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!
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!
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 their classic V-neck, 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! 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 with 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 does a great job sourcing ethical or recycled wool for its 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 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.
Sweaters are great for sipping Glühwein at a cozy outdoor cafe. Or, they might be all you need for exploring during the day if the forecast doesn’t call for rain or snow. PrAna has the perfect eggplant purple sweater that is stylish and cozy. They also have a classic, simple sweater. 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. 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 that is stylish and a good winter staple.
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.
Ganesh loves a good classic T-shirt. Cotopaxi, a sustainable and comfortable brand, has a T, great for layering, with many sizes and colors. 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. Ganesh also loves a good merino long-sleeve for keeping his temp regulated underneath his jacket. PrAna also has a nice henley.
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.
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.
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.
I suggest leggings designed for the outdoors. I just wear SmartWool leggings as I can wear them multiple days in a row, and they keep my legs warm. If I want to wear something dressier, I just 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.
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 do any amount of winter traveling, you NEED one!
Men can pack their favorite twill jeans in a few colors. DU/ER, a brand I love also has an athletic-fit jean, 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.
- 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 quality thicker 3-1 and a lighter 3-1 one for those on a tighter 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. North Face also has a light 3-1 that saves space and is ideal for warmer, wetter winter conditions.
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 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. 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 just had Patagonia repair his jacket after 10 years and they did a fantastic job!
Patagonia also has a more casual waterproof 3-1 option.
For the more budget-conscious traveler, the lighter Columbia 3-1 jacket would be a great item to pack for your German Christmas market adventures.
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.
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.
Pistil has the men covered with cool beanies, scarves, and gloves. The North Face E-Tip gloves are also great for men as well.