Amsterdam Schiphol (AMS) is a major international airport hub which handles many transfer passengers. If you have a layover at Schiphol airport then our guide below will help you make the most of your time – either at the airport or if heading into Amsterdam city itself.
Note, ongoing in 2023, Schiphol airport continues to be busy with some flight disruptions and capacity controls. Expect the possibility of long queues at security and passport control.
What you can do during your Amsterdam Schiphol layover depends on a number of factors:
Time available between your flights – You now probably need at least 6-7 hours transit time to comfortably visit the city.
Time to get through the airport – Schiphol has 6 runways – if you land on the one furthest away (the Polderbaan) it could take 10-15 minutes taxi time to reach your gate.
You then need to walk from the gate to passport control and the luggage/customs area – this process can take anything up to 60 minutes, depending on gate location, immigration queues and number of border posts open. Obviously if you have checked luggage to pick-up this will slow you down a few more minutes.
As most of the transfer passengers will be flying KLM or Skyteam partners, there are transfer desks and self-service KLM transfer kiosks in each main pier where you can get info and/or check-in for your next flight.
Luggage – For layovers it is optimal to have your luggage already checked through to your next destination. Allow extra time if you need to collect, store and re-check bags.
The Schiphol Baggage Storage points around the airport charge €6 (hand baggage), €9 (hold baggage/odd-sizes) for 24 hours to store luggage. Payment can be made only by debit or credit card.
Passport control – You will need to go through a passport control if arriving from outside the European “Schengen area” or when departing to a country outside Schengen (such as UK or US). Obviously transit passengers from certain countries who wish to make a quick trip to Amsterdam will still need a suitable Schengen visa to enter the Netherlands.
For the very latest official guidelines and “health” requirements for visitors to the Netherlands please refer to the Dutch government portal here and Schiphol’s page here – though most restrictions have been removed.
Schiphol airport has installed a number of automatic self-service passport eGates. Currently they can only be used by arriving passengers aged 16 or over who have various European passports that contains a microchip.
Note, passengers with suitable passports from Australia/Canada/Hong Kong/Japan/New Zealand/South Korea/UK/USA are able to use the eGates on departure (but NOT on arrival).
Time of day – An ideal layover would be arriving on a sunny(!) morning, having a day in Amsterdam then departing in the evening. Some layovers are overnight and you may require a hotel stay. Don’t forget, any transit under 24 hours is not regarded as a stopover.
Security – We have seen increased queues at security since 2022. Schiphol airport is currently only allowing passengers into the airport within 4 hours of their departure.
Time of year – Summer is the best time to visit as the days are long and the weather should be at its best although be prepared for rain! If you come in the winter months the days are short (dark by 5pm) and it can be very cold and windy – so ensure you have some warm clothing.
Overnight stays at Amsterdam Schiphol
If you have an overnight transfer then you will need to consider staying at one of the Schiphol Airport hotels
If you want to remain in the terminal during your layover you could consider taking a pod-like room at the YOTELAIR which is in the airside Lounge 2 terminal (non-Schengen departures). The minimum stay is 4 hours, hand-baggage only.
There are also 3 hotels located a short walk from the airport terminal. The budget CitizenM design hotel has small capsule-style rooms. The Sheraton is a very comfortable but more expensive option with spacious rooms and an atrium bar. Finally the Hilton is within walking distance and has modern rooms.
Schiphol layover greater than 6-7 hours: visit Amsterdam?
For a comfortable visit to central Amsterdam our recommendation would be to have at least a 6-7 hours transit. Travel to the city is best made by train or taxi. You can book a taxi in advance at a fixed rate with Sneleentaxi
There is an Iamsterdam Visitor Centre at both Schiphol Arrivals 2 (public side) and at Amsterdam Central station.
Schiphol airport lies some 17km (11 miles) south-west of Amsterdam and there is a frequent train service to Amsterdam Central station which takes 15-20 minutes.
You need to buy a day return ticket which costs €10.80 (2023 price) including the €1 surcharge for a disposable ticket.
Tiqets offers the option to pre-purchase Schiphol-Amsterdam round-trip train tickets online here in multiple currencies – although it charges a slight premium at €15 return, the tickets are fully cancellable up to the day before. And you don’t waste time buying tickets at the station – just hop on board and simply scan the barcode at the gates at Amsterdam Central.
You could also buy a 1 day Amsterdam Travel Ticket here (€18) which is valid for the train trip and gives unlimited city public transport on GVB trams/buses/metro. You can pick up the ticket at Schiphol.
The OV-chip smart card system is used on Dutch railways so you need to check-in and check-out of your journey. At Schiphol the OV-chip card readers are in the station hall just before you go down to the platforms. At Amsterdam Central the card readers are at the gate barriers near the station exits.
Those with e-tickets can open the gates at Amsterdam Central with the barcodes.
Do make sure you get on the correct train at Schiphol by checking the overhead platform boards (destination Amsterdam Centraal, the train may also stop at Amsterdam Sloterdijk and Amsterdam Lelylaan). See our Amsterdam Rail Map for an overview of stations.
There is a different train line going to Amsterdam Zuid station which has a metro station that connects to central Amsterdam. You would need an Amsterdam Travel Ticket or a separate metro ticket for connecting onto the metro.
As you arrive at Amsterdam Central station the city centre is located on your right side (facing forward). From the platform head down the stairs to the tunnels which take you to the main exit.
Things To Do in Amsterdam on a Short Layover
What you do during your time in Amsterdam is up to you and depends if you are a first time visitor.
If this is your first visit to Amsterdam then it is highly recommended that you take a canal cruise (rondvaart) on a glass-topped boat.
Lovers runs a 60 minute canal cruise from Prins Hendrikkade 25, conveniently located just outside Amsterdam Central Station – book your cruise here from €16. It has a GPS audio guide in 19 languages and free WiFi is available on board.
You should have enough time to explore around the city a little and perhaps make a flying visit to one of Amsterdam’s museums or attractions. Here are a few tips and ideas:
- do note that many museums these days require you to make a reservation in advance. If you wish to visit either the Anne Frank House or Van Gogh Museum then this is absolutely essential.
- Body Worlds Amsterdam has a fascinating display of 200 human body ‘plastinate’ specimens. It is located only 400m from Central Station, about 5 minutes walk.
- You could jump on a free GVB ferry at the waterside of Central Station. Cross the IJ river to “Buiksloterweg” where you can see the white EYE Film building. There is also the A’DAM Lookout for a fine panoramic view and This Is Holland virtual 5D flight attraction.
- Or take a longer free ferry ride to NDSM wharf which takes about 15 minutes. This is a quirky area of former shipyards, some cafes and home to STRAAT, the world’s biggest street art and graffiti museum.
- Heading on foot down Damrak from Central Station gets you to Dam Square – which has the Royal Palace, the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church), Madame Tussaud, Bijenkorf department store and the Kalverstraat, Amsterdam’s main shopping street.
- If continuing further down Rokin to Muntplein/Rembrandtplein, in this area you will find Our House (Electronic Music Culture Museum), Fashion For Good Museum, Allard Pierson Museum, the Begijnhof, the main bookshops around Spui and the Flower Market.
- Head down Zeedijk (from Central Station) for Chinatown, Nieuwmarkt, Op Solder Museum and Oudekerk (Old Church) – do note, this area has the red-light district.
- For boutique shops head west – either around the Negen Straatjes (9 streets) and Jordaan areas or down the Haarlemmerdijk street.
Train back to Schiphol Airport – Head back to Amsterdam Central in good time for your train back to Schiphol Airport. These run up to 10x hourly and usually go from platforms 10, 13, 14 or 15. Trains operate between 0600 and 0030; there is an hourly night train service as well. Be aware that most trains will have a destination beyond Schiphol Airport.
Alternatives to Amsterdam
The town of Hoofddorp is just 5 minutes train ride from Schiphol. Whilst this modern town is nothing special there are good shopping facilities about 15 minutes walk from the station including a large supermarket (Albert Heijn XL) and all the major Dutch chains.
Keukenhof is the world famous tulip and flower garden park open only in springtime (late March to late May). It is located near the town of Lisse, about 35 minutes travel from Schiphol by using Arriva bus 858. Keukenhof is open for 2023 (74th edition) from 23 March to 14 May 2023.
Leiden is a wonderful historic city about 16 minutes train ride west of Schiphol.
Schiphol layover less than 6 hours: stay at the airport
There is not really enough time to consider a trip into the city. You will have to entertain yourself at the airport. Amsterdam Schiphol happens to be an excellent airport with many things to do.
Remember that Schiphol is effectively partitioned into 3 zones: the public area outside which includes the Schiphol Plaza shopping mall.  the Schengen terminal area for European departures/arrivals.  the non-Schengen terminal area for departures/arrivals outside the European Schengen area. You need to go through Dutch passport control to move in/out of the non-Schengen terminal.
Things to do at Amsterdam Schiphol during transit
• Lounge about on the easy chairs, many of which are located in the terminal’s upper level.
• Browse the web – free WiFi is available throughout the airport – under the “Airport_Free_Wifi” network. Do be aware that Schiphol employs WiFi and Bluetooth tracking of devices for data analysis.
• Relax at the Schiphol Airport Library which has a selection of books to browse while you wait for your flight. The library collection has some 500 titles translated from Dutch authors and also includes children’s books and coffee table style books on art, design, architecture, history and Amsterdam. The library is open 24 hours and can be found on Holland Boulevard in the non-Schengen departures area.
• Take a shower at either the Mercure hotel (€19.50) or YOTELAIR (€17.50).
• Head up to the panorama terrace (public side, departures 1) to look at the planes.
• Visit one of the Schiphol airport lounges if you have access.
• Have some quiet time at the Meditation centre on the upper level of Lounge 2. A church service is held there on Sundays at 1100.
• Get a massage or a spa treatment at Xpress Spa – open 0700-1430 at 3 locations around the airport. There are also Massage-O-Matic self-service massage chairs around the airport.
• Get your hair styled at En Vogue Hair Salon – open 0900-1900 (Mon-Fri) and 0900-1700 (Sat) at Schiphol Plaza (public side).
• Work out at the Sheraton Hotel Fitness & Spa (€35 day pass), on the public side close to Schiphol Plaza/station hall.
• Have a look at the small NEMO Science Museum interactive exhibition. Located between Lounges 2 and 3 (past security), it is open 24 hours per day with free entry for passengers. Also nearby is the Rijksmuseum Schiphol which features 17th century paintings from Dutch Masters.
• There are a number of shops at Schiphol – the See Buy Fly are on departures terminal side while the Schiphol Plaza mall on the public side includes a supermarket and various chain stores.
• There are over 40 places to eat and drink at the airport! On the terminal side, places of note include: Murphy’s Irish Pub (D pier), Grand Café Het Paleis, Dutch Kitchen, Bar & Cocktails (try a raw herring), Bubbles Seafood & Wine Bar, Harvest Market and the Park Café which has an outside patio.
The public side includes a La Place Restaurant, La Place Express, HEMA food (Dutch smoked sausage) and TOKO To Go (Indonesian).
• Meeting rooms (public side) are available at the Regus Schiphol Airport Meeting Centre or at the nearby The Office Operators (TOO).
• The airport has plenty of ATM machines to get out some euros and various bureau de change counters.
Check out our Schiphol airport guide with more details.
This article was originally published in 2013 and has continuously been updated. Last update 23 March 2023.
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