Northern Europe is home to some of the continents most interesting and beautiful cities. While it’s amazing to explore in the summer, there’s something special about the North of Europe in wintertime.
But, dressing for winter in Northern Europe is no easy feat. The days are short, the nights are cold, and snow, rain and wind are the norm.
It can be quite the challenge to find pieces that will stand up to the elements while looking fabulous and chic. But, by following this guide, you’ll learn exactly what you need to wear in northern Europe to look great and stay warm on your next trip.
What to Wear in Northern Europe in Winter
Let’s start at the bottom, literally. Depending on your destinations and planned activities, base layers or long johns are a great idea.
Essentially leggings and a long sleeve t-shirt, these items go under your clothes and sit right on the skin. They are designed to keep the heat in and the cold out while you spend the day sightseeing and exploring.
When looking for base layers, opt for fabrics that won’t trap sweat or moisture. I am a huge fan of merino wool as it lets the body breath without letting the heat out.
Another option is fleece-lined leggings. I only recently discovered these beauties and they are a game changer for wintertime activities. While I don’t find they are thin enough to fit under my trousers for day to day wear, they are the perfect base for under a pair of athletic style pants.
If you’re only going to need the base layers for a couple of days and don’t feel like shelling out, you can always opt to wear a pair of thick tights under your trousers. While they won’t completely replicate the warmth of base layers, they are a good substitution in a pinch.
No matter the season, jeans are a great go-to for trousers. Not only do they go with practically everything but the heavier fabric can also help reduce the amount of wind hitting the skin.
Having said that, jeans aren’t the best option if you’re going to be facing a particularly wet setting or trudging through snow, as denim can take a really long time to dry. If this is the case, pick up a pair of waterproof trousers. Options range anywhere from ski and snow pants to athletic pants that look like everyday trousers but are secretly waterproof.
No matter which style of trousers you choose, remember to give yourself enough room to comfortably accommodate a base layer.
Sweaters (or woolly jumpers) are one of the best things about winter. They come in all shapes and sizes, colours and patterns, textures and thicknesses, and they are the perfect topper for any winter ensemble. For maximum warmth, look for sweaters made of wool, mohair, bamboo, or cashmere. For something more fun, opt for an ugly Christmas sweater.
Avoid cotton, as this fabric won’t wick moisture from the body, but will actually wick away heat if it gets a little bit damp.
Need to save space? Swap out bulkier sweaters for fleece pieces. This fabric will keep you just as warm but take up a fraction of the space.
There is nothing worse than cold feet when you’re out exploring in winter. Keep your tootsies toasty by slipping on a pair of warm socks.
Avoid cotton socks, as they tend to make your feet sweat and trap moisture. Instead, opt for other natural fibers, like my trusted favorite, wool.
If you’re visiting a particularly cold climate, don’t be afraid to double up: tuck a pair of bamboo socks under a fleece pair for extra warmth and comfort.
Your coat is by far the most important piece of clothing you’ll wear when visiting Northern Europe. This one single piece will keep you warm; will protect you from rain, sleet, snow and wind; and, will keep you looking fabulous as you navigate the cobblestone streets of some of Northern Europe’s finest cities.
Classic leather (real or faux) and wool coats are great no matter the destination, as they’ll keep you warm and dry in any climate and can easily transition from a day of sightseeing to a night on the town.
Puffer Coats are also a great option for backpackers and long-term travelers since they take up relatively little space in your bag, but they aren’t always the most practical in rainy or wet climates.
Winters in Northern Europe tend to see more puddles than they do snowflakes. So, unless you’re heading to the far north or going skiing, you won’t need to worry about picking up a pair of Sorrels.
Instead, look for styles that are both warm and waterproof, like Chelsea boots, Blundstones, Doc Martins or Timberlands. These styles are popular and practical, so you won’t have to sacrifice style for a little comfort and warmth.
Top off your look with a scarf, beanie and mitts in a bright colour or pattern. These accessories are a great way to spice up any monochromatic ensemble and will brighten up even the dreariest of winter days.
Not all destinations you visit in Northern Europe will be covered in snow in winter. Many coastal towns and cities, despite their northern latitude, will see a winter full of cloud cover and rain (hello North of England!). This is why it’s good practice to bring a collapsible umbrella on your travels.
There’s no point in bundling yourself up only to be soaked to the bone due to winter rain showers.
Dressing for a wintertime adventure in northern Europe is no easy feat, but by following this guide you’ll be able to look great and stay warm while exploring some of Europe’s most beautiful cities.