One of the best times to visit Europe is in the winter.
There aren’t as many tourists to deal with and there are beautiful Christmas markets to explore.
You might even get lucky with some snow!
Personally, I think it’s the best season to travel in.
Sometimes it’s going to be cold and the sun does set earlier than usual but that doesn’t mean you’re not going to have a good time. As long as you come prepared with the right clothing and you don’t mind the cold weather you’re going to have an amazing trip!
In this post I want to share some practical Europe winter travel tips so that you can make the most of your next winter trip.
Europe in the Winter: Travel Tips
Come Prepared With Winter Gear
One of the easiest things you can do to make winter travel more enjoyable is to come prepared with reliable winter gear.
This means a proper winter coat, winter boots, warm sweaters, long-johns, gloves and a hat that covers your ears.
It’s important to keep your head, hands and body warm. This way your body doesn’t have to work as hard to maintain a warm temperature.
Take a look at outer and inner layers to stay warm and keep your heat in. You don’t need an entirely new wardrobe but a few key pieces can impact how warm or cold you are during the day.
The most important items of winter gear are your winter hat, gloves, jacket and socks.
Take a look at my post on the best winter jackets for travel. It shows how to find the right winter jacket for your traveling needs. A jacket with an outer, waterproof shell and an inner fleece liner is a great choice.
With the right gear and coverage you’ll be able to stay warm all day.
For your winter hat and gloves I recommend going with merino wool. This material is comfortable, retains heat well, and will keep you dry under your layers.
If it’s going to be raining or snowing a lot you could look for gear with waterproof design.
Take a look at my post on choosing the right travel socks. It will help you find the best socks for traveling in the winter,
Layer Your Clothing
Layering your clothing is the best way to stay warm in the winter.
Wear your clothes in a way that you can easily add or remove items depending on how warm or cold it is.
Start with a lightweight t-shirt or undershirt as your base layer. Overtop of that you’ll wear a sweater. Then wear your coat on top of the sweater.
This way if it’s too hot you can take off your coat or remove your sweater and have your t-shirt on underneath. If it’s too cold you can add another layer.
Some other winter travel accessories you should pack include a scarf, long johns, and cozy pair of pajamas.
A scarf is one of the best accessories you can use for layering. You’ll be much warmer if you decide to use it!
Long johns are ideal if you’re going to be spending a lot of time outside in harsh winter weather. Cozy pajamas are going to make it easier for you to get comfortable and relax after a long day of exploring.
Visit Around Christmas
One of the best times to visit Europe is in November and December.
It’s during these months that most countries start celebrating the Christmas holidays. From the middle of November Christmas Market start going up and many cities start decorating.
Europe at Christmas is one of the best places to be if you’re someone that loves the holidays.
You can explore the Christmas markets snacking on gingerbread. There are enormous fully decorated Christmas trees everywhere you go. Mulled wine is available everywhere. It’s the ultimate Christmas destination!
Some places are better than others if you’re looking for the best Christmas destinations or Christmas markets in Europe.
Germany, Austria, France, and England go all out for Christmas. In these countries you’ll find amazing Christmas markets and decorations in most cities and towns.
Traveling during the holidays doesn’t have to be stressful! Take a break from the family and plan your own winter trip to Europe for Christmas!
Here are some of the posts I’ve written about Christmas markets here on the blog:
Use Proper Footwear
Keep your feet warm.
That’s one of the best Europe winter travel tips you’ll ever get. If your feet are cold you will stay cold and it doesn’t matter how well layered you are.
You want to use boots that are designed with winter, snow and cold weather in mind. I recommend taking look at my post on the best winter boots for travel.
If you’re traveling somewhere that gets a lot of snow or rain during the winter consider going with something waterproof. A waterproof lining is going to keep your feet warm and dry.
Leather boots or running shoes offer little protection against winter elements. They’re not a good choice to bring with you traveling in the winter.
The problem with winter boots is that they’re typically heavy and uncomfortable. Look for something that’s stylish, lightweight, and able to keep your feet protected from the elements.
Something waterproof isn’t 100% necessary. Though if it snows or rains you might have to deal with wet feet.
When it’s warm outside it’s easy to stay hydrated.
You’re usually sweating or tired from walking around. You naturally reach for a bottle of water or stop for a cold drink at a local cafe.
In the winter that’s not typically the case. It’s possible to go the entire day without feeling like you’re thirsty.
Staying hydrated in the winter helps your body to stay warm.
It encourages blood flow to your extremities and hydrates your skin and lips. This helps to protect your skin from the harsh winter elements.
When you’re out exploring a new city make it a point to grab a drink every few hours. You could stop by a local cafe for a cup of coffee or pick up a water bottle at a grocery store.
There are plenty of benefits to stay hydrated while you’re traveling. In the winter it’s especially important so don’t let the day go by without having anything to drink!
Carrying around an insulated thermos full of a hot drink is a good idea during the winter. It will help you stay hydrated and will keep you warm as well.
I prefer carrying around tea in my thermos although you could add any warm drink you want.
Recently I started using a Hydroflask for my warm drinks.
Check out my Hydroflask review if you’re looking for a water bottle to use for winter travel.
When you’re exploring a new city for the first time you probably forget to take breaks and relax.
It’s important to rest your feet and sit down every so often. This is going to help keep you feeling refreshed and give your feet a rest from so much use.
In the summer it’s easy to sit in the park or somewhere outside. In the winter it can be too cold and unenjoyable to relax outdoors.
When you’re traveling during the colder winter months it’s a good idea to head inside every so often. This is going to give you a quick break from the elements and allow you to warm up.
It’s so refreshing being able to relax for a few minutes and get warm, especially during those windy winter days. This is a great time to visit a cafe, check out some small shops or grab a quick bite to eat.
On those really stormy and cold days consider visiting a museum, gallery, or any indoor attraction. Even the mall is a great place to escape the cold and warm up.
Doing this is going to give your body a chance to recharge itself. In the long run you’ll be able to spend more time outside during the day if you take advantage of these quick breaks.
Watch Your Step!
You know what’s not fun? Slipping on a patch of black ice and smashing your head off the sidewalk!
A serious fall could cut your trip short. In this case it’s a good idea to consider picking up travel insurance. That way if there is an accident you’re completely covered!
Thankfully with basic precautions you’ll be able to avoid falling altogether!
Europe is a walking-friendly culture. People in most cities walk everywhere even if it’s snowing or icy outside.
Keep an eye out on the sidewalk when you’re walking around. If the sidewalk looks wet or it’s covered in snow and you can’t tell then avoid that area.
The snow is shoveled and the sidewalks are salted or sanded quickly in most European cities. If you’re going to be traveling early in the morning or late at night be extra careful when you’re walking around.
A good pair of winter boots is going to make it easier for you to get around. Anything that comes with a grip and solid support is great for winter travel.
Don’t forget to take it slow and keep an eye on the ground ahead of you in precarious conditions. Hold the railing when you’re going up and down stairs, especially if the stairs are wet or slippery.
Keep Up With the Weather
During the summer when you can count on it being sunny it seems that you never have to worry about the weather. The opposite is true during the winter where you want to to stay on top of things if you’re planning on spending time outdoors.
A few days before your trip start checking the weather report online. Check to see if there’s any snow or rain in the forecast and what the temperature is going to be like.
This is going to let you know whether you need to bring boots, an umbrella, a winter coat, or anything else that might help you with the elements.
- Check out my post on the best travel umbrellas!
With certain apps you can set updates to get a better idea of the weather you can expect on your trip.
This isn’t something you need to obsess about. It’s just a good idea to keep an eye things so that you’re as prepared as possible!