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Austria Christmas Market Trip: Innsbruck Houses in December

The Ultimate (Cozy) Packing List for Europe: Winter Edition

Europe Packing

Growing up, I never thought of myself as someone who liked winter in the slightest–but then we packed our bags for Europe in winter and headed off to a world of Christmas markets, mulled wine, and snowy villages, and I realized that winter might just be one of my very favorite seasons.

Putting together a packing list for Europe in winter, especially for your first trip, is definitely a bit trickier than in other seasons. The best things to pack for winter in Europe tend to be heavier and bulkier than those you pack for summer (stating the obvious, I know)–and they also tend to come with higher price tags.

Plus, for those of us who, like Jeremy and I, grew in warmer climates, understanding what exactly you need to stay warm during winter in Europe is a bit of a trial and error process (seriously: neither Jeremy nor I owned so much as a peacoat until we were adults).

Český Krumlov in Winter: Couple in Cesky Krumlov

Learn from our mistakes experience with this packing list for Europe in winter: after many cumulative months spent traveling Europe during the winter, from the charming Christmas markets of Austria in December to the cold-but-manageable temperatures in Rome in February and beyond, we’ve definitely learned exactly what to pack for Europe in winter.

Here’s what we suggest adding to your packing list for Europe this winter.

Salzburg in WInter: Carved Houses at Christmas Market

How to Use This Packing List for Visiting Europe in Winter

Obviously, every packing list for Europe in winter will need to vary based on your exact trip–seeking out the northern lights in Norway will absolutely call for a different packing list than strolling through Christmas markets in Germany.

This winter packing list for Europe is designed for a trip that focuses mostly on cities and villages–think Christmas markets, snow-capped villages, and cold-but-surprisingly-empty-of-tourists cities like Paris and Venice. 

If you’re planning a cruise to the Arctic circle or a skiing holiday in Switzerland, you’ll likely need to pack some travel gear not included here (also, please take us with you).

We’re more-or-less defining winter here as late November, December, January, and February–these are generally the coldest and darkest months of the year, and when we break out our winter packing list for Europe.

Kate and Jeremy in a Vienna Christmas market taking a selfie. Kate is holding up and red and white Santa mug.

The Absolute Essentials for Visiting Europe in Winter

Passport — Good luck visiting Europe in winter without it!

Travel Insurance — We don’t ever suggest traveling without travel insurance–anything can happen on the road, and traveling abroad is definitely a case of better safe than sorry. We use and recommend World Nomads for winter trips to Europe.

Visa (If Needed) — Though 26 countries in Europe are part of the Schengen Zone that allows many nationalities (including US citizens, Canadians, and Australians) to enter and travel freely between their countries for 90 days for tourism, that still leaves around half of Europe’s countries that are not part of this agreement.

Regardless of where you are from, always double-check entrance requirements before showing up at the airport to fly to any European country (and any country that isn’t your own).

Austria Christmas Market Trip: Department Store in Vienna

Money — We recommend bringing two credit cards (one to use, and one to keep as a backup), and two debit cards. Ideally, bring cards with no foreign transaction fees. We’ve never felt it necessary to obtain currency before arriving (we just withdraw from an ATM when we get there), but you can purchase most currencies in your home country if it makes you feel more comfortable.

Keep in mind that not all countries in Europe are on the Euro, so be sure to double-check what currency you’ll need based on your itinerary!

International Driving Permit — If you are coming from outside the EU and plan to rent a car during your winter trip to Europe, you may need an International Driving Permit to do so! Italy is particular is well-known for enforcing this requirement. Be sure to check the rental requirements in any country that you plan to drive in before you arrive!

Couple standing in from of Colosseum, One Day in Rome -- Rome in a Day

Travel Gear You Should Definitely Pack for Winter in Europe

Camera — We recently upgraded to our Sony a7R III and absolutely adore it, but whatever camera you’re comfortable with works–just make sure you have something with you to preserve your memories! 

Extra Batteries — The further north you are going on your winter trip to Europe, and especially if you’re headed to photograph things like the northern lights, the more likely you are to need lots of extra camera batteries. The cold kills batteries very quickly (and long exposures don’t help either), so come prepared.

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Travel Adaptors for Europe — If you’re coming from outside of Europe, you’ll definitely need adaptors for your electronics. Be sure to check the requirements for any particular countries you visit–the United Kingdom, for example, is well-known for using different plugs than most of the continent.

Pacsafe — We can’t recommend our Pacsafe enough: this travel safe is affordable, sturdy, easy to pack, and will help keep your valuables safe in your hotel room (not that you should need to worry much about theft from your hotel room during your trip to Europe, but it’s better to be safe than sorry!).

Kate sitting on a wall next to a canal in Bruges Belgium, with a wooden inn in front of her. Kate is wearing a black coat--by mid-November in Europe, you'll want a coat in many areas!

Comfortable Day Bag — We currently use Pacsafe’s sleek anti-theft backpack and love it, but if you don’t want to shell out the cash for this trip, that’s totally understandable. Just aim for something comfortable to wear, not flashy, and medium-sized–we used a Northface Jester backpack for years and loved it as well.

Umbrella — Option A: Plan on buying an umbrella when it starts pouring down rain. Option B: Plan ahead and buy a (probably much sturdier) umbrella before leaving. Option C: Hope you get lucky with the weather. In our opinion, Option B is definitely the best!

Portable USB Charger — The same cold weather that drains your camera batteries will impact your phone as well–when traveling through Europe in winter, your phone will likely die much faster than in the summer. Be sure to come prepared by packing a portable USB charger!

RuMe Bag — Incredibly light and easy to pack, a RuMe bag can serve as a grocery bag, laundry bag, or just about anything else–but when packing for Europe in winter, there’s definitely a better-than-zero chance it will become your Christmas market shopping bag (ours sure does, anyway). RuMe bags are incredibly easy to pack, and we definitely recommend adding one to your packing list for Europe this winter. We’ve been carrying ours for years and it never stops coming in handy!

Austria Christmas Market Trip: Christmas Lights in Vienna

Nalgene — Cut down on plastic waste during your trip to Europe this winter and bring a reusable water bottle along with you. These come in especially handy at Christmas markets, where you may occasionally want to drink something other than mulled wine with your salty snacks.

Swiss Army Knife — Want to open wine bottles in your hotel room, slice cheese from the market, or cut up that baguette from the bakery? You’ll be so glad you brought along a Swiss Army Knife!

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Student ID — If you’re a student, you’ll be entitled to lots of discounts on museums and attractions throughout Europe. Be sure to add it to your packing list for Europe.

Purell Hand Sanitizer — We carry this everywhere, and never been sorry to have it floating around in our day bag.

Cell Phone — We spent more than a year traveling without working cell phones, just relying on wifi… and while that’s completely fine, we would never go back. Consider purchasing an international plan for your cell phone (most carriers offer them), or, if you have an unlocked phone, you can just by a local SIM card once you land in Europe.

Couple in Soprabolzano: these coats are a great example of what to add to your packing list for Europe winter.

Packing List for Europe: Winter Wardrobe for Women

Deciding what to wear in Europe in winter will certainly be highly influenced by where exactly you’re going–but if you’re looking for an excellent base, all-in-one female wardrobe for Europe in winter, this is it!

Base Layer

I’ll be honest: if you’re headed to southern Europe, you can probably get away without packing some cozy thermal tops and leggings–I always have, anyway, with the exception of my trusty fleece-lined leggings.

If you’re headed further north, though, you’ll definitely want to make sure you’re bundled up–this thermal set is a great option.

Couple on roof of St. Stephen's Basilica, Best Things to Do in Budapest

Dresses

My personal preference is basically to live in dresses when visiting Europe in winter (and always, really), so I tend to pack a ton of them.

Layered with fleece-lined leggings, a thermal layer if necessary, a warm coat, cozy boots, and great accessories, dresses like this or like this work great for winter in Europe.

If you have room in your suitcase, consider bringing an adorable sweater dress along as well.

Maxi dress fan? Maxi dresses like this can be great for keeping warm during winter in Europe, but bear in mind that in snowy/icy/wet conditions, the bottom might get dirty and uncomfortable, so plan accordingly.

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Tops

Thin sweaters like this that are easy to layer and cute tops like this are perfect for exploring Europe during winter.

A fun chunky sweater is a great way to mix things up, but to save space, we recommend only packing one, and only if you have space in your luggage.

I also love to bring my Northface fleece pullover along for travel days and to act as an extra layer when needed–I’ve had it for close to 10 years now and it’s still going strong.

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Bottoms

A great pair of skinny jeans is essential when packing for Europe in winter–I’m obsessed with this pair–and thick fleece-lined leggings like these are excellent options as well.

If you prefer wearing pants, you might also like to bring an additional pair of jeans–black ones like these are a great way to mix things up.

If you like skirts, consider packing a cute skirt like this to layer with thick tights.

Ice skating rink in Vienna Austria: consider what kind of activities you want to include when packing for winter in Europe!

Waterproof Boots

A good, cozy pair of waterproof boots is incredibly important when putting together your winter packing list for Europe–more likely than not, you’ll wear them almost 24/7, so they need to be comfortable, functional, and fashionable.

I’m currently loving this pair, and something like this pair is another good option (mostly for non-snowy places, though–opt for something taller otherwise!).

Unless you’re planning a hiking or skiing trip–something where you’ll be out in nature with heavy snowfall–I personally feel that snow boots are overkill.

Of course, with good boots you need good socks–look for moisture-wicking wool ones like these to help counteract the inevitable reality of sweaty feet.

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Coat

Your coat, along with your boots, is among the most important items to pack for winter in Europe.

Be sure to choose a coat that’s lined, and if you don’t pick one that’s waterproof (to be honest, I generally don’t, but that’s personal preference), be sure to throw in a travel umbrella and/or a rain jacket (I use this one) as well.

If you’re sticking to southern or central Europe, something like this or like this is similar to what I generally choose and am comfortable in.

If you’re headed to northern Europe or you just tend to get cold faster than average, you might want to consider bringing a down coat like this–I can tell you right now that this would have been very cozy to walk around Vienna in last winter!

Hidden Gems in Rome: Girl in the Galleria at the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj

Bathing Suit

Seem counterintuitive to add a bathing suit to your packing list for Europe in winter?

Depending on your trip, it might be–but if you are headed to a hotel with a jacuzzi or sauna–maybe even one that overlooks a delightfully snowy mountain–you’ll be thrilled to have it along.

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Accessories

Accessories during winter in Europe are absolutely essential.

Don’t start packing for Europe in winter until you’ve picked out a cozy hat, scarf, and gloves at the absolute minimum–and if you plan to take tons of photos when out and about in Europe (who doesn’t?) make sure that your gloves are touchscreen compatible.

I also love these boot cuffs for a little extra warmth and to mix up my look.

Also, fair warning: while you absolutely want to have the basics covered, don’t worry much about packing extra hats and scarves for your winter trip to Europe–that’s what all the markets are for.

Winter in Salzburg: Girl at Christmas Market

Pajamas

I don’t include these on our packing lists for Europe in any other season, because honestly, I tend to sleep in whatever is lying around more often than not, but hotel rooms in Europe during winter pretty much come in two categories in our experience: sweltering and freezing.

If you happen across the second, you’ll be thrilled that you took the time to pack some cozy pajamas for your winter trip to Europe–I recommend something like these (whimsical pattern optional, but highly encouraged).

Christmas Lights Chandlier in front of pink Roman building: Rome in Winter

Packing List for Europe: Winter Wardrobe for Men

Base Layer

As I mentioned in the female packing list section, you will probably be able to get away without a base layer in southern Europe most of the time–but if you’re headed further north, definitely be sure to pack a thermal set layer underneath your clothes!

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Tops

Long-sleeved shirts like this and thin sweaters like this are both great options to add to your winter packing list for Europe.

If you prefer thick, chunky sweaters, you can certainly throw one like this in your bag, but bear in mind that they do take up lots of space and generally still need to be layered with other things.

Bottoms

Winter in Europe calls for a good pair of jeans like these. You’ll want to bring along some additional slacks or chinos as well.

Salzburg in WInter: Man with mug rental

Waterproof Boots

A comfortable pair of warm, waterproof boots is essential to your Europe winter packing list–Jeremy is currently wearing this pair and loves them.

Be sure to bring along some moisture-wicking, warm socks as well–we suggest wool ones like these–to counteract the possibility (really, almost guaranteed reality) of sweaty feet.

Unless you’re planning a hiking or skiing trip–something where you’ll be out in nature with heavy snowfall–I personally feel that snow boots are overkill.

Bathing Suit

If you’re headed to a hotel with a jacuzzi or sauna, consider throwing a bathing suit into your suitcase!

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Coat

When deciding what to wear in Europe in winter, choosing your coat is among the most important items.

Choose something lined and very warm. If you’re traveling in central or southern Europe and layer appropriately, something like this or like this should work fine.

If you’re headed further north or plan to do a lot of outdoor activities in the snow, you’ll want to strongly consider a down coat like this.

If you don’t choose a coat that’s waterproof, be sure to bring along a travel umbrella and/or a raincoat when you go out.

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Accessories

A warm hat, scarf, and gloves (we recommend touchscreen gloves like these so you can use your phone with them on) are must-haves when packing for Europe in winter.

While you should absolutely arrive in Europe with at least one of each, don’t worry too much about extra hats and scarves–extras can make cheap, fun, and easy-to-find souvenirs from your winter trip to Europe.

Pile of knit hats laying on a wooden table at a Christmas market in Innsbruck Austria--you'll be able to pick up plenty of souvenirs like this, so don't put too many accessories on your packing list for Europe winter!

Pajamas

As I mentioned in the women’s section on what to wear in Europe in winter, we don’t tend to pack pajamas for most seasons in Europe–but if you happen across a particularly freezing hotel room, you’ll be incredibly glad you packed a set of cozy pajamas.

If you tend to prefer to stay extra warm when you sleep, consider throwing them in when packing your bags!

Street scene in Rome with Christmas lights and decor, Rome in Winter tips

Other Travel Gear for Your Winter in Europe Packing List

Moisturizer — Dry skin is a notorious problem when traveling in Europe in winter–be sure to bring a good face moisturizer (I’ve used this one for years and supplement with my Paula’s Choice products), and a good body lotion as well.

For lotion, we definitely recommend packing the kind that comes in a puck instead of a traditional bottle–it’s so much easier to pack and carry that way, and there’s no chance of the top of the bottle accidentally opening and damaging your clothes (definitely had that happen before).

Lip Balm — Trying to eat delicious, salty snacks at a European Christmas market with chapped lips is a special kind of annoyance–trust me.

Sea Bands & Non-Drowsy Dramamine — If you’re prone to motion sickness like me, I strongly recommend adding Sea Bands and Dramamine to your packing list for winter in Europe–you just never know when a long ferry or mountain road might call for some assistance.

Woman in a black coat standing in front of Budapest Parliament in November.

Thermos — Look, this one is personal preference, but if you enjoy the luxury of sipping on a hot cup of tea at your leisure while walking through frigid streets as much as we do, consider adding a Thermos to your packing list for Europe this winter!

Money Belt — This is up to you: we no longer use one, but if you’re more comfortable having your passports on your person while exploring Europe this winter, you can consider bringing one. We used to use this one and had no complaints. These days, we prefer just to leave valuables in our Pacsafe during the day.

Travel Journal — If you want to keep a travel journal during your winter trip to Europe but can’t commit to a huge amount of writing each night, I can’t recommend the One Line a Day Journalenough–I’ve been using it for more than two years now and absolutely love it.

Vienna to Cesky Krumlov by Train: View of Cesky Krumlov from Castle Tower

Basic Medication — Some people prefer to buy medication for basic headaches, fevers, and stomach aches as needed, but who wants to deal with language barriers when they’re sick? We’ve never regretted packing our own basic meds.

Extra Memory Cards — Don’t stress about your camera’s memory card getting full–bring extras along! They’re so tiny you’ll barely notice them, anyway.

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Tripod & Wireless Remote — If you’re traveling with a group and want to ensure that you get pictures of everyone together, a tripod and a remote will allow you to snap non-selfie photos easily! When packing for Europe in winter, a tripod will also give you the flexibility to take more photos in low light, whether that’s the northern lights or just taking advantage of the beauty of European cities after dark.

Salzburg in Winter: Christmas Ornaments

Important Tips for Packing for Europe in Winter

Check. The. Weather.

The weather in Europe–especially when we’re talking about an area as enormous and diverse as the entire continent–can be very unpredictable. The truth is, you won’t really know what kind of weather you’ll be dealing with on your winter trip to Europe until you get to your destination.

Take our trip to Dubrovnik this February, for example. Some days, I wore my winter coat. Some days, I wore this:

Fun Things to Do in Dubrovnik Croatia: Girl walking staircase on city walls

And sure, I had fleece leggings on under the dress and a light jacket with me to throw on when the wind picked up–but still.

The unpredictable nature of the weather only gets more dramatic if you’re in the mountains, so keep that in mind!

It’s all about the layers.

Layers will keep you warm and cozy while also saving room on your packing list for Europe in winter–chunky sweaters may look great (and if you love them, sure, pack one), but they also take up lots of room in your bag and still require layers underneath them to keep you appropriately warm.

Plan ahead: and seriously, that base layer I mentioned in the winter wardrobe section above is worth considering.

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Keep the sun in mind.

Winter in Europe is characterized as being dark and gray, and the further north you go, the truer that is. 

When making plans for your trip, keep in mind that there are times of the year where even in central and southern Europe you can expect the sun to set well before 5:00 PM.

If you have plans that depend on having daylight–like photos, for example–plan accordingly (and consider packing extra batteries and a tripod to get some great night shots–we took the below photo on a cold but glorious morning in Rome last February).

Castel Sant'Angelo with bridge at night, What to Do in Rome at Night

Pick a great coat, because it’ll be in all your photos.

I mentioned this above, but it bears repeating: there’s a reason that the vast majority of our winter photos from Europe show us in whatever coat we happened to have packed for that winter trip–it’s far too cold to bother taking them off!

Your coat will end up in just about all of your photos, so make sure that you pack one you truly love.

Personally, I have an enormous preference for coats that tie at the waist because I like to think that they help with the inevitable marshmallow effect of wearing tons of layers–but whatever makes you feel confident and excited to explore is the right coat for you.

Photo of model house carvings as seen at a Christmas market in Salzburg. White and cream text over a red background in the center of the image reads "The Ultimate Winter in Europe Packing List"

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Kate has been traveling the world full-time for more than 3 years. She tries to keep a balance between going on new adventures and exploring favorite destinations (like Italy!) in depth, and is always on the lookout for the next beautiful overlook and delicious meal.

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