It’s the only thing travelers try harder to avoid than getting stuck in a middle seat – the dreaded long layover. But while most travelers try their hardest to avoid it, booking a flight with a long layover doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Especially if you know what to do during a layover in Amsterdam.
Conveniently located just 20 minutes from the city center, Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport is one of Europe’s best places to have a layover. In addition to having countless ways to entertain passengers within the airport, Schiphol’s location makes it easy for travelers to easily get out and explore Amsterdam without buying an extra plane ticket. It’s like getting a free ticket to visit Amsterdam on a budget.
So whether you’ve got only got a few hours, all day, or somewhere in between, read on to find out how to take full advantage of your layover in Amsterdam.
If your layover in Amsterdam is less than 5 Hours
Even though it’s easy to get into the city from Schiphol airport, anyone with a layover that’s less than 5 hours should stay at the airport. A 4-5 hour layover in Amsterdam doesn’t provide enough time to comfortably get to the city center without rushing or risking a missed flight. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of fun to be had for travelers with a short layover in Amsterdam!
In addition to hotels, fitness centers, and showers, Schiphol airport has a ton of unique ways to entertain just about anyone on a layover. These are some of our favorites.
- Relax with a good book in the Airport Library.
- Enjoy a 5-minute massage for just €2 in the futuristic Massage-O-Matic chairs. If you prefer a human touch, visit Xpress Spa instead.
- See the planes up close by stepping out onto the Panorama Terrace.
- Find some tranquility amongst the travel chaos at the Meditation Centre.
- Learn and play with the whole family at the NEMO interactive Science Museum.
- Get your fix of greenery at the Airport Park - complete with beanbags, bird songs, and bikes that’ll charge your phone while you pedal.
Getting to Amsterdam city center from Schiphol Airport
Before catching the train to the city center, be sure to lighten your load by stashing your bags at the airport. Schiphol airport offers several options for storing your bags during a layover. On the way to the train, the airport will have signs to point you in the direction of baggage lockers where you can leave your carry on bags while you go see the city.
To get to the city center, take the train from Schiphol Airport Railway Station to Amsterdam Centraal Station. The ride takes about 15-20 minutes. Day tickets with a return to the airport cost €10. For €17, travelers can also purchase a 1 day Amsterdam travel ticket, which provides a train ticket, bus ticket, and unlimited travel on all public transportation.
How to spend a 6-hour layover in Amsterdam
While 4 hours can allow you some time to see the city, we recommend at least a 6-hour layover in Amsterdam. A 6-7 hour layover will allow you to comfortably see Amsterdam without having to snap a quick picture of the nearest canal before rushing back to the airport.
You’ll want to stay fairly close to Centraal station during your 6-hour layover. Fortunately, there’s plenty to do and see in the area surrounding the station, including some of Amsterdam’s most iconic attractions.
Take a canal tour on a glass-topped boat
Taking a tour through some of Amsterdam’s 165 canals is arguably the best way to see the city, especially for first-time visitors. You’ll find tour operators offering canal tours right outside of Centraal station.
Ride like a local by renting a bicycle
Cycling is an essential part of the culture in Amsterdam. It’s a great, low-cost way to see the city at your own pace. You’ll find plenty of places to rent bicycles in Amsterdam and many of them will offer bicycle tours as well.
Explore the Red Light District and the Old Church
Even if you’re not looking to tap into your wild side, Amsterdam’s famous red-light district is a quick 5-minute walk from Centraal station, making it too convenient not to visit. The red-light district is home to many historic landmarks, including the city’s oldest building – the Oude Kerk (Old Church). If you’re into self-guided walking tours, use this Red Light District map to find some of the district’s most prominent stops.
Stroll down Damrak to Dam Square
Leaving Centraal station, you’ll have to – or get to, depending on how you look at it – walk 10-15 minutes down the touristy Damrak strip to get to Dam Square. Here, you’ll find some of Amsterdam’s top attractions, including the Royal Palace, the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church), and the Kalverstraat, the city’s main shopping street.
Visit the Anne Frank House
The Anne Frank House, arguably the city’s most important museum, is roughly a 20-minute walk from Centraal Station. Tickets to the Anne Frank House sell out very quickly, so visitors are now required to buy tickets online and reserve a time to visit in advance. Daily tickets are made available on the museum’s official website every day at 9:00 a.m. local time. Act quickly, because only 20% of tickets are made available for daily purchase, as the other 80% are for bookings made 2 months in advance.
How to Spend an 8 Hour Layover in Amsterdam
If you have the luxury of at least an 8-hour layover (or longer) in Amsterdam, you can afford to take your time and explore a little further out from Centraal station.
Take advantage of the hop-on, hop-off canal tours
The hop-on, hop-off canal tours provide stops at 19 locations throughout the city, making it a great way to tackle Amsterdam’s most famous attractions. You can catch the tour boats right at Centraal station. Though the route only takes about an hour if you choose not to get off, the ability to hop on and off allows you to designate as much time to each stop as you see fit.
Raise a glass at the Heineken Experience
According to the global beer giant, the Heineken Experience allows you to “discover how a small Amsterdam brewery went on to become the world’s favorite beer.”
This interactive tour is self-guided and takes about 90 minutes. After the tour, head up to the rooftop, where visitors can take their time enjoying two complimentary beers and an incredible view of Amsterdam.
Visit Amsterdam’s most iconic museums at Museumplein
Museumplein, also known as Museum Square, is a large central square surrounded by some of Amsterdam’s most important museums including the Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum, and the Stedelijk Museum.
It only takes about 20 minutes to arrive here from Centraal station, but it’s best to save a trip here for longer layovers to allow plenty of time for transit and exploring.
Unwind in Amsterdam’s largest park
Vondelpark is the Netherlands’ most famous park and is only a short walk from Museumplein. If you’re tired of rushing from one attraction to the next, stroll over to beautiful Vondelpark and enjoy a leisurely walk, bike ride, or even a picnic in the grass.
Experience the hip and trendy neighborhoods of Amsterdam
If you’ve got a few extra hours during your layover in Amsterdam, use them to get off the tourist trail and see some of the city’s most interesting neighborhoods.
De Negen Straatjes or ‘The Nine Streets’ as locals call it, is one of Amsterdam’s most photogenic neighborhoods. This quaint area is a perfect place for lovers of independent shops, vintage boutiques, and hip cafes.
Overhoeks, formally owned by the Shell oil company, is one of Amsterdam’s trendiest areas. Highlights of this happening include the EYE film museum, an iconic architectural marvel, as well as the A’DAM Tower and it’s 360º panorama sky deck.
Make the most of your layover in Amsterdam
No matter how much time you have, you’ll never have to be bored during a layover in Amsterdam. Whether you’re traveling through Europe on a budget or on your way home from a long holiday, this city provides countless ways to make the most of your time in between flights.
In fact, you probably won’t get to everything on your Amsterdam travel list during your first layover. But don’t despair. The next time you get a notification about a flight deal to Europe, just remember to make sure it contains a layover in Amsterdam.
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BY: ZACH ANDERSON, CONTENT MARKETING & FLIGHT EXPERT
Zach is a digital marketer, copywriter, and flight deal expert at Dollar Flight Club where he helps 1 million people travel more. As a digital nomad, he is deeply passionate about location independence, Thai food, and helping others see the world affordably.