What to do on a long layover in Amsterdam?

We all know that layovers can be a pain… All we want is to get to the destination and there we are 4, 6, 8 hours waiting in the airport for the next flights. But, it doesn’t have to be this way! At least, not when we have a long layover in Amsterdam.

Amsterdam is obviously one of the most popular tourist destinations on its own and it has plenty to entertain anyone for at least a week. We have been to Amsterdam 4 times and we still have several things we want to do. However, when it comes to layovers the most important things are how fast can you reach the city, and what can you do there! And, this is where Amsterdam excels – it’s easy and fast to reach the center and most of the things to do are close to each other!

How to go from Schiphol Airport to Amsterdam center?

The best way yo reach the center of Amsterdam is by train. There are trains every few minutes and it takes about 20 minutes to reach Amsterdam Centraal. Note that Amsterdam Centraal is right in the city center and within walking distance of many of the things we suggest here.

The one-way train ticket from Schiphol to Central station costs 5.50 Euros and you can buy them in the ticket office at the station. The same day return ticket will cost you 10 Euros, so you’ll save 1 Euro. There’s also a 17 Euro day ticket that’s valid in all Amsterdam public transports.

Top things to do in Amsterdam
View of Central Station from the Canals

Amsterdam Layover Travel tips

#1 Check your luggage to your final destination. This will make your arrival and departure in Schiphol much faster as you don’t have to collect your bags and then drop them off.

#2 If you can’t check your luggage, there’s a storage in Schiphol airport. It’s on the public side between arrivals 1 and 2. It should cost between 6-12 Eur (depending on size) and payment has to be made with a card (debit or credit). Check full info here.

#3 The best time of the year to do a Layover in Amsterdam is Summer when there’s sunshine, the weather is warmer and days are longer. But we have some options below for you if it’s rainy or cold!

#4 During Summer expect longer security checks and plan accordingly. Particularly if you are traveling to the US.

#5 If your Layover in Amsterdam is an overnight layover, we suggest you book a hotel close to the Airport. There are 3 hotels in walking distance to the airport:

  • The CitizenM – the most budget-friendly option but it’s still a modern, design hotel.
  • The Sheraton – Very comfortable but the most expensive option here.
  • The Hilton – very close to the airport it has very nice rooms at a better price than the Sheraton.

#6 The central station in Amsterdam is the focal place in the city. Everything comes and goes from there. You can even see that on the map, with all the roads and canals going around it. This makes Amsterdam very easy to visit.

Amsterdam Layover Travel Tips

What to do if I have less-than-4-hours layover?

If you have less than 4 hours on this Amsterdam Layover we suggest you don’t head to the city. Yes, it’s very easy and quick, but it’ll be very rushed! You need at least 30 minutes to go and another 30 minutes back.

However, you should be at the airport at least 1h30 before the flight, leaving you with 1h-1h30 at best in the city center. In one hour you can walk around the central station area, but nothing more! Is it really worth the 10e and stress?

Instead, we suggest you go to Schiphol Plaza – a shopping built adjacent to the airport and the Schiphol train station. In Schiphol Plaza, you’ll a few shops supermarkets where you can entertain yourself buying some Dutch souvenirs, eat something and spend 1 or 2 hours easily.

Less-Than-4-Hours Layover in Amsterdam
Schiphol Plaza and Train station

What to do during a 4-6 hours layover?

When you have a Layover of 4 to 6 hours, that means 2-4 free hours in Amsterdam. It isn’t too much time, but this is when Amsterdam being small is really cool! 4 hours is more than enough to walk around the city center and enjoy some of the coolest things to do in Amsterdam. Obviously, you won’t get to be an expert on Amsterdam but you’ll get the feel of it and maybe sharpen your curiosity for a longer trip.

During these 4 to 6 hours in Amsterdam, we suggest you go to the red light district, as it’s less than 5 minutes walking from the central station. It’s the most famous (or infamous?) part of the town and it’s home to the oldest building in town – Oude Kerk (yes, a church, the old church). In this area, you’ll also find plenty of restaurants, shops, cafes, and bars.

Besides the red light district, you still have time to go to the Dam square where you’ll find the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church), the Royal Palace, and if you are into shopping the Bijenkorf department store and Kalverstraat (the main shopping street in Amsterdam).

4-6 Hours Layover in Amsterdam
Amsterdam Canals

Things to do during a Layover in Amsterdam Longer Than 6 Hours

If your Amsterdam Layover is longer than 6 hours, that means you have time for more than roaming around town. You may include one or more activities. We are going to list here a few of our favorite things to do in Amsterdam that can be easily included in a layover.

A Walking tour

Usually, walking tours start close to the central station or the Dam square. A good walking tour is one of the easiest and fastest ways to understand a city. We do it in every major city we go and we really enjoy it. Amsterdam isn’t an exception here.

A walking tour allows you to quickly immerse on dutch history and culture. Plus, it will take you to all the best sights and some of the hidden ones. The guide may also help you choose a nice place to eat before going back to the airport.

Book your walking tour here

Canal Cruise

A Canal cruise is one of the mandatory things for anyone visiting Amsterdam. You may think that it will be difficult to do it while one a layover, but it is possible, and quite easy actually! Most cruises take between one hour and one hour and a half and they all begin in Stromma central station, which opposite to Amsterdam Centraal! It couldn’t be more convenient.

A canal cruise will allow you to discover first hand why UNESCO declared the city’s canals and bridges a World Heritage Site. It’s a nice, relaxed way of seeing the city on a slightly different angle.

Book here a nice canal cruise

Layover In Amsterdam
Canal Cruising in Amsterdam

Go to the Museum Quarter

The museum quarter is the furthest location on this list. It’s located in the south of Leidseplein about 2.5 km from Amsterdam Centraal. It should take about 30 minutes walking to reach there. Or you can take the light train and reach it in less than 20 minutes. In the Museum quarter, you have 3 major museums, the Rijksmuseum, the Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art and the Van Gogh Museum.

The Rijksmuseum is the most important museum in the Netherlands and has a vast and impressive collection. Note that this is a very popular museum and long queues are more than possible. As you don’t have much time, you should buy a skip the line ticket!

Nevertheless, our favorite is the Van Gogh Museum as we felt it successfully explains his evolution as a painter and we really enjoy his paintings. Book here a ticket to the Van Gogh Museum.

The Vondelpark is also in the area and that’s the perfect place to relax in Amsterdam.

Cycle around town

There’s nothing more dutch than cycling. The Dutch ride their bikes to work, to study, to go out with friends and even shopping… Thus, what better way of seeing Amsterdam than on a bike? Plus, a bike is much faster than walking, which means you can cover more of the city in less time

There are two ways of exploring Amsterdam on a bike. You easily rent a bike and explore it by yourself. For example, it would be interesting to go to the museum quarter and Vondelpark on a bike.

Or you can join a bike tour. There are plenty in Amsterdam and they will take you to some of the best spots. Either way, it will be fun!

Stopover In Amsterdam
Bicycle parking near Central Station in Amsterdam

Go to Body Worlds

The Body worlds is an exposition where you can discover the secrets of the human body through real anatomic models. It’s really impressive and something we really enjoyed doing in Amsterdam.

The Body Worlds is conveniently located about 500 meters from Amsterdam central on the Damrak, so it’s perfect for those who don’t have much time to lose.

Book here your ticket to Body Worlds

Go to Anne Frank House

The Anne Frank house is one of Amsterdam’s most famous destinations. The story of Anne Frank and her diary are well known, but if you want to learn more about it check this. If you want to visit it during an Amsterdam layover, it’s perfectly possible as the house is located only about 1.5 km from Central Station, therefore you can easily walk there.

You should know that Anne Frank’s House is really popular and you’ll need to buy tickets beforehand or it’s highly probable that you won’t be able to enter. Besides visiting the house there are also some tours about the fascinating story of Anne Frank.

What to do during an overnight layover in Amsterdam?

The first thing you need to decide on an overnight layover is if you want to stay close to the airport or in the city. Unless you leave really early or arrive really late we suggest you stay in the city, close to the station. This way you can both enjoy Amsterdam’s nightlife and be in the airport within a few minutes.

There are many hotels, hostels, and guesthouses within walking distance to the central station, but you should book them as soon as possible as they are very popular among travelers. These are some of our favorites:

  • Doubletree by Hilton: This is a very nice modern 4 stars hotel, it was the first place we stayed in Amsterdam and it’s still one of our favorites. It’s very close to the station.
  • Ibis – Probably the closest to the station. Not as good as the Doubletree but still good.
  • Or you can click here and choose your favorite!

If you end up choosing to stay close to the airport we should stay in one of the 3 hotels referred above:

  • CitizenM – the most budget-friendly option but it’s still a modern, design hotel.
  • Sheraton – Very comfortable but the most expensive option here.
  • Hilton – very close to the airport it has very nice rooms at a better price than the Sheraton.

If you are spending the night in Amsterdam you might as well make the most of it, right? Amsterdam is a very lively city at night, particularly the infamous red-light district. Some of the best things to do in Amsterdam at night include a night or evening cruise, a pub crawl, or a red light district tour.

what to do an Amsterdam layover
Flower market in Amsterdam

What to do during a WinterAmsterdam Layover

A Layover in Winter is a little more problematic than in Summer. In winter Amsterdam is very cold and it rains a lot, so you’ll want to keep indoors. The last thing you want is to return drenched to the airport and then go to the plain all wet. That would be extremely uncomfortable! So, what can we do?

Well, first of all, check the weather. If it’s rainy or snowy bring a rain jacket or a travel umbrella. Next, let’s choose a few activities that will keep you warm, cozy and dry…

Canal Cruise in Winter

The first thing we recommend you to do in winter is a cruise, particularly if you have never been to Amsterdam. It will be cold, and maybe raining and snowing. You won’t want to wander around too much, unfortunately. But you want to see the city, the bridges, the canals, the architecture…

Furthermore, most of the boats are covered and air-conditioned, making the winter experience amazing. And, you catch the boats in Stromma Central Station, which is less than 100 meters from Amsterdam Centraal. So, a cruise is the perfect activity for a winter layover in Amsterdam!

Book here an Amsterdam cruise

What to do during a Stopover in Amsterdam?
Royal Palace Amsterdam in Winter

Go to Amsterdam Noord

Amsterdam Noord isn’t usually on top of people’s list of things they want to do in Amsterdam, and visiting the neighborhood with bad weather won’t be fun. However, there are three things that you can do there in bad weather.

  • A’dam Lookout – where you can have a beautiful view of the city
  • This is Holand – A museum dedicated to the Netherlands
  • Eye Filmmuseum – Museum of cinema with a very nice bar/restaurant with a cool view.
What To Do On A Long Layover In Amsterdam?
The museum This is Holand

All of these are indoors activities and they are just a few meters from the ferry that connects the central station to the Amsterdam Noord.

Another thing you can do during winter is going to the Body World, which is 500 meters from Amsterdam Central and also an indoor activity that we really enjoyed.

The Museums in the museum quarter are also very comfortable to visit in winter. In fact, they should be less crowded and more enjoyable in winter. You’ll need to take public transports to get there because walking 2.5 Km with bad weather isn’t fun at all!

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