Packing for European winters:- What to wear during off-season travel?

Amidst beautiful landscapes, amazing architecture, gothic cathedrals, colourful lanes, cobblestone streets, ancient old town squares, cozy cafes, and chic looking locals, there is no way you can afford not to look your best while in Europe. It’s a ‘dream come true’ experience for any traveller. Europe in winter is a different affair altogether. It might not be as colourful as the summers but then the bright side is too good to ignore. Less crowd, relatively cheaper accommodation, carnivals, festive atmosphere, and snow gives it a feel of a winter wonderland straight out of a fairy tale or a classic romantic novel.


Being an offbeat traveller, my story has always been about travelling to some of the beautiful destinations in the offseason. When it comes to Europe, February or March months are my best picks for an offseason travel, i.e the transition season from winter to spring.

But travelling in winters demands meticulous planning and effort, especially for Indians, as most of us are not used to extreme cold weather. And with that comes my struggle for packing.

As much as I love travelling, packing is my biggest turn-off! It drives me crazy to the point where I feel like cancelling the whole trip each and every time. But then, it is also equally important for me to look great and feel comfortable and hence, I get no choice but to move my lazy ass and get done with it as efficiently as possible.

My packing mess just a few hours before the flight!

Winter in Europe can be very unpredictable and the temperatures on an average swing between 6°C to minus 8°C. November to March usually marks the start and end of the winter season. It can be windy one day and rainy/snowy another day and a combination of all as well. It can be fairly warm and sunny during the day and can get extremely cold after sunset. The northern, eastern and central part of the continent can be pretty cold during winters with sub-zero temperatures even during the day.

Czech Republic countryside. With the temperature around -6°C

So, what exactly do you need to stay warm, comfortable and enjoy your holiday without compromising on fashion?

Well, layering is the key! Thermals being the innermost and your winter jacket, the outer most layer. Always pack for the coldest place in your itinerary.

Checklist for winter travel / Must Haves:-

  • Base layer – good quality thermals (top and bottom), either cotton or synthetic that keeps you sweat free.
  • Second layer – winter tops or shirts- preferably wool based or blended.
  • Extra layer – sweater or sweatshirt or a warm fleece. (for extreme cold )
  • Waterproof winter jackets – down feather filled padded jackets or down-filled parkas. (Outer layer)
  • One or two pairs of jeans depending on the length of your stay.
  • Two pairs of woollen socks.
  • One pair of walking shoes.
  • Woollen scarves or stoles for women and neck scarf or balaclava for men.
  • Beanies, beret, winter caps.
  • Liners and wool blend gloves.
  • Mini compact umbrella
  • Sunglasses
  • Sling bag – easy to carry and pack!
  • Face and Body moisturizers
  • Lip balm

The above list is a must have (along with the usual basics) without which you cannot enjoy your winter travel. You can include the extra layer (mentioned in the list) in case of extreme cold and can choose to skip it based on your comfort. You can also make the extra layer (sweatshirt or sweater) as the outer layer on a warm day. The right clothing is the key element of a good holiday.

Additionally, you can also add the below items. These come under fashion must-haves for me 🙂

  • A leather jacket for your flights or sunny days. (i.e outer layer instead of a winter jacket for not so cold days)
  • Warm dresses or tunics and a pair of warm stockings or tights.
  • Winter boots – if you can afford some space.
  • Winter coat as an outer layer for temperatures above 2 degrees.

I usually carry the leather jacket to the airport to save some space in my luggage plus they are pretty comfortable for the temperatures in the airport and flights. You can click the link below to check out my post exclusively on airport looks.

The Airport Lookbook – Part 1

Tan brown leather jacket for not so cold days and flights.
Pink woollen coat with contrast burgundy woollen scarf and a pearl-studded beret. Temperature: O°C- 2°C


One lucky sunny day where I could get rid of the winter jacket and slip into a light beige coat. Temperature: Around 6°C
Cold yet sunny day in Prague. Pink suede coat with a grey woollen scarf and a beret. Wearing a thermal base layer and a warm navy blue dress with tights underneath.                    Temperature: 1°C to 2°C

European roads are mostly made of cobblestones especially, those beautiful old town streets. That means exploring any city or a square pretty much requires walking around on the cobblestone roads all day for which, you need to have a very comfortable sole for your legs to cooperate. I always prefer walking shoes over boots for comfort. But if you can afford to have some extra space in your luggage, there’s no harm in throwing down a pair of good boots just in case, you know for a special evening! Also, keep in mind, if you are visiting some of the extreme cold places with a possibility of heavy snowfall, you might need to carry waterproof shoes or boots.

A fine evening in London!

Now don’t be tempted to carry all your beautiful tops and dresses from your wardrobe. Coz, how much ever you try, you just can’t win over the cold and avoid your jackets. This means you pretty much wear your jacket every day except for one or two lucky days when the sun is in your favour. So in a way, that jacket is the only thing you can see in most of your photos 😛

And travellers don’t have the luxury of wearing a different jacket every day like some of the locals, for obvious reasons- they are pretty heavy and eat up all your space. All I could take was one heavy jacket for colder and windy days and two long coats for not so cold days.

Pretty disappointing isn’t it. Well, I too was, until I figured out some super cool ways to change my looks using the same winter jacket!

Playing with accessories is the secret!

Black down jacket with a mustard beanie and mustard woollen stole. Temperature: -2°C to -4°C 
Black down jacket with Indian tribal print cotton stole. Temperature: Sunny but 0°C to -1°C
Black winter down jacket with a baby pink beanie and pink-grey rabbit wool stole. Temperature: -1°C to -3°C, cloudy & snowy.
A bright day, not very chilly but extremely windy, couldn’t afford to wear a light jacket and hence wore this heavy one again, with some styling changes

So all you need to do is to invest well in your winter jacket for comfort and be a little creative and artistic with your accessories and you are good to go. Comfortable and fashionable, that’s the goal!

Hope this article helps you plan your trip better. Do let me know your thoughts in the comments. xoxo.
















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