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 flight. But it doesn’t have to be this way! At least, not when we have a long layover in Amsterdam.
Amsterdam is 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 still have several things we want to do.
However, when it comes to layovers, the most important things are how fast you can reach the city and what you can do there! And this is where Amsterdam excels – it’s easy and fast to reach the center, and most things to do are close to each other!
How to go from Schiphol Airport to Amsterdam Center?
The best way to reach the center of Amsterdam is by train. There are trains every few minutes, and reaching Amsterdam Centraal takes only about 20 minutes. Note that Amsterdam Centraal is right in the city center and within walking distance of many things we suggest.
The one-way train ticket from Schiphol to Central Station costs 5.50 Euros, and you can buy them at the ticket office at the station. The same-day return ticket will cost you 10 Euros, so you’ll save 1 Euro. A 17 Euro day ticket is also valid on all Amsterdam public transport.
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 storage at 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 must be made with a card (debit or credit). Check the full info here.
#3 The best time of the year to do a Layover in Amsterdam is Summer when there’s sunshine, warmer weather, and longer days. But we have some options below for you if it’s rainy or cold! We also have a things to do in Amsterdam in the Winter article if you are traveling at that time of the year.
#4 During Summer, expect more extended security checks and plan accordingly, particularly if you travel 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 three hotels within walking distance of 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-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 around it. This makes Amsterdam very easy to visit.
What to do if I have a less-than-4-hour layover?
If you have less than 4 hours on this Amsterdam Layover, we suggest you don’t head to the city. Yes, it’s easy and quick, but it’ll be 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. You can walk around the central station area in one hour, but nothing more! Is it really worth the 10 euro and the 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 find a few shops and supermarkets where you can entertain yourself by buying Dutch souvenirs, eating something, and spending 1 or 2 hours easily.
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 the Amsterdam center 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 minute walking from the central station. It’s the most famous (or infamous?) part of Amsterdam, and it’s home to the oldest building in town – Oude Kerk (yes, a church, the old church).
You’ll also find plenty of restaurants, shops, cafes, and bars in this area.
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).
Things to do during a Layover in Amsterdam Longer Than 6 Hours
If your Amsterdam Layover is longer than 6 hours, you have time for more than roaming around town. You may include one or more activities. We will list a few of our favorite things to do in Amsterdam that can be easily included in a layover.
Usually, walking tours start close to the central station or 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 to, and we really enjoy it. Amsterdam isn’t an exception here.
A walking tour immediately immerses you in 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 returning to the airport.
A Canal cruise is one of the mandatory things for anyone visiting Amsterdam. You may think it will be challenging to do it while on a layover, but it is possible and relatively easy! Most cruises take one hour and one hour and a half, and they all begin at Stromma central station, opposite Amsterdam Centraal! It couldn’t be more convenient.
A canal cruise will allow you to discover firsthand why UNESCO declared the city’s canals and bridges a World Heritage Site. It’s an excellent, relaxed way of seeing the city from a slightly different angle.
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 of walking to get there. Or you can take the light train and reach it in less than 20 minutes. In the Museum quarter, you have three important museums, the Rijksmuseum, the Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art, and the Van Gogh Museum.
The Rijksmuseum is the most important museum and one of the most famous landmarks in the Netherlands. Besides this, it also 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, study, go out with friends, and even go shopping… Thus, what better way of seeing Amsterdam than on a bike? Plus, a bike is much faster than walking, so 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, going to the museum quarter and Vondelpark on a bike would be interesting.
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!
Go to Body Worlds
The Body World 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.
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 possible, as the house is 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?
First, you need to decide on an Amsterdam overnight layover if you want to stay close to the airport or in the city. Unless you leave early or arrive late, we suggest you stay in the city, close to the station. This way, you can enjoy Amsterdam’s nightlife and be at the airport within a few minutes.
Many hotels, hostels, and guesthouses are within walking distance of 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 lovely modern four 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. Obviously not as luxurious 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 three hotels mentioned 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 spend the night in Amsterdam, you might as well make the most of it, right? Amsterdam is lively at night, particularly in 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 during a Winter Amsterdam Layover?
A Layover in Winter is a little more problematic than in Summer. Amsterdam In winter is very cold, and it rains a lot, so you’ll want to stay indoors. The last thing you want is to return drenched to the airport and then go to the plane all wet. That would be extremely uncomfortable! So, what can we do?
Well, first of all, check the weather. Bring a rain jacket or a travel umbrella if it’s rainy or snowy. Next, let’s choose a few activities to keep you warm, cozy, and dry…
Canal Cruise in Winter
The first thing we recommend you to do in winter is a cruise, mainly 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 boats are covered and air-conditioned, making the winter experience unforgettable. And you catch the boats at Stromma Central Station, less than 100 meters from Amsterdam Centraal. So, a cruise is a perfect activity for a winter layover in Amsterdam!
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 lousy 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 Holland – A museum dedicated to the Netherlands
- Eye Filmmuseum – Museum of cinema with a lovely bar/restaurant with an excellent view.
These are indoor activities, just a few meters from the ferry that connects the central station to the Amsterdam Noord.
Another thing you can do during winter is go to the Body World, which is 500 meters from Amsterdam Central, and an indoor activity that we really enjoyed.
The Museums in the museum quarter are also very comfortable to visit in winter. They should be less crowded and more enjoyable in winter. You’ll need public transport to get there because walking 2.5 Km in bad weather isn’t fun! Alternatively, you can spend a little more and take a Uber.