If you’re about to head for a Christmas adventure through Germany, or on a snowy trip to Switzerland, you’re probably in need of a packing list for cold weather. This is why we have this guide on how to pack clothes that are warm, stylish, and will fit into your luggage.
Europe is a stylish continent, with magnificent architecture, gorgeous landscapes, and some of the most fascinating cultural traditions. It’s also full of fashion capital cities, and has its own unique fashion, even for winter clothing.
Luckily, we’ve spent enough time exploring European winter wonderlands to be able to help you with this. This packing guide includes basic guidelines to keep in mind when packing for cold weather. As well as a few ideas for items to take with you when traveling Europe in winter
Packing for Europe in winter
The most important thing to remember when compiling any cold season Europe packing list is that winter means very different things in various destinations. There may be surprisingly warm weather on a weekend in Rome, but at the same time temperatures could be below freezing in Denmark.
So, with the weather contrasts in mind, the first thing you need to do is research your European destination. If you’re traveling throughout Europe, then you’ll need to plan winter travel outfits that allow for diversity.
If you’ve only planned a weekend in Hallstatt, for example, then you definitely want warm clothes. But, if you’re heading off to Portugal for your winter trip, the country has milder weather so you may get away with some lighter layers.
Europe winter fashion
European fashion is unique from American fashion in many ways. Most prominently for the more ‘dressed up’ look that most Europeans opt for. While American fashion is often more laid back and comfy, this very casual look is not often seen in Europe. Winter clothing in Europe should be comfortable, but should still look classy and stylish.
European fashion is also a bit more conservative than in America and some other countries. This is especially important to note when visiting restaurants, churches, and other historic attractions. Items on your list of winter clothes for Europe should be respectable and smart in these places especially.
An item not often found in any European’s wardrobe is anything with a branding, like a sports team or fake university. Patterned clothing is also kept to a minimal, and usually, the color palettes will match the season.
Keeping up with winter fashion in Europe will prevent you from looking too much like a tourist. It will also mean that your outfit will be acceptable in even the strictest establishment.
Cold weather packing list: Winter clothes for Europe
Your own personal style will determine your individual winter vacation packing list for a Europe trip, but there are certain items that everyone should have. Never mind those essential items like underwear and tops, these are the general must-haves to bring with you.
The best winter travel outfit
What makes up the perfect winter travel outfit? Based on what we’ve already covered, let’s detail a few essential items that every winter travel packing list must have.
A versatile, warm jacket
You’ll want a warm jacket or coat that will last you for the entirety of your trip. The best travel coats will easily match the rest of your clothing and can preferably be packed away with ease. So, typically you’re looking for a packable, neutral-colored travel jacket.
Ladies: For ladies, the lightweight and packable Wantdo women’s down jacket is exactly what you need for a winter trip to Europe. This puff jacket can also be packed down into its very own carry bag, which will then fit neatly into a corner in your luggage. The jacket is water-repellant, windproof and has elasticated cuffs. Filled with 80% duck down, this is the only jacket you’ll need over your layers. It’s available in 13 different colors, as well.
Men: For men, Tommy Hilfiger's packable down jacket is the perfect lightweight, stylish piece of clothing. It’s comfortable enough to wear on the plane, and it comes with its own carry pouch that compacts it into the size of a large purse. The jacket has elastic in the sleeves and a drawstring at the waist, so it really locks the warmth in. It can be worn in cooler temperatures on its own, or over layers for the more extreme cold.
Comfy, lined pants
While jeans can be stylish and durable, they can also be annoyingly heavy, not as warm, and much harder to wear over layers. One pair of jeans can be a good travel standby, but European fashion calls for a more tailored look. So, when packing winter pants, it’s best to look for softer fabrics, lined with fleece, and pants that are comfy to wear in most situations.
Ladies: For warmth, comfort, and style (of course), a pair of ladies’ fleece-lined cargo pants by Clothin will do the trick. The water-repellent fabric protects against rain and snow, and the inner fleece lining keeps you warm in cold conditions. The pants are especially effective when worn over thermal leggings or thick stockings.
Men: Cargo’s fleece-lined cargo pants for men are the ideal winter travel pants. They’ll keep you protected from rain, wind, and snow. The fleece lining on the inside of the pants is warm and provides moisture-wicking, which is perfect for traveling. You can get these pants in a range of neutral colors, from plain black to khaki.
Thermal underwear is the best secret weapon against cold weather. This thin layer of clothing can be worn underneath anything and will add an extra layer of coziness to your outfit. Thermal underwear includes a long-sleeve top and long pants, so it covers you almost completely.
The best thermal underwear will have the following features:
- Heat retention
- Odor resistance
- 4-way stretch
- Soft & breathable fabrics
Ladies: Thermajane ladies thermal underwear offers all of these features in their thermal underwear. The two-piece set comes in six colors, including black, white, and even bright pink.
Men: Thermajohn fleece-lined thermal underwear is the men’s version of Thermajane, and these offer the very same features. Also sold as a two-piece, men can get their thermal underwear in four basic colors, namely black, grey, white, and navy.
Warm socks and/or thick stockings
Winter socks are, of course, an essential part of any packing list. When choosing socks, make sure that they’re thick enough to provide warmth. But they shouldn’t be so thick that they’ll be uncomfortable inside your boots.
Merino wool provides a lightweight option without compromising on any warmth, so these DG Hill hiking socks are sure to be a great travel asset this winter in Europe.
Ladies: Consider adding a pair of thick stockings as well. Not only do they provide an extra layer of warmth underneath jeans and other pants, they are a stylish way to avoid freezing if you’re going to wear a dress. Matched with your fashionable winter boots and travel coat, you’ll stay warm, yet still look chic.
For a great pair, check out VERO MONTE Fleece Lined Tights. These are made from 80% fleece, have an elasticated waist for slimming and comfort, and they go great with dresses and heels.
Best shoes for traveling in Europe during winter
Winter in Europe brings about the perfect reason to invest in a good pair of winter boots. The ideal footwear to have in your luggage is a combo of comfortable, durable, and warm. When looking for boots to take with you on your trip, you’re going to want to tick off a few criteria:
- Comfortable enough to walk in – you don’t want to be miserable during your city walking tours.
- Waterproof or water-resistant – winter in Europe brings rain and snow, so water-repellent shoes are a must.
- Anti-slip – with the wet weather comes wet cobblestone roads. The last thing you want is to be slipping on the streets.
- Stylish – Europeans love their fashion, so having boots that protect you, and look great while doing so, is a big plus.
Winter boots for Europe
Ladies: Ladies wanting something practical, yet stylish, will delight in the UGG women’s Kesey boot. It’s a fashionable boot with sealed seams, waterproof construction and has a full-grain waterproof leather upper. There’s also softer wool blend fabric on the sides. The outsoles are made with Spider Rubber and infused with cork, giving the boots amazing traction and grip.
Men: For men, Eyushijia’s Quicksilk waterproof snow boots are great for everything from exploring Europe’s best cities to admiring the world from the top of the Swiss Alps. They’re lace-ups, with a wide fit and a comfy inner sole. The faux leather outer keeps feet dry inside, and the rubber sole gives much-needed traction on wet surfaces.
If you have enough space in your bags, we’d suggest also taking a pair of walking shoes that go with your planned outfits. These will work well if you’re hopping between colder northern countries and slightly warmer southern countries. (You’ll also be glad you packed them if you plan on doing any walking tours.)
Whatever shoes you’re packing, they should be casual enough to be comfy, but not so casual that they clash with Europe’s winter fashion guidelines. The most important thing to remember is to avoid gym sneakers, as these are a bit too casual for strutting through Europe’s vibrant city streets.
Other important things to bring to Europe
Warm clothes and thermal underwear are vital when packing for a winter vacation in Europe, but so are the right accessories. If you’ve planned your travel capsule wardrobe for winter correctly, you can a few select accessories will ensure you are always ready for any occasion.
Warm hat or beanie
When you’re dressing for the cold, a cover for your head is essential. You want to protect your head from the wind, and avoid your ears from getting too cold. Beanies and other warm hats won’t take up too much of your luggage space. So, you can even pack a couple in different colors to add some brightness to your outfits while traveling.
Ladies: Furtalk offers a cute Slouchy Knit Beanie Hat. Crafted with a nice slouch cable-knit pattern, the fleece-lined knit hat accommodates any head size.
Men: REDESS offers a thick knit skull cap. The warm beanie is made with knitting yarn outside and lined with fleece inside, which keeps the elements out and the warmth in. The hat sits comfortably on all head sizes and is elasticated to stretch for those who need a slightly larger size. They come in 12 colors and are also available in combo packs with matching neck warmers.
ⓘ TIP: In Europe, baseball caps scream “TOURIST!!!”. Leave it at home; it won’t really keep you warm, anyway.
A stylish scarf
Throwing a scarf around your neck is not only a brilliant way to brighten up any outfit, it adds that extra layer of warmth on a chilly day.
Scarves take up such little luggage space that you can easily pack an assortment of colors and patterns. Two or three will give you enough variety to get you through any winter trip. Choose a scarf that is warm, yet lightweight and soft, so that you won’t feel pressed for space when packing in multiple options.
Men: We found Love Lakeside to have great quality scarves for both men and women. Their men’s cashmere-feel winter scarf is available in a variety of colors and patterns. They are soft to the touch, super-affordable and can be worn in several styles.
The women’s cashmere-feel winter scarf from Love Lakeside is just as soft and stylish as the men’s option. This scarf blends warmth with style and is made from high-quality materials. It’s also available in many vibrant colors that will add a bit of character to your winter outfits.
Gloves are yet another accessory you can use to add color and personality to your traveling winter wardrobe. Stash a few pairs in your bag and you’ll have warm fingers and a stylish flair throughout your trip.
A bonus would be winter gloves with touchscreen features. This means you won’t have to take your gloves off whenever you want to snap a travel photo or answer a text. It’s also a good idea to find moisture-wicking gloves to prevent your hands from getting sweaty and sticky whilst wearing your gloves.
Ladies: For the ladies, we suggest the Knolee thick screen touch gloves. They are a one size fits all, with stretch in them for longer fingers. They are practical, yet smart, and are built to keep your hands warm.
Men: Achiou winter knit gloves are ideal for men. These are comfy for all hand sizes, have great touchscreen capabilities, and are designed for warmth. They even have extra grip features on the palm to keep hands from slipping off the steering wheel when driving.
It’s important to wear sunglasses in winter, as you need to protect your eyes from the still-harsh rays of the sun. Polarized glasses will be especially great travel companions in snowy areas or anywhere there’s glare on wet pavement.
This is one useful accessory. It doesn’t take up much space, and you’ll really only need one good pair to see you through your winter vacation. You also don’t need to spend large amounts of money, which is wonderful if you mistakenly leave a pair along your way.
Regardless of which style and shape you prefer, there are some essential features to look for:
- UV protection
- Durable frame
- Comfortable fit
- Scratch-resistant lens
- Lightweight design
Considering all of this, we’ve heard great things about SUNGAIT glasses, for both men and women. With fantastic features at an affordable price, you can’t really go wrong.
Moisturizing cream for dry skin
Often a forgotten item, moisturizer is super important, especially for those coming from warmer conditions. Your skin is likely to become dry in the foreign climate (it did for us!). And nothing ruins leisurely browsing through Christmas markets like dry, painful, cracked skin.
Transfer your favorite hand and body moisturizer into a travel bottle and you’re good to go.
ⓘ TIP: Choose one with a non-greasy feeling that absorbs instantly so you can get dressed immediately. This body balm is inexpensive, paraben-free, and gets excellent reviews.
Lip balm for cracked lips
Supergoop Fusion Lip Balm is ideal for both men and women, and it’s got SPF 30 sunscreen, so it’s great to take on a trip to the snow. It’s made from natural ingredients, has fabulous vitamins from your skin, and doesn’t leave a shine on your lips.
Optional items for your winter packing list
The following items may not be needed by everyone, but they’re worth mentioning:
- Warm pajamas – Your hotel room may be toasty enough inside that you don’t have to overthink your pajama choice. And, we’d hope that your accommodation offers a warm space and comfy blankets. However, a good pair of winter pajamas can be a lifesaver if you happen to find yourself in a chillier room.
- Slippers – If you wear them, these are worth the space. But, if you’re wanting something softer to keep your feet warm while lazing in your room, then definitely pack your favorite pair.
- Bathing suit – Europe has many fabulous heated pools, spas, and thermal resorts (Budapest has a bunch!), so don’t automatically leave it behind.
Packing winter clothes in a carry-on: How to pack for cold weather
For a short trip to Europe trip in winter, smart packing will allow you to fit all the essential clothing items, without needing check-in luggage.
The best way to ensure you fit an entire vacation’s worth of winter clothes into your carry-on – whether you’re spending a weekend in Vienna or a week in Finland – is to layer and leave Justin Case behind.
- Don’t pack anything “just in case.” If you forget something essential, it’s available there.
- Two lightweight items, layered, are warmer than one heavier item.
- If you re-wear items multiple times, no one else will notice.
- Buy quick-dry items and hand-wash. Hotels are used to it.
When it comes to packing winter clothing for a Europe trip – or any trip – packing cubes are a lifesaver. Here’s why we like them:
- Packing cubes keep your suitcase from becoming a jumbled mess,
- They compress your clothes, allowing you to fit quite a number of warm clothing items into a small area.
- Besides, they’re convenient when TSA wants to check your luggage.
This AmazonBasics luggage storage set is good value for money. The set has four sizes, so you’re bound to find the perfect one to fit into your carry-on luggage. (We’d recommend the ones we use, but they’ve been discontinued.)
With or without packing cubes, if you’re going to fit your winter basics into one bag, it’s going to have to be a top-quality carry-on that’s lightweight. We suggest the TravelPro Maxlite. This 4-wheeled luggage can comfortably fit your cold-weather clothes along with the rest of your travel gear.
How to pack light for a trip during winter
While the idea of packing all of your cold weather clothing into a single carry-on may seem impossible, it’s not! It is absolutely doable if you follow a few packing rules:
- Wear heavier items more than once, and hand-wash things like socks and underwear.
- Create a travel capsule wardrobe with a few items that you can layer and switch up.
- Choose similar neutral colors for big pieces, like your coat, belts, bags and shoes (black or brown/tan, for example). These can be paired with patterned layers and accessories, and they won’t clash.
- Include one pair of versatile winter boots to wear while traveling, and one pair of sneakers for your bag.
- Wear your jacket on the plane. This will keep you warm when boarding and landing. It can also be extra cushioning for your seat during the flight.
- Pack lightweight layers. Thermal underwear, merino wool tops and sweaters, warm socks, and fleece-lined leggings won’t take up unnecessary space, and they’ll be useful in freezing conditions.
Packing for winter travel summary
Packing for winter in Europe really just entails creating a conservative, fashionable capsule wardrobe made up of warm and versatile items. As long as you have high-quality base items, you can add in your own personality and be your own stunning, stylish self throughout your European winter vacation.
Be sure to choose a good looking coat, as these will show up in many of your travel photos. And don’t be shy when adding accessories to your outfit. Just remember that to blend in with European winter fashion, you should keep things smart and classy.