Amsterdam is known for a lot of things: cycling, pot, art, the Anne Frank House, canals, cheese — just to name a few. What it’s not famous for, though, is the weather. What’s it like, anyway? Cold, right? How do you pack for that? What should you wear?
On my first trip to Amsterdam, I was only somewhat prepared. My coat kept me warm in the November air, but my shoe choice left my feet sopping wet. My other clothing choices were okay, but I still felt like a huge dork compared to the Dutch women biking by in their effortlessly chic coats and scarves (while eating a sandwich and carrying on a phone conversation, obviously).
The second time, I made sure not to make the same mistakes. Armed with boots, skinny jeans, and a tasteful scarf, I was ready to hit the Amsterdam streets yet again. If you’re about to embark on your own Dutch adventure, here’s what to pack for Amsterdam and tips on what to wear.
Like most of Europe, the most practical luggage choice for Amsterdam is a carry on-sized travel backpack plus a daypack (which can function as a personal item as well as a companion for on-the-ground adventures).
For your main piece of luggage, roller bags might be common — you’ll see plenty of Dutch with one — but they’re not ideal. Cobblestone streets (it’s a noisy combo) and no guarantee of elevators/lifts in your accommodations make them cumbersome. A travel backpack is best and will make your journey more comfortable.
The Best Travel Backpack for Amsterdam
This bag is so easy to carry. With its height-adjustable suspension system, and ultra padded hip belt, the Outbreaker Backpack will offer a comfortable carry every time. The fact that it’s maximum sized for a carry on, with a sleek, low-profile design makes it perfect for bringing everything you need. You’ll blend in with the city vibe too.
It’s easy to pack and unpack too with a suitcase-style opening. You don’t want to have to dump out your bag every time you need to find something. The organization in this thing is superb. And as a bonus, it’s made of waterproof sailcloth — you’ll be just fine if you get caught in a storm.
A Daypack for Exploring
For exploring the city, the Outbreaker Daypack is a great companion and it even packs flat in your carry on when not in use. It holds your laptop, water bottle, a sweater in case it gets chilly, snacks, and anything else you might need while roaming around the canals.
Packing for Amsterdam: The Basics
No matter what time of year it is, you’ll always need the following for a trip to Amsterdam:
- Power adaptor for type C and F outlets: found in most of continental Europe
- Unlocked phone: get a SIM card there (unless you have T-Mobile’s One Plan)
- A small umbrella: there’s a chance of rain any time of year
- Hostel basics: Amsterdam is a great place to try a hostel, pack a small padlock, quick dry towel, earplugs, shower shoes, & an eye mask
- Headphones: for train rides
- A good book: for sitting in cafes
- Reusable water bottle: tap water in Amsterdam is safe to drink, so fill ‘em up!
Clothing: What to Wear (and Not) in Amsterdam
In Amsterdam, start by following the same rule of thumb you would for elsewhere in Europe. Leave the flip-flops, college sweatshirts, and grocery-run garb at home. Instead, opt for casual, yet put together looking, outfits.
In regards to weather, you should be prepared for rain and chillier temperatures at any time of the year. In the fall and winter, though, it can get downright cold.
For Fashion, Go Edgy
Amsterdam street style lies somewhere between edgy and put together. Think blazers with jeans and a nice pair of leather boots, chunky sweaters, dresses with tights, boots, leather purses, and denim everywhere. Seattle-ish, with fewer holes in things.
Never Go Wrong With a Scarf
Scarves seem to be the fashion accessory of choice any time of year, but particularly when it’s cold out. For both men and women, pack a scarf (or two) to dress up otherwise basic outfits.
Shoes: Boots, Sneakers, and Sandals
Sneakers — especially Converse, Pumas, and other “fashion” sneakers (so no, not your tired, old running shoes) — are big in Amsterdam. You’ll never go wrong with a good, basic pair of boots. Just make sure they’re waterproof or water resistant — especially in the fall and winter.
In the summertime, leave the flip-flops at home and opt for a nice pair of sandals or boat shoes instead.
Make Sure it’s Bikeable
“Biking is the most efficient form of urban transportation,” my couchsurfing host in Amsterdam told me, as he handed me an old beater bike that only somewhat worked.
Whether you agree or not (I 100% do), his statement reflects the bike-centric mentality of Amsterdammers. People bike everywhere in Amsterdam, and the city is one of the most bike-friendly in the world. Take advantage of it. Limit shorts and miniskirts (‘cuz, uh, *ahem* chaffing) and bring clothes you can bike around in.
Warm Layers & a Rain Jacket
Any time of the year in Amsterdam, you should make sure to have a warm layer (sweater or tasteful sweatshirt) and a rain jacket or windbreaker. Similar to weather in Seattle, there’s always a chance of a rainy day or chilly evening.
What to Pack for Amsterdam in Fall & Winter
When the weather cools down in Amsterdam, locals tend to gravitate towards chunky sweaters, dresses with warm tights, boots, beanies, and scarves. Once winter really hits, you’ll want to have a warm coat. Temperatures rarely drop below freezing — but they can get close.
More importantly, be prepared for rain and snow. Amsterdam sees a fair amount of rainfall — especially in November.
The essential items on your cold weather packing list should include:
What to Pack for Amsterdam in Spring & Summer
Spring and summer in Amsterdam, similar to those in London, Seattle, or Vancouver, are warm but mild — extremely hot days are rare. While you’ll want lightweight clothes to enjoy sunny days along the canals, make sure you’re also prepared for a chance of rain and cooler temperatures when the sun goes down.
In the spring, especially, you should still pack as you would for a fall trip. Temperatures don’t really warm up until late May or early June at the earliest. If you’re coming here in April to see the tulips (their peak bloom time), keep that jacket and warm pair socks on your packing list.
The essential items on your warm weather packing list should include:
- Rain-ready sneakers and sandals, or booties
- 1-2 dresses, skirts, and/or pairs of shorts
- 2 pairs of pants
- 1-2 sweaters
- 2 t-shirts or tank tops
- 1 jacket
- Light scarf
- Hat (just in case!)
- Daybag you can bike with
- Foldable umbrella
Wondering what to wear in Amsterdam? Concerned about standing out as a tourist? Follow local fashion trends — edgy but put together — and make a scarf your fashion accessory of choice.
Year-round, you should always make sure to have your usual packing basics, as well as a water bottle, and bikeable clothing. Be prepared for chilly temperatures and rainy weather. Fashion sneakers and boots are good any day of the year.
In the winter, bring a good hat, gloves, and coat that can handle near-freezing temperatures. In the summertime, break out the summer dresses and t-shirts — but don’t forget a sweater.
Most importantly, choose a carry on-sized travel backpack — it will be much easier to navigate the cobblestone streets and your accommodations which might not have an elevator.