Backpack Europe in Winter



For this sample packing list for backpacking Europe, we’ve planned an itinerary for you that includes: Rome, Paris, Zurich, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Budapest, Prague, Berlin, and London. You can use these guidelines whether you’re backpacking or on vacation.

Use this page for inspiration for a multi-stop trip and just add or replace your destinations. You can find tips for individual countries here!


This is a five part series. You can find the other seasonal packing list by clicking the thumbnails below and you’ll find the introductory guide here. Note: even if you’re NOT backpacking, these tips are still relevant to any trip.



Read PART ONE of this series and visit each seasonal packing list for more tips:



Backpacking in Europe: Winter 


While weather varies from city to city, these visuals will help you determine the 12 key pieces for backpacking in the winter. Winters can be bitterly cold and harsh in some European cities, with a significant decrease in temperature and daylight hours. It’s essential to be warm, comfortable, and prepared for unpredictable weather.


Start by reading these general tips on packing for winter travel:


If you need packing tips for another time of year, please read The Ultimate Backpacking Packing List for Europe.




In general day-to-day European style is more dressy than American style. This DOES NOT mean business clothing. Think dressy top (or the type of top you’d wear to work) plus nice jeans (dark colors are always a good choice).

Slim or Skinny fit jeans are the preferred denim option. If that’s not your thing, having tailored denim always makes for a smart appearance no matter what the pant style. For example, hemming the leg length so there’s not an excess fabric at the bottom.


Tip: ankle jeans are an easier way to get this look without a trip to the tailor.


But in other cities, like Zurich and Amsterdam, there’s a more relaxed view on fashion. You can feel free to use artistic license when it comes to your wardrobe.

In ultra-chic cities like Paris and London, two of the major fashion capitals of the world, style is a way of life.

As with most destinations, practical sense applies. Leave the beachwear on the beach because it doesn’t translate well to streetwear in the city.

The same goes for gym wear; unless you’re actually headed to the gym, don’t dress in your gym attire as the locals will instantly recognize you as a tourist for the lack of effort that has been put into your wardrobe. Don’t wear leggings as pants!


Tip: You can still pack your winter capsule wardrobe in a backpack, even when you travel in cold weather by using packing cubes to compress your clothing as shown in this video.


Sample Packing List for Backpacking Europe in Winter



Sweater | T-Shirt | Denim | Tunic | Dress 1 | Dress 2 | Pants | Jeans | Raincoat | Jacket | Skirt | Knit | Boots 1 | Boots 2 | Scarf | Backpack




Dresses are extremely versatile for travel and many female travelers prefer wearing them during the winter. Read our ultimate guide to dresses for travel!

A popular way to wear dresses and skirts in Europe is to pair them with tights like this. Alternately, pack a skirt that you can dress up if needed. Sweater knit dresses (that are not thick) are a great option!




Slim-fit jeans offer a modern, contemporary style and look great teamed with ankle booties. In general, slim or skinny fit jeans are the preferred denim option. These are the best choice for city travel in Europe in winter. Take two pairs, one in black and one in dark blue.

If that’s not your thing, having tailored denim always makes for a smart appearance no matter what the pant style. For example, hemming the leg length so there’s not an excess fabric at the bottom.


Tip: ankle jeans are an easier way to get this look without a trip to the tailor.


Black is figure flattering, forgiving with dirt, and the best base to mix and match, allowing you to create a number of different looks. In general, dark denim such as a dark blue is recommended over light denim.

Leggings are comfortable with their stretchy waistband and fabric and can be paired with virtually anything. Black is the best color to use as your base.

Leggings are an essential if you’re backpacking in Europe any time of year because you can layer then under your jeans, skirts, or dresses. Just don’t wear them as pants!

Merino wool leggings are comfortable and provide great flexibility and warmth. Check out the best leggings for women who travel.




Plan to layer your clothing for the weather. Bring five long sleeve tops/sweaters in varying thicknesses and knit fabrics for cold days. If it gets really cold, you should be able to layer these together if needed.

The longer length keeps you warm and is great for layering. When you find yourself indoors in a heated room, you’ll be thankful you can remove some layers! Choose black to attract sunlight and thicker materials like denim for added warmth.

Merino wool clothing is the best fabric for travel in winter. Find out why!

Always bring a dressier blouse for milder temperatures, to dress up your jeans. Comfortable and chic!




Bring two-three pieces you can wear together when the temperatures drop. To save space, pack only one jacket to keep you warm and dry. If the majority of your clothing is in neutral colors, choose a colorful jacket and if your clothing is colorful choose a neutral color like these.

Avoid outdoor waterproof jackets if visiting major cities and choose a stylish option like one of these stylish rain jackets.

The cooler seasons see the need for jackets and coats that are thicker to keep you warm during your journey. Opt for a down jacket that can keep you warm and pack light, too!

Remember, layering is key when backpacking through Europe any time of year, but especially in colder months. Ideally, you should be able to wear two pieces of outerwear together for maximum warmth.

Read this post to learn how to layer and stay warm in cold weather. For visits to destinations with temperatures below freezing, read this guide.





One unexpected issue that many travelers discover once they get to Europe are the cobblestone streets.

While great to look at, stone streets aren’t always the easiest to walk on and can make for sore feet even if you don’t normally have discomfort. Depending on the city, these streets can also be hilly, slippery when wet, and uneven.

In addition, we all love to dress up, but avoid heels because they’ll leave you feeling uncomfortable. Opt for wedges if you must bring a heel. Do include one pair of shoes and one outfit that can be worn for dining out or experiencing the local nightlife.


Popular shoe options include (click each item below for suggested styles):


Read this post about the how to choose the best walking shoes for Europe.


It’s essential to have appropriate footwear when backpacking in Europe. You need shoes that are durable, waterproof, stylish, and comfortable when walking for long periods. Your footwear depends on your planned activities and personal preference.

The winter season can mean rain and/or snow; be prepared with appropriate, warm footwear. Choose waterproof boots like these. If it’s snowing, opt for snow boots.

For regular weather, ankle boots are the preferred shoe for Europe. They will keep your feet warm and dry during your travels. Choose (faux) leather for durability and comfort. They’re good for the rain, too!


Follow these tips on how to choose shoes for travel. Remember, three pairs is the magic number!




Tights: Add tights to your list if you’re planning to wear dresses or skirts. You can also layer then under pants, too! Learn more.

Thermals: If you’re traveling in late Autumn, consider packing thermals–they’re the secret to packing light in cold weather! Learn more.

Umbrella: Don’t be caught off-guard; carry a travel size umbrella inside your handbag in case you get caught in an unexpected rain shower.

Scarves: They’re not only the perfect accessory to add warmth, but also to add a touch of color and personality to an otherwise neutral outfit. Pick warm scarves (like wool) in your preferred colors and patterns. I love these easy-to-wear infinity scarves.

Hat: Choose a knit option – it will add instant warmth on cold days and hide bad hair days!

Purse: Choose a crossbody purse or cute purse backpack.

Gloves/Mittens: These winter gloves will make all the difference in the world! They’ll keep you extremely warm.

Sunglasses: Make sure your eyes are protected with quality sunglasses with UV protection.


For individual countries, please refer to the corresponding packing list for Europe including advice directly from locals: TFG’s Europe Packing Lists.



Weather for Europe in Winter


This is a brief summary of the weather for the cities we’ve chosen for our sample backpacking Europe itinerary: Rome, Paris, Zurich, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Budapest, Prague, Berlin, and London.


For the most accurate forecast during your exact travel dates, visit




Rom has a Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and mild, rainy winters. Summer is the most popular time to visit the city, which is situated on the west coast of Italy. There are many cultural attractions and an energy that makes it a popular tourist destination.

The winter in Rome is cool and rainy with temperature ranging between 4-13ºC / 39-55°F), which is warmer than many other winter destinations in Europe.


Get more tips in the Italy Packing List.




Paris: the beautiful French city known for its culture, fine food and wine, haute couture, and all things fashion. When visiting this city, it is important to pack clothing for fine dining and dressing up as well as comfortable clothes for walking and sightseeing.

Paris has a temperate oceanic climate with warm summers and cold winters. Rainfall is moderate and steady year-round. Winter has average highs around 6ºC / 43°F and lows around 1ºC / 34°F. Snow is uncommon.


Get more tips in the Paris Packing List.




The largest city in Switzerland contains picturesque countryside, breathtaking architecture, great cuisine, and cosmopolitan nightlife. With the beautiful Lake Zurich, forests, and the Alps just 30 kilometers to the north of the city, there are many reasons to want to visit.

Zurich experiences relatively mild climates and is characterized by its summer highs and a very cold winter. The average high in December and January is a mere 2-3ºC / 35-37°F while the average minimum falls to around -4ºC / 26°F.


Get more tips in the Zurich Packing List.




Amsterdam is known to be a particularly rainy city (Europe’s 4th rainiest). It’s charming, beautiful, and filled with cobblestoned streets, flowers, and canals.

Amsterdam rarely sees the temperature drop below freezing for long periods. Average lows are around 1°C / 34°F and average highs are 6°C / 43°F. There’s little sunshine but less rainfall.


Get more tips in the Amsterdam Packing List.




Barcelona enjoys a Mediterranean climate of hot summers and mild winters. The city is beautiful and filled with museums and celebrated art. With its glorious beaches, sunshine, and constant celebrations and festivals, the infectious energy of the city will enchant you.

The winter in Barcelona is mild; the average high temperature is 13°C / 55°F and the average low is 4°C / 39°F.


Get more tips in the Spain Packing List.




The beautiful capital of Hungary is filled with historical legacy, museums, and impressive architecture that consists of baroque, neoclassical, and nouveau buildings. The city experiences a continental climate with moderate rainfall and temperatures that are cold enough to support a fixed period of snow each year.

Winters in Budapest are cold and bitter with temperatures that can go well into the negatives–it can drop to -29ºC / -20°F! However, the average daily temperature is around 3ºC / 37°F, with an average minimum of -2ºC / 28°F. There may be light but frequent snowfall.


Get more tips in the Budapest Packing List.




The Czech capital is a bohemian-style city, rich with history and celebrated architecture. Prague’s climate is continental, with clearly defined seasons, hot and rainy summers, and cold winters.

Winter in Prague is very cold and it always snows, although there’s little rainfall. The average daytime temperature is 2°C / 36°F and nighttime is around -4°C / 25°F, although the city can experience severe cold down to -20°C / -4°F. Brr!


Get more tips in the Prague Packing List.




The German capital is a beautiful, vibrant city known for fashion, design, music, and art. The city experiences a temperate continental climate and receives all four climates with warm summers, cold winters, and moderate rainfall.

The winter season sees just a single hour of sunshine per day! It’s cold and windy, with average daytime temperatures of 2°C / 36°F and night lows of around -3°C / 27°F. The city is cold, but there isn’t much snow–instead, there’s sludge and ice.


Get more tips in the Berlin Packing List.




One of the most visited and celebrated cities, London is rich with history, architecture, art, museums, and trendy cafes. London experiences a temperate maritime climate with four seasons and no extremes.

Winters in London are cold, but not extremely cold. Snow is rarer in the city than elsewhere due to the “urban heat island”. Winter sees an average temperature of 5°C / 41°F and lows around 2°C / 36°F. Rainfall is at its highest in late autumn and winter with short daylight hours.


Get more tips in the London Packing List!




Compass Rose Travel Packing Cubes


The Best Method to Pack for Winter


The most efficient way to organize a winter wardrobe is to utilize packing cubes. While I’ve tried many brands over the years, I decided to create my own version that will take your packing to the next level: the Compass Rose Travel Packing Cubes shown in the video below.



Learn our packing hacks with packing cubes in the video above!


The 4-Piece Set of Carryon Packing Cubes are sized to fit the exact width of a carry-on suitcase and they also have a unique color-coded and numbered organization system.

I put together a five-part YouTube series showing you the different methods to use packing cubes. If you use this specific packing strategy, they can also compress your belongings. This is the secret to traveling carry-on only!




Read PART ONE of this series and visit each seasonal packing list for more tips:



Find out what to pack for backpacking in Europe year-round:

Click here to view the other Backpacking Packing Lists for Europe.


Additional Travel Resources for Europe:






Now that you know what to wear when backpacking in Europe in winter, please comment with your own travel essentials. Don’t forget to share the love on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Thanks for reading!