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What to Wear in Eastern Europe in Fall: Germany, Austria, Prague, Budapest

what to wear in Europe when it's cold

by Tina Boomerina (Christina Gregoire)

I just took a short Viking River Cruise through Eastern Europe during late October and early November.  Fortunately, I did enough research before I packed to know that there could be snow in Eastern Europe during fall. 

And, there was snow (in Prague) in October. It’s not common, but it happens.

Women's Travel Wear: Do Your Research

Unfortunately, some people just pack as if they will be traveling in their home state, even if they’re from North Carolina or Southern California.  Well, from all my travel experiences, I have learned one thing: Always take one outfit that is the exact opposite of what you think you will need.  For example, if you are traveling to Florida, pack something warm.  If you are traveling to Alaska, take something for spring or summer weather.

what to pack for river cruise europePrague, Germany, Budapest, Vienna in Fall or Spring

Well, I haven’t been to Eastern Europe in early spring, but logic tells me that it would be about the same weather as fall.  Okay, you’ve seen the brochures for Europe, but those photos were taken during high summer.  Now, look at the main photo (above) of Vienna in early November. It’s not snowing, but it’s a bit cold for those of us who didn't grow up in Minnesota.  The blonde girl in the main photo is wearing a good example of the perfect outfit for fall or spring in Eastern Europe.  (The local couple in the smaller photo are smartly dressed for sightseeing in Prague.)

I do want to express my belief that it's more fun to visit countries during the off season. Places are not as crowded, locals are friendlier, and I get a better sense of what an area is really like.

warm quilted coat for vienna, budapest, germany, prague in fall, winter, springDress Like a Local

Eastern Europe is less affluent than Western Europe, so parts of Prague and Budapest can be havens for pickpockets. But, don’t worry and don't avoid these gorgeous cities. I felt absolutely safe everywhere I went, even as an older woman walking around alone.  All you need to do is to keep an eye on your valuables... just like you would in any big city.  Hey, I felt safer in Eastern Europe than in most parts of New York City or Los Angeles. However, when you go to any part of Europe, you want to look like you’re a savvy European, not a nouveau-riche tourist living the American Dream.  (We had two men from a tour bus in Germany who lost their passports in a crowded touristy McDonald’s.  Ditch those baseball caps, guys!)

what to pack for viking river cruise romantic danubeStandard Eastern European UniformYes, there are variations on the traditional European theme, but the outfit (explained below) is the standard outfit that will help you fit in anywhere in Eastern Europe.  Your clothing can be upscale as long as it is dark.  Navy, burgundy, chocolate, and other shades are fine and can be intermixed with black.  And, you can’t go wrong with the following look:

  • Hip-length, belted, quilted puffer coat in black (variations in quilting seem to indicate higher quality)
  • Dark skinny jeans, dark jeggings, or black leggings
  • Tunic top and/or sweater worn over leggings
  • Long, rectangular knit scarf (brighter is okay if you speak French – wear fewer brights in Prague or Budapest)
  • Leather gloves (stash them in your bag)
  • Knee-high flat boots (tuck your pants into your boots)
  • Bag or purse that zips (something you can hold in front of you when necessary)
  • Knit hat or scarf to cover your head (stash in bag)

Common Variations to the Chic EuroUniform

what to pack for eastern europeI don't want you to feel like everyone really was wearing the exact same outfit. Here are some of the other items commonly worn by many cosmopolitan Euro Chicks:

  • Quilted puffer coats without belts (short or long)
  • Wool coats (even some fur coats)
  • Short booties (flats or heels)
  • Tall boots with heels or wedges (need good balance)
  • Lightweight travel umbrellas (use when locals use – hats seem preferable)
  • Purses, boots, or other leather items with silver metal studs (Don't go too “Las Vegas.”)
  • Something red (Eastern Europe’s favorite cheery color)

What I Wore in Prague, Germany, Austria

what to wear in germanyDo I follow my own advice and wear the standard Eastern European look?  Are you kidding?  A puffer coat would make me look like the Michelin Tire Man. On the other hand, I’m able to hold my own and to appear to be somewhat European when traveling on the continent. I always spit out a few words of my limited, high school German whenever I feel it’s appropriate.  For example, I usually say, “Nein!” when I’m asked (in English) if I want to buy post cards or trinkets on the street.  Then, if necessary, I will add, “Ich weiss nicht!” which translates into, “I don’t know!” but sounds very much like I "mean business" when done properly. (No matter how flustered I am, I can always remember that sentence because I used those words daily when Herr Dickman at Interlake High School called on me to answer questions in my 10th-grade German class.)

what to wear in eastern europe

Eccentric German British American?

I like to wear dresses and hats. So, my outfits seem to make me look like an eccentric Brit, an eccentric East German, or some type of local from whatever area I’m in.  On my latest trip, I was greeted (along with a sentence or two of rapid, unintelligible phrases) in Czech, German, and Hungarian.

This same experience has happened to me in Estonia and other Baltic countries, so if you want to copy my style (with your own tweaks – hat not necessary), you will probably fit in almost anywhere with your own personalized version of the “Tina Boomerina” style.

"Romantic Danube" Viking River Cruisepack cute hat and scarf for europe when it's cold

Here are the three basic outfits I wore on the “Romantic Danube” Viking River Cruise excursions during late fall. (Hint: I work from the hat down.)

And, please don’t laugh. My husband seems to have odd timing for snapping photos… these pictures are educational, not elegant.

1. Blue Hat Outfit in Prague: Blue hat ("Helene" at Nordstrom's - seems to pack fine), crinkly blue scarf (Fireworks at SeaTac terminal), blue one-button sweater/cardigan (Nic + Zoe at Nordstrom's), long black tunic (Karen Kane Caftan Top), thick black leggings, flat black boots (White Mountain Venture Boot at Macy's or Zappos).  Also, I have my long purple and black Mycra Pac "Donatella" coat (HelloBoutique.com) stuffed into my day bag. Note: The cardigan comes together with one button, but I’m wearing a square squawk box - which hangs from a string around my neck - so I can hear the tour guide… this outfit is more slimming without that box.

what to wear in eastern europe2. Big Pink Hat Outfit in Regensburg: Fuchsia hat ("Angelica" Nordstrom's - also packs well), crinkly pink/red/purple scarf (Venice), sleeveless jersey dress in eggplant (Voyager at Travel Smith), lightweight cardigan in eggplant, Mycra Pac coat, purple gloves, lightweight day bag that looks like a shopping tote bag, flat black boots, lovely blue squawk box for tour.  (I would have worn black high-heel boots if it hadn’t been icy.  I look short and squat without heels. Click photo for amusement.)

3. Pink Bavarian Outfit in Vienna: Asymmetrical fuchsia and purple cloche/fedora hat (Finland), crinkly pink scarf (Venice), lightweight fuchsia cashmere cape (gift from my daughter who used to work at NM), black or eggplant Voyager dress (Travelsmith), blue or eggplant cardi (depending on how cold it looks), purple gloves.  Sometimes, I wear the cape with leggings and short, high-heel booties.  I usually stash my Mycra Pac coat in my day bag, just in case it gets really cold… the coat is big enough to fit over my cape if necessary.  Note: I could have easily gotten by without the Bavarian cape outfit if space had been tight.

Well, I don't know if these are the clothes you should pack for your off-season jaunt to Eastern Europe, but I hope I have given you some good ideas.  You’ve seen what most women wear and you’ve seen the minimalist travel wardrobe that works well for me.  Ciao, baby!

More Articles for Baby Boomer Women:

How to Wear Ankle Boots With Skinny Jeans, Leggings, or Shorts: Older Women

Animal Prints for Women Over 40, 50, 60

23 Trendy Plus Size Clothing Sites for Large Women: Sizes 1x - 12x

How to Wear Leggings if You're Over 40 or 50

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Tina Boomerina (AKA Christina Gregoire) is a Baby Boomer born at the end of 1952. Her mission is to make the internet a kinder and gentler place for Baby Boomer women around the world. Tina's specialty is fashion for women over 50.

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  1. Rita

    It was interesting to see the photo at the top, which I assume was taken in Eastern Europe. The young people aren't wearing hats or scarves on their heads in the cold weather.

    Same in Madrid and other parts of Spain I visited recently. Even when the weather dropped below freezing, no hats or scarves over the head.

  2. Tina


    That's a really interesting observation. While I did see quite a few people with knit caps (toques), there aren't any hats in the photo. And, I think this shot is from the main shopping street in Prague or Vienna. Someone else may be able to place the location.

    Of course, I'm always in a hat... well, most of the time... but I just wear my hat as a fashion statement. When it snowed, there were more knit hats. They must have had them stashed in their purses and pockets.

    I would think that the people in Spain would be covered from head to toe in the winter. I've only been to Barcelona... and only in the warmer months... but I would think that Spain's climate would be similar to what you'd get in California. Interesting. Thanks.
    Tina Boomerina

  3. Emma

    Germany and Austria are definitely not 'eastern Europe'. This is a huge misconception, they are part of central Europe and I'm sure many Germans and Austrians would think you were insane for calling them Eastern Europeans. If you're writing a travel blog you should know this....

    • Tina-Boomerina


      Oh, dammmmmit, I knew someone would call me on this eventually. You are right.

      I am from a German family (grandmother from Regensburg, grandfather from Leipzig). I put those keywords in so travelers of my generation would find my article.

      I've been to Germany and Austria several times. I’ve lived in Switzerland for a year (Swiss boarding school, more like a jail / convent).

      I am basing this article on what I saw in Czechoslovakia... ummm... the Czech Republic and Hungary.

      This is not a travel blog. It’s my website for women over 40, however I write about travel clothing from time to time. Anyway, I like to use concepts and keywords that older people are familiar with.

      Back in the day (before the fall of the Berlin Wall and probably before you were born), people in the states used to consider all of the Eastern-bloc countries to be part of “Eastern Europe”. Americans (in the US, not sure about Canada) could not legally travel to countries in the Soviet Bloc, so East Germany, Poland, Hungary, and a bunch of Baltic states and other countries that I can’t remember because I skipped class that day were generally called “Eastern Europe”.

      Eastern Europe was verboten. Austria was never part of Eastern Europe. I just threw that in there because women going on tours and river cruises in the region often stop in Salzburg and Vienna.

      Let’s just say I was using a casual (baby boomer) distinction rather than a geopolitical one. I hope I didn’t offend anyone or make myself look an idiot… haha… that wouldn’t be a first.


  4. Tina-Boomerina


    I tried to email you but it bounced because you used an old email address. Here's what I said:

    "I’ve been waiting 2 years for someone to say something about this title.
    People must be stupid... or shy about correcting others. I’m glad you said something. It means that some people still learn something in school, and it means I won't have to explain why I used that title.

    "I’m 62 years old, so I used terminology from my generation (baby boomers in the US) in this article. We considered half of Germany to be Eastern Europe when I was a kid.

    "However, I must confess that I knew I was including at least ONE country (Austria) that was never technically part of Eastern Europe... ever. I'm basically just trying to explain what women going on river cruises and tours in the area should pack.

    "I’m glad to see that we do have a few intelligent people in the US. However, when I was a young, we never used the phrase “Central Europe”. The world was divided into East (Soviet sphere) and West (US sphere). The part of Germany where my grandfather was born would have been considered Eastern Europe in the 1980s. Today, it is part of Western Europe."

  5. Sajee orrison

    Dear Tina,

    I am planing to travel to Europe(Danube) with Viking in the first wee of September this year. My question is should I carry a tote bag ( I saw the photo that you did) or a cross body bag(purse)? I read on many website said it would be safer to carry a cross body. I traveled many places but never that side of Europe, I don't know how safe it is! Please give me some advise, I would really appreciate it.

    Thank You,


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