This review summarizes winter conditions from six polymictic European shallow lakes. The lakes range from oligotrophic to hyper-eutrophic. Four of the lakes freeze regularly while ice cover is absent or rare in the two others. Ice duration and timing of ice-out are significantly influenced by climate signals in three of the lakes. Winter water temperature remains higher in nonice- covered lakes. No long-term trend in temperature is detectable except for one lake where winter water temperature began to increase in 1986. Secchi depth in winter is equal or greater than summer values in all six lakes indicating relatively better light conditions in winter. Total phosphorus concentration in winter ranges from 10 to 130 µg L-1, which is equal or lower than summer values and is unrelated to chlorophyll a in five of the sites. Phytoplankton species composition during winter differs largely at the six sites. The winter assemblages largely depend on the trophic level and the conditions during the previous season. Winter chlorophyll a and phytoplankton biomass are usually lower than summer values because of reduced photosynthetic rates. Bacterial production often exceeds primary production. Epipelic algal assemblages tend to proliferate during winter in both ice-covered and non-ice-covered lakes. Primary production is low during winter because of insufficient light. Zooplankton abundances and biomass critically depend on conditions during the previous season and the winter situation and are quite variable from year to year, but their values correlate with the trophic status of the lakes. As a result, winter conditions are important to understand seasonal and annual changes in shallow lakes.