If you need help with your winter packing list for Europe, or Germany in particular, I’m here for you. [I’ve also got spring and summer packing lists as well.] Whether you’re walking around Christmas markets in December or visiting Oktoberfest in September, I’ve got you covered. The weather can be everything from 30º and up in September down in the south to quite cold and -15º in the Harz Mountains in December and January.
Sports clothes are for sports
Take this how you will, but on average Germans, and Europeans in general, don’t wear things like sports caps, sweatpants, and other sporty clothing if they are not actively doing sport. Some visitors like to try and fit in with the locals, and some people don’t really care. That’s totally up to you and how you like to travel. For example, on a winter Sunday at a very family-friendly science museum in Frankfurt, every single dad was in a variation of collared shirt, v-neck wool jumper, khakis and either hipster trainers or leather shoes. At the end of the day, you’re visiting, so go with whatever makes you feel comfortable. I would say if you’re going out for dinner, you’re going to want to wear something a bit nice – collared shirts for men and a dress or nice top for women, so add one to your winter packing list for Europe trips for sure.
Winter in Germany means good outerwear
There are sometimes some odd spikes of heat in September, but overall you’re going to want a good winter coat. Ideally, aim for something that can handle rain and snow as well as being warm. Wool or down are great, as are options with zip-in liners, so you can decide how warm you want to be.
Warm layers for winter wandering
Sometimes you don’t want to haul around a super heavy winter coat, or you’re traveling through several cities and the weather is changing on you. For instance in Munich in winter temperatures get down to -5ºC or so. Layers are key! One of my very favourite ways to manage staying warm is with Uniqlo’s HEATTECH. You can get long underwear, base layer tops and things, though the size range is not very inclusive. I usually invest in a new set of HEATTECH socks and gloves each winter (they last beyond one season for sure, I just manage to lose half of them). I love the socks in particular because they aren’t too thick, so they don’t squeeze your toes in your shoes and boots.
Best boots for winter in Germany
Having grown up in Canada, I know winter boots. Unless you’re spending a lot of time in the mountains in Bavaria where it gets quite snowy in the winter or the peaks of the Black Forest, you’re not going to need mega heavy-duty snow boots. However, walking around cute old towns and Christmas Markets does take a toll on your feet. I find a combo of good HEATTECH socks and robust ankle boots like Blundstones are a good solution for most situations for winter in Germany. I have worn Blundstones for decades, they not only last for ages but are waterproof.
Thinking of getting Lederhosen or a Dirndl? Read this first!
While these traditional Bavarian outfits seem a bit cosplay German to people not from the area, they are traditional clothes for local people. Fancy Dirndls and Lederhosen are common wedding attire, and can easily cost upwards of 500€. If you’re looking to get dressed for attending Oktoberfest or Canstatter Volksfest in Stuttgart, you can get more affordable options, but don’t do the tourist thing buy the trashy ones from the Munich main train station.
Look for C&A or Galeria Kaufhof who will both have special departments set up from late August onwards just for Tracht (the collective term for both Lederhosen and Dirndls and all the accessories that go with them. For women, look for cotton versions without too much lace or fussiness, as the fancy lacey ones are more for weddings and things. It’s common to have a nice fitted wool cardigan on top of your Dirndl for cool nights wandering the festival grounds. For men, you can get Lederhosen without the overall straps if you want, and on top most men wear a collared shirt in a red, blue or green and white check pattern, sometimes with a wool cardigan or special Bavarian wool jacket with a velvet collar. Even with these more budget options, you will be looking at several hundred Euros.
If you’re balking at spending a lot for your Dirndl or Lederhosen, you could also rent. In Munich, there are a few options, but Bavarian Outfitters is a good place to start.