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What We Wore To Christmas Markets in Europe To Not Be Cold and Miserable

Before we left for our two months of Christmas markets in Europe, Caleb researched what to wear to the Christmas markets to ensure we could be warm SO HARD. We learned all about the proper layering system for cold weather, which is a base layer, mid-layer, outer layer, and possibly a shell layer. 

In this post, we’ll share everything about making it work for you and exactly what we packed for each layer that kept us warm and cozy! If you don’t want to be cold and miserable and end up being snippy with each other because of it, this layering system is for a magical Christmas market trip!

Let’s get into it! 

YouTube video

The ESSENTIAL Layering System We Used To Stay Warm

A couple embracing in a romantic moment on a cobbled street in Colmar, surrounded by charming half-timbered houses adorned with Christmas decorations.

Considering winter is the only time to visit the markets, a layering system like this could actually save your life, depending on how cold it is. DRAMATIC, but true! We’ll link to what we brought for each layer below.

  1. Base layers – you need a base layer to wick (or remove) moisture because if you get wet, even by sweating, you get cold. This is the layer closest to your skin and most responsible for keeping it dry. You want your base layer to be pretty form-fitting!
  2. Mid layer –As you might expect, this goes on top of your base layer, and it helps trap your body heat while still being breathable. You don’t want it to trap too much moisture that you risk getting sweaty and then COLD. You will probably have two of these – a sweater and a zip-up.
  3. Outer Layer – This is your warm winter coat that is designed to be the most insulatory (is that a word?) You want something THICK and warm and, key point, WATERPROOF.
  4. Shell – This is sometimes the same thing as your outer layer. If your jacket isn’t waterproof, you will want a thin layer to put over that, like a windbreaker. 


My parka is waterproof, but I STILL brought a thin “shell” layer to put overtop when it was REALLY cold to keep more heat in.

5. Moisture-wicking, Merino wool socks – while there isn’t a special name for this layer, you want to make sure your feet do not sweat and get wet. Wet feet = cold feet, and we all know that freaking suckkkks.

6. Moisture-wicking hat – Also very important because you radiate a lot of heat from your head, and you could get a sweaty head, which will make you cold.

Plus..who wants a sweaty head? Not us.

7. Touchscreen Gloves – You are going to want to be using your phone and navigating GPS so you need gloves that work with your phone AND keep your hands warm.

You will want to wear ALL these layers at all times when you’re at the European Christmas markets, except maybe not a shell layer if your jacket is waterproof and it’s not super cold. When it’s not super cold, our layering system looks like this:

Caleb – 1 base layer on legs and top + 1 mid layer on legs (jeans) + 2 mid layers on top (shirt and fleece zip up) + 1 outer layer (jacket)

Taylor – 1 base layer on legs and top + 1 mid layer on legs (thermal leggings) + 2 mid layers on top (shirt and fleece zip up) + 1 outer layer (jacket)

A woman in a fur coat eats a large potato pancake

But on those days where it’s not just cold but it’s COLD (you know what I mean), we added some things and our tip is to dress like this:

Caleb – 2 base layers on legs (2 pairs of thermal underpants) and 1 on top + 1 mid layer on legs (jeans) + 2 mid layers on top (shirt and fleece zip up) + 1 outer layer (jacket) + 1 shell (windbreaker)

Taylor – 1 base layer on legs and top + 2 mid layers on legs (thermal leggings AND jeans) + 2 mid layers on top (shirt and fleece zip up) + 1 outer layer (jacket) + one shell (thin rain jacket)

We didn’t dress exactly the same because wearing two pairs of jeans for Caleb would be miserable, and it’s easier for me to wear leggings and jeans.

While it wasn’t the most comfortable, it saved us and made the Christmas markets worth visiting. We were actually warm even in the Finnish Arctic Circle. We recommend you follow that same strategy, even though it is a little bulky, and going to the bathroom sure is an event. 😅

A child reaching out to a Christmas tree adorned with large baubles and bows, capturing the magic of festive decorations in Colmar.

Packing List and Packing Tips

Here are all the specific things we recommend in terms of what to wear in Europe in December. I’ve linked to every single item that we packed during our trip. If you want to see all our winter packing essential recommendations, you can click here. We go deeper into many of the items on our packing list there!

The Essential Clothes

  • Comfortable waterproof boots – MAKE SURE they are waterproof. Mine were not, and I ended up having to buy new ones in Europe. Expensive!

Here is what I wore, and here is what Caleb wore

  • At least 2 pairs of Merino wool socks – Merino wool is the creme-de-la-creme, if you will, in the “world of wool.” While it is pricier, it’s honestly so worth it. 

We both wore these socks, and our feet never got wet or cold (once we both had waterproof boots)

A man in a purple jacket enjoying a hot beverage at a Christmas market, with twinkling lights and holiday decorations enhancing the festive mood.
  • Thermal underwear or Merino wool underwear (base layer) – We tested 2 kinds of base layers for you: more expensive Merino wool ones and then a cheaper polyester option. Honestly, both were pretty similar. Merino wool kept us SLIGHTLY warmer, but polyester is a great option.

ALSO TO NOTE: we only washed the Merino wool option once or twice a month after wearing it probably 4 to 5 times a week, and they never smelled! The polyester didn’t smell much either, but it wasn’t quite as “smell-free.” Good to keep in mind if you are traveling for a long period.

I wore these wool pants and these wool tops and this set for a polyester option.

Caleb wore these wool pants and this wool top and he wore this set for a polyester option.

TAYLOR’S NOTE: Merino wool is known to be not itchy. While it’s WAY less itchy than most wool, we did find it a LITTLE bit itchy after wearing it for multiple days. Just a heads up. 

A person stands contemplatively in front of a traditional German Christmas market, with wooden stalls selling handcrafted goods, against the backdrop of a striking half-timbered building in Esslingen
  • Fleece-lined leggings/thermal leggings (for women as a mid-layer) – On days when it wasn’t SUPER cold, I wore fleece-lined, thermal leggings as my mid-layer for my legs, and they worked well. However, on days when it was REALLY COLD, sometimes I would layer my jeans over my mid-layer leggings as a second mid-layer

I used these fleece-lined leggings.

  • Jeans (mid-layer) – Any jeans will do here! This was Caleb’s mid-layer for his legs and my second mid-layer for my legs on really cold days.
  • Sweaters or turtlenecks (mid-layer) – We wore sweaters on top of our base layer for an extra layer of warmth. Anything comfortable will do here, but make sure it’s not too bulky, as you will be putting a zip-up over the top.
  • A fleece zip-up (mid-layer) – On top of our sweaters, we got some awesome, thin-but-warm fleece zip-ups, and this ended up being my favorite purchase. I still wear it TONS now that we are home.

I got this zip-up, and Caleb got this one.

A woman wearing a beanie holds a glass of mulled wine, with a cozy, decorated pub interior in the background
  • VERY warm winter jacket that is preferably waterproof and windproof (outer layer) – This one is obvious. It’s the winter so you need a warm jacket.

I brought a crappy one, so I ended up buying this one in Europe, and it was epic. I LOVE that it has adjustable side straps so you can bring the sides in and not look like a box.

Caleb also brought a crappy one and now recommends this one.

  • A thin windbreaker (shell layer) – While you only *need* this if your jacket is not waterproof/windproof, it is also good for very cold days to add an extra layer of insulation.

I wore this one and Caleb wore this one.

They are both spendy BUT SO worth it because they’ll last forever.

Couple enjoying mugs of mulled wine, smiling and embracing at a Wroclaw Christmas market, with historic buildings in the backdrop
  • Merino wool toque – this is what Americans call a “beanie,” but I’m Canadian, so it’s a toque to me. Basically, it’s a sock for your head, and you want to invest in a good Merino wool one here.

We both wore this one, just in different colors. LOVE IT. It’s not itchy at all.

  • Touchscreen gloves – you want them to not be bulky, or else you’ll be uncomfortable and can’t use your phone!

I used these ones and Caleb used these. We both loved that we could *actually* use our phones with them!

  • *Optional* Scarf – Personally, I didn’t wear mine as I felt it prevented me from zipping up my coat. If you want to bring one, any will do.


you won’t be super stylish and wearing lots of different outfits, and that’s okay. If you see all our Christmas market photos, it looks like I am wearing the same thing all the time because it’s always the same jacket, 2 pant options, and boots. Dress for comfort and warmth over having a million different outfits. You won’t need them.

A couple in winter clothing observes a Christmas market in Vienna, with historical yellow buildings framing the scene under a bright blue sky.

IMPORTANT NOTE: many couples ask us specifically about the German Christmas markets, but what to wear in Germany in December is the same as in the rest of Europe. Just because they have more Christmas markets doesn’t mean you treat them any differently! 

Other Things To Pack

Yes, this is a guide on what to wear to the Christmas markets, but you also have some essential “non-clothes” items to pack to make sure ya’ll enjoy your trip:

  • A universal adapter – so that you can charge all your stuff even with different plugs.
  • Phone charging pack – You are going to be taking loads of photos, and you don’t want your phone to die. 
  • Camera – To take said adorable photos. I LOVEEEE the one I linked to
  • Comfortable daypack – We recommend having a backpack so that you can put a bunch of stuff in it and not have to go back to your hotel 1 million times because you forgot something. 
  • Anti-theft purse – I have used and loved the Travelon company for all my travel purses for years and have never been pick-pocketed. They are RFID-blocking and have all kinds of locks on the zippers. 
  • Phone Tripod – If you want to get cute couple photos like us, you need an extra person, but that would ruin the whole “romance” thing. We LOVE that magnetic phone tripod because it works with our Magsafe cases and is super easy to use.
  • Hand warmers – Honestly, you don’t NEED these, and they kinda just waste space. But, if you have some extra room, they don’t hurt to have!

We cover all these in more detail and more on our packing list guide here.

how We Can Help You Next:

After you figure out what to pack and wear to the Christmas markets, it’s time to put your trip together! It doesn’t have to be overwhelming because we’re here to help with our ultimate guide on how to plan a Christmas Market trip!

Or, you can check out our guide on the most beautiful and romantic Christmas markets in Europe if you’re trying to choose where to go!

So, which of these tips was the most helpful? Any questions on the layering system we can answer?

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A couple embraces while watching the sunset behind the Crystal Palace in Madrid's Retiro Park, a moment of romance and tranquility by the reflective waters.

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