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 Airport/Brussels.
Here are a few tips on getting the most out of Schiphol airport:
Single Terminal Concept - Schiphol airport has effectively one terminal grouped into different piers. The terminal is divided into Schengen and non-Schengen sections. Netherlands is part of the Schengen European open border agreement. Passengers transferring or travelling to/from outside the Schengen zone (this includes the UK, US, Asia, Africa) will have to go through a border control checkpoint. Queues at Schiphol immigration are normally reasonable and you should only have to wait 5-10 minutes at the most.
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 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.
Panorama Terrace - Schiphol 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).
Onward Travel - There is a station directly under Schiphol 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 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
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 Body Shop, Esprit, G-Star, 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. There is a mid-sized Albert Heijn supermarket. There is an AKO (newsagents/books), 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 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 (particularly on the upper level) - if you have a long wait for your flight. 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 YOTEL, 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 €15 for a shower cabin and this includes soap, shampoo, shower cap, towels and hair dryer. The YOTEL 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), Vlaamse Frites (a Flemish chip shop), Per Tutti! (Italian food), a Starbucks coffee bar, Touch Down (self-service restaurant at the panorama deck) and a number of other cafés and bars. Some places stay open 24 hours.
Within the terminal (departures side), amongst others there is the striking Bubbles Seafood & Wine bar, Dutch Kitchen (typical Dutch products), Grand Café Het Paleis, East bar & bites (Asian), Murphy's Irish pub, a McDonalds, Park Café (salads/freshjuices), Silverscreen (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.
Museum - The compact Rijksmuseum Schiphol is located on Holland Boulevard between piers E and F (non-Schengen departures side) and houses works of art painted by old Dutch masters. Note that due to ongoing airport renovation the museum will be closed until summer 2016.
The NEMO science museum has 6 small interactive exhibits at Schiphol (free) which can be found at the beginning of pier D.
Schiphol library - Next to the Rijksmuseum you can find a small library where you can read books in many different languages and relax on comfortable seating. There are also iPads available for surfing. Note that due to airport renovation, the library will be closed until Feb 2016.
Behind the Scenes 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 0930/1100/1300/1430/1630 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)
Doing Business - On the 3rd floor of departures 1 you will find Exchange Avenue - which has 8 meeting rooms of various sizes and can handle 2-80 people. Regus has an office/meeting facilities at Schiphol on the 8th floor of the Skyport office building at departures 1. Free WiFi internet is available throughout the airport. KPN Internet Centres provide computers for web browsing plus basic printing and copying service - located in both departures 1 and 2 and open 24 hours.
Relax - various massage and beauty treatments are on offer at either the Rituals Spa (Lounge 1) or XPress Spa at (Lounge 2/3,pier D). There is also a Meditation Centre located on the upper level of Lounge 2.
Casino - For those that fancy a flutter there is a Holland Casino outlet at departures 2 between piers E and F.
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 - If you have an early flight from Amsterdam then consider staying at the CitizenM hotel located just a few minutes walk from the station / terminal. It offers uniquely compact and hi-spec rooms from about €80 per night, much cheaper than the other onsite Schiphol hotels (Hilton and Sheraton). Check our Schiphol Airport Hotel Guide for other options.
Schiphol Car Parking - There are various car parking options at Schiphol airport. There is the Short Stop Parking P6 (free first 15 mins, then €2 per 12 mins up to a max of €50 daily rate) near the arrivals hall for picking up people. For short visits there is the Visitors Parking P1/P2 (a few minutes walk from Schiphol Plaza) which charges €1 per 12 mins, up to a daily maximum rate of €32.50. It is also used by those going away on short business trips of 1-2 days.
Longer-term parking is possible at Park & Travel 3 (accessible by free shuttle bus) which charges €53.50 for 2-3 days then €6.60 per subsequent day - slightly cheaper rates available if reserving in advance. Smart Parking offers even cheaper advance booking rates at P3 and P4 long-term parking - for example, from €49.50 for 8 days parking. For more convenience, Valet Parking is available at higher tarrifs.
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