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.
Non-Winter: (You don't need an extra jacket if you bring your raincoat) Light jacket (specifically a real OR fake leather jacket). Every Amsterdammer (myself included) has a real OR fake leather jacket in their closet. It is almost always appropriate: business meetings, parties, going out, summer, fall, or just walking around the city. It's not that cold in Amsterdam in spring/fall/summer, but it's nice to have a second layer in case the weather turns cold on you.
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.)
I recommend selecting a comfy/cute basic dress that can be layered up together with a cardigan/tights for a cute look. For those trying to minimize packing, ONE cute dress that can be dressed up or down is the key to minimizing your packing.
2-3 blouses/t-shirts with minimal text are a great idea. T-shirts ARE worn here, but they tend to be a bit more polished than I'm used to seeing in the US. However, you don't need to be a fashionista if that's not who you are.
3 days worth of underwears/bras/socks. (Don't chance it)
A book about Amsterdam. I recommend The Dinner, the Miniaturist , or Amsterdam: A History of the World's Most Liberal City.
EU-friendly plugs AND converters. People often only buy the adapter (the actual plug), but if you intend on using your hair straightener, shaver, blow dryer, laptop...you'll need a converter if you're coming from the US, the UK, or Asia.
I recommend first double-checking if your devices will work in Europe (as some cords [including the global kit for my Mac] include a European plug]) . I personally have a dual voltage hair straightener that is compatible with both EU and US plugs, which makes international travel a lot easier. Look for the term Dual voltage .
Toiletries. It's pretty easy to replace most basic products, but if you have sensitive skin issues/allergies to fragrances (like myself), stock up at home or plan to fill your own mini-bottles with your own products. I recommend using a sturdy Freezer ziploc bag to prevent your products from spilling all over your stuff.
Medicines. Although it's possible to buy basic medications (such as Ibuprofen) at the local Dutch drugstore (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.
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!
A carry-on bag that will fit everything with 0 extra baggage fees + some souvenirs.
Packing cubes if you're really bad at packing or just like to stay organized.
Compact and light camera capable of beautiful photos There is something to be said for having great photos to remember your trip by. I'm a DSLR girl myself, but any camera will do!
Optional: A spare camera battery for your camera. If you're a photo addict like myself, it can come in handy.
Optional: Extra SD card. You never know when you'll want to keep shooting without deleting photos, so it's always a good idea of have a second SD card with you.
Optional: Battery Bank for your phone. I love staying in touch with family and sending them photos/videos while on vacation, but being constantly on your phone whether it’s for maps, translation apps, or messaging can drain your battery. I used to think it was ridiculous to carry one of these around, but it can really save you in case you need to make an essential call as your phone is dying!
If you're staying at a hostel, a lock. Far too many hostels do NOT include a lock, just a bin to put your stuff inside. Don’t risk it and lock up your bag securely.
What to bring to Amsterdam for Winter (including December!)
The cold wind coming off the North Sea means that the wind chill brings the temperature down in Amsterdam quite a bit, so you'll need to bundle up quite a bit for winter. These are my winter necessities.
A warm winter coat.
Waterproof boots (with lining) OR riding boots
1-2 comfy sweaters to layer up with.
A solid pair of gloves (For men / For women) that allows you to text without taking them off. I know the struggle--and seriously, it's worth investing in a good pair. Similarly, if you plan on biking, your hands will FREEZE on the hand bars without gloves.
A warm wool scarf. Preferably one long enough to wrap around your entire face like a ski mask while cycling.
A warm hat with fleece lining. There's something so cozy and wonderful about the extra warmth from the fleece!
If you want to bring any dresses/skirts, a thick pair of tights.
What not to wear to Amsterdam & What NOT to bring to Amsterdam
Your cute summer dresses without closed toe shoes or tights. You’ll just be cold. A good pair of winter tights is a life-saver and I live in mine during winter/fall/spring (not joking).
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.
Your corkscrew and/or army knife. You'll look both when you're going through security if you're goingcarry-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.
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, you should wear orange. (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. 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? If you haven't visited Amsterdam, what is your MUST-CARRY clothing item?
Need more tips for Amsterdam? Get insider tips:
The Ultimate Guide to Amsterdam (written by a resident)
Most Instagrammable places in Amsterdam
Best Cheap Places to Eat in Amsterdam
15 Do's & Don'ts of Amsterdam
Castle Day Trips from Amsterdam
Other Cities to Visit in the Netherlands
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Karen and Jacob. American expats from New York City and Kentucky who lived in Amsterdam.... We are moving to Paris!
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