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HOW-TO: Explore Amsterdam during your layover in Schipol Airport

Layovers are something no traveller likes running into. It means hours of waiting around, either trying to find something to do, or doing nothing at all. Especially when you have less than 12 hours as a layover, truly making something out of your layover can get difficult. But Schipol Airport has created a uniquely easy way for travellers to be able to take a train ride to Amsterdam and explore for a short time instead of waiting for their plane on an airport bench, and I am here to tell you all about it.

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Is it difficult? Not at all. Do you have to do a lot of planning? Not at all. Even if you’re reading this while arriving at Schipol Airport, this is something you can do by following this 8-step guide.


1. The question of time

The first thing you need to ask yourself is how much time do you have, subtracting the time spent getting off the plane, in immigration… Schipol Airport’s systems are incredibly fast compared to most airports, and you probably will not be met with long lines or waiting times. Once you’re through, count the time you really have before you need to be back in the airport to catch your next plane.

2. Online check-in or Pre check-in

To save yourself time and trouble, make sure you’re already checked-in for your next flight and have your printed boarding pass. Some airlines will allow the online boarding pass, but some don’t so it is better if you already have it on hand so you won’t have to worry about it and spend your time in Amsterdam knowing you’re all-ready to go. If you were given your boarding pass for your second flight at your initial departure airport, then you’re all set.

3. Things you don’t want to carry

You do not want to be lugging your carry-on around while you’re exploring Amsterdam? Or want to leave items behind that take up space or weigh a lot and pick them up before your flight? Most likely you’ll be leaving the airport from Terminal 2, where you can find locker rooms to store anything you don’t want to bring with you to Amsterdam (there’s also more locker rooms spread throughout the airport, see below). Simply follow the directions to the locker rooms or ask airport staff who will point you in the right direction.

The price of the lockers depends on the size of the baggage you’re leaving:

Locker rates per 24 hours

  • Small (43x34x80 cm) = EUR 6
  • Medium (58x34x80 cm) = EUR 7
  • Medium + (58x50x80 cm) = EUR 8
  • Large (90x51x80 cm) = EUR 9.50
  • Extra Large (120x50x80 cm) = EUR 11.50

For more information on locker rooms at Schipol Airport you can check out their locker info here, or call +31 (0)20 7952843.

4. Schipol to and from Amsterdam

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From Terminal 2, you have two options to buy train tickets: use one of the self-service machines, or go straight to the ticket counter. Both options are equally as fast, but the machines are slightly cheaper than the ticket office.

What do you need to buy? An NS Train return ticket to Amsterdam Central that will allow you to get from and to the airport, one for each person in your party. A standard one-way ticket will cost you EUR 4.20, and the return ticket will cost EUR 8.40. Return tickets must be used on the same day they were bought.

5. Explore! A quick guide to sightseeing in Amsterdam

BOAT TOURS

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The best way to sightsee Amsterdam quickly is, you guessed it, boat tours. The train station is right across from the tourist boat docks, where you’ll be able to see the ticket booths and hop on the next boat. Each boat service has different length tours, find the one best suitable for your liking and time.

Pro-tip for boat tours in Amsterdam: ask for open boat tours at one of the ticket booths, you can buy the ticket from them and the boats are only a short walk away.  You’ll be able to enjoy the view without glass covering every corner of the boat. The tour guides are super friendly and will tell you all about the major sights and what life is like in the city.

WALK AROUND + GUIDE TO MAJOR SIGHTS

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If you do not wish to take a boat tour, or still have time after to walk around, you can get a map at any of the tourist offices/booths in and around the station. For an 8 hour or less layover, I wouldn’t recommend venturing into one of Amsterdam’s many museums unless the weather is nasty, in which case the most recommended are the Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank Huis and the Rijksmuseum. Instead, explore the city on foot and really get a taste of Amsterdam itself! Some major sights in the city are:

The Jordaan

Netherland’s most famous neighbourhood, it is full of art galleries, restaurants, bars, cafés and specialty  shops that line its beautiful streets. Wander around its labyrinthic streets and see what you can find! It is also a stunning place for instagram-ready photo ops.

Read more about Jordaan.

Red Light District

Amsterdam’s very own “carnival of vice”, the RLD is known for its brothel-lined streets, ‘coffeeshops’, and strange museums. It is a place very frequented by visiting tourist, but keep in mind that it is not for everyone and by no means attempt to take pictures of the coffee shops or the brothels or your camera might end up in the canals.

There is more to the RLD than vice, however: its streets are made up of beautiful medieval buildings lining the canals full or art galleries, fashion studios and regular cafés.

Read more about the Red Light District.

Dam Square

This is where Amsterdam was founded centuries ago, now famous for the fair and ferris wheel that sometimes take over the square. It is a very popular tourist destination and a national gathering spot, as well as a hotspot for events in the city. Here you can find food stalls, restaurants and shops, as well as entertainment and admire the beauty of the Royal Palace which once housed the Dutch Royal family.

Read more about Dam Square.

Singel

This canal is the innermost in Amsterdam, where the famous flower market is held onboard flower-full boats. Is is lined by some of the most beautiful houses in Amsterdam, including the famous Dancing Houses. Other notable buildings include: the narrowest house in the world, the Munttoren tower where Singel meets Amstel river, the Round Lutheran Church.

Read more about Singel.

The Golden Bend

The most prestigious area in Amsterdam,  where the richest used to rule in the Golden Age. It is lined by impressive, architecture-rich mansions, some as old as 1660, which are open to the public on Open Monument Day (September). Here you can walk along the canal and admire the gorgeous façades.

Read more about the Golden Bend.

GRAB A BITE

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There are plenty restaurants and cafés where you can stop for a bite before heading back to the airport for your next flight. Also take advantage of the many shops full of treats that you can bring with you on the plane. If on a budget, try out the food stalls or carts in the city’s many squares.

7. Head back in time

Aim to be back at the airport with enough time to take care of all the pre-boarding procedures (security check, customs… around 120 minutes before your flight). You can also download FlightAware or your airline’s app to see if your flight will be delayed. You should take into account the 15-20 minutes the train takes to reach the airport when planning your return.

8. Catch your next flight

If you left anything at the lockers, pick it up and head to your departure gate and voilá! Time to reach your next destination!

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Did you find this post helpful? Share it with other travellers and share any tips you have for travellers with layovers in Amsterdam below!

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