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What to Wear to Europe in Winter for a River Cruise

As soon as I booked my Viking River Christmas cruise, I started thinking about what I should pack. Packing for a winter river cruise takes a lot more planning than I am used to. I researched what to wear to Europe in winter for a river cruise and found some great suggestions. In fact, at the bottom of the article is a free printable packing list!

When I travel, I tend to visit a lot of locations. This allows me to pack a few outfits that I can wear over and over. A river cruise is a different story because you are with the same small group (under 200) for a week or more. The winter Christmas cruise also requires cold-weather clothing, which is bulkier to pack.

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viking cruise winter cruise rhine river

I wish I had known what to pack for a winter river cruise in Europe, so I decided to make a list to share what was most needed.

Whether you start packing for a winter river cruise three weeks before the embarkation date, or you’re the type who throws together a bag a few hours before heading to the airport, I thought I’d share my packing tips for a European winter river cruise.

What to Wear to Europe in Winter for a River Cruise 

My cruise was in early December. I cruised on the Viking Eir from Basel to Amsterdam with a different stop on the Rhine river each day. We spent most of our time in Germany and it was cold. I wore two layers on the bottom and three on top each day, and I was still chilly on a few days when the wind added an additional nip to the air. Choosing what to wear to Europe in winter truly takes some planning. 

I utilized my favorite PRO Packing Cubes and packed the following for my Viking Rhine River cruise:


  • 1 pair of stretchy jeans
  • 1 pair of black dress pants
  • 1 pair of travel yoga pants (I brought my Betabrand yoga pants because they have two hidden waistband security pockets above the front two pockets, and an additional hidden pocket above the back right pocket. for cash, credit cards or a passport).
  • 6 tops
  • 2 long-sleeved sweaters
  • 1 layering shirt
  • 1 base layer of leggings or long underwear (I brought footless fleece-lined tights which are my new favorite thing for cold weather).
  • 2 dresses (I suggest one black and one neutral color. This way you can dress them up with scarves. If you’re looking for dresses that are both cute and practical for cold-weather traveling, my favorites are the BetaBrand travel collection and IceBreaker. Wear a pair of tights with the dresses and cut scarf!)
  • 1 maxi skirt
  • 1 set of pajamas
  • 4 pairs of socks
  • 10 underwear (including my favorite Clever Travel Companion undies with hidden pockets).
  • 2 bras (one black and one nude).
  • 4 decorative scarves
  • 1 warm Scarf
  • Gloves
  • Gloves for a photographer (If you take lots of photos and want to be able to keep you gloves on, the Freehands Gloves that allow you easily access the tips of your fingers are great). 
  • Hat
  • Jacket
Betabrand travel pants with hidden pockets
Betabrand travel pants with hidden pockets


Whatever you decide to pack, just be sure you have at least one pair of shoes that you’ll be comfortable walking in. River cruises offer a lot of free walking tours, and you don’t want to have to skip them because you didn’t bring the right shoes!


  • Packing Cubes (I love my PRO Packing CubesI use them to organize outfits, one for shoes, one for underwear and bras. Basically, making it really easy to find what I am looking for when I arrive. Once I arrive at my destination, I turn one cube into a dirty laundry bag.)
  • Camera (I recently switched to the Sony Alpha a6000 Mirrorless Digital Camera and love it. It has made a huge difference in the quality of my photos and it’s super easy to use. It’s like using a point-and-shoot that also has some great bells and whistles if you want more advanced options.)
  • Camera jacket (In case it rains and you still want to take photos and protect your camera.)
  • Sunglasses (The weather can vary and I did have some bright sunny days. Sunglasses also come in handy on windy days and help protect your eyes from watering).
  • Cross body purse (You want to keep your valuables in front of you at the busy Christmas markets).
  • Travel umbrella

What you don’t need

  • Viking rooms come with hair dryers and the rooms are supplied with shampoo, conditioner, body wash and lotion.
  • Viking Cruises are casual, so you do not need formal attire for the evenings or dinner.

Packing Tip: If you are traveling with someone from the same location, pack half and half. This means putting half of your clothes and other items in each suitcase. Just in case a bag gets lost or delayed, you still have half of what you packed for the trip.

Free Printable Winter River Cruise Packing List

Packing List

Get this Packing List!

Get a free, printer-friendly version of this packing list that you can use while packing (so you don’t forget anything important)!

For more information on Viking Cruises and the Rhine River Christmas:  www.vikingrivercruises.com

For more information on some of my favorite clothing brands:

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  1. Great tips about not just what you do need…but what you don’t need too! Always good to know there are hairdryers onboard when it’s too cold out during a winter cruise to go out with wet hair!

  2. I read NO FLAT IRONS and CURLING IRONS. Is this enforced? I have bought Velcro type rollers and am experimenting with those. Viking river cruises.

    1. This is not enforced. I brought a flat iron on both of my Viking Cruises.

  3. Have you written a review of your cruise? We just booked the same itinerary, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on the cruise itself.

  4. Thanks so much! Just checked back to see if you had posted the stop by stop list of what to eat and buy, but I don’t see it? Thanks again for taking the time to do this – it’s immensely helpful!

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