What should I pack for Amsterdam?
March 4, 2010 1:17 PM   Subscribe

What are the dress codes for fancy restaurants like in Amsterdam/Belgium?

Supercres and I are going to Amsterdam tomorrow.

How formal do some of the nicer restaurants get in regard to dress code? Will we be able to get away with jeans for the great majority of places, or should we bring slacks?

Additionally, is the randomness of the weather as extreme as some say? Should I pack rain boots (the shoes I'd otherwise bring aren't all-weather friendly) even though the forecast calls for sunny all week?

Excuse the stupidity of this question, but we're travel n00bs. If you have any other packing advice, please tell us.


(For those who live in Amsterdam and are going to the meet up on Saturday, we'll see you there! Just flag down the confused Americans!)
posted by Lizsterr to Travel & Transportation around Amsterdam, The Netherlands (13 answers total)
In Western Europe, an average everyday outfit is a bit dressier than the average American outfit. Amsterdam (in my experience) is more casual than Paris, but still more formal than the US. Jeans are fine during the day; when going out to dinner I'd stay away from them. Don't wear athletic sneakers, especially white ones, at all (day or night) unless you really don't mind being a conspicuous American.
posted by oinopaponton at 1:25 PM on March 4, 2010

I've yet to find a restaurant in any major city in Europe that has a dress code. I'm sure a few such places exist, but unless you're dining at some weird private members' club, jeans won't stop you from getting in. Older diners might give you funny looks though. 'Smart casual' is the safe bet, by which I mean anything clean, slogan-free and not accompanied by white sports footwear.

In terms of randomness of weather, you're quite likely to experience rain, maybe even a little hail, sleet or snow. At best expect it to be cold and overcast a lot of the time. 'Sunny' at this time of year in Amsterdam and Belgium pretty much means 'not likely to rain or snow too much'.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 1:30 PM on March 4, 2010

Definitely bring non-jeans for a nice restaurant (really, would you feel under-dressed in jeans at a nice restaurant even in the states? Yes! Do people in Europe generally put a little more care into dressing nice? Yes!)

Non-jeans are better overall, I would argue, because they are lighter, easier to pack, and more comfortable when wet. Speaking of wet, you may not need rain boots (galoshes?), but something that withstands water is a wise move. Also, it is still chilly.

Other little packing things: don't forget your plug adapter (most laptops, ipods, cameras can handle the 110/220 issues, it's just the shape), and if you need to check something, you probably brought too much. Always pack with an eye towards what you can leave behind: finish the Dan Brown book? Leave it at the hotel, have room for one more box of Stroopwaffel.
posted by whatzit at 1:31 PM on March 4, 2010

In any fancy restaurant the world over, jeans are not acceptable. Being an average American I would never wear jeans to a fancy restaurant here without feeling out of my element and embarrassed. For guys, a blazer and slacks would be the minimum level of casual for a respectable and fancy restaurant. A suit with tie is de rigeur.
posted by JJ86 at 1:34 PM on March 4, 2010

Personally I always wear jeans, never been turned away from a restaurant so far. Though usually a pair of nice looking dark jeans. I would indeed stay away from athletic sneakers though. There may be some clubs or a casino where you could be barred from for wearing jeans or sneakers, but on the whole I wouldn't worry about it too much.

As for the weather: unless you plan to go hiking rain boots aren't a necessity in cities.
Sorry I can't make the meet up on Saturday! Would've enjoyed drinking beers with confused American mefites.
posted by charles kaapjes at 1:40 PM on March 4, 2010

Thanks, all, for the tips. I think Lizsterr might be exaggerating a bit on both "fancy" (restaurants) and "confused" (Americans) :)

And with that, I'm off to buy a pair of trousers that isn't five years old.
posted by supercres at 1:43 PM on March 4, 2010

In any fancy restaurant the world over, jeans are not acceptable. Being an average American I would never wear jeans to a fancy restaurant here without feeling out of my element and embarrassed. For guys, a blazer and slacks would be the minimum level of casual for a respectable and fancy restaurant. A suit with tie is de rigeur.

True up until maybe the mid-80s(?). I eat at fairly fancy restaurants here in the UK on at least a monthly basis, and I've eaten in decent restaurants in many European cities, and I've never seen anyone under 60 in a blazer. Jeans are not uncommon, and won't cause so much as a raised eyebrow in most places. Hotel restaurants can be somewhat more formal, but you don't want to be eating hotel food when you're exploring a new city.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 1:46 PM on March 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

Just back from Amsterdam and I travel frequently to Europe on business.

If by fancy you mean a Michelin starred-like place then I'd suggest dressing up, but I've eaten in many nice/not cheap restaurants in EU in nice jeans with nice leather shoes, a shirt, and jacket . . . This is kind of a default uniform in my world (tech/media) whereas five-ten years ago at the same industry events everyone would be in a dark suit and tie.

Oh, and speaking of eating in Amsterdam, I highly recommend Pianeta Terra. I've eaten there several times over the past couple of years, including two weeks ago, and the food is outstanding and the staff charming . . .
posted by donovan at 2:01 PM on March 4, 2010

Thanks everyone!

This was mostly so I could convince Supercres to bring something other than jeans/sneakers. Success!
posted by Lizsterr at 2:09 PM on March 4, 2010

Yeah, it depends on how fancy the restaurant is of course. If they're quite fancy you might be in the minority when wearing jeans. But nobody will mention anything.
White sports shoes are not worn as much at non-sports occasions in NL as in the US. So if you don't want to stand out too much leave those at home.
A blazer or suit is definitely not necessary.
Shoes that are weather proof are good enough. You won't have to wade through puddles. We do have pavement. :-)
Relax. Have a good time here. It will be ok.
posted by joost de vries at 2:13 PM on March 4, 2010

@ le morte de bea arthur, it depends on your definition of "fancy restaurant". I guess my definition of "fancy restaurants" is on the higher end than others here are thinking.
posted by JJ86 at 2:21 PM on March 4, 2010

I live in Brussels. Except for a handful of the fanciest, Michelin-starred restaurants, jeans are pretty much de rigueur here. In the restaurants we go to most of the time, nobody would give you a second look if you showed up for dinner in jeans, sneakers (maybe, like, fashion sneakers rather than bright white running shoes), and anything other than the rattiest t-shirt. Throw in some slightly nicer stuff if you intend to go to some super-fancy place, but except for a few really formal restaurants I know here, someone in a suit or blazer might feel more out of place than you will in your jeans most of the time.

The variability of the weather in northwest Europe really is as extreme as you've heard. It can be pouring one minute, beautiful the next, and pouring again an hour later, although things seem to have calmed down a bit in the last week. It has warmed up some, and we've had more sunny days lately, but still, you can never count on any kind of weather for long. We basically never go anywhere without an umbrella, but waterproof rain shoes are probably not necessary. At least here in Belgium, the forecast more than a day or two out is almost never trustworthy, so bring layers, something that's at least decent in the rain, and you should be fine.
posted by dseaton at 2:25 PM on March 4, 2010

This is not a fancy restaurant:

If you are going out for quiet drinks downtown, this is the definitive old-school "brown-pub" low-light atmospheric time machine with swell jenever: De Pilsener Club, Begijnensteeg 4.
posted by ovvl at 8:13 PM on March 4, 2010

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