If you’re the adventurous type, the best way to cross over the hundreds of grachten (canals) in Amsterdam is to hop on a bicycle. Everywhere you go, you’ll see rows and rows if not whole clumps of bikes parked next to storefronts or chained to bridge rails. Be prepared with an outfit that will make those vacation pics worth sharing yet comfortable while you pedal your way through this historic and enchanting city.
Cyclists in Amsterdam ride their bikes like we drive our cars here in the States, so you’ll want to be as comfortable as possible to worry more about defensively cycling than what you are wearing. Consider safety your primary focus, then, when planning your ensemble! It’s definitely no fun to tumble over your bike because of a rogue piece of loose fabric or loose sandals. Unfortunately, no one wears a helmet there, so it’s up to you to decide how important your noggin is.
Now on to the fun stuff! Since the bicycle is such a commonplace form of transportation in Amsterdam, you will see some of the most fashionably dressed people in the world on two wheels there. During the fall, I witnessed a number of women ready to go to work or meet up with friends in full chic attire: knee-high boots, skinny jeans, mid-length coat, artfully-tied scarf and cozy hat. During the summer, the style is much like the rest of Europe but less formal, so you can wear a fabulous casual shirtdress and flats or strappy sandals or skinny jeans and a cute knit pullover with a scarf and light jacket.
What to Wear and How to Wear It
Here is a list of more specific fashion tips that will help you look your best on your ride.
- Pants. Try cute banded styles in cropped or ankle lengths. They will keep you from dragging your pants on the gears. Luckily, skinny jeans, leggings and flared minis are staples in the typical Amsterdammer closet.
- Skirts. Try a circle or paneled skirt. Avoid binding styles such as pencils or too-revealing minis.
- Shorts. With so many great styles this summer, you are sure to find one that will suit your style and be perfect for the road. Try culottes (yes, I said CULOTTES), bermudas, or simple chino shorts. The safest and most flattering style to wear should at least reach just above your fingertips.
- Sunglasses. A must, as much for the sun as for protection against UFOs (I’m talking random projectiles in the wind or falling from trees), dust, and bugs.
- Hat. Make sure it is one that can be secured to your head or hair. Better yet, try a side French-braid or just pull your hair back in a pretty scarf to keep your hair out of your face (for safety’s sake, of course!).
- Jacket. You never know when it will rain in Amsterdam, even during the summer, so don a lightweight, at least water-repellant jacket with a hood. Make sure it gives enough room in the underarm area, too, for sufficient mobility. An umbrella for when you're on foot isn't a bad idea either.
- Shoes. Cute flats or sneakers are obviously your best bet, but during my last visit to Amsterdam, I definitely saw some heels. As a beginning cyclist, make sure your shoes are securely strapped to your feet. Sandals are fine if they have straps across the instep and around the ankle. If need be, carry foldable flats (Dr. Scholls offers some that you can find at places like Target) and bring your change of shoes in your bag.
- Scarf. Absolutely! What European vacation would be complete without the ubiquitous fashionable scarf? Make sure yours is wrapped well so as not to slide down into your wheels and cause a vacation memory you wish had never happened.
- Bags. Cross-body bags are a champ in this scenario as are mini-backpacks (yay, they're back in!). Other options may leave you doing a balancing act so, if possible, rent a bicycle with a built-in basket to carry your stuff (which is picturesque and only enhance your European experience!).