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How to Spend a Layover in Amsterdam: Tips, Tours, & Itineraries


Air traffic control tower in Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam
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Things to do at Amsterdam airport

When it comes to airports for layovers, it doesn’t get much better than Amsterdam Schiphol. There are so many fun things to do at Amsterdam Airport!

The airport has its very own library, where you can browse books in multiple languages and check out exhibits on Dutch culture. For art lovers, there’s also the Rijksmuseum Schiphol Airport, a small outpost of the world-class museum featuring a rotating selection of Dutch art for you to check out without venturing into the city centre.

If you’re looking to relax between flights, XpresSpa is the go-to, providing everything from massages to manicures, all without leaving the airport. And, of course, you can always sample local Dutch food or enjoy a pint of Heineken at one of the airport’s many restaurants and bars.

Best Things to do during an Amsterdam Layover

Airport sign at Schipol airport, Amsterdam

Your Amsterdam layover itinerary will vary greatly depending on how long you have available, and what top attractions are most important to you.

Fortunately, it’s super easy to get to Amsterdam city centre from the airport using the train, which takes just 18 minutes, and drops you off right at Centraal Station. Trains between the city and airport are also frequent, with over 130 services per day!

Amsterdam is also very solo-traveller friendly, thanks to its easy public transport and solid safety record.

So, now that you’re in Amsterdam, what should you do? Here are our suggested layover itineraries for you to steal.

4 hours layover in Amsterdam

4 hour layover in Amsterdam visit the Royal Palace, Dam Square
Royal Palace, Amsterdam

With just four hours, time really is of the essence, and many travellers will opt not to risk missing their connecting flight by heading into Amsterdam. Plus, if your original flight was delayed, you definitely won’t have enough time to get out and explore.

However, if you do opt to leave the airport, catch the train to Amsterdam Centraal. From here, make the short walk to Dam Square.

This is the historic part of the city and one of its most photo-worthy spots. Take a look at the Royal Palace, grab a quick bite of stroopwafel from a street vendor, and maybe catch a street performer in action before hopping on a train back to the airport.

It’s been a short but sweet trip to Amsterdam, and we’re sure you’ll be desperate to come back to explore more!

5 hours layover in Amsterdam

5 hour layover in Amsterdam, visit Anne Frank House (museum)
Anne Frank Museum

Five hours in Amsterdam gives you a little bit more wriggle room for your layover. Catch the train to Amsterdam Centraal before strolling down the Jordaan District, checking out the canals and narrow streets.

If you have enough time and have bought your tickets online in advance, head inside the historic Anne Frank House for a quick tour, or, if you don’t have time, stop at a cafe to try a Dutch snack like bitterballen.

6 hours layover in Amsterdam

6 hours layover in Amsterdam visit Rijksmuseum

Six hours in Amsterdam is really the minimum amount of time to have on your layover if you want to visit the world-famous Rijksmuseum. This massive art gallery rivals even those in Paris, and you could easily spend an entire day here.

However, since you only have a few hours, head straight to the highlights, like The Night Watch by Rembrandt, which is valued at over €500 million. Other must-sees in the museum include pieces by Vermeer, Van Gough, and Hals.

If you have extra time, take a wander around Museumplein, the nearby park, and snap your essential Amsterdam canal photos before heading back to the airport.

7 hours layover in Amsterdam

Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam - 7 hour layover guide
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

With seven hours in Amsterdam, you can afford to explore a bit further. And what better way to do so than on a canal cruise along the city’s famous waterways? Boat tours depart from Central Station and usually last 60-75 minutes. It’s best to book in advance so that you don’t miss any time waiting for the next departure.

Post-cruise, enjoy a glass of Heineken in a local bar or cafe to soak it all in before hopping on public transport to the Van Gogh Museum (get your ticket online in advance for speedy entry). This building houses the largest collection of Van Gogh’s paintings and drawings in the world. You’ll find iconic masterpieces like “Sunflowers” and “The Bedroom”, plus pieces by his contemporaries.

8 hours layover in Amsterdam

Heineken Brewery Amsterdam, 8 hour layover guide Heineken Experience
Heineken Experience (Heineken Brouwery)

With an 8 hour layover, you’re really able to get into the spirit of Amsterdam. From Centraal Station, it’s just a short walk into the red light district to visit the super-bizarre but strangely fascinating Sex Museum. It’s the most unorthodox museum you’ll ever see, but definitely worth a visit. When in Amsterdam!

From there, hop on a canal cruise to check out some of the city’s prettiest spots from the water, and then grab a local bite to eat. Nothing beats the gooey, caramelly goodness of a stroopwafel - so don’t miss out.

With a full tummy, hop on a tram to the Heineken Experience. This interactive tour through the history of beer brewing in the Netherlands, and of the Heineken Brewery itself, is fascinating - and ends with a free tasting of the good stuff, of course.

10 hours layover in Amsterdam

Inntel Hotels Amsterdam Center 10 hour layover guide
Inntel Hotel Amsterdam Center

With a 10 hour layover in Amsterdam, you almost have an entire day to explore. Start your extended layover with a trip to the Anne Frank House - but remember: you need to book your tickets online in advance, and they do sell out quickly.

After exploring this deeply moving site, take a walk around the Jordaan District nearby, snapping photos of the narrow buildings and bicycles.

Then, head off to the Rijksmuseum, checking out the gallery’s highlights and spending some time lingering in areas that are most interesting to you. This is the largest museum in the Netherlands, so you need a solid plan for your time here!

Located just 3km from the Rijksmuseum, and a 7-minute walk from Centraal Station. You can stay in the Inntel Hotels Amsterdam (pictured above). A vibrant, modern and stylish hotel located in the heart of Amsterdam.

Head over to the Vondelpark, Amsterdam’s largest public park, for a stroll around the greenery, before, if you have time, topping off your day with a tour of the Heineken Experience followed by a cold beer. Cheers!

12 hours layover in Amsterdam

12 hour layover guide in Amsterdam - Electric Ladyland
Electric Ladyland

With 12 hours in Amsterdam, you’ll get to cover some of the city’s top attractions and sprinkle in a few hidden gems too. Kick things off at Amsterdam Centraal, where you can hop on a scenic canal cruise to check out Amsterdam’s oh-so-lovely canals and snap as many photos as you can!

Then, it’s time to delve into the city’s history at the Anne Frank House, where you’ll learn all about the horrors of the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam and get a glimpse into one of the most famous stories of WW2.

Afterwards, lighten the mood with a trip to Electric Ladyland, the first museum of fluorescent art, and a place very worthy of a spot on your Instagram. Want to know more about Amsterdam’s fabulous canals? Of course you do! Luckily, the Museum of Canals is next on your itinerary, an interactive hidden gem that’ll give you more insights into your canal tour this morning.

Round off the day with a trip to a nearby bar for a cold Heineken, and pick up some poffertjes (bite-sized fluffy pancakes) to reward yourself for a jam-packed day of sightseeing.

Overnight layover in Amsterdam

Night time image of aiport sign in Schipol airport

For a one night layover in Amsterdam, we recommend checking into your hotel and then following our 12 hours in Amsterdam itinerary. With the extra time you have on your hands, you can also throw in a trip to the Museum of WWII Resistance, and then head up to the A'DAM Lookout for spectacular city views once night has fallen.

Make dinner reservations in advance at The Pantry if you want to sample traditional Dutch cooking without breaking the bank. This place is cosy and relaxed, and also super popular, so the sooner you can book a table the better!

In the morning, grab a coffee and a croissant from a bakery near your hotel, and then head back to the airport to catch your connecting flight.

For a one night layover in Amsterdam, the location of your hotel is key. Just remember, Amsterdam isn’t one of Europe’s cheapest cities, so you may have to make some accommodation compromises to stick to your budget.

We recommend staying as close to Centraal Station as possible so that you won’t waste valuable sightseeing time getting to and from your accommodation. You could even stay in a hostel to really keep costs down!

Best Amsterdam Layover Tours You Can Book

Don’t want the stress of organising an Amsterdam layover on your own? We completely understand! If you’re looking for a stress-free layover, it’s well worth booking a layover tour.

Here are our favourites:

This private 4-hour Amsterdam layover tour takes you on a swift journey through Amsterdam’s must-see attractions, including taxi transfers to the city from the airport and back, a 2-hour walking tour, and a 1-hour canal cruise. Since the walking and canal tours only operate during the day, the earliest you can arrange pickup for this tour is 8:30am.

This 3-hour Amsterdam layover tour is totally customisable and includes airport pickup and dropoff as well as a private guide ready to take you to the places you want to see the most. It’s ideal if you have specific attractions you want to visit during your layover.

If you’d prefer to get out of the city and check out the “traditional” picture-perfect Holland, you’re in luck: this Amsterdam layover tour will take you to Zaanse Schans, where you can watch traditional clog-making, sample Gouda cheese, and check out the area’s pretty windmills and colourful houses. All in just three hours!

Crazy Things to do in Amsterdam

Moco Museum - Crazy things to do during a layover in Amsterdam
Moco Museum

Although we’ve tried to stick to the most popular tourist attractions for these layover itineraries, it’s no secret that Amsterdam is just as famous for its crazy and unusual things to do. So, if you’re looking to spice up your trip, here are our favourite crazy things to do in Amsterdam!

De Pozenboot, or “the Cat Boat”, is the world's only floating cat sanctuary, moored on the Singel Canal. This unique animal shelter is open to visitors looking to visit furry friends in an unusual setting.

If you’re not into classic art, head over to the Moco Museum, which may be more up your street. This boutique museum is known for its modern works by groundbreaking figures like Banksy, Andy Warhol, and Salvador Dalí, with a focus on artists who push boundaries and challenge conventions.

The notorious Sex Museum, located near Amsterdam Central Station, is one of the most popular unusual things to do in the city. This provocative museum explores the history of sex through a variety of artefacts and exhibits and will guarantee some eyebrow-raising moments.

If you’re looking to learn more about Amsterdam’s connection to the world’s oldest profession, you can also take specialised red light tours - certainly an “only in Amsterdam” experience!

FAQs about layovers in Amsterdam

Do I have to go through customs if I have a layover in Amsterdam?

Yes, if you’re going to leave the airport on your Amsterdam layover you’ll need to go through both customs and immigration. As you may know, customs and immigration wait times can vary wildly from day to day, so make sure you give yourself plenty of time to go through these before your next flight.

Is there a hotel attached to Amsterdam (AMS) airport?

Yes. Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (AMS) has several hotels directly connected to it, making an overnight layover in Amsterdam, or even just a quick nap and a shower between your flights, easier than ever.

Can you leave the airport in Amsterdam during a layover?

Yes, you can leave the airport during your layover in Amsterdam, and many travellers take advantage of this to get a quick glimpse of the city. Just make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get back to the airport and clear immigration and customs in time for your next flight. Got a layover in Amsterdam? Lucky you! Whether it’s just a quick stop or you’ve got a full day to spare, there’s plenty to keep you entertained without stepping foot outside the airport.

If you do decide to venture into the city, though, there’s plenty to see and do - even in a time crunch, Amsterdam won’t disappoint.  From cheese tasting to canal cruising, a short trip will give you a great taste of what the city is all about and, dare we say it, even have you itching to come back soon.

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