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Packing for a Christmas market trip: Strasbourg & Cologne

My husband and I will be in Strasbourg and Cologne for 8 nights in early December specifically to go to the Christmas markets. I’m looking for tips on packing for this trip. We live in the mountains so we’re used to cold weather, but when we’re out in it for extended periods we’re usually in snow gear. This trip we’ll be spending hours at a time in the markets, so I want to bring the right clothing.

I’m thinking layers: thermal pants, t shirt, long sleeve or sweater, longer waterproof puffy jacket, hat, scarf, gloves, warm socks, waterproof boots.

If you’ve done one of these trips, can you share any packing tips? What worked, didn’t work, etc? I’m considering fleece lined pants, but that might be overkill. I can handle the cold better than my husband.

We’re traveling by train and plan to bring 2 carry on size bags, plus a collapsible duffle as we like to shop! We will have access to laundry for the first 5 nights. On the way home we’ll pack our clothes in the collapsible duffle and check it, and we’ll carry our souvenirs onto the plane.

Posted by
4795 posts

When I went to Christmas Markets in Germany last year, there were days with cold rain as well as some light snow. So I needed good boots. And I brought my longest rain jacket.

For fashion, lots of girls were wearing winter boots with jeans or leggings. And warm headbands that covered their ears, with pony tails.

Posted by
4795 posts

The weather when I went was in the 30s and 40s, not much colder. So I was fine with tights or a thin thermal layer. Obviously I'd have packed differently if the forecast was colder.

Posted by
898 posts

I'm doing a Christmas river cruise then and in addition to packing layers and being able to adjust to cold or rain, I'm making sure my boots are comfortable for all day walking. My feet do get cold but I'd rather have wool socks than fur. We are fans of the 32 Degrees baselayer long sleeve tshirts and bottoms for layering. Very easy to sink wash and dry overnight. With warm pants, a fleece or wool sweater and a wind/rain proof jacket I think I'll be fine. I do have a puffer but it isn't good for wind or rain.

Posted by
3188 posts

Some merino wool sweaters are quite thin, but give excellent warmth.
That’s what I took to Iceland one December and they kept me cosy.

Posted by
447 posts

I’m glad you asked because I will also be visiting Christmas markets in December. In the spring, I bought a down (water-resistant) coat from REI that is very warm. I also plan to bring insulated Sorel boots and 32 degree base layers. I may try some sweaters from Quince that have caught my eye. I dislike when my neck is cold so will pack a fleece neck gaiter as well. I am also wondering if I need some kind of lined pant.

Posted by
2134 posts

We did a girls trip to the markets last December. We were in Munich and Salzburg the first week of December. Our daughter and sons gf wore their Blundstones and I wore my Dromedaris boots. We each got by with just one pair for the entire trip.

As for jackets, I wore a knee length down jacket and the girls wore a bit heavier ones, same length. We brought hats and gloves, and then bought scarves there, as well as of course more hats and gloves;)

For pants, we mostly wore fleece lined leggings or just regular leggings. I think we only wore skinny jeans maybe one day. Tops were usually light weight/thin sweaters since our jackets were warm enough. That way when we were in shops/restaurants, we were not roasting. Take a look at the merino wool Bombas tops. I just took two of those to Iceland for a few weeks and was very impressed with them. Super lightweight, multiple wears out of them before washing and they looked nice. Expensive, but worth it.

You are smart to bring a collapsible duffel. We ended up buying those at Longchamp there, so added to our collection;) Enjoy, the markets are so much fun!

Posted by
173 posts

Any suggestions as to a great collapsible duffle bag? Something that folds small but yet is sturdy enough to withstand the rigors of checking it? Thank you

Posted by
4971 posts

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/trip-reports/christmas-markets-switzerland-france-germany-2019

Perhaps my Trip Report will have some helpful ideas. We had the greatest time!

Make sure socks, scarf, hat, gloves are all wool or cashmere- no synthetics. We brought a package of hand warmers we placed inside our gloves, which worked great. As we did carry-on, I printed out regs which said hand warmers were ok in carry-on luggage. The TSA agents did pull them out and looked at them, and allowed them to go through.

Clothing- wool or cashmere sweaters, with thin base layers that easily wash and dry. We did carry-on only luggage. My daughter did expand her suitcase and checked on the way home.

Our hotels were in the city centers, so we could easily return and put our feet up midday. These hotels were more expensive, but we ate all our dinners at the markets, where the food was usually 10 euros a meal ( precovid).

I used waterproof spray on my ankle- high boots, so I could wear my most comfortable ones. I brought two pairs, and ended up wearing one pair the entire time.

In the summer of that year, I found a full-length down coat at Macys on sale. When I say full- Length, I mean down to my ankles. As a result, I only needed heavy leggings or jeans. Cold was never a thought, and it was cold, 30's degrees. The only time I felt cold was in my fingers, and the hand warmers solved that problem. I did take a rain poncho, so that my backpack would be protected from the rain. You may also bring a large plastic trash bag to cover your suitcase if it's raining on the way to a train station.

Have a magical time!

Posted by
2345 posts

I have this foldable duffle. It holds a lot. WANDF for Spirit Airlines 18" Foldable Travel Duffle Bag Weekender Bags Carry on Bag for Women Girls https://a.co/d/fcPlggX

I’ll also bring a couple of vacuum seal bags and pack my dirty clothes in there for the trip home.

Posted by
2345 posts

I’ve also used this big rolling duffle (from Walmart) in the past to pack a week’s worth of clothes for 4 people. Protege 32" Wheeled and Compactible Rolling Duffel Bag, Black