Planning your packing list for Europe in winter can seem daunting, especially if you’re planning on only bringing a carry on bag.
The good news is, it’s totally possible! I packed just a carry on bag for a 17-day trip through Europe during winter with no trouble. Temperatures in Paris, Dresden, Prague, Krakow and Munich were between 30-50°F and I was more than warm enough with what I packed in my carry on. If I can do it, you can do it even better!
So get ready to drink glühwein everyday, feel the magic at Christmas markets and see snow fall over Europe’s most whimsical cities. This post gives you a breakdown of exactly how much you can pack in a carry on, plus Europe winter outfit ideas and cold weather packing essentials.
Here’s the Breakdown of My Packing List for Europe in Winter
The bulleted list is the number of items I packed for a 17-day trip through Europe in December and January. It will help you understand what you can realistically fit in a carry-on size backpack or suitcase so you don’t have to repack five times.
- 4 long-sleeve shirts
- 1 long-sleeve dress and pair of warm tights
- 1 very thin, long-sleeve sleep shirt
- 1 pair pajama shorts
- 1 pairs of jeans
- 2 pairs of leggings (one pair was fleece-lined)
- 5 pairs of socks
- 2 beanies
- 1 scarf
- 2 pairs of gloves
- 20 pairs of underwear
- 2 bras
- 1 bathing suit (I made a quick stop to the Dead Sea)
- 1 pair boots
- 1 pair rubber sandals (for showers)
- 1 hair straightener
- 1 packable backpack for day trips
- 1 Quick-Drying Towel
- 1 compact toiletry bag
- 1 heavy mid-thigh-length black coat (This never went in my backpack. I always wore it or carried it with me.)
Packing List Essentials for Winter in Europe
Quality Carry-On Size Backpack or Suitcase
If you’re healthy and don’t have any back issues, I strongly recommend traveling with a backpack. You do so much walking in Europe and having a backpack is so convenient while moving from city to city or using public transportation. The backpack I use and recommend is the Cotopaxi Allpa 42L Travel Pack. It has a clam-shell opening (like a suitcase) and excellent organization.
For a suitcase, I recommend the Hanke 20in Carry On because it’s durable and has 360° wheels.
If you’ve been traveling without packing cubes until now, this is your sign to get these compression packing cubes. Packing cubes keep your bag organized and make packing and unpacking so much easier! Rather than tearing through your bag to find one item, you can neatly pull out the packing cube it’s in without making a huge mess.
Toiletry Bag With a Hook
If you’re backpacking Europe in winter and staying in hostels, a hanging toiletry bag is a must to keep your bag off nasty bathroom surfaces. I find that this Narwey Hanging Toiletry Bag is the perfect size and I love the pretty print.
Water-Resistant, Heavy-Weight Coat
The winter coat you bring to backpack Europe will make or break your trip. Seriously. I did a December Europe trip two years in a row and the first year I was so underprepared. I brought a shitty Forever21 winter coat and layered with a thick sweater and I was MISERABLE! The second year I got a quality winter coat and the weather was almost a non-issue!
If you’re in the market for a stylish, quality winter coat, get the WANTDO Women’s Winter Parka. This water-resistant winter coat will keep you warm in even the coldest European winters while standing up to rainy days. And it’s affordable!
Comfortable Winter Boots
Finding the perfect pair of winter boots for traveling Europe can be kind of tricky because you want them to be warm enough and comfortable while also being stylish. If you’re on the hunt, I recommend trying Rockport Ryleigh Gore Chelsea Waterproof Boot because they’re comfortable, waterproof and go with everything!
Secret Pocket Infinity Scarf
A Secret Pocket Infinity Scarf can be your secret weapon against pickpockets in Europe. You can store your passport, cash and cards right around your neck without anyone knowing! Though I wouldn’t plan on storing your cell phone or a heavy wallet in your scarf. It’ll fit but it just becomes too heavy around your neck (I’ve tried).
Outfit Ideas for Europe in Winter
European Winter Outfit Idea #1: Sweater Dress + Warm Tights
Wearing a dress during winer in Europe might seem a little crazy but I got by just fine even in frigid weather! The key is to get warm tights or even fleece-lined tights so your legs don’t freeze. I didn’t use fleece-lined tights and got by but I’ll be wearing these tights next time.
European Winter Outfit Idea #2: Long-Sleeve Shirt + Jeans
It’s best to bring simple outfits that are easy to mix and match when packing light, and you can’t go wrong with jeans and a long-sleeve shirt. Plus, you’ll be wearing your coat so often people won’t even see what you’re wearing. These 100% cotton thermal tops are nice to have and so comfortable. Or this dressier top would be perfect for New Year’s Eve or a night out.
European Winter Outfit Idea #3: Long-Sleeve Shirt + Fleece-Lined Leggings
These black fleece-lined leggings are a must for any winter carry-on packing list. They hardly take up any space in your bag, they go with everything and they keep you warm!
Happy packing and safe travels! ?✈️
Do you have any packing tips, packing lists or awesome packing resources? I’d love to hear about them in the comments! I need all the help I can get. 😉