amsterdam schiphol airport guide

Amsterdam Schiphol Airport Guide

Amsterdam Schiphol (AMS) is one of the more pleasant airports in Europe with its light and spacious terminals.

Schiphol has become a major connecting hub for many air travellers, especially those using Air France-KLM and partner airlines. Excellent onward transport options include the Dutch rail network, Thalys high speed train to Paris and Intercity to Brussels.

Here are a few tips on getting the most out of Schiphol airport:

Single Terminal Concept

Schiphol airport has effectively one terminal grouped by different piers. The terminal is divided into Schengen and non-Schengen sections as the Netherlands is part of the Schengen European area, an open border agreement. The Schengen zone of the airport is within the Netherlands.

You need to pass through a passport (border) control if travelling to/from outside the Schengen zone (this includes destinations in the UK, Ireland, US, Asia, Africa). Thus the non-Schengen zone is technically outside of the Netherlands. Many nationalities need an applicable Schengen visa to enter into the Netherlands.

Queues at Schiphol immigration are normally reasonable and you should only have to wait 5-10 minutes at the most. There are e-passport gates for UK/EU/EEA citizens.

Schengen examples - Passengers flying Amsterdam-Barcelona or Milan-Amsterdam would normally have no passport control at either end.

A passenger flying London-Amsterdam-Barcelona would need to go through a border control on arrival at Amsterdam Schiphol to enter the Schengen area - once through they would essentially have no further passport checks on their journey to Spain.

A passenger flying Milan-Amsterdam-Delhi would not need to show a passport in Italy but would have a passport check at Schiphol as they would be departing the Schengen area.

Recent renovations have taken place at the airport to create centralised security zones rather than have security at the gates.

Onward Travel - There is a station directly under Schiphol Airport with trains to Amsterdam and other cities in Holland. For more detailed info see our Schiphol to Amsterdam page. International rail connections are possible to Antwerp, Brussels Airport/Brussels and Paris.

City Tours - If you have a layover of more than 4 hours at Schiphol then consider taking the train into the city (15 minute ride) and doing some sightseeing, shopping or having a meal. Check out our Amsterdam Schiphol Airport Layover Guide

Schiphol Experience Tour - Take a unique 1 hour tour of the airport and visit the fire station, aircraft hangars and other places not normally open to the public. Tours depart year round at the following times: at 1100/1300/1430 Tue-Sun (closed Mon) from bus stop A15. You need to first check-in with ID at the Planes@Plaza store at Schiphol Plaza. Tickets cost €15.50 for adults, €7.75 for children 4-12 or €35 for a family ticket (2 adults + 2 children)

Schiphol Airport Facilities

Panorama Terrace - Schiphol Airport has a large outdoor panorama terrace located upstairs (3rd floor) on the public side between arrivals 1 and 2. It has some excellent views of the aircraft gates and a couple of the runways. There is an old KLM Fokker 100 aircraft on display plus an indoor café and bar there. Open daily between 0900-1700 in the winter, 0700-2000 in the summer (April-October). Note, there are ongoing renovations of the area.

Did you know that Schiphol Airport has 5 main runways? These are the Buitenveldertbaan, Oostbaan, Aalsmeerbaan, Kaagbaan and Polderbaan.

There are designated plane spotter areas at the end of IJweg (2141 CN Amsterdam) at the Polderbaan and along the Buitenveldertbaan at Loevesteinse Randweg (1118 EL Amsterdam) next to the McDonald's.

Shopping - Schiphol Plaza is the shopping retail area which lies on the public side and the shops are open daily between 0700-2200. It houses a variety of stores including Dutch favourite HEMA, and the likes of Esprit, G-Star Raw, H&M, Leonidas, Rituals, SuitSupply (tailored suits) and Victoria's Secret. Planes@Plaza is the popular aviation-themed shop selling aircraft models and other air memorabilia.

You will find a mid-sized Albert Heijn supermarket. There is a News/Books store, Etos (chemist), an Airport Telecom Shop (for local SIM cards), Gall & Gall (liquor store), Gassan Plaza (watches, jewellery), a pharmacy and a number of flower shops.

On the departures side of the airport there are the See Buy Fly shops - selling a variety of items from perfumes, tobacco and alcohol, clothes, watches and luggage, to books and electronic items. There are often special offer prices - supposedly the cheapest available in the Netherlands. Premium Dutch food delicacies can also be purchased although you can get these a lot cheaper in town.

Meeting Point - In the middle of the station hall there is a large red and white cube structure which is the official airport meeting point. There is a display screen where you can text the person you are meeting. You can also leave notes on the board.

Note, if meeting someone arriving at the airport - there are 4 different arrival exits and the exit for a specific flight will be indicated on the arrival screens. However, it can be possible that a passsenger comes out of a different exit, especially if they are carrying only hand luggage.

Comfy Chairs - There are a number of very comfy lazy chairs available all around the terminal (past security) particularly on the upper level. They are popular and finding a vacant one can be difficult. If you get one take care not to fall asleep - you wouldn't want to miss your flight!

Airline Lounges - There are a number (invitation-only) airline lounges located on the upper level. Please see our review of all Schiphol airport lounges

Showers at Schiphol - Transit or departing passengers can freshen up by taking a shower at the Mercure Terminal Hotel or the YOTELAir, both of which are on the departures (airside). The Mercure is found in Lounge 3 terminal and the showers are on the 1st floor of the hotel - it charges €19.50 for a shower cabin and this includes soap, shampoo, shower cap, towels and hair dryer. The YOTELAir is in Lounge 2 (near pier D) and it also charges €15 for an hour in one of their 2 available shower cabins.

Note there are some free showers in the public toilets on the upper level near the non-Schengen lounges - you need to bring your own soap and towels.

For arriving passengers one possibility for a shower at Schiphol is to head to the airport's Sheraton Hotel (very near the main public arrivals hall/train station). A day pass to its Fitness & Spa facilities (including rainforest showers) costs €20 - you can buy at the hotel reception between 0600 and 2200.

Eating/Drinking - There are over 50 places to eat and drink at the airport catering for different tastes and budgets. At Schiphol Plaza (public side) you can find the La Place Restaurant (decent self-service food) and La Place Express outlet, a Burger King, Café Rembrandt (a brown café), DUTCH & delicious (try some Dutch food), Pommes Frites & Döner Kebab (fast food), Per Tutti! (Italian food), a Starbucks coffee bar, TOKO To Go (Asian) and a number of other cafés and bars. Some places stay open 24 hours.

Within the terminal (departures side, past security), amongst others there is the Amsterdam Bread Company, Bubbles Seafood & Wine bar, Dutch Kitchen (typical Dutch products), Grand Café Het Paleis, East Bar & Bites (Asian), Murphy's Bar (Irish pub), Harvest Market (organic and gluten-free food), Silverscreen Bar (1920s themed American diner) and many other café outlets all over the terminal. Obviously airport prices are usually a bit higher than in the city.

Currently the airport is trialling a Deliveroo service where you can order food which is delivered within 15 minutes to you gate.

Museum - The NEMO Science Museum has 8 small interactive exhibits at Schiphol (free) which can be found on Holland Boulevard, between Lounge 2 and 3.

Airport Library - Schiphol has its own compact library area on Holland Boulevard which holds a selection of books as well as iPads and touch screens.

Doing Business - Regus has an office/meeting facilities at the Schiphol Airport Meeting Centre on the 8th floor of the Skyport office building (Havenmeesterweg 27) close to the arrivals/departures halls.

Free WiFi internet is available throughout the airport. KPN Internet Centres provide PCs for web browsing plus basic printing and copying service.

Relax - various massage and beauty treatments are on offer at XPress Spa at (Lounge 2/3, pier D). There is also a Meditation Centre located on the upper level of Lounge 2.

Flight Information - Live flight info can be found on the schiphol.com website. Schiphol also has a route planner app for passengers which can help them navigate the airport.

Schiphol Hotels

There are 3 onsite hotels which are walkable from the terminal building.

Sheraton Schiphol - This is a very convenient hotel just a short 50m walk from the airport station hall exit. Large and comfortable rooms, public area includes an atrium bar. 30 different meeting rooms of various sizes. The higher room prices do reflect the hassle-free hotel location.

Citizen M Amsterdam Airport - This is an excellent budget choice, a design hotel with small but modern all-white rooms and free WiFi. Good service and 24 hour lounge bar with funky furniture. Located just 5 minutes away from the airport hall by covered outside walkway.

Hilton Schiphol Airport - The Schiphol Hilton has 433 rooms and is connected by covered walkway, about 5-7 minutes walk from the terminal. The hotel offers spacious rooms, free WiFi, good views of the airport and a large atrium.

There are also 2 small hotels located within the airport terminal itself beyond passport control. They are the Mercure Terminal Hotel and the YotelAIR (a pod style hotel) - they are only really suitable for short-term transfer passengers and room numbers are very limited.

Schiphol Car Parking

There are various car parking options at Schiphol airport.

The P1 Short Term Parking is for drop offs/pick ups/short trips and is located a few minutes from the terminal. Parking is for up to 48 hours and is charged at €1 for 10 mins, day rate €37.50. Schiphol also offers P1 Holiday Parking which offers parking at P1 for longer than 48 hours, but you must pre-book online.

P3 Long Term Parking offers parking for 3 days or more. There are free shuttle buses (5 minute trip) running to the terminal every 10 minutes. Parking charges for 1-3 days are €65 (unsheltered) and €75 (sheltered). Each day thereafter is charged at €7.50.

P4 Basic Parking offers unsheltered parking located a little further away and is a little cheaper than the P3 option. There are also free shuttle buses (10 minute trip) running to the terminal every 15 minutes.

P6 Valet Parking is available for 3 days or more where you simply drop your car off at P6 (2 minutes walk from the terminal). Your car will be parked by one of the attendants in an unsheltered area. On your return your car will be waiting for pick-up at P6. The parking rates are higher than P3, expect to pay around €99 for 3 days.

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