Packing for a December trip to Germany is always an exciting process, because who doesn’t want to visit Germany during the Christmas holiday season? It’s widely regarded as one of the best times of year to visit the country.
What should I pack for Germany in December?
- Long johns/thermals
- Winter hats
- Hand warmers
- Waterproof boots
- A winter jacket
- Warm sweaters/sweatshirts
- Warm socks
Staying prepared and warm is one of the most important aspects of surviving the German winter. It’s easy to forget the other essentials like important documents, electronics, or even what to do specifically in the colder months of the year.
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What to Pack for Germany in December
When people think of Christmas traditions, what a lot of people don’t realize is that the source of a lot of these traditions is German culture. December is the perfect time of year to check out the appeal of this beautiful nation.
But one caveat of the Christmas market circuit is the winter temperatures. Most of these markets are outdoors, and when you throw in the rain and snow that are common during German winters, you’ll be miserable if you don’t pack correctly for the weather.
Packing for Germany in December requires being prepared for the intense German winter, which can range in the average temperatures of 33F to 45F (just above freezing). The Christmas markets that are popular with tourists are also typically outdoors.
There are also many other popular outdoor activities that are popular during December in Germany, such as:
- Sleigh riding
- Ice skating
You don’t have to spend your whole vacation frozen stiff though. With the right attitude towards practical wardrobe layering and some simple preparation ahead of time, you’ll be able to enjoy the more magical side of German winters in cozy comfort.
Packing necessities for a trip to Germany in December can be broken down into two basic categories: travel essentials and weather-related gear. Travel essentials are things that you would need to carry with you as an international traveler regardless of where you are.
Wardrobe choices for a German vacation in December are similar to those you would take to any winter destination, but if you choose Germany, you need to take the inclement winter weather into account.
Before worrying about what you’re going to wear, however, you should start with a packing list of basics for any international travel.
Travel Essentials to Visit Germany
Bringing travel essentials on a visit to Germany is just as important as bringing the proper attire. Without various forms of money, identification, and travel documents, you’ll have a difficult time both buying things and getting around in-country unimpeded.
Here is a list of travel essentials you should bring regardless of the time of year:
- Driver’s license
- A second form of government-issued identification
- An international student identity card (if a student)
- Debit cards, credit cards, and cash (avoid using cards when possible to avoid international banking fees)
- Flight tickets and travel itineraries
These are items that you don’t just need to travel in Germany, but to do any kind of international travel. It is also important that you keep these items secure through safety measures such as luggage locks, pickpocket-proof backpacks, and hidden money belts.
Electronics to Bring to Germany
One of the most pleasurable parts of international travel is travel photography to show the folks back home where you’ve been. The advance of digital technology has not only made travel photography easier; it’s also made it easier to keep up with everything from maps to itineraries.
This is especially true if you’re traveling in December, when you can document everything from magical snow-covered castles to the glowing luminaries of the Dusseldorf Fair.
Here is a list of electronics you should bring to maximize your experience:
- Smartphone. Like you were leaving home without this. Your smartphone, with the right apps, can function as everything from an augmented reality translator to a GPS navigation system. You should also bring a prepaid SIM card for instant access.
- Tablet. Bringing a tablet (Amazon link) like an iPad or something similar will give you the capacity to work on a computer while you’re traveling abroad, without taking up the luggage space of a full-blown laptop.
- Digital camera. You can always use the camera on your smartphone if you’re only interested in casual photos, but a trip to Germany in December can be the trip of a lifetime. In that case, it is worth it to invest in higher quality photos and bring a camera (Amazon link).
- Electric plug converters. This is an important item to pack. Germany’s plugs are different and work on a different voltage, so you’ll need converters (Amazon link) to use any electrical devices you bring from home.
Wardrobe Choices for Germany in December
When packing for Germany in December, care should be taken to include insulated, waterproof or water-resistant materials in order to stay dry and comfortably warm while traveling in German weather conditions.
It’s never fun to be overburdened with too much luggage on an international trip, so you’ll have to balance your need for cold weather clothing with your need to not have to lug around half a dozen pieces of baggage.
TIP: Rather than packing a bunch of heavy clothing, pack different kinds of clothing that can be layered.
Layering vs. Heavy Clothing ( Complete Packing List )
While it’s important for you to be warm on your German vacation in December to avoid discomfort and possible illness, it’s also important to smart about it. Lugging around four suitcases is just as uncomfortable as being underdressed.
Bringing a bunch of heavy clothing is sure to bulk up your luggage, but you can achieve the same degree of protection from the weather by layering thinner clothes on top of (and in the case of thermals, beneath) simple wardrobe choices like tee-shirts and pants.
Along with normal travel essentials, potential tourists of Germany traveling in December should also be prepared to pack the following list of recommended clothing to pack for your trip so that you can layer your clothing for optimal comfort and warmth:
- Black wool pants or slacks. These pants will be warmer than jeans, while also taking up less space in your luggage. Black pants are a good dress-up option for formal events too.
- Dark-colored jeans. While black wool pants are warmer, if you are going to be doing outdoor activities like hiking or skiing, you’ll want something a bit more rugged. Dark jeans can be worn with most tops and are easy to dress up for evening looks.
- Cardigan or pullover sweaters. These are perfect for layering to protect against colder weather but can be taken off and tied around the waist if the weather warms up or you get hot from rigorous activities.
- Long johns or thermal underwear. Silk thermals fit comfortably under other clothing and can help provide an extra layer of warmth against windy winter conditions. If the weather is also wet, it’ll be easier to keep snow and rain off your bare skin too.
- Winter hats. Be sure to bring hats that will cover your ears. You lose most of your body heat through the crown of your head, so when it comes to keeping warm everywhere from the Bavarian Alps to the Black Forest, you’re going to want to wear a toboggan.
- Waterproof boots (Amazon link). Possibly one of the most important packing items in a German winter wardrobe–nobody likes wet feet. Pairing these with merino socks will keep your toes toasty whether you’re sleighing or shopping the Christmas markets.
Timberland Men’s White Ledge Mid Waterproof Ankle Boot
- A winter jacket. It’s preferable that this jacket also be waterproof so it can double as a raincoat. Try to choose a jacket that is fairly thin with a low profile while still containing strong insulation, so that it stays warm while also taking up less space in your luggage.
Wantdo Men’s Mountain Waterproof Ski Jacket Windproof Rain Jacket
- Gloves. With temperatures hovering close to freezing and wet conditions, it’s important to keep your extremities protected. Make sure to bring warm gloves to stay comfortable when exploring the German winter outdoors.
- Scarves. Including a scarf or two gives you some options to dress up your evening outfits for more fashionable events while also giving you another choice of clothing to layer for warmth.
- Warm socks. Nothing is more annoying and distracting from your travel fun than discomfort, so you don’t want to be worried about your cold feet the whole time you’re exploring. Merino wool socks will keep your feet warm without being bulky.
- Warm house slippers. If you are staying with locals in Germany in December, you’ll want to include some house slippers, or Hausschuhe. Germans typically take off their shoes indoors, so you’ll want to have slippers to keep your feet warm.
- An umbrella. You can save yourself some seriously wet clothes if you include a small collapsible umbrella in your luggage. This way you won’t have to worry about getting caught in the middle of a sudden chilly downpour.
- Something cashmere. Cashmere is a bit expensive, but it’s also warm, lightweight, and easy to layer. It’s a fashionable choice if you are going to more formal events like the theater or nice restaurants.
German Winter Weather
Germany is notorious for its fickle winter weather. One hour it’s bright and sunny, the next hour the day is enveloped in a chilly fog, and by evening the area is blanketed in cold rain. Even in places that are known for being sunny, there is still the harsh German cold to deal with.
Germany has humid as well as cold winters, the kind of bone-chilling, skin-numbing cold that you can’t just shrug off with inappropriate clothing. Not only will you be miserable, but you’ll also risk the threat of frostbite too, especially if you are doing winter sports.
Because they have to deal with traditionally frosty weather in the winter and they are an active, outdoorsy culture, the German people have become masters of Kleidung or appropriate dress. The way they achieve this is through strategic layering.
This is a habit that is a good idea for foreigners to try and emulate in order to have the best outdoor experience with Germany’s Christmas holidays.
11 Things to Do in Germany in December
Once you’re packed for the chilly weather and have all your travel essentials stowed away, you should take a look at all the wonderful activities and events available to participate in while you’re traveling in Germany in December. Here are some of the exciting things you can do:
- Stollen Festival, Dresden: Head to Dresden to meet some of the most talented bakers and pastry chefs in the world in this festival celebrating a special German bread stuffed with fruits, nuts, and spices.
- Tollwood Winter Festival, Munich: Marketed as an “alternative” Christmas market, the market in Tollwood features some of the finest handcrafted artisan gifts (and some of the best fair food) in all of Munich.
- Gingerbread of Aachen, Aachen: No trip to Germany during the Christmas holidays would be complete without a trip to the holy mecca of gingerbread, or Aachen Printen. Get your gingerbread fix with all varieties, including herbs, nuts, and chocolate.
- Circus Krone, Munich: While you’re in the country, you should take a chance to see the largest circus in all of Europe and the largest, most modern, and most expensive circus tent in all the world.
- Christmas Garden, Berlin: No Christmas holiday in Germany is complete without Christmas lights, and in the Botanical Garden in Berlin, you’ll get to see the best of the best. The Christmas Garden serves as a relaxed alternative to the Christmas markets.
- Zeche Zollverein, Essen: For a slightly different adventure, try some ice-skating in the Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex. Once a heart of German industrialization, Zollverein is now a popular tourist attraction and UNESCO Heritage Site.
- The Black Forest, Freiburg: Channel your inner Red Riding Hood and head into the somewhat-spooky, awe-inspiring, and breathtakingly beautiful Black Forest, also home to the delicious cake of the same name.
- Hohenzollern Castles, Bisingen: No journey to Europe is complete without a castle tour, and Germany features some of the most beautiful castles in the world. See them in December to enjoy their snow-covered majesty. They’re straight out of a fairytale.
- Santa Pauli Christmas Market, Hamburg: If you’re looking for something a little spicier in the gift department, head to the Santa Pauli Market. This X-rated Christmas market features strip shows and mulled wine as if you needed any more reasons.
- Brandenburg Gate, Berlin: If you’re going to be traveling in Germany during Hanukkah, you can watch the largest menorah in all of Europe get lighted at the Brandenburg Gate. It also stands as a memorial against Nazi oppression.
- DOM Festival, Hamburg: If you want to get your fair on, the Dom Festival is the place to do it. Featuring traditional fair rides, roller coasters, haunted houses, bumper cars and more, the Dom Festival has over 260 unique attractions.
Don’t Forget to Relax
If you’re packed up and well-prepared ahead of time for your trip to Germany with appropriate clothing and some ideas of what to do, you’ve already won half the battle in organizing an international trip. Once you’ve made your preparations, it’s time to sit back and enjoy the ride.
The best way to make sure you don’t forget something when you’re packing for a trip to Germany is to make packing lists of the things you know you’ll need and check them off as they get stowed away in your luggage. That way, you’ll have peace of mind and will be able to get excited rather than anxious.
No matter whether you hit up the circuit of German Christmas markets, go hiking in the Bavarian Alps, or spend your time sleighing, skiing, and drinking gluhwein if you include the appropriate gear in your pack, you’ll be prepared to take on just about anything.