I typically pack:

When not seeing the Northern lights, dogsledding is a fun way to pass the time

Don’t forget the moisturizer!

ALL THE MOISTURIZER

Again, winter in Europe will destroy your skin. Even if you think you have oily skin, you will want moisturizer – the cold plus the overzealous heating in many cities means dryness, dryness, dryness. For daytime, I use Aveeno with SPF on my sensitive skin and Olay night cream for replenishing moisture overnight.

Kleenex packets

I seem to always get a cold when doing winter travel so it’s nice to have these on hand

LUSH solid shampoo

Great at reducing your liquid load when you travel and makes my hair feel amazing – just trust me. Buy online or in store from LUSH and you’ll save serious money over Amazon. As a bonus, it’s totally packaging free, so you reduce your plastic waste.

Menstrual cup or your favorite tampon/pad brand, if applicable

If you have a specific brand allegiance, you may not find it. I switched to a Diva Cup for travel and now I never have to think about stocking up on tampons, which is awesome.

Deodorant

I am not a huge fan of European deodorant. The options have gotten slightly better in the last decade, but I love Secret Clinical Strength and stash up on it every time I’m home… but then again, I am sweatier than most people are. Even in winter.

Basic medicine

You will be able to find all this in Europe, but trust me — you want to have the basics on hand in case you need them on the road.

I carry Pepto-Bismol for standard stomach troubles, Imodium as a nuclear option (i.e. riding the bus when I am sick), some sort of painkiller like ibuprofen for headaches and minor pains, and some sort of motion sickness tablets.

Cold medicine

If you’re prone to getting sick in the winter. be sure to buy some cough or cold medicine – especially if you are traveling to Scandinavia or Germany. I’ve found out firsthand that they are really stingy with some of the ingredients over the counter in Northern Europe. You’ll want to have some as backup if you are used to being able to take cold medicine, as that is not necessarily the case in, say, Germany.

Electronics to Pack for Europe in Winter

The most important thing to remember about traveling in winter is that batteries drain extra quickly. You will want to bring extra batteries for everything — especially your camera — and a portable battery charger for your phone and other electronics. Trust me on this!

If you are serious about your photography, I recommend bringing a tripod as well. Since there are fewer daylight hours in Europe in winter, you’ll likely want to do a bit of night photography (especially if you are visiting around Christmas-time and are around a lot of photogenic Christmas markets!). I travel with a cheap tripod and find it works well enough for most situations.

sweden in winter

Where it not for my tripod, I wouldn’t have been able to capture this!

Laptop, if necessary

I bring my 13″ MacBook Air everywhere but other people may prefer a tablet or an inexpensive netbook. I work on the road so a user-friendly, lightweight laptop is a must.

Kindle Paperwhite

In general, I’ve found that it’s not too hard to find English-langage bookstores in Europe (or at least an English-langauge section), but still – I love having a Kindle so that I can buy any book there is just via WiFi.

Travel camera

For all my photos when I travel, I use a Sony A6000 because it’s lightweight for a professional caliber camera, inexpensive, and a HUGE step up from a smartphone. I’m hoping to upgrade to the Sony A7 III soon, but it’s outrageously expensive so I am struggling with making the plunge. But a few of my friends have this camera and their photos are nothing short of magical!

Travel tripod

There are a few reasons why you might need a tripod for traveling in Europe in winter – if you are going somewhere where you may see the Northern lights or want to do night photography, such as lit-up Christmas decorations. I use a simple, cheap 50″ Amazon tripod and it works just fine and fits in my carry-on sized bag. If you plan to just take daytime photos, there’s no need for a travel tripod.

Portable charger

Your camera and phone lose battery like crazy when in the cold, so be sure you don’t forget a portable charger when you travel in winter. Anker is a reliable brand and what I personally use. I make sure I buy something that can hold multiple charges, so that if I forget to charge it one night it won’t be a big deal.

Adaptor, if necessary

The UK, Ireland, and Malta use a different plug than the rest of continental Europe, and Switzerland’s plug is slightly different than the standard European plug. So do a bit of research about where you are going before you get there. I recommend buying it in advance because while adaptors are easy to find everywhere, it can be annoying to try to find one on your first day.

Headphones

I use simple iPhone headphones typically but you may want noise-canceling headphones if you are noise-sensitive.

While this sounds like a lot of things on your winter in Europe packing list – and it is – I am typically able to fit it all in a carry-on sized bag by choosing thinner but warmer materials, wearing my heaviest stuff on the plane, and picking my daypack and backpack for travel carefully!

Is there anything I’ve forgotten to pack for Europe in winter? Is there anything else you’re wondering if you should bring? Let me know in the comments!

Allison Green is a former educator turned travel blogger. She holds a Masters in Teaching and a B.A. in English and Creative Writing. Her blog posts merge her educational background and her experience traveling to 60+ countries to encourage thoughtful travel experiences that both educate and entertain. She has been a speaker at the World Travel Writers Conference and her writing, photography, and podcasting work has appeared in National Geographic, CNN Arabic, CBC Canada, and Forbes, amongst others. Now based in the San Francisco Bay Area where she grew up, she has also lived in Prague, Sofia, and New York City.

Source https://www.bucketlistly.blog/posts/what-to-pack-winter-europe-packing-list

Source https://holidaystoeurope.com/tips-for-travelling-to-europe-in-winter/

Source https://eternalarrival.com/what-to-wear-europe-winter/

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