Do you have an Amsterdam layover? Lucky you!
I’m always excited when I have an Amsterdam layover on my itinerary. It is so easy to get into the city from Schiphol Airport that I usually jump on the chance to do some sightseeing – unless it’s grey and rainy and about 0 degrees, which does unfortunately happen in the colder months.
A couple of weeks ago, I was flying from Berlin to Panama City and had a 9-hour layover in Amsterdam. It was 12 degrees and sunny, perfect picture-snapping weather, so I ventured out.
In this blog post, I’ll be sharing my absolute favourite things to do on an Amsterdam layover, as well as the logistics of getting in, around and back out of the city.
When is an Amsterdam layover worth it?
First things first: when is it worth heading into the city? I’d say an Amsterdam layover is worth it when you have at least 6 hours between flights. Realistically, a 6-hour layover will allow you to enjoy 2 hours in the city at a relaxed pace. Since the Canal Ring (aka the go-to spot for visitors) is quite compact and very close to the Central Station, you’ll still be able to cover plenty of ground and get a good feel for Amsterdam.
The logistics of an Amsterdam layover
Let’s break it down:
- Getting out of the airport can easily take up to an hour from the moment your plane lands. As I usually travel from Berlin, and Amsterdam is also in the Schengen Zone, I’ve been able to go from the plane to the airport train platform in under 30 minutes. Traveling within EU borders means you don’t need to go through immigration, which is a huge time saver.
- The train from Schiphol to Amsterdam Centraal comes roughly every 15 to 20 minutes. It takes 20 minutes to reach the heart of Amsterdam.
- From there, you’ll be able to walk to the first canals in under 10 minutes.
Let’s say it takes you an hour to get out of the airport and at worst 20 minutes to get on the train. You’ll be at the heart of Amsterdam in just under 2 hours after landing.
You can stroll around for 1.5 to 2 hours, then start heading back to the airport to give yourself plenty of buffer time. Of course, if you have an 8- or 9-hour layover, it’s much better!
Getting to and from Schiphol
Conveniently, the train station is located right beneath Schiphol, a short walk from the check-in area.
A one-way ticket to Amsterdam Centraal costs 5.90€. If you’re short on cash, don’t worry. You can pay with direct debit or credit at one of the self-serve machines. But please don’t lose your ticket – you’ll need to scan it to get past Amsterdam Centraal’s turnstiles.
Storing your luggage
Who would want to lug their bags all around Amsterdam? Do yourself a favour and store your suitcase and extra carryon, either directly at the airport or at Amsterdam Centraal.
There are lockers located in Schiphol’s Schengen Terminal at the intersection of wings B,C, and D. I would assume the international terminal also has storage space.
If you’re changing terminals for your next flight, however, it would be wiser to take your luggage with you into the city and avoid unnecessarily having to go back through an extra terminal to pick it back up.
That’s where the storage area at Amsterdam Centraal comes very much in handy. I use the self-serve lockers at the train station, which are big enough to accommodate most suitcases. You can, once again, pay by cash or card.
There are two locker sizes, with the smaller costing 7€ fo 24 hours and the larger costing 10€.
What to do on your Amsterdam layover?
Now for the fun stuff! What to do during your Amsterdam layover depends on your interests and amount of free time.
It can help to be organised and plan your layover in advance. Pinpoint 2,3 or even 5 must-visit places and map out how long it will take you to get to all of them.
Otherwise, you might just be happy to wander and see where your feet take you – that’s usually what I end up choosing, unless there is something I absolutely need to see.
If you have 2 hours in the city
If you only have 2 hours on your Amsterdam layover, I would suggest the above self-guided walking tour. Unfortunately, you won’t really have time to go into any of the museums, but even seeing some sights from outside, like the Anne Frank House, will give you goosebumps.
This 6 km loop takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes to complete at a normal pace, ensuring you’ll have plenty of time to stop and admire your surroundings or grab a coffee to go. When I was ready to refuel, I stopped to pick up a soy latte at Coffee Company.
Amsterdam’s must-sees in 2 hours include:
- Canals and cobblestone lanes, of course
- Anne Frank House, home of Jewish wartime teenage writer
- Bloemenmarkt, one-of-a-kind floating flower market
- The gardens of the Rijksmuseum, free and open to the public
- Oude Kerk, Amsterdam’s oldest building dating back to 1306
If you have 3-4 hours in the city
With 3 to 4 hours in Amsterdam, you can visit all of the above spots with a bit more time to linger and throw in a sit-down coffee, meal, and panoramic view over the city.
This 7 km loop will take you 1.5 hours to complete if you don’t stop moving.
Wander under the Rijksmuseum’s tunnel to reach Museumplein. From here, you can catch a fabulous sunset over the rather large basin of water. Don’t underestimate Amsterdam’s sunrises and sunsets, by the way!
End your Amsterdam layover with a drink and view over the city. SkyLounge, located on the 11th floor of the Hilton DoubleTree, offers panoramic views of the old town, Canal Ring and beyond.
The lounge is open to the public and is only a 5-minute walk from Amsterdam Centraal.
If you have 5+ hours in the city
With 5 hours or more – ideally 6 hours – on your Amsterdam Layover, you can really get to know the Dutch city. Or at least, the “touristic” Amsterdam. This 9.7 km loop will take you past a few more major sights.
Walking continuously, it shouldn’t take you more than 2 hours, giving you plenty of time to go into a museum if you so choose.
On top of ticking off the aforementioned sights, you can head off into the Jordaan neighbourhood, exploring cobblestone lanes lined by specialty shops, fashion boutiques and trendy eateries.
Jordaan is where real Amsterdammers live, shop and play. This part of town is not far at all from the Anne Frank House, so you won’t be straying from your itinerary.
If you’re tired of walking at any point, do as the locals and grab some takeaway, which you can enjoy on a bench facing one of the many canals.
I opted for a curry to-go from the vegan cafe SLA.
If you’re aching for something a bit more modern, end your Amsterdam tour at the futuristic NEMO Science Museum. This waterfront museum, quite close to the SkyLounge and central station, has 5 floors of hands-on exhibits.
Is an Amsterdam layover worth it? Absolutely.
If you have some time to kill at Schiphol Airport, you can easily make the most of your time in Holland by heading in to the city. It is quick, convenient and very rewarding to turn an Amsterdam layover into an extra day of vacation.
Like this post? Save it for your next Amsterdam layover!