What to Wear on a River Cruise in Europe (+ Packing List!)

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Wondering what to pack for a river cruise? We’ll show you exactly what to wear on a river cruise in Europe with some great ideas on practical River cruise outfits. We’ve also included some clothing tips for Rhine river cruise travel across the seasons.

In addition to our guide on how to dress for a river cruise we’ve included some tips on how to pack for a European river cruise. Assuming you’re coming from the US, Canada, Australia or New Zealand and will be traveling a long way to Europe, you may want to travel a bit before or after your river cruise. Our tips for packing for river cruise trips will help you pack light for travel in the rest of Europe.

We’ve used the Viking river cruise dress code as a guide on what to wear on a Rhine river cruise but there are of course other companies that do European river cruises. For simplicity reasons we’re calling this our Viking river cruise packing list but you can of course use is it as a guide on what to wear on a river cruise in Europe on other cruise lines too.

What to Wear on a River Cruise in Europe - Packing List

What to Wear on a River Cruise in Europe

River cruises are more casual than ocean cruises. They’re more about experiencing the culture and sights of Europe and less about having a fun vacation on a big ship (like you would on a Caribbean cruise). When working out how to dress for a European river cruise you’ll need to think about comfort, packability, layering and European culture.

You’ll spend your days sightseeing around the streets of Europe so comfortable but relatively smart but casual clothes are ideal. Comfortable walking shoes are a must! Many of the excursions on European river cruises are walking tours. You’ll also likely visit churches and culturally significant sights that may require covered shoulders and knee length clothes. Pack a light scarf in summer to throw over your shoulders. Avoid short shorts & skirts and opt for capri pants & midi skirts instead.

Make sure you choose items that pack well. You won’t have an iron in your cabin so you’ll need to pack clothes with wrinkle resistant fabrics. A small travel-sized bottle of Downy Wrinkle Release can help with this too. It also gives clothes a quick refresh allowing you to wear items more than once.

Types of European River Cruise Outfits

  • Casual clothes for cruising – Comfortable but smart casual clothing is the go when cruising in Europe. A t-shirt or sleeveless vest with jeans, capris or a skirt is enough.
  • Comfortable shoes – Comfortable shoes are a must for European travel.
  • Non-formal evening wear – There often isn’t time or a need to change for dinner on a river cruise so don’t feel you have to. We usually prefer to change for dinner, even if that means a quick freshen up and changing from a t-shirt into a nicer top.  Lightweight, chiffon evening tops are great to pack for evenings on cruises. Wear them over jeans or capris. They don’t take up much space but add a little oopmh to your outfit.
  • Formal evening wear – Most European river cruises do not have a formal night. If they do, you’ll find the dress code for river cruises isn’t as strict as for ocean cruises. There’s no need to go over the top on formal night on river cruises in Europe. You can wear black pants and dressier top or a simple black dress and pashmina. No need to bring heels, your sandals will do fine. Pop on a statement necklace and you’re good to go. Men can pack a sport coat if they like but a long sleeved shirt and pants will do.

Dressing for the Season

If you’re traveling outside the peak of summer weather can be quite changeable so clothes you can layer are ideal. Check the long range weather forecast on a site like Accuweather when planning out what to wear on a Viking river cruise to help.

We have noted different quantities for items based on season in our packing list below but here is a quick guide on what to wear on a river cruise in Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall:

  • River Cruising in Summer – Summer river cruise attire is pretty easy. Think light summer dresses, capris & vest tops, skirts and blouses. Make sure you pack at least one cardigan in case of chilly nights or the odd cooler day.
  • River Cruising in Spring – Spring in Europe can bring nice weather but it can also be changeable. Layering is key. Bring a couple of cardigans for over dresses and tees. Add in an extra pair of jeans. A light jacket like a denim jacket or utility jacket will also prove useful. April is notoriously wet in Europe so a waterproof jacket would be a good idea.
  • River Cruising in Fall – When packing for river cruise in Europe in the Fall, add in a few warmer layers like long sleeved tees, cardigans, leggings. A light waterproof layer like this is a must. In late Fall, a packable lightweight down jacket like this is also very useful to have in case of cold days.  You’ll also want a pair of closed toe shoes like a comfortable ankle boot for walking in wet weather.
  • River Cruising in Winter – For winter river cruises in Europe, you’ll need a few more warmer layers, hat, gloves, scarf and ankle boots. Add in a packable down jacket and waterproof parka. Leave out the summer dresses and instead pack a few more jeans and jumpers. Merino layers like thisare useful for providing extra warmth in cold weather.


Tips on How to Pack for a River Cruise

Know you know what to wear on a scenic river cruise, let’s go over how to pack for a river cruise. When packing for a European river cruise, you need to account for how many travel days you have before and after your cruise, how long your trip to Europe is and how you’ll be getting around once in Europe pre and post-cruise.

Here are a few tips for packing for a river cruise:

  • Pack light for Europe – If you pack light and smart then you’ll be able to fit this packing list into a carry on sized suitcase. Travel with just a carry on sized suitcase if you can manage.
  • Pick a color scheme – It makes it easier to mix & match outfits if you stick to a color scheme. Choose a few base neutrals like black, tan, navy & white for your pants, capris, skirts and outerwear. Add in a pop of co-ordinating color or print with your tops, tees, blouses and dresses. It makes it so much easier to dress! when all your tops go with all your bottom
  • Go for carry on sized luggage – Even if you plan on checking your bag for convenience on travel days, we still recommend using a small cabin sized suitcase for your European river cruise. It’s so much easier to travel in Europe with a smaller suitcase! Space is limited in Europe and a smaller bag is easier for travel on trains in Europe, impossibly small hotel elevators, tiny hotel rooms and the ship’s cabin.
  • Pack with packing cubes – Using packing cubes helps you organize your luggage efficiently, makes it easier to pack & unpack and helps you pack less. Use a large packing cubes for jeans, shorts & outwear, a medium sized packing cube for tops and a small packing cube for underwear. You can get packing cubes here on Amazon.
  • Get a hanging toiletry bag – A hanging toiletry bag is so much easier for cruising. This one by eBags is ideal as it packs flat and is easy to lay across the top of your suitcase contents.
  • Use a lightweight backpack or cross body travel bag for excursions – A lightweight backpack like this is great for excursion days. You can fold it up and pack it away in your luggage when not in use. For city excursions in Europe, a cross body bag works very well. Travel cross body bags like this with built in security to prevent pickpocketing and bag slashing are ideal. You can also get small backpacks like this with built in antitheft technology too.


Viking River Cruise Packing List

Here’s a complete list of what to pack for a Viking river cruise. You can download and print this river cruise packing list in PDF form here. We recommend printing and laying out all your items for packing for European river cruise so you can check them off as you go.

River Cruise Clothes

  • Tees and tops for day x 5-7 – T-shirts, sleeveless vests, blouses for women and t-shirts, polos and shirts for men. Pack a mix of short and long sleeved depending on season.
  • Evening tops x 3-4
  • Cardigan or sweater – 1 for Summer travel, 2 in Spring and 3-4 for Fall/Winter travel
  • Jacket – A denim jacket or utility jacket for Spring/Fall/Winter
  • Shorts or capri pants – 1 for women, 2 for men
  • Jeans – 1 for Summer, 2 for Spring/Fall/Winter
  • Khakis / chinos – For men
  • Skirts x 1-2 – Midi length are ideal for Europe. Or coluttes are also great!
  • Sundress / casual dress x 2 – Linen or light cotton in summer and a tunic-style with leggings in winter make great river cruise dresses.
  • Leggings for women / Jogger for men – Great for the plane!
  • Dress or nice top & black pants / sport coat & shirt for men for formal night (optional) – Most European river cruises don’t have a formal night!
  • Workout clothes (optional) – Most ships do not have a gym however
  • Swimsuit – For onboard hot tubs or thermal baths on excursions in paces like Budapest
  • Waterproof parka
  • Packable down jacket (in Fall/Winter)
  • Hat and gloves (in Fall/Winter)
  • Pashmina – Great for the plane or cooler evenings
  • Light scarf (in Spring/Summer)
  • Warm scarf (in Fall/Winter)
  • Sleepwear x 2
  • Underwear x 10
  • Bras x 3 – 1 nude, 1 white and 1 black works great for travel!
  • Socks x 5-7
  • Sunhat
  • Sunglasses
  • Statement jewelry x 1-2 – Don’t bring any expensive jewelry!


River Cruise Essentials

Add these cruise and travel essentials to your packing list for river cruise in Europe!


Viking ships with soap, shampoo, conditioner and body lotion so you don’t need to pack these. Choose travel size versions of your toiletries to help you pack light. Decant larger items into GoToobs or GoTubs if necessary.


Remember to check all your electronics are dual voltage before traveling to Europe. Most electronics generally are but watch out for things like your hair styling tools!


Questions on what to pack for river cruise in Europe?

If you have questions about what to wear on European river cruise or our river cruise tips for packing, leave a comment below and we’ll be happy to help. You can also join our Cruise Packing Tips Group on Facebook to ask questions and share your own tips for packing for cruises. We’d love to hear your tips and questions on what to pack for a European river cruise.

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