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. So, whether you are visiting the Berlin, Dresden, Munich, or Köln Christmas markets, be prepared with layers and the right gear!
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.
While this post is based on 7 years of living in Germany, I will say 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. 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 make sure you’ve pack everything you need to stay, warm, dry and comfortable.
Winter Clothing Essentials
The Top Half
- 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 when you take off your coat. Focus on practical and comfortable options that are great for layering. I love options that have a merino wool blend because it helps regulate your temperature, and you don’t have to clean them for your entire trip!
Some of my favorite basic T-shirts from PrAna, as they are great for layering. They are sustainable, organic, and SUPER comfortable, perfect for embracing Bavarian Christmas vibes. I own the Cozy Up, which also comes in plus size. Another excellent option for layering is the Patagonia regenerative organic cotton shirt. Regenerative farming practices are great for local communities and the environment!
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. Athleta, a certified B Corp, has a lovely long sleeve that transitions from a cafe to a Christmas market. As a bonus with those thumb holes, we all love.
Merino wool is one of the best products for layering and Christmas markets. Patagonia does a great job sourcing ethical or recycled wool for its long-sleeve. Other options are this basic from Icebreaker or a classic black long-sleeve made with recycled wool. Finally, I love this tunic sweater for a chic, practical look.
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 and PrAna have wonderful thicker flannels that are great for layering, keeping you warm, and that iconic winter look. I have invested in two quality flannels over the years. They are a good investment – lasting forever and practical for everything from camping and hiking to pairing with boots at the Christmas markets.
Sweaters are great for sipping Glühwein at a cozy outdoor cafe. Carve designs always has such cute sweaters that combine style and function. I especially love their tunic, which is roomy enough for layering for all the time you’ll be spending at Christmas markets and can be paired with boots for a look you can wear even to a nice dinner or one of Munich’s trendy bars.
Kari Traa is one of my favorite brands. They are women-owned, made for women, and foster an inclusive brand identity. Kari Traa sweaters are adorable with their classic nordic look and excellent quality. My Patagonia lovers will enjoy their take on a cozy winter sweater.
If you have a bigger budget, go in on a wool sweater from Nordic-owned Helly Hansen.
Similar to my taste, Ganesh loves his PrAna T-shirts. His go-to shirts are their classic crew shirt and his slightly more preferred, more technical, sustainable option – the Prospect Heights. Both these shirts go with just about everything as part of a layered or solo look.
Thankfully, PrAna has the Prospect Heights eco-friendly shirt in a long-sleeve option, or go for their laid-back henley.
Patagonia has loads of sustainable and comfy long sleeve shirts. Ganesh has their responsibly created long-sleeve and raves about how comfortable they are around the house or under a jacket. 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. Ganesh also loves a good merino long-sleeve for keeping his temp regulated underneath his jacket.
For the guy that 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.
For the warmest layer, one also can’t go wrong with this Smart Wool sweater for extra warmth. The Patagonia recycled wool sweater comes in many fun styles, from classic to festive.
The Bottom Half
You’ll need pants that can keep you warm or will 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 to cover your bum and thighs.
- 2-3 pairs of jeans or your favorite pair of long pants.
- Bonus for women:
- 1 plain dress made for layering and/or 1 skirt
- 1-2 pairs of thick leggings.
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.
Men can pack their favorite pair of jeans or even go with a trendy jogger.
For women, Dresses are a great way to have an all-in-one outfit. You want to choose a dress that can accommodate a thick pair of leggings and a sweater over the top of it.
PrAna has some fabulous sweater dresses that are perfect for wearing under a longer jacket, leggings, and some nice boots. These dresses are ideal for dressing up your look without losing out on warmth.
Ladies, I know we all have our favorite pair of leggings, but you must bring some thicker ones. I suggest leggings designed for the outdoors, like my favorite warmer leggings from PrAna or Smart Wool leggings. I even have a pair of thick wool tights I bought from a department store ages ago – perfect for pairing with a winter skirt.
Outerwear Essentials For Christmas Markets
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 might be more versatile for other destinations and easy to pack, you will need to supplement it with warmer base layers.
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. My mom always liked Colombia as a more budget-friendly option.
- 1 Waterproof/resistant jacket
- Bonus for Women: Winter skirt
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 3-1 jacket, and while they are an investment, they have your back in all sorts of weather.
Patagonia has a great 3-1 and one for those with a lower budget. Both come 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.
The one negative about 3-1 jackets is while they offer versatility in all sorts of weather, they can be a bit 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.
Ladies, I am OBSESSED with my insulated skirt(s); yes, I have multiple. They go over leggings or jeans to keep your butt and thighs warm.
On top of that, it looks super cute. If you do any amount of winter traveling, you NEED one! Smart Wool has one of my favorite styles. I love the stretchy sides for flexibility but look at all these great options.
Jackets for Men
My husband invested in a Patagonia 3-1 jacket and never looked back. It covers him for every weather situation we have here in Munich. His down layer is great for exploring Munich when it is dry outside. 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 has had it for 10 or more years.
Patagonia also has a more casual waterproof 3-1 option.
For the more budget-conscious traveler, this Free Country jacket should do the trick for a sharp look while traveling through Germany.
Base layers are so handy because they don’t take up a lot of room and keep you nice and toasty. I love wearing these leggings under my jeans or pants as they save me from the biting cold that can creep in after dark at the German Christmas markets.
- 1x long-sleeve base layer
- 1x pants base layer
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.
Hats, Scarves, and Gloves
You will need hats, gloves, and scarves. Above all else, these will keep you warm and are packing essentials for Germany in the winter during the Christmas market season.
- 1 Hat or headband to keep your ears warm
- 1 warm scarf
1 pair of flexible gloves – you have to get your hand around that mug of Glühwein afterall.
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.
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.
Men, they’ve got you covered with cool beanies, scarves, and gloves.