This is my third year living in Amsterdam and it’s hard to explain to friends/family who are visiting Amsterdam on what to bring to Amsterdam to be prepared for the unpredictable and rainy weather that defines all but ~3 weeks in summer. Packing for Amsterdam isn’t easy as it involves planning for the worst, so why not be prepared with a packing list for Amsterdam with what to pack for Amsterdam and what not to pack by one resident? This includes what to wear in Amsterdam in winter (as well as what to wear in Amsterdam for spring/summer/fall). At the bottom, you’ll find a FREE printable/downloadable packing list for Amsterdam.
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What to bring to Amsterdam Year-Round
Amsterdam Fashion Overview: Dutchies are very fashionable, however they tend to prefer a more casual style compared to some other Europeans. This includes wearing jeans to work, wearing sneakers/booties (often) year-round, and not dressing up too much for a night out.
The dress code for Amsterdam (for women) in fall/spring for a casual day out typically involves a light/stylish (often leather) jacket, booties, and a blouse/t-shirt. In summer, you’ll see the dress code in Amsterdam switches more to dresses although many women will wear dresses year-round (but with lots of layers). The dress code for Amsterdam for men tends to be much more polished with more tightly fitted clothes (compared to the US) although fairly standard for European fashion. You’ll see a lot of men wearing white shirts and jeans with polished shoes to work, however you’ll see a more casual (yet polished) look on weekends.
Amsterdam street fashion tends to range a lot from functional to eclectic with many ladies embracing quirky dresses from Belgian/Dutch brands to vintage clothes to fashionistas embracing the newest minimalistic trends.
Clothing: What should you bring to Amsterdam and why?
Your rain gear. Most of us come unprepared for Amsterdam’s weather year round, which happens to be often overcast and rainy. Depending on which month you’ll be visiting the Netherlands, you might want to consider packing some heavy-duty rain gear if you’re trying to figure out what to wear in Amsterdam in March or April. You might as well look cute in the rain in Amsterdam.
Comfortable waterproof shoes or sneakers. Ladies here LOVE comfy shoes and thick heels year-round, so you’ll fit quite in with a cute pair of booties or chic white sneakers. Contrary to what you may think, it’s actually easier to ride a bike in thick heels than it is in sneakers, even in the rain. However, prioritize comfort for walking around and sneakers are fine, especially if you can style them with the rest of your outfit.
Photo Credit: Masson/Bigstock.com
1-2 pairs of jeans. Dutch people love jeans and I never wear dress pants to work as they’re just too formal, even for my office. They’re perfect year-round, including in summer, when it’s too cold to wear your shorts! I have started living in jeans year-round besides the occasional sundress in summer. (Bring one pair if you’re okay with re-wearing the same pair multiple times.)
Ladies: 1 casual dress that can go from lazy to smoking in 5 minutes: Nobody goes crazy here when going out. Unless you’re going to a select number of swanky bars that require formal attire, most bars in Amsterdam have no formal dress code as long as you’re decent. Be comfy, warm, and have fun. Throw on a little mascara, lipstick your leather jacket, and your booties. (In summer, you might want to stick to stylish sandals/flats as Amsterdam can be brutally humid at night without air conditioning.)
3 days worth of underwears/bras/socks. (Don’t chance it)
Your ATM card
and Visa Credit Card with Chip
. A lot of places outside of the tourist centre do not
accept many types of credit cards, so always plan on having some cash on you just in case. Visa (with chip) and Mastercard (with chip) are often accepted at places that take credit cards. (More about this issue here
Toiletries. It’s pretty easy to replace most basic products here at Etos Kruidvat, or an organic shop here as needed.
Medicines. Although it’s possible to buy basic medications (such as Ibuprofen) at the local Dutch drugstores (Etos or Kruidvat), prescription medications will be a hassle to replace as pharmacists have separate locations and you will need permission from your doctor to refill medications that you can easily get at home.
I swear by wearing a side bag with a zipper
wherever I travel. Amsterdam is fairly safe, however pickpocketing does happen, especially in the Red Light District/Centre. I really love zipped side bags as they allow me to keep my hand on the zipper when I’m feeling on edge in a location. SImilarly, I can move the bag to my front to make it easier to keep an eye on it. As a photographer, it is SO hard to get a discrete camera bag
that does not scream: please take my expensive camera. I really love this beautiful and feminine bag that also happened to be mint.
An unlocked phone and/or local SIM card if you don’t have international roaming with your phone plan. Contact your phone carrier before you leave! I recommend Vodafone for great coverage in Europe. You can buy a prepaid SIM card when you arrive from one of the many mobile stores in Centre.
Passport. Always important!
What to bring to Amsterdam for Winter (including December!)
What not to wear to Amsterdam & What NOT to bring to Amsterdam
Your smoking paraphernalia as that can get you into trouble if you’re coming from MOST other countries.
Your drone. It is possible to bring it with you, but it is ILLEGAL to fly it anywhere in Amsterdam. It is possible to fly a drone some places in the Netherlands with restrictions, but you need to study up on the applicable drone laws as many attractions and the Dutch government is cracking down.
and/or army knife
. You’ll lose both when you’re going through security if you’re going: go carry-on only
Your safari vest. Most things are fine to wear in Amsterdam, but this is what you should not wear in Amsterdam. This issue is that it makes you stand out like a sore thumb, so scam artists will pick you out easily. I’ve heard they’re convenient and useful, but Amsterdam doesn’t require anything this intense.
ALL your make-up. Besides a basic level of makeup that often includes mascara, some BB cream, a touch of lipstick, you’ll notice that many Dutch girls go pretty natural. I’ve brought my makeup on so many trips, but it’s rare that I end up using it and more often than not, I feel overdressed here when I wear full makeup, even at a fancier party.
Your international products that can be bought anywhere. Save the space in your luggage and get it here as needed if you’re not sure if it’s necessary. (Think L’Oreal, Maybelline, Nivea).
Uggs. I know they’re comfy, but some things are better left at home.
Sunglasses. It’s cloudy 99% of the time (I feel like), so you can bring them, but wearing them on a cloudy day just looks ridiculous.
Photo Credit: Masson/Bigstock.com
Bathing suit. Unless you have plans to swim at your hotel OR in the canals of Amsterdam, you don’t need to bring your bathing suit as it probably won’t be warm enough. Check ahead, but if the weather is good, you can lay out in the park.
Your thin heels as they might get caught in the cobblestones.
Special Occasions to Keep In Mind
When it’s King’s Day,
. (It’s a giant party in the streets and most people wear orange!)
In case you forget something…
Where can you buy electronics in Amsterdam? I recommend Media Markt for most electronics that you might forget at home. If you’re in need of an adapter or phone related accessory, you can try HEMA or one of the tourist stores in Centre.
Where can you get clothing in Amsterdam? HEMA and C&A are reasonable retailers with a good selection of clothing for both men & women in case you forget something.
Where can you get medications in Amsterdam? If it’s prescription, you’ll need to go to a pharmacy and contact your doctor at home to send over the prescription. If you need over the counter medicines in Amsterdam, go to Etos or Kruidvat.Things here are NOT 24 hours, so many of these places close around 6pm, so plan accordingly.
Is there anything that you wish that you left behind (or brought) when you visited in Amsterdam?
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