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Last updated on May 27th, 2024 at 09:38 am

Are you curious about what winter essentials you need when visiting German or other European Christmas markets? Packing for a German or Munich Christmas market holiday can be tough, especially if you’re not used to colder and wetter weather. German Christmas markets, especially the ones in Munich, are often cold and snowy, and in markets in the north, you might be battling rain. You should also expect to be walking outside for long periods, so good waterproof walking shoes and thermal layers are essential to surviving the markets. As someone who grew up in a cold climate and lived in Munich for 7 years, this is the best packing list for winter essentials to keep you warm and dry at Germany’s Christmas markets.

what to pack for German christmas markets winter essential packing list

I travel with my husband, so this guide to cold-weather European essentials includes both men’s and women’s clothing approved by Ganesh or myself! As a bonus, while this packing guide is geared toward German Christmas markets, it should work almost any European Christmas market, including the Alsace Chrismas markets in France, Swiss and Austrian markets!

You won’t find Amazon affiliates on any of my pages as I try to practice what I preach. When you can, shop locally; when you can’t, shop ethically. This post generally supports REI a U.S.-based co-op with a solid diversity and inclusive policy,  Patagonia which has an extensive climate policy and supports a circular economy, PrAna a company focusing on sustainable supply chains, and smaller businesses like Pistil, or women-owned companies like Kari Traa. These are brands I use, love, and believe in their sustainable and ethical vision – so you can dress your best for the German Christmas Markets and feel good.

I also encourage you to go into your closet and think about the pieces you already own that will work for your European Christmas market holiday. You likely have some warm layers that work in the snow and rain. If you don’t have some of the winter essentials, you may need to go out and buy a few things to make your trip more enjoyable. Or, you might even have a friend with a winter jacket that will let you borrow it for a holiday. However, all the items I recommend are versatile, functional, and classic – great to add as a staple for any traveler’s wardrobe.

QUICK LOOK

  • Expect temperatures ranging from below-freezing to 40F
  • You will be outside for long periods, including at night!
  • Layers and technical garments are your best friend!
  • Snow and rain are likely – waterproof shoes are a must!
  • Don’t forget your hat, gloves, and scarf.

It is all about layers. Temperatures across Germany can drop close to or below freezing around Christmas, with many areas receiving snow. January is the coldest month in Germany, so expect temperatures to drop the closer you get to the end of the year. It would be a shame to have to turn in early if you weren’t prepared for the winter weather in Germany. On the other hand, other parts of Germany or even regions can be warmer and experience more rain. So, whether you visit the Berlin, Dresden, Munich, or Köln Christmas markets, be prepared with layers and the right gear!

Residenz Munich Christmas Market

Be warned, though, Germans crank up the heat indoors, so as soon as you go inside, you will want the option to peel off those layers.

This post is based on 7 years of living in Germany, and we’ve had some cold and warm years. Especially with climate change, German winters are getting milder. My mom came for Christmas in 2019, and it was pretty warm and sunny. Other years I have been freezing my butt off with big jackets. This is another reason why layers are so important – for those wild, random spikes and drops in temperature. Additionally, places like Alsace average temperatures in the 40s, while Berlin and Munich might be closer to the low 30s. 

Always check the weather forecast before you arrive to ensure you’ve packed everything you need to stay warm, dry, and comfortable.

Winter Clothing Essentials

The Top Half – Overview

  • 1-2 basic T-shirts that go with various bottoms (leggings or jeans), and you can easily layer them over a base layer and underneath a jacket.
  • 2-3 Long-sleeve shirts that layer well.
  • 1 flannel or button-down shirt – great for more on-the-go layering or active excursions.
  • 2 sweaters or cardigans. If you’re prone to cold weather, make it wool for extra protection.

You don’t need fashion-forward tops, as they will likely stay under your jacket most of the time. You will likely visit cafes and restaurants, so you’ll want to feel comfortable removing your coat. Focus on practical and comfortable options that are great for layering. I love options with a merino wool blend because it helps regulate your temperature, and you won’t have to clean them for your entire trip!

Women’s Tops

Some of my favorite basic T-shirts from PrAna are great for layering. They are sustainable, organic, and SUPER comfortable, perfect for embracing Bavarian Christmas vibes. I own their classic V-neck, which also comes in plus size. Another excellent option for layering is the Patagonia regenerative organic cotton T-shirt. Regenerative farming practices are great for local communities and the environment! If you like color, Outdoor Afro has some great, classic T-shirt staples supporting Black visibility outdoors.

For long sleeves, I can’t rave about Patagonia’s eco-friendly, regenerative, organic cotton shirt enough – a classic, cozy style that truly gives back. PrAna also has a great long-sleeve shirt made from mostly recycled materials. As a bonus, it has those thumb holes we all love. 

Merino wool is one of the best products for layering and Christmas markets. Patagonia has a great Merino long-sleeve. Other options are this basic from Icebreaker. 

Throw in a flannel button-down as one of your long-sleeve options, as you can easily take it on or off based on current temperatures. Patagonia has a line of flannels that I love, and they have so many colors to choose from! PrAna has wonderful thicker flannels that are great for layering, keeping you warm, and giving you that iconic winter look. I have invested in two quality flannels over the years and have 0 regrets. They last forever and are practical for everything from camping and hiking to fall adventures, and they transition well so that you can pair them with cute boots at the Christmas markets.

Christmas market ornaments

Sweaters are great for sipping Glühwein at a cozy outdoor cafe, or they might be all you need to explore during the day if the forecast doesn’t call for rain or snow. Patagonia does a great job sourcing ethical or recycled wool for sweaters and recycled cardigans, which are stylish and cozy. You can pair either of these with nice boots and wear them to a nice dinner or one of Munich’s trendy bars. 

Kari Traa is one of my favorite brands. It is women-owned, made for women, and fosters an inclusive brand identity. Kari Traa sweaters are adorable with their classic Nordic look and excellent quality. 

If you have a bigger budget, you can invest in a wool sweater from Nordic-owned Helly Hansen. A staple like this is great for travel to any colder European country.

Men’s Tops

Ganesh loves a good classic T-shirt. PrAna has some great men’s basic Ts that are great for layering. Or, if you sweat as much as Ganesh, especially with layers, then a technical daily shirt from Patagonia is the perfect solution. These shirts go with almost everything as part of a layered or solo look.

Patagonia has many sustainable and comfy long-sleeved shirts, including a responsibly created long-sleeve. For those not a fan of the large Patagonia logo, their regenerative henley is excellent for the environment and exploring Christmas markets. The waffle neck crew is a classic that can be dressed up or down. Cotopaxi also has a great longer shirt

Ganesh also loves a good Merino long-sleeve to regulate his temperature underneath his jacket. PrAna also has a nice henley

Munich Christmas Market Guide-33

For the guy who gets a little colder, Ganesh swears by his flannels. Go with a classic look from PrAna or Patagonia. I also love this thicker button-down that works well for transitioning from the Christmas market to a restaurant for dinner. 

One also can’t go wrong with this SmartWool sweater for extra warmth for the warmest layer. The Patagonia recycled wool sweater comes in many fun styles, from classic to festive. 

The Bottom Half – Overview

You’ll need pants that keep you warm or allow for a thin thermal layer underneath. Wind can easily cut through jeans, so pack those thermal layers. Another way around this is to get a longer jacket or skirt to cover your bum and thighs.

  • 1-2 pairs of your favorite pair of long pants
  • A thin thermal layer that goes under your pants
  • Bonus for women:
  • 1 plain dress made for layering and/or 1 skirt
  • 1-2 pairs of thick leggings.

Women’s Bottoms

I love a good everyday cord for women during the holiday season. I have a chocolate brown pair, and I find they are perfect for staying cozy and fit right in with all the holiday decorations. If you are a jeans person, I recommend DU/ER pants. I have a pair of their shorts, and they are tanks – they pair well with everything and are durable, comfortable, and last!

Dresses are a great way to have an all-in-one outfit. You want to choose a dress that can accommodate a pair of leggings or tights, a flannel or jacket, and a pair of boots. Patagonia makes a great classic dress, ideal for all that layering. 

Munich Christmas Market Guide-30

I suggest leggings designed for the outdoors. I just wear SmartWool leggings, which I can wear multiple days in a row and keep my legs warm. If I want to wear something dressier, I throw on an old pair of wool tights I bought from a department store ages ago.

 I am OBSESSED with my insulated skirt(s); I have multiple. They go over leggings or jeans to keep your butt and thighs warm. I have a thick classic, Skhoop skirt, perfect for cold temperatures. 

What to Pack for Winter in Germany Munich Christmas Markets

For warmer temperatures, I invested in a SmartWool skirt. I love the pockets and wear this with my SmartWool leggings all the time. These skirts are super cute, blending style and warmth. If you travel any amount during winter, you NEED one!

Men’s Bottoms

Men can pack their favorite twill jeans in a few colors. DU/ER, a brand I love, also has an athletic-fit pair of jeans that is perfect for travel.

Ganesh, being a super casual Australian, prefers a good jogger.

Outerwear Essentials For Christmas Markets

Jackets, Baselayers, and Outerwear

A great outdoor jacket that keeps you dry and warm is essential to pack in Germany for the winter Christmas markets. You want a waterproof or water-resistant jacket so those snowflakes and raindrops don’t take away from your time spent drinking Glühwein. If you go with a lighter jacket that is more versatile for other destinations and easy to pack, you must supplement it with warmer base layers and cute warm accessories like hats, gloves, and scarves.

what to pack for German Winter Christmas Market Vacation

  • 1 Waterproof/resistant jacket
  • 1x long-sleeve base layer
  • 1x pants base layer
  • 1 Hat or headband to keep your ears warm
  • 1 warm scarf

I strongly advocate investing in a winter jacket that will last you years. Patagonia and North Face have excellent warranties, including repairs to your jacket, and I’ve used and love both brands. 

Jackets for Women

If you invest in any piece of winter clothing, I highly recommend a 3-1 coat. These jackets transition with you from cooler to warmer climates for various seasons and weather conditions. I mean, you are buying 3 jackets in one. I have a lighter 3-1 jacket, and while they are an investment, they have your back in all sorts of weather. I also have a heavy parka for extreme cold weather.

Patagonia has a thicker, high-quality 3-1, lasting 10+ years with Patagonia’s exceptional warranty and commitment to sustainable outerwear. Colombia, a brand my mom swears by, has an even more affordable option with a stylish look and faux fur hood. North Face also has a light 3-1 that saves space and is ideal for warmer, wetter winter conditions. I have this and use it for winter in Vancouver and travel. 

The one negative about 3-1 jackets is that while they offer versatility in all sorts of weather, they can be bulky. If you want to stick to a classic winter coat without the 3-1 option, then Patagonia again has you covered. Feel free to search through REI’s selection to find what fits your taste and needs.

Finally, while down jackets are great for light packing, they are often not waterproof. I will pack my Patagonia micropuff PLUS my Arc’teryx rainjacket and layers when trying to save space. My Patagonia micro puff is so old it’s been repaired by Patagonia once, and the style has been updated. While Arc’teryx is expensive, it lasts forever and is the best rain jacket ever. This combo wouldn’t be my first choice for Christmas markets as it would be something I would wear backpacking in cooler weather, but in a pinch, if you need to save space, you could make it work. 

Jackets for Men

My husband invested in a Patagonia 3-1 jacket 10 years ago and has never looked back. It covers him for every weather situation we had while living in Munich. His down layer is great for exploring Munich when it is dry outside, and the outer layer provides expert waterproofing. The Patagonia brands are a bit pricy, but they are high quality, and Patagonia will always repair or exchange your older, worn-out items. He had Patagonia repair his jacket after 10 years, and they did a fantastic job! 

Patagonia also has a more casual waterproof 3-1 option.

North Face 3-1 Thermoball is the same jacket I own, just in men’s and I love mine!

Munich Christmas Market Packing Essentials

For the more budget-conscious traveler, the lighter Columbia 3-1 jacket would be great for your German Christmas market adventures. 

Base Layers

Base layers are so handy because they don’t take up a lot of room and keep you nice and toasty. I love wearing base layers under my pants as they save me from the biting cold that can creep in after dark at the German Christmas markets. 

You probably only need light base layers as it doesn’t get super cold in Germany, and you don’t want bulk under your clothing. 

REI has its line of light base layers, including tops and bottoms for women and tops and bottoms for men. I love the REI line as they are affordable, comfortable, and versitile.

Hats, Scarves, and Gloves 

You will need hats, gloves, and scarves. Above all else, these will keep you warm during the Christmas market season. You want gloves that still allow for dexterity – as you gotta get that hand around a mug of Glühwein. If you want to take a gamble, you can pick up these cold weather packing essentials AT the German Christmas markets, as many market vendors will be selling their hand-knit wares. 

This is where I diverge from my REI recommendations because Pistil is a fantastic hat, glove, and scarf manufacturer. They are based in Oregon and are a lovely small business committed to ethical and pro-environment practices.

For Women

Their entire line of gloves for women is exactly what you want to wear while exploring the festive markets. However, their scarves might be my favorite product, with the thicker ones perfect for keeping your nose and chin warm. They also have hats for every style, from headbands to beanies.

If you care more about practicality, then I also have and recommend the North Face E-Tip glove for warmth, dexterity, and functionality.

For Men

Pistil  has the men covered with cool beanies, scarves, and gloves. The North Face E-Tip gloves are also great for men as well.

Shoes and Intimates

You only need 2 pairs of shoes for this trip, a pair of water-resistant boots and some nice walking shoes that aren’t so bulky. Pair those with warm merino wool socks, and you are set for tromping around the snow.

  • 1-2 comfortable bralette/bra.
  • 5-7 pairs of quick-dry underwear.
  • 3-5 pairs of wool or quick-dry socks.
  • 1 pair of boots.
  • 1 pair of walking shoes that can double as going-out shoes.
  • Pair of shower/sauna shoes
  • Swimsuit if your hotel has a sauna.

For Women

Pack your favorite bra. I know you have your go-to, but I may suggest breathable, comfortable bralettes underneath all those layers. But, I don’t wear traditional bras anymore. The same goes for undies – activewear options are ideal for travel and keeping your booty warm and dry. About 90% of my socks are SmartWool. I have them in every size and shape. Don’t forget to turn them into REI to recycle once they get holes in them! The other brand I love is Farm to Feet. This mindful sock brand has warm, cute socks and is committed to ethical business practices

Waterproof boots. You can go for some stylish black ones, a more neutral color, or thermal waterproof Blundstones.

It is also quite common in Munich to wear stylish winter boots such as knee highs or lower booties, but make sure they are treated for water.

For Men

Again, activewear undies for men, are great for travel. Ganesh also has a closet full of SmartWool socks, and Farm to Feet are a great sustainable alternative. 

You could wear a classic winter boot, reliable Sorels or the ever-stylish waterproof Blundstones.

Misc. Reminders

Along with your self-care, toiletries, passport, phone, chargers, etc., don’t forget these essentials!

  • Converter for the EU
  • Lotion and lip balm. Munich and Germany are dry during the winter, and you want to stay moisturized.
  • Reusable water bottle that will keep things cold – or hot. Germans don’t offer free water, and it is hard to find. Please bring your own bottle and fill it up.
  • A tote bag for shopping at the Christmas markets. 
  • Hand warmers if you get cold easily.
  • Cash: Germany is a cash-based economy. Ensure you have the means to access cash. A coin purse is also handy as the Germans use the pfand system for the Glühwein mugs, and you’ll get a lot of 2 euro coins back.

Book Your Accommodation

Find the best accommodation in any of the cities or villages you’ll visit during your German or European Christmas holiday.

Book Your Transportation

Germany has amazing public transportation. You can easily take a train from any major city to enjoy more of Germany’s Christmas markets. Cozy up with your winter essentials and enjoy a train ride from Munich to Cologne to Berlin. I recommend using Omio to book easy-to-understand routes and timetables around Germany, all in English. Even while living in Germany, I used Omio as I love their tech integration, and it is great for any foreigner to use. The rates are the same!

Packing Guide for German Chrismtas markets winter essentials

Plan Your Entire European Christmas Market Adventure!

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Discuss and Share

Hopefully, this guide to packing for your German and European Christmas market winter vacation was helpful. These winter essentials will keep you cozy and warm as you explore Germany’s best markets, including in my favorite city of Munich.

Did I forget any winter essentials that you consider a must-pack for European Christmas markets? Are you heading to a German Christmas market this year? Let me know what you are packing in the comments.

Packing Guide for German Chrismtas markets winter essentials
what to pack for German christmas markets winter essential packing list

Curiosity Saves’ Travel Resources & Tips

Accommodation: Booking.com to find accommodation with a Genius Discount and clear third-party sustainable certifications like Green Key. Look for local hotels.

 

Tours and Excursions: GetYourGuide for tours, excursions, and tickets.  Viator by Trip Advisor has better activities for some of my favorite destinations, like my home state of Alaska. Look for eco certifications, avoid tours that promise wildlife encounters, support local guides, and book low-emission activities. Search the tour operator to ensure you support ethical operators.

Travel: Omio for booking buses and trains in English across Europe. After reducing the number of flights I take annually, I use Google Flights for their carbon comparison tool. 

 

Car Rental: Discover Cars for the best rates in English globally. It is easy to find hybrids and EVs along with resources for finding chargers. 

 

Packing Essentials: REI or your local Co-op have great essentials like reusable water bottles and cutlery setsPatagonia for regenerative clothing.  Farm to Feet for socks made with regenerative practices! Pistil Designs for cold-weather essentials. Osprey for bags that last 10+ years like the day bag for hiking or my favorite carry-on.

 

eSIM: Airalo eSIM. Reduces waste from single-use SIM. A total game-changer.