Things to do on transit at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol

schiphol-airport-amsterdam-photo

Schiphol Airport Amsterdam

The man sitting next to me on the plane looked a bit flustered. We were about to land at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol after an eight hour flight from Vancouver and aside from the polite “hello” when I settled in my seat, we didn’t speak a word to each other throughout the flight. He turned to me and muttered that he had a five-hour layover in Amsterdam and asked me if I was flying on to another destination as well. “No, I live here”, I replied. “What does one do at Amsterdam Airport to kill five hours?”, he countered. I thought about that for a moment. A five-hour transit did sound tiresome but then again, this is Amsterdam Airport Schiphol – one of Europe’s best airports with a broad array of things to do and see. I asked him if he’d been in Amsterdam before. The answer was negative, “no, just the airport many years ago”. It was a familiar answer. About 40% of all arriving passengers at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol are in transit to another destination. I didn’t hesitate for a moment: “This is your chance then to see a bit of Amsterdam”. I gave him some tips, suggested what to do and see and traced a walking route on the map of Amsterdam in the inflight magazine.

Transit in Amsterdam – things to do

amsterdam-airport-schiphol-bar-photo

The Bubbles Seafood & Wine Bar

The conversation on the plane prompted me to write this post about things to do while in transit at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. Millions of transit passengers travel through the airport every year without grabbing the opportunity to explore Amsterdam’s UNESCO World Heritage canals for a few hours. I’ve listed below things to do at the airport or if you opt to see a bit of Amsterdam for an hour or two (depending on the length of your layover):

1 – 2 hours

You’d better get moving to your next flight!

2 – 4 hours

There are many things you can do to keep occupied:

Relax: You can relax at one of the lounge chairs that are scattered throughout the airport or grab a shower. Or you can indulge yourself with a shiatsu massage in one of the Massage-o-Matic chairs or at the Back-to-Life centre (which offers massages and enriched-oxygen treatments). There’s also the XpresSpa which offers a variety of spa treatments as well as waxing, manicures and pedicures.

Rijksmuseum-Schiphol-photo

Image courtesy of Heatheronhertravels

An alternative is to sit in the Library where you can check your emails, read the papers or browse through the books. Or you can do what many transit passengers do: sit around at one of the many bars and cafés, and mingle with fellow transit passengers or the bartender. There are so many to choose from, amongst others, the Shirasagi sushi bar, Park Café (at the Airport Park), Fair Taste Café (Fair Trade products), Café Chocolat (a delicious range of chocolates), Murphy’s Irish Pub, Sports Café and Bubble Seafood & Wine Bar. Oh there’s a McDonald’s and several Starbucks cafés too.

There are also two hotels, Yotel and Mercure, inside the terminal where you can get a room for a few hours to enjoy a shower and a rest.

Active: If you love to shop, you’ll love the variety of shops at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, from fashion to consumer electronics, to books and chocolates, toys, sports gear, accessories and jewellery. If you fancy some art, head for the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam Schiphol. The museum houses a permanent collection of works by some of the great Dutch masters, including Rembrandt and Frans Hals, and there are also themed exhibitions. You can also opt to sit at one of the tables at the Holland Casino (though I’m not too sure if gambling and jetlag go well together).

4 hours or longer

begijnhof-photo

Begijnhof

A layover of four hours or longer makes a quick visit into Amsterdam a real option, especially if your luggage has been checked through to your final destination and you have your boarding pass for the onward flight. I’m surprised by how few people actually consider this. I mean, Amsterdam is one of the most beautiful and fascinating cities in the world! Trains run directly from the airport (the station is a minute’s walk from any of the Arrival Halls) on a very frequent basis and the journey to Amsterdam Centraal (Central Station) takes approximately 20 minutes. Please note that, depending on your nationality, you may need a visa to enter The Netherlands. Here are several options for a quick visit to Amsterdam:

Go it alone: Purchase a return ticket, then take the train to Amsterdam Centraal (make sure you only board a train that goes to Centraal). When you exit Amsterdam Centraal, you can either opt for a canal tour (boats leave from and return to the station’s doorstep) for a 1.5 hour tour along the canals. You can also choose to stretch your legs – I’ve included suggested walking routes below which can be done in an hour or as long as several hours (depending on your pace or how much time you have). These routes takes you past some of my favourite parts of Amsterdam including the Brouwersgracht (one of the most picturesque canals), the Jordaan neighbourhood, the Anne Frank House, the Nine Streets neighbourhood, the intersection of the Keizersgracht/Leidsegracht, the Begijnhof (or Nunnery) and the Groenburgwal (another impossibly picturesque canal) before leading you back to the station.


View Quick walk around Amsterdam in a larger map

Joining a tour from the airport: It’s also possible to book a tour at the airport either upon arrival or in advance. Great Amsterdam Excursions offers a variety of tours. You could also book a private tour that’s tailored to the duration of your layover. Another unique option is to go on the Floating Dutchman. The bus picks you up at the airport and transports you to the city centre where it transforms itself into a boat. It then ‘dives’ into the canals for a water-based tour before bringing its guests back to the airport.

In the spring months (April-May), you could join a tour that takes you to the nearby tulip fields and the world-famous Keukenhof Gardens.

Visit the Amsterdam Airport Schiphol website for more information on things to do and tours.

As a final note, if you’ve never been to Amsterdam and you have a layover at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, you might as well change your flight schedule (if your itinerary permits it) and spend a few days in Amsterdam. This is your golden opportunity to explore this fantastic city! Search for hotels in Amsterdam.

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38 Responses to “Things to do on transit at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol”

  1. Keith Jenkins 04/08/2014 10:41 am
    #

    Hi Jannete,
    You’ll have sufficient time for a trip to Amsterdam. I assume you’re taking the evening KLM flight to Kuala Lumpur. If your bag is checked through and you have your boarding pass for this flight, then being back at the airport around 7-7:30pm should be sufficient. You could opt for a tour (check the tour desk at the Arrival Hall) or you could purchase a train ticket to Amsterdam (20mins by train from the airport to Amsterdam Central Station) and explore the city on your own. I’ve included several walking routes on the map above. The historic city centre is small, making it very walkable. Keep in mind that if you plan to visit one of the museums (Rijksmuseum/Van Gogh/Stedelijk), you might need extra time as it could be busy at the ticket counters. If you just want to walk around, I suggest a route through the Jordaan neighbourhood, Nine Streets, Spui/Begijnhof (nunnery), flower market, Rembrandt square, Amstel river and back to the Central Station via Chinatown (Nieuwmarkt)/red light district.

    Hope this helps. Enjoy your stay in Amsterdam! :-)

    Cheers,
    Keith

  2. Jannete 04/08/2014 4:08 am
    #

    I will layover AMS at 1:20pm to 8:45pm on my way back from Basel to Kuala Lumpur on 1 Nov 2014.I would love to visit AMS and I know that I need to be back at the Airport by 6:30pm. May I know where should I visit and how do get around AMS since I only have 5 hours to spend in AMS?

    Hope to hear from you soon. Best Regards

  3. Keith Jenkins 29/07/2014 9:15 am
    #

    Hi Federica, sorry for my late reply. I hope you managed to see Amsterdam because you had enough time to visit the city.

    Kind regards,
    Keith

  4. Federica 14/07/2014 10:37 am
    #

    Hi everyone,

    next week i will have a layover of about 5h 30 m in Amstedam. The scheduled time of arrival is at 14.40 from Abu Dhabi and departure to Italy at 20.15.
    Do you think so that I have enough time to visit the city?Just having some picture and maybe some food.
    Up to you.. At what time do you think I have to take the train from Amsterdam Centraal to the airport? I was thinking arount 17.45. Consider that I will have the european passport and the boarding pass, so I think there are not so many passport controls to do.

    Thank you!!
    Federica

  5. Keith Jenkins 10/06/2014 10:39 am
    #

    Great tip Lisa. The building is called Oudemanhuispoort, the location of my old faculty. Walk through the passage (where you can browse through the antique books stalls) and check out the gardens. Lovely building. When I have friends visiting, I always take them there. :-)

    Cheers,
    Keith

  6. Lisa 06/06/2014 11:51 pm
    #

    You could also walk to the university of Amsterdam 200 meters east of the Spui. One of the most beatiful university buildings of the Netherlands just next to the red light district!

  7. Keith Jenkins 06/04/2014 9:29 pm
    #

    Hi Carmen,
    I don’t think you need a visa to enter the Netherlands with a Malaysian passport (but please check to be sure). If you’re flying from the US to Malaysia via Amsterdam on the same ticket, your bags will be checked through. Just make sure you have your boarding pass for your next flight. Once you arrive, head straight to Immigrations to enter the Netherlands. When you get back to the airport – make sure you’re back in the airport about two hours before your next flight – just go straight to the Immigrations counter and proceed to the gate. It’s pretty straightforward. Have a great stay in Amsterdam! :-)

  8. carmen 05/04/2014 5:25 pm
    #

    Hi Keith, i’m a malaysian, returning from US to Malaysia and transit at Amsterdam next month. After reading your blog, I was thinking of booking a longer transit flight do that I can have a chance to visit Amsterdam for few hours. My concern now is, can I just go out of the airport with my boarding pass to Malaysia and pass through the immigration just like that. If yes, when I come back to the airport, do I need to check in again as I have done it in US.

  9. Keith Jenkins 03/03/2014 11:42 am
    #

    Hello Afong,
    Schiphol Airport is big but it’s all within one building so you can walk from one gate to another. It’s very easy and there are signs posted everywhere or ask one of the ground staff if you’re not sure. If you have your boarding pass for your next flight, just check the gate number at the tv screens and walk to the gate. A two-hour transit time is more than sufficient.

    Have a good trip!

    Cheers,
    Keith

  10. Afong 03/03/2014 11:05 am
    #

    I am transit through Ams to Panama. My transit time is two hours. In this article you suggest that if 1-2 hours go to the flight directly. Just wondering is the airport big and will the direction be clear for flight transit?

  11. Julio Moreno 28/03/2013 5:59 pm
    #

    I wish I had seen this post before I went to Amsterdam. I did go outside and checked some of these places out in my 10 hr layover, but I just wished I was more organized. Love the map in the middle! thanks

  12. Keith Jenkins 17/12/2012 2:15 pm
    #

    Hello Cher,

    As a Singapore national, you do not need a visa for a stay in the Netherlands for up to 90 days. If your luggage is checked through to the final destination, you don’t have to pick it up and check it in again. Enjoy Amsterdam! :-)

    Cheers,
    Keith

  13. Cher 17/12/2012 5:29 am
    #

    Hi,

    I have a 9 hour transit and I’m thinking of booking a tour at the airport to see Amsterdam. I hold a Singapore passport so I don’t think I’ll need to get a visa right?

    Also, my luggages will be checked straight through to Singapore so I won’t have to check my luggages in and out if I decide to book a tour do I?

    I’ve never been to Europe before and I and really hope I can see a bit of Amsterdam, even if just a little!

  14. Keith Jenkins 12/12/2012 11:36 am
    #

    Hi Jeyn,
    A passport stamp is not necessary in this case: from Curaçao to Manila via Amsterdam, these are two international, non-Schengen connections. However, make sure that the luggage is checked through to the final destination (Manila) to avoid having to collect the luggage in Amsterdam and checking it in again (in which case, you will have to pass through immigrations). However, I assume the luggage will be checked through – ask the airline just to be sure.

    Hope this helps.

    Cheers,
    Keith

  15. jeyn zamora 12/12/2012 4:20 am
    #

    if one person travels on a connecting flight from Curacao to Amsterdam then from Amsterdam to Manila, does the immigration officer stamp his/her passport? please reply I am npot familiar with how things go at amsterdam… by the way, the person travelling is a Filipino seafarer…

  16. velvet 05/09/2012 9:28 pm
    #

    Hi,
    You can contact me at keith[ad]velvetescape[dot]com.

    Best regards,
    Keith

  17. keyrol 05/09/2012 6:23 pm
    #

    Hi Keith,
    How can I be in touch with you? Can I get your email?
    I’m from Malaysia working in Doha. But currently in Houston for work.
    Going back to Doha thru Amsterdam soon.
    Am thinking of stopover in Amsterdam.

  18. velvet 23/05/2012 10:44 am
    #

    Hello Salman,
    I’m not sure about the visa requirements. It would be best to check with the Netherlands Embassy or their website: http://www.dutchembassyuk.org/consular/index.php?i=56

    Hope this helps.

    Best regards,
    Keith

  19. Salman 22/05/2012 9:01 pm
    #

    Hi Keith,
    Nice article. I have a >6 hr layover at Schipol airport. I am really interested in taking this opportunity to visit the city but am not sure if I need a visa for that. Do you anything about the visa requirements for short visit. I know some airports like turkey do the tours for transiting passengers without any turkish visa requirements
    Thanks a lot

  20. velvet 29/03/2012 1:10 pm
    #

    Hi Jane,
    Yes, I’m Asian – originally from Malaysia. There are a few hotels inside the airport – you don’t have to pass immigration to stay there. Here’s a link to the Schiphol website with a description of their facilities (hotels, travelling with kids, etc…): http://www.schiphol.nl/Travellers/AtSchiphol/AirportFacilities.htm

    Hope this helps. Have a safe trip.

    Best regards,
    Keith

  21. Jane 29/03/2012 7:55 am
    #

    Hi Keith,

    How are u? Just curious, are u asian (filipino). Anyway, im travelling on April 1, 2012 to Tunisia and with 10hours layover in Schiphol. Im really gettin crazy thinking what to do during that 10hours, gosh…im not sure if i will be allowed to go out of the airport to explore the city (im from Philippines, by the way), u know “visa thing”. Anyway, are the hotels inside airport are affordable? im travelling with my 21month old son.

  22. velvet 03/02/2012 10:56 am
    #

    That’s so cool! Thanks for your lovely comment Deepa! :-)

    Cheers,
    Keith

  23. Deepa 02/02/2012 2:56 pm
    #

    These are all great suggestions! Thanks to a missed connection from Brussels, the hubby and I had the chance to do a quick canal belt walkabout and a visit to the Van Gogh Museum. It was one of those opportunities we’d never we would get to do again… until we ended up moving here 2 years later!

  24. Life for Beginners | Kenny Mah 23/12/2011 12:54 am
    #

    I remember that CK and I did exactly that when we had more than 4 hours of a layover at Schiphol – heading into Amsterdam was a great decision! :)

  25. velvet 06/12/2011 3:57 pm
    #

    Cool! Have a good flight! :-)

    Cheers,
    Keith

  26. AfternoonDrinks 06/12/2011 10:41 am
    #

    Thanks! This is perfect timing as my husband and I have a layover on the 20th. Would love to get him a surprise message.

    Thanks for the info and Enjoy your Afternoon Drinks.

  27. Bo 22/10/2011 6:12 pm
    #

    Love Schiphol.
    Such a a well structured and efficient airport. Total opposite to CDG.

  28. Jack Ficaro 14/10/2011 1:57 am
    #

    I’d go downstairs to the trains I’d head toward Amsterdam but I’d get off the train in Purmerend and walk toward the Koe Markt and arriving there I walk into the Bonte Koe one of the top bier cafe in the Nederalands I prefer to think of it as the best of the best bier cafes in the world . I’d surprise Huub and ask him where his pretty wife Linda is I’d visit a while and on my way out I’d tell em to say hello to Willem my day would be complete then !!!!!!!!

  29. john 13/10/2011 11:05 pm
    #

    Or you could sample some of lthe fine liquors at the Duty Free shops in the airport, and choose your favorites to take home with you.

  30. Suzy 13/10/2011 4:02 pm
    #

    Schiphol is a fantastic destination – as an Amsterdam local or traveller! The customer service there makes customs/immigration/boarding/shopping a great experience..

  31. velvet 12/10/2011 8:40 pm
    #

    If you’re flying to Europe, Amsterdam Airport is a great hub to fly into – and you can come visit me too! :-)

    Cheers,
    Keith

  32. Nancy & Shawn Power 12/10/2011 8:36 pm
    #

    Great tips!

    Thanks for that.

    We haven’t been YET, so we’ll keep that in mind.

    Nancy & Shawn

  33. velvet 12/10/2011 6:35 am
    #

    I sometimes drop by at Murphy’s – if I’m not mistaken, I think it’s the only place inside the terminal with an open courtyard.
    Thanks for your comment.

    Cheers,
    Keith

  34. The Travel Fool 12/10/2011 3:10 am
    #

    Murphy’s Pub is my favorite place there, the food is good and the beer aint bad either.

  35. Jeremy Branham 11/10/2011 11:16 pm
    #

    I have to admit that I loved this airport. Aesthetically pleasing and easy to get around. Even getting through customs and immigration wasn’t that bad. Or maybe I just had a good experience! :)

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