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Amsterdam is one of the few cities I enjoy returning to multiple times. Something about the vibe draws me back for more. I love the architecture, the transport is easy, and the people are incredibly friendly.
This year alone, I’ve made two trips to Amsterdam, one in the summer and one in the fall. Here’s my packing list for Amsterdam with tweaks for what time of year you travel.
This part of Europe can be rather cold in the winter and anywhere from mild to hot in the summer, so you need to adjust your wardrobe depending on when you’re traveling. This list should be about a week’s worth of clothes.
- 1-2 pairs of jeans – I usually have no problem wearing the same pair of jeans for a week, but pack a second pair of jeans or other pants if it makes you more comfortable.
- 1 pair of shorts – Only in the summer when it might actually get hot enough to wear them, and I’d still check the weather forecast ahead of time to see if shorts are necessary.
- 4-7 tops – Mix it up between casual tees and cuter tops. Bring short sleeves for summer or long sleeves for winter.
- 1 cardigan – In the winter, this will add another layer to keep you warm. In the summer, it might come in handy on a cool night.
- 2-3 light sweaters – Only in the winter. I usually layer a short or long sleeved shirt with a light sweater to keep warm in colder weather.
- 1 dress – Good if you want to be a little more dressed up to go out, but no need for anything too fancy.
- 7 pairs of underwear – If you’re packing ultra light, bring less and wash them in the sink.
- Socks – The number of pairs depends on the season. Pack fewer in the summer when you might be wearing sandals.
- 2 bras
If you’re traveling to Amsterdam in the summer, you probably don’t need much, if anything, from this category. Keep in mind that summer in northern Europe isn’t always super hot, spring and fall can be unpredictable, and winter can be below freezing temperatures.
- Jacket – A lightweight jacket will work in spring or fall, but you’ll want something heavier in the winter. Waterproof helps. In the summer, I might just have a cardigan or sweatshirt for a cool night.
- Winter hat, gloves, and scarf – Only in the winter or early spring/late fall.
Again, look at the season you’re traveling in to best determine the shoes you’ll need to pack.
- 1 pair of sneakers or walking shoes – Amsterdam is a walkable city with lots of cobblestone roads. Make sure your feet are comfortable.
- 1 pair of sandals – Only in the summer.
- 1 pair of flats – If you’re packing a dress, fold-up ballet flats are a great option that won’t take up much room in your bag.
I find Amsterdam to be a pretty laid back city. You can certainly dress up for a night on the town if you want to, but there are plenty of casual bars where you will be comfortable in jeans, so no need to overdo the accessories unless you really want to.
- Jewelry – Something simple to dress up any number of outfits in your bag.
- Scarf – Always an easy way to give your outfit a little pop.
- Sunglasses – Really only necessary in the summer, late spring and early fall. In the winter the days are so short, and often overcast, so you won’t need sunglasses.
- Purse or daypack
Amsterdam has all the modern toiletry items you need in case you forget something.
- Shampoo, conditioner, shower gel/soap
- Lip balm
- Solid perfume
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Brush and hair ties
- Prescription medications
- Sunscreen – In the summer.
Tips for visiting Amsterdam
Amsterdam has a really great public transport system. There’s a tourism office right across from the main train station where you can buy passes depending on the length of your stay. The savings are better for longer stays, but even for a shorter visit, if you think you’ll use the transport 2-3 times per day, it’s worth getting a pass instead of individual tickets.
If you choose to rent a bike instead of taking transport, it can be an interesting way to see the city from a more local perspective, but it takes some courage. There are TONS of cyclists, they can be aggressive, many of them seem to only follow traffic rules when it suits them, and many cyclists multi-task. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen riding their bike, talking on their cell phone, and smoking a cigarette all at the same time.
It really is worth buying a skip the line ticket for the Anne Frank House. The line can get really long since it’s one of the city’s most popular attractions, and it’s such a time saver to be able to walk right in.
If you can time your trip to see the tulips, they really are gorgeous. Keukenhof Gardens is the closest place to the city, and it’s huge. It’s well worth a few hours to explore and admire the different varieties.
If you need a break from sightseeing, my favorite chain of coffee houses there is called Bagels & Beans. The bagels were pretty good (this is coming from someone who grew up on NY bagels) and the hot chocolate is to die for. They give you a big mug of hot milk and a cup filled with dark, milk, or white chocolate chips so you can make it as chocolatey as you want. Yum.
Almost everyone in Amsterdam speaks English to some degree. This makes it an incredibly easy city to travel to, so enjoy!
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