First things first – winters in Europe get cold. Depending on where you are in Europe you might be enjoying temperatures as high as 20 degrees Celsius (Canary Islands) and 17 degrees (Lagos, Portugal or Malaga, Spain) or freezing your a** off in as low as -40 in the coldest areas of Russia (Yakutsk) and -10 in places like Bulgaria, Lithuania, Finland and Norway. One year I visited Sofia in Bulgaria in January and the temperature was -21! This packing list for Europe in winter will cover a variety of different temperature ranges and weathers, from cold and rainy to freezing and snowing.
Aside from warming yourself up with copious quantities of mulled wine (I’d say I definitely didn’t do that at the Christmas markets in Belgium but I would definitely be lying) the main thing to do is come prepared. Temperatures can vary hugely from the middle of the day to late evening and during the night. Plus in many countries (*cough* the UK *cough*) rain can suddenly materialise out of an otherwise lovely seeming day.
If you’re not sure what you need to pack for jaunting around Europe in winter, this guide should help you with all the information you need!
The Ultimate Packing List for Europe in Winter
Top Tips for Packing in Europe for Winter
First off – how cold does it get in Europe in winter? Well, as I mentioned previously, it depends entirely on where in Europe you are. It’s a lot warmer in the Mediterranean (think Greece and Italy) than in the Baltics (Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia) or Scandinavia (Finland, Norway and Sweden). If you’re going to a mix of different countries then make sure to check the forecast for them all!
My top tip for Europe in winter is layering. To be honest, my top winter tip is layering anyway. As much as I love a chunky knitted sweater, they take up a lot of room and often leave you overheating when you go indoors or when you’re on public transport. Plus they are the worst if they get slightly wet as they take absolutely forever to dry!
My second tip is accessories – don’t forget your scarf, a hat, gloves and thick socks to keep yourself all snug and warm. If you’re feeling fancy, you can even bring out the earmuffs and mittens too.
What Shoes to Wear in Europe in Winter
So, what sort of shoes should you bring? Are only trainers (sneakers) necessary, can you get away with boots or should you whack out the snow boots? Once again, this depends somewhat on where you are travelling to. If you’re heading somewhere like Iceland, I would 10/10 say pack snow boots. These are probably the only reason I didn’t break down crying in the middle of the snow when I went to Iceland in January – cold feet are seriously the worst and snow is the worst time to discover that your boots aren’t entirely waterproof.
Going somewhere it’s likely to snow? You can get some really cute snow boots that work in all weather – they look stylish whether it’s snowing, raining or just a bit chilly!
Quick Glance Packing List
Here is a quick list of everything I’ll be going into in more detail below:
Thermal under layers
Sleeveless tops/cap sleeve tops
Long sleeve tops
Tights (optional – I like to wear these under my jeans)
Socks (including at least one or two pairs of thick winter boot socks)
Warm, waterproof boots (and snow boots depending on your destination)
‘Going out’ shoes (if applicable)
Scarf (or two)
Gloves (you can take a thin pair of ‘smartphone’ gloves as well as a thicker ski pair)
Earmuffs (optional – great if it’s going to be below -10)
Day bag (backpack or shoulder bag)
Umbrella (optional – I just have a coat with a hood)
Swimsuit (optional – depends if you will have a pool!)
Detailed Packing List
Tops and shirts
I’m not a big fan of long-sleeved tops so, personally, I don’t actually own any myself. I generally wear a strappy top and layer over the top with a sweater (or two, dependent on the temperature) and a thick, warm coat.
I usually bring at least one ‘going out’ style top. It’s great if you’re going out to a bar one night or decide to go to a fancy restaurant. Depending on how long you’re travelling for, I tend to bring around 3-5 tops for a week trip.
You can also bring a long sleeve button down shirt and wear it over a strappy top or a base layer.
Thermal base layers
Don’t forget some warm base layers, especially if you’re going anywhere super cold like the Nordic countries or eastern Europe. Whether you go for a pair of long johns or a thermal undershirt, you definitely won’t regret them. They are essential in your packing list for Europe in winter, particularly since they roll up compact and take up very little extra room in your luggage. But when it gets into the negative degrees, you’ll definitely be glad you brought them along!
Sweaters and cardigans
Does anyone else just love sweaters?! Seriously, shopping for them is so therapeutic, I love finding one that’s super cosy and I basically want to live in. When I’m travelling, I will usually take at least two sweaters (or sweatshirts) and occasionally a longline cardigan as well. If you’re travelling for a week or less, I would recommend a maximum of two. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself lugging around way more knitwear than you need!
Usually, I find that sticking to fairly neutral colours works well. Once I took along a light blue sweater and realised that the only jeans I had were also light blue, meaning that my sweatshirt weirdly blended into my trousers. It wasn’t exactly the best look and I ended up carrying around a sweatshirt I never wore for an entire week – total dead weight. So, in short, don’t be me and plan your wardrobe in advance! I generally go for grey sweaters as they look good with pretty much everything.
Perfect for dressing up a little bit! Layer it with a pair of tights or leggings and some cute boots and you have a perfect going out outfit. Great for those shots for the gram 😉
Jeans, trousers and leggings
I pretty much live in jeans all of winter, so this is my favourite section. Usually, when I’m travelling I’ll take two pairs of jeans – one black and one blue. If I’m travelling for longer than a week I might bring a third pair or a pair of non-jean trousers (pants, for you Americans).
If you’re travelling somewhere that it’s likely to snow heavily, a pair of waterproof overtrousers can be a really good idea. They aren’t exactly the sexiest trousers you’ll ever wear… but they’ll definitely keep you dry and warm! You can put them on over your jeans or a pair of leggings and take them off when you don’t need to wear them.
I would also recommend packing at least one pair of leggings – a good pair of thermal leggings can be worn underneath your jeans on a cold day and keep your legs super warm and snug while still looking stylish. This was how I dressed every day in Iceland!
Warm, winter coat
Probably (aside from shoes), the most important thing in this list. You can have all the jumpers in the world but if you don’t have a decent winter coat then you will still get cold. The best coats are waterproof, windproof and still breathable. Brands like Canada Goose offer excellent outerwear, although are more on the pricy side but they will definitely last. However, if you don’t want to spend too much there are still lots of great options around.
Don’t forget – 99% of the photos you take will probably feature your coat so if you’re concerned about looking cute in your photos then make sure you love your coat! I would recommend finding a coat that is warm enough for your coldest destination, has great pockets (my coat has fur lined pockets and it’s legitimately the best thing ever), a good hood and will match your outfits. Colours like black, grey, navy blue etc are often a good shout since they will match pretty much everything.
If you want to bring a ‘statement’ coat for photos, I’d recommend bringing a windbreaker in a bright colour that you can pack quite small in case you don’t want to wear bright red or yellow in every photo.
Windbreaker and/or fleece
Particularly if you’re going to a mix of destinations and don’t think you will always need a super warm coat, it can be pretty handy to bring along a windbreaker and/or a light fleece that you can roll up super small and bring out when the weather is milder. I would definitely recommend bringing a packable windbreaker/light rain jacket – they barely take up any room and can be perfect if the weather isn’t that cold but there’s a wind chill or some rain.
A fleece can be handy for layering under your raincoat if it’s a little too chilly for just that but not quite cold enough for your big winter jacket. You can also layer it under your winter coat if it’s really cold!
Underwear, socks and tights
Definitely a must include – there’s nothing worse than getting somewhere and realising that, somehow, you forgot to pack your underwear. My dad knows this feeling as, on one family trip, my mum managed to forget to pack any of his pants (boxers).
I tend to bring a pair of underwear for each day I’ll be travelling. You can also bring a maximum of a week’s worth and do laundry if you’re travelling for longer. I’ll also pack a spare bra (or two) and if I’m going on a long-haul flight I’ll take a soft sports bra for comfort on the flight. Underwire and an 8+ hour flight is not my friend…
Read my post on what essentials to pack in your hand luggage for a long-haul flight!
Don’t forget to bring a mix of trainer socks and warm boot socks, especially if you’re going to be wearing heavy winter boots. Cosy socks are the best and I’ll often wear them over my normal trainer socks for extra warmth.
I also pack at least one pair of tights. They’re great for wearing under jeans (even if the jeans are quite snug!) or for pairing with a sweater dress or a skirt if you want to dress up one evening.
Warm winter boots
Aside from your warm winter coat, these are the most important thing. The rest of you can be super snug and warm but if your feet are cold – or, god forbid, DAMP – you will be miserable.
A friend of mine discovered in Krakow that her boots weren’t 100% waterproof. This is Poland. In January. With snow. She ended up having to go and buy a new pair because otherwise she spent the entire day with cold and damp feet and wasn’t having a good time at all.
So, don’t do that. I took snow boots because I thought I *might* need them. Oh good lord, I needed them. I took them to Iceland the year after and my feet were the snuggest of the snug in my big snow boots and thick winter socks.
Standing in the snow for three hours to photograph the Northern Lights? No problemo. (Okay, mostly no problemo, my hands did get a bit chilly having to operate my camera in gloves thin enough to actually press any buttons… BUT MY FEET WERE TOASTY.)
Lots of winter boots are super cute while still being functional – just make sure that they are waterproof, warm and comfortable.
Here are some of my recommendations to add to your packing list for Europe in winter:
Sneakers or light boots
Especially if my main pair of shoes are pretty big and hefty, I will usually pack a smaller pair of shoes like trainers (sneakers) or some boots that are a bit more stylish and better if I feel like going out in the evening. These can also be great if you’re not somewhere super cold and just need a lighter pair of footwear.
My current favourites are these wool runners from Allbirds – they’re super comfy, pack well and they’re also really warm as well. They also offer ‘loungers’, super cosy slip-on shoes that work as slippers indoors as well. Win!
Does anyone else just LOVE pyjamas? Like, they’re just so great. Finding a new pair of pyjamas that’s amazingly cosy and you just want to live in is basically a life goal, am I right?
Anyway, if you’re travelling to Europe in winter you will definitely want to pack a cosy pair of PJs! I tend to get quite warm during the night so I usually wear a short-sleeved top with long pyjama pants but have a pair of leggings/joggers and a sweatshirt in case I’m too cold.
When I went to Iceland in 2016, our hostel was pretty warm but my feet always got cold so pack a pair of slipper socks (or use your thick boot socks) if you’re prone to chilly footsies.
If you’re sharing a bed with someone, you can always just warm your cold feet up on them.
Yep, it’s a rare occurrence but we do occasionally get some winter sun over here. Pack a pair of sunglasses just in case, especially if it’s snowing. Sunlight reflecting on snow can be brutal on the eyes!
As well as making a great pillow on the plane or on a bus or train, a scarf is a must-bring for Europe in winter! Whether you’re a ‘snood’ type or a fan of a knitted scarf, definitely make sure you’ve packed at least one!
You can also opt for a ‘blanket scarf’, which is perfect for keeping the chill off your neck and also keeping cosy while travelling.
A warm winter hat is a must when travelling to Europe during winter. I’m a big fan of a cute bobble hat but you can also go for a standard beanie or, if you’re feeling adorable, go for some ear muffs. You can even get ear muffs that have headphones in them, perfect for listening to music even if it’s a bit brisk outside. Either way, make sure your hat will cover your ears and keep you warm!
Plus, a cute hat is a perfect way to look stylish during winter in Europe:
Gloves or mittens
Funnily enough, this is actually what I forgot to take on my last trip. FAIL. When it’s in the minus degrees, you definitely don’t want to realise you left your gloves at home, especially if you want to be taking photos. Believe me, it’s hard to make your camera do what you want it to when it feels like your fingers are blocks 0f ice.
You can get touchscreen-compatible gloves, as well as fingerless gloves with a mitten attachment. Whichever you go for, make sure they keep you warm! If where you’re going is likely to have snow, don’t forget a pair of waterproof gloves. Damp wool gloves are not going to help keep those hands warm, so make sure you have a pair to keep out the snow.
A day bag or daypack is going to be your main bag for carrying things during the day when exploring a city or town. Make sure your bag is big enough to carry everything you’ll need during the day (e.g. camera, lenses, power bank, charging cables, snacks, water bottle, purse etc) and comfortable to carry. Also make sure it’s safe to carry around in a city – be careful of pickpockets, especially in cities like Paris or Barcelona.
I generally bring a shoulder bag rather than a backpack as I feel safer being able to keep a hand on it at all times. I’ll also usually bring a small purse bag that’s perfect for just putting my phone and some money in if I’m going out in the evening.
There are a few more things you might want to bring, including:
- Umbrella (I usually don’t bring one as my coat has a great hood)
- Swimsuit (if your accommodation has a pool/spa)
- Power bank (I always carry one or two with me, whenever I travel)
- Universal adaptor
- Chapstick/lip balm
I hope you found my packing list for Europe in winter useful!
Travelling Europe in winter is an amazing time – from Christmas markets with pretty lights and lots and lots of mulled wine to seeing the Northern Lights explode across the night sky. With the right clothing, you’ll enjoy it to the full!
Let me know in the comments if you have any questions or if you are travelling Europe this winter!
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