Amsterdam: The Complete 4-8 Hour Layover Guide (by a Pilot)

When you hear Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS), what do you think of? Dutch pancakes, windmills, lost suitcases, and tall locals may come to mind. But Schiphol is so much more than that.

Beside being the world’s third busiest airport, made recently famous for staffing issues and nightmarish delays, Schiphol is actually a phenomenal airport to transit on a layover. From its incredible convenience (15 minutes to downtown Amsterdam?! wow) to world-class lounges, epic shopping, and even an in-airport casino, there’s so much more to do on an AMS layover than you would ever expect.

As for leaving Schiphol and heading to Amsterdam on a layover, as a general rule-of-thumb, 5 hours is usually enough – but there are other factors you’ll need to consider.

Whether or not you decide to leave the airport, fret not – Schiphol Airport will bring Amsterdam to you. There’s so much more to do at AMS than most other airports, so trust that you won’t get bored.

Here’s why.

Everything You Need to Know about Laying Over/Transiting at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (Top Questions)

What’s the minimum time I need to catch a connecting flight at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport?
The Top 20 Most Fun Things to do Inside AMS Airport on a Layover
How long it takes to get downtown from Amsterdam Schiphol
12 Awesome Activities to delight you from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport on a layover
The 20 Top Places to Visit in Downtown Amsterdam on a Layover

My other Ultimate Airport Layover Guides: ATL | JFK | SEA | SFO | LAS | ATH | CDG | LHR | and more!

The 20 Most Fun Things to do inside Amsterdam Airport Schiphol on your next Layover

Whenever I'm transiting, laying over in, or just passing through Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, I never run out of fun things to do. Here's the 20 most fun things you can do inside the airport.
Whenever I’m transiting, laying over in, or just passing through Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, I never run out of fun things to do. Here’s the 20 most fun things you can do inside the airport.

You might be fretting your next layover in Amsterdam, wondering what there is to do at Schiphol to stay entertained? Worry not – there’s a ton you can do to have fun and make your layover fly by.

From museums to a library to a casino, there are a lot of surprising additions to Amsterdam Airport Schiphol that really make it a special place to transit.

But if you’re looking to simply relax and unwind, AMS has you covered too. World class lounges, in-terminal hotels, a massive outdoor terrace, and excellent food are all fantastic options to make you feel right at home – even if you’re thousands of miles away.

Here are the top 20 most fun things to do inside AMS airport on your next layover.

  1. Discover incredible art at the Schiphol Airport Rijksmuseum
  2. Enjoy a delightful world-class airport lounge
  3. Gamble your layover at the airport casino
  4. Freshen up with a free shower!
  5. Get some fresh air and enjoy epic airport views on the Panorama Terrace
  6. Treat yourself to luxury shopping – or just browse the fine selection
  7. Meditate or just relax at the quiet-zone Meditation Center
  8. Catch up on sleep- with airport hotel day rooms inside security
  9. Work up those steps by going on a long walk
  10. Jump into a new novel inside the airport library
  11. Delight your taste buds at some of the best airport restaurant in the wortld
  12. Melt away your layover in one of many massage chairs
  13. Savor absolutely delicious, fresh coffee
  14. Buy Dutch souvenirs and food to bring with you!
  15. Get a true workout in at the Sheraton gym without exiting security
  16. Play around at the airport playground
  17. Head to the park… inside the airport!
  18. Treat yourself to a full spa experience
  19. Stock up on Cuban cigars and Cognac
  20. Refresh yourself with local beer from the tap
Wondering how to pack efficiently for your trip? Here's how I've learned to pack after 7 years traveling the world as an airline pilot.

1. Explore the free branch of the national Rijksmuseum: inside security!

Yes, there are literally full museums you can visit INSIDE Schiphol airport on a layover! [Photo: Aaron C, CC-BYSA2.0, Wikipedia Commons]

If you don’t have time to visit the Rijksmuseum in downtown Amsterdam, worry not!

Amsterdam Airport Schiphol has a branch of the Rijksmuseum inside the airport, conveniently on “Holland Ave” inside security basically in the center of the airport.

It features art from Van Gogh and other Dutch masters, plus rotating displays – so that each of your layovers at AMS can be a little different!

Also NEMO Science Museum, with 8 interactive setups such as electricity, visible sound waves, and more. It’s a great place to keep the kids occupied on a layover.

2. Enjoy a top-notch airport lounge

The Schiphol KLM Crowne Lounge is massive, featuring multiple floors, restaurants, a workout area, and so much space to relax and chill out between flights.
The KLM Crowne Lounge is massive, featuring multiple floors, restaurants, a workout area, and so much space to relax and chill out between flights.

Ah, the KLM Crowne Lounge. It’s truly brilliant and one of a kind (the non-Schengen one, especially).

First off, it’s huge. There are multiple restaurants, relaxing zones, floors, and even private areas. Showers are available if you’re feeling like you need it. There are even sleep cabins. Sleep cabins!!

The non-Schengen (read: good & big) KLM Crowne Lounge is conveniently located on Holland Boulevard, basically in the middle of everything.

If you’re not flying business class, you can enter by paying a fee. For the much better, bigger non-Schengen lounge I’m describing, it’s 65€. You must be flying on a SkyTeam airline.

Other great lounges

If you don’t want to pay, don’t worry – you still have options, and having a PriorityPass card is a great way to access them. For example, you can access one of two Aspire Lounge (in T1 or in T2) for free. It’s actually quite decent, with good food and coffee, but it can get crowded to the point that access is no longer allowed. Nonetheless, it’s my go-to at AMS.

You can also purchase entry to any of the two aforementioned Aspire Lounges for about $27.

Members of Privium have access to 3 excellent lounges scattered around the airport. They are also exceptional. You can also enter by paying between 40-60€ depending on the lounge.

If you’re flying in business class on a Star Alliance airline, you’ll have access to the Star alliance Lounge as well.

Right now, PriorityPass is offering up to 25% off yearly memberships. In just three lounge visits, you are already ahead vs. paying for one-time access. Less if you bring a guest!

3. Gamble at the in-airport casino

Yes, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol DOES have a casino! And it does have slot machines and live game tables.

It;’s open daily from 6:30am-7:30pm, located in Room 2, between Gates E and F. There’s a 5 Euro entrance fee and the minimum age is 18.

4. Freshen up with a shower – without leaving the terminal!

You’ll find free showers inside security on the upper level of Lounge 2. Why not freshen up after a long flight?

If you’re already in the T2 Aspire Lounge, you can pay an additional fee for a shower – which comes with towels, soap, all you need.

5. Go airplane spotting and get some fresh air at the Panorama Terrace (outside security)

The Amsterdam Schiphol Panorama Terrace includes a whole freaking Fokker 100 as decoration! An awesome place to get fresh air on a layover. [Photo: Alexey Komarov, CC-BYSA4.0, wikipedia Commons]
The Amsterdam Schiphol Panorama Terrace includes a whole freaking Fokker 100 as decoration! An awesome place to get fresh air on a layover. [Photo: Alexey Komarov, CC-BYSA4.0, wikipedia Commons]

As an aviation buff, this would easily be my favorite activity on a Schiphol layover.

The Panorama terrace is a wonderful way to get fresh air while enjoying the splendid sight of airplanes arriving from ALL over the world. Truly remarkable. So much so that aircraft spotters travel specifically to Schiphol just to take pictures and videos from the panorama terrace.

6. Splash for some epic shopping right at the airport

The Schiphol Plaza is a busy central area of the aiport and features tons of shopping, restaurants. and fun activities.
The Schiphol Plaza is a busy central area of the aiport and features tons of shopping, restaurants. and fun activities. [Photo: Rob Koster, CC BY-SA4.0, Wikipedia Commons]

If you’re looking to eke out some last-minute shopping, or you just want to browse, you’ll love Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. It’s seriously almost like a mall, with everything from luxury brands to pharmacies to electronics and more. There’s really seriously high-quality options for shopping at the airport.

Outside of security, there is a shopping plaza which basically is a mall. It also has a bunch of great dining options. And lots and lots of flowerflowers.

7. Peace out, meditate, and relax in a complimentary rest zone and Meditation Center

Looking for the maximum peace and quiet on your Amsterdam layover? For the ultimate airport relaxation, head to the Meditation Center. It’s open 24 hours a day in Lounge 2.

If that’s not your thing, you will be happy to hear that AMS features 5 rest zones with reclining chairs, or veg out in peace in the, open 24-hours near Gates.

8. Catch up on much-needed sleep

If you flew into Schiphol on an overnight flight, you might be yearning for a nap. Luckily, YotelAir has a selection of dayrooms available - without having to exit the transit area!
If you flew into Schiphol on an overnight flight, you might be yearning for a nap. Luckily, YotelAir has a selection of day rooms available – without having to exit the transit area!

If you want to take a little nap or shower without leaving the terminal, you have two options:

  • Yotel Transit Hotel Schiphol
    • Located inside transit area of Lounge 2 near Piers D and E
    • Day and night rooms available
    • Can also shower for 17,50 Euro
  • Mercure Schiphol Terminal Hotel
    • Behind customs in transit area of Lounge 3
    • Day and night rooms available
    • Can also shower for 19,50 Euro
  • GoSleep Pods
    • Located inside the XpresSpa at Concourse D
    • Only open from 7AM to 2PM

Yotel is “located in the secure transit area of Lounge 2, after security and literally moments from your gate”

9. Get your steps in while awaiting your next flight

Schiphol is quite a big airport, and it’s highly efficiently central security means you can branch off in practically any direction and go for a hike.

It’s proven that walking after a flight is an extremely healthy way to prevent vascular problems like Deep vein thrombosis, which can happen after sitting too long. And it’s a great way to pass time. So why not?

10. Dive into an awesome book at the Airport Library

Schiphol Airport Amsterdam was the first in the weorld to open a library right at the airport. Reading isa great activity to keep your mind active on a layover.
Schiphol Airport Amsterdam was the first in the world to open a library right at the airport. It’s a great way to keep your mind active on a layover. [Photo: Sasha India, CC-BY2.0, Flickr]

Whether you want to start reading an awesome book, toy around with an iPad, or just enjoy a comfortable sofa, the airport library is the place to be.

It’s located inside security on Holland Ave. You can drop off any book you wish to donate to another reader along the way!

11. Enjoy some of the most delicious international cuisine – right at the airport!

Amsterdam Airport Schiphol has got food options to please any palette. [Photo: Donald Trung Quoc Don (Chữ Hán: 徵國單) – Wikimedia Commons – © CC BY-SA 4.0 International]

Amsterdam Airport Schiphol has something like 60 restaurants and bars featuring everything from sushi and caviar to pancakes and crepes.

If you didn’t get a chance to enjoy the Heineken Experience downtown, or you haven’t had enough, there’s a full-fledged Heineken restaurant/bar right at the airport.

And for a typical Dutch experience, head to Cafe Rembrandt, where you can enjoy beer, bitterballen, and other Dutch delicacies.

Other excellent Schiphol dining options include:

12. Grab a massage chair at Massage-O-Matic and watch the time pass by

You ever go into one of those home furniture stores just to sit in a fancy massage chair? No? I’m the only one?

Well, if you haven’t, you should give it a shot. It’s a great way to unwind and watch the time fly by.

These are scattered around the airport and cost 2 Euro for a 5-minute shiatsu massage.

13. Sip on delicious coffee

Coffee lovers, fret not. You have Cafe Chocolat to keep that coffee crave covered. It’s the best at Schiphol.

There’s additionally excellent coffee at many of the restaurants and bars, and even in the KLM Crowne Lounge. It’s really good there.

14. Buy Dutch food gifts and souvenirs to take home – or share with friends

Shopping for local Dutch souvenirs is a great way to spend your Schiphol layover.
There are so many places to buy local Dutch trinkets and souvenirs, especially on the airport’s “Holland Avenue”. [Photo: Donald Trung, CC-BYSA4.0, Wikipedia Commons]

You basically can’t go 15 steps in any direction at Schiphol without seeing somewhere to buy Dutch localities and memorabilia.

And don’t worry – they sell more than just the typical tourist stuff. More importantly though, you can buy stroopwafels to take home.

15. Work out at the Sheraton Hotel Fitness & Spa (35 Euro)

What’s even more healthy than walking? Working out!

You can make great use of your layover by heading to the Sheraton Hotel Schiphol and buying a day pass at their wonderful gym.

It’s proven to be a great way to reduce jet lag and get your feet up and running (literally) upon your arrival in Europe.

16. Bring your kids to one of THREE in-airport playgrounds!

If you have kids, chances are they have a little extra energy to get rid of. Luckily, there are in-airport playgrounds located around the airport.

17. Relax at the park… inside the airport!

Did you know there’s a relaxing park inside the terminal? It’s a quiet and peaceful place to get a break from the hustle and bustle of the airport. Schiphol does a good job making it feel like you’re in nature – all while being in the transit area.

There are even exercise bikes that charge your phone as you pedal. How awesome! Talk about motivating….

It’s open in Lounge 1 from 9AM-5PM daily.

18. Get fancy spa treatment you deserve after a long flight

If you want a little more intensely relaxing for an experience than massage chairs, parks, meditation rooms, or playgrounds, head immediately to the nearest XpressSpa.

There are several locations in the D-Pier, Lounge 2, and Lounge 3.

19. Stock up on Cognac and Cuban cigars

ExQuisite is Schiphol’s center of premium luxury drinks and cigars. Delight your senses with the finest range of cognacs, whisky’s, and the smoothest cigars that money can buy – without having to go to Cuba!

Additionally, as a certified Habanos specialist, ExQuisite offers rare and exclusive cigars as well as expert advice. Inside the store, you’ll find an ‘aroma table’ – certainly the center of attention here. So if you’re an aficionado of fine drinks, finer cigars, and fun experiences, ExQuisite is just what you need.

20. Grab a fresh brew

Nothing is more refreshing than a delicious local beer fresh from the tap. After your next long flight into Schiphol, head Dammer’s Tap for a tasty triple, refreshing fruity white, or a delicious lager.

Should I leave Amsterdam Schiphol AMS Airport on a layover? How much time is enough in 2023?

When considering whether you should leave Schiphol on a layover, there are many factors to consider. Generally, 6 hours is a safe amount of time to leave the airport, but it could be less or more some days.

These factors include:

1. The time to exit the airport. If arriving from an international (outside Europe) flight, passing customs and immigration can take up to 2 hours (but usually only 15-20 minutes).

2. Have you checked in baggage only to Amsterdam? This could happen if you booked flights on two different airlines (and not on one ticket). You’ll have to wait for your bag in this unusual case.

3. How long the line for security is for your departure. Check the latest estimates on the AMS Website. Typical non-peak security wait times are 20-40 minutes, but at peak days/times security wait times can exceed 2 hours.

4. If departing on an international flight, passing immigration control can take an extra 1-2 hours beyond security (but usually take 15-30 minutes).

This assumes you are checked in for your next flight and do not need to wait in line to check in bags or print out a boarding pass. That can add 1-2 extra hours.

Overall, just the airport process can take 1 to 5 hours depending on the above factors. However, you can significantly reduce this by becoming a Privium member or flying SkyPriority/Business/first class.

Now, let’s talk about the fun part – leaving the airport!

Baggage Storage at Schiphol Airport

I am very careful with where I store my Sterling Pacific carryon when I travel. Luckily, Schiphol has an Baggage Storage area!

Schiphol has a Baggage Storage area as well as secure lockers that fit standard hand luggage; fees range from €6–€12.

You can also book a luggage storage downtown using LuggageHero if you prefer having your bag close when you go out and explore.

Wondering which suitcases Airline Crew use to maximize their layovers? Check out the 5 top ones here.

Transportation Options from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport

The train station at Schiphol Airport is SO convenient to downtown Amsterdam (Centraal). You can get there in 15 minutes, which makes explore on a layover so much feasible,
The train station at Schiphol Airport is SO convenient to downtown Amsterdam (Centraal). You can get there in 15 minutes, which makes explore on a layover so much feasible,

Amsterdam Schiphol is actually one of the most convenient airports in the world in terms of getting to the capital. By train, you can get straight to Centraal Station in only 15 minutes. This makes the prospects of leaving the airport on a layover much more feasible.

To get to the Amsterdam airport train station, head to the main terminal building (called the Schiphol ‘Plaza’). Intercity trains run directly from the airport to the Amsterdam Centraal Station, typically departing off Platforms 1 and 2. There are automated ticket vending machines located in the Schiphol Plaza, which accept both card and cash (Euros).

Tickets start at €5.60 and trains run 24/7 every 10-15 minutes most of the day, and only hourly between 1-6AM.

You can also get to downtown Amsterdam in 30 mins by bus. The Amsterdam Airport Express (bus 397) is the fastest way to Rijksmuseum or the Van Gogh Museum.

By taxi, which is very very expensive, it takes 25 mins to get mostly anywhere in central Amsterdam.

Shorter layover but still want to leave the airport? Try Hoofddorp

Hoofddorp is a lovely little gem located next to Amsterdam Schiphol irony. Picture is the restaurant La Hir

About a 2 minute train ride from Schiphol airport is the lovely little town of Hoofddorp. It’s a quiet enclave filled with a surprisingly ample shopping area, a lovely canal-filled park, and a couple great restaurants.

I particularly enjoyed dining at La Hirondelle with its lovely pond views, delicious cuisine, and excellent pricing.

This area is great if you only have 4-5 hours of transit time and still want to get out, soak in some sun and fresh air, grab a bite, and stretch your legs.

The Top 15 Fun Amsterdam 5+ Hour Schiphol Layover Activities

Planning to visit Zaanse Schans on your Amsterdam layover? Here's how from Schiphol.
There’s perhaps nothing more Dutch than walking along a field of tulips and windmills. Here’s how to visit this incredible place on your Amsterdam layover.

Once you make it downtown, you’ll find an incredibly impressive and quintessentially Dutch city filled with canals, flowers, cathedrals, stone sidewalks, amazing restaurants, and cute neighborhoods. Of course, there’s a ton of parks, museums, and history to indulge in.

Here are the top 12 fun activities to do in downtown Amsterdam on a Schiphol layover.

1. Try a local Dutch delicacy

I’m not gonna lie, I’m pretty much obsessed with Stroopwafels. They are really, really worth it.

When in Rome, right?

There are a ton of fantastic Dutch restaurants in Amsterdam, but some of the most famous include:

  • Moeders
  • Ricks
  • Wilde Zwijnen
  • De Silveren Spiegel
  • Winkel 43

Just note that lines may be long, so it’s important to reserve ahead if possible.

If you’re wondering which Dutch delicacies to pick, consider trying:

  • Bitterballen (Dutch meatballs)
  • Kroketten (Fried croquettes stuffed with gravy and meat)
  • Bread rolls (Broodjes)
  • Hollandse Nieuwe (Pickled raw herring)
  • Rijsttafel (Indonesian Nasi Padang)
  • Stroopwafel (Dutch waffle)

Pro Tip: Try the best apple pie of your life at The Papeneiland Café!

2. Take a National Geographic Traveler rated world’s best tram rides

You can catch trams directly from the Centraal Station after your arrival from Schiphol on your next layover.
It’s almost hard not to ride a tram through downtown Amsterdam.

Though it might sound strange, trams are actually a quintessential part of Amsterdam’s history. They date all the way back to 1875!

These blue and white trams run across the city and cost only a couple Euros to ride. If you can somehow fit them into your itinerary, it’s well worth it!

3. Try some beer: The Heineken Experience

Taste the story of the world’s most famous beer with this interactive tour through the history of this beer giant.

Tickets start around $23, which is well worth it for the tour and the beer. The tour lasts an hour and a half and includes beer, of course!

4. Explore some of the most amazing museums in the world

Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum is known around the world for its intricate, elaborate, and incredible display of Dutch arts and history. And its only one of many you can visit on your next Schiphol layover.
Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum is known around the world for its intricate, elaborate, and incredible display of Dutch arts and history. And its only one of many you can visit on your next Schiphol layover.

Amsterdam is home to an array of the highest quality and most interesting museums in the world. Topping off the list, of course, is the Rijksmuseum. It’s the national museum of the Netherlands, dedicated to Dutch arts and history. It’s located right next to the Van Gogh Museum. Between the two, you have more than you could ever see on a layover.

But if that’s not enough, or if you’ve already been, make sure to stop by any of these other world class museums:

  • Stedelijk (modern and contemporary art and design)
  • Amsterdam Museum
  • Museum Van Loon (stunning estate)
  • Moco Museum (modern and contemporary art)
  • Tropenmuseum (museum about cultures)
  • National Maritime Museum
  • Museum of the Canals (of course it would be in Amsterdam!)
  • Hermitage
  • NEMO Science Museum

Make sure to buy Rijksmuseum tickets online ahead of time!

5. Rent a bike for the true local experience exploring the city

Yes, this is a bike rack in Amsterdam. Renting a bike is the easiest, fastest, and most convenient way to explore the city on a layover.
Yes, this is a bike rack in Amsterdam. Renting a bike is the easiest, fastest, and most convenient way to explore the city on a layover.

There’s hardly anything more stereotypical than cycling across Amsterdam. It says something that cyclists here have right of way on the streets over everyone – even pedestrians!

Rent a Bike is conveniently located near Dam Square with bike rentals starting at €6.25 for three hours. But there are plenty of other rental across the city, such as Amsterdam Black Bikes, which has the most bicycle rental locations in Amsterdam.

6. Go for an epic canal cruise

Amsterdam rivals Venice as the best city for canal cruises - in the world! And it's possible to ride on a canal cruise even on a layover.
Amsterdam rivals Venice as the best city for canal cruises – in the world! And it’s possible to ride on a canal cruise even on a layover.

There’s no better way to enjoy the beauty of Amsterdam than by riding its intricate canal system on a lovely classic wooden saloon boat, complete with drinks and Dutch cheese.

Tours are rather inexpensive, and typically last an hour to 75 minutes.

7. Head up to the city’s highest rooftop bar

The views from the A'DAM Lookout - especially on a nice day - are absolutely spectacular. Grab drinks, hop on a rooftop swing, and have a good time on your next Schiphol layover.
The views from the A’DAM Lookout – especially on a nice day – are absolutely spectacular. Grab drinks, hop on a rooftop swing, and have a good time on your next Schiphol layover.

If you’re anything like me, you have an intrinsic desire to head to the highest elevation for the best views. I usually take airplanes for that, but buildings work too!

In Amsterdam, you have the A’DAM Tower Lookout, an excellent place for a drink with views over downtown Central Amsterdam. Sunsets from there are great!

8. Walk around the Historic Red Light District

It's very easy to visit the Red Light District on your next Amsterdam layover.
Whether you go for the sights… or a little bit more… the Red Light District is a fascinating place to visit, filled with history and a whole lot of fun.

Even if you don’t want to.., well… partake in the activities offered here, the Historic Red Light District is quite fun to walk around.

Yes, you might get attention from the other side of the clear glass – assuming the curtains aren’t pulled – but it’s quite a spectacle on its own. TRULY a quintessential Dutch experience.

9. Shop at a local flower market

Amsterdam might just be the unofficial flower capital of the world...
Amsterdam might just be the unofficial flower capital of the world…

If you like pretty flowers, you’re in luck. Amsterdam has more flowers than anyone could ever need. Seriously.

There are towers pretty much on and off every street, along the canals, and in so many shops. You can even find a market dedicated only to selling flowers – right inside the Bloemenmarkt.

10. Try out your flying talent in an airline-level Flight Simulator

Fulfill your dreams of flying an airliner with incredibly sophisticated full-cockpit simulators offered by SimFlying. Screenshot courtesy of

No experience required, you can check out what it’s like to be an airline pilot – and see for yourself why I love it so much!

SimFlying offers fun flying experiences for anybody, experienced or not. Whether you flew in on an Airbus or not, here you’ll be going for Boeing, flying the 737NG with the same full fledged motion simulator airline pilots use for their training. Your layover will fly by and you’ll make memories you keep for life!

11. Go for a swim in the North Sea

One great Schiphol layover activity is to rent a car and head to the North Sea - Zaandvort!
The North Sea paints quite a different kind of beach experience. The coastal towns here are gorgeous, the water is murky and cold, but the experience is unique and phenomenal.

If the city’s not your thing, why not head to the beach? From Schiphol, it’s quite easy to get to Zandvoort by car/taxi, a cute beach town right on the North Sea. And on your way, make sure to stop for a bite in Haarlem, a super interesting and more authentically Dutch town than Amsterdam.

Its definitely worth renting a car for this.

12. Visit more local and less touristy Dutch towns

The Hague is actually quite easy to get to from Schiphol on a layover, and offers a lot of charming and rich history to learn from!
The Hague is actually quite easy to get to from Schiphol on a layover, and offers a lot of charming and rich history to learn from!

Amsterdam isn’t for everyone. Although it’s an incredible city, it is very attractive and therefore very tourist. It gets busy.

You have plenty of other great alternatives that will provide the same Dutch experience without the crowds. Some of these include:

  • Haarlem
  • Utrecht
  • The Hague
  • Delft
  • Leiden
  • Rotterdam

If you have a longer layover, you can take a wonderful day trip to the countryside and get a taste of what the Netherlands really is about. This organized tour includes visits Zaanse Schans, Edam, Volendam and Marken.

“See windmills, waterlands, cheese makers, and clog factories up close, and learn about the region’s rich history directly from your professional guide, with tasters and interior tours included in the price.” (TripAdvisor)

13. Enjoy nature by kayaking, hiking, and suntanning at Amsterdam’s version of Central

At Het Amsterdamse Bos, you can do everything from pitching a tent and camping to horseback riding to kayaking to hiking. At three times the size of Central Park, there’s a ton to see. And don’t worry if you get hungry, there are plenty of restaurants and cafés right inside the park!

You can get lost here for hours. Just don’t get too lost!

14. Visit one of the world’s largest flower gardens!

The Keuklenhof Gardens is one of the most incredible display of colors and nature in the world!

At Keuklenhof, known as the Garden of Europe, you can explore one of the world’s largest flower gardens!

Open since the 19th century, Keuklenhof is regarded as a must see for anyone with a long enough layover in Amsterdam. It[‘s open from March to May, and the dazzling array of colors and delightful scents will have you feeling uplifted – even after a long flight!

15. Head to the Zaanse Schans for the absolute most Dutch experience you could ever get on a layover

An epic layover: traditional Dutch windmills, endless tulips of every color, and incredible walking paths along the water.

It’s an absolutely splendid way to spend your layover at Schiphol, and probably the most instagrammable place in Amsterdam!

You can take a 40 minute bus from downtown Amsterdam to get here. Or alternately, I’d recommend just renting a car!

The Top 20 Places You Have to See in Amsterdam on Your 5+ Hour Schiphol Layover

These are the places you have to see on your next Amsterdam Schiphol layover.
I took this on one of my lovely Amsterdam layovers near the infamous Singel Canal area. Amsterdam is such a great walking city!

If you’re more of a city walker and sidewalk conqueror, make sure to add these epic downtown highlights to your Amsterdam layover itinerary:

  1. Damrak Avenue, a very pretty and popular street that connects the main railroad station to Dam Square and the Royal Palace
  2. Koninklijk Palace, one of three royal palaces in the Netherlands. It’s located on a beautiful 13th-century Dam Square.
  3. Nieuwe Kerk, or New Church
  4. The world famous Singel Canal – a UNESCO World Heritage-listed Canal Ring
  5. Three other grand canals—the Herengracht, Keizersgracht, and Prinsengracht
  6. Westerkerk, a 17th-century church
  7. The Anne Frank House, a very historic and memorable, touching place to visit
  8. Homomonument, dedicated to the large and growing LGBTQ+ population in Amsterdam and around the world!
  9. Amsterdam Noord, if only for the boat ride across
  10. Oude Kerk, Amsterdam’s oldest building and youngest art institutes. It was founded in 1213!
  11. Red Light District, also for the great restaurants and bars in the area.
  12. Westerpark, a haven for cycling, music festivals, canal boat rentals, and beer gardens!
  13. Oosterpark, a gorgeous city park in the west of town
  14. Vondelpark, a 19th century massive park filled with playgrounds, ponds, and even an open air theater (plus restaurants!)
  15. Begijnhof, a former women’s religious community and historic courtyard
  16. Jordaan, an epic and posh neighborhood of town with some of the nicest restaurants in Amsterdam
  17. Albert Cuypmarkt in the De Pijp neighborhood – an epic market dating from 1905 close to Centraal
  18. Zaanse Schans – Though it’s a 40-minute bus ride, the windmills here will delight your eyes. Very cool place to see!
  19. IJ Brewery – maybe the best brewery in town. ‘Nuff said.
  20. ARTIS: The Amsterdam Zoo and its rose pink flamingos

Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Amsterdam is one of the most visitable towns in the world, and the possibilities here are endless. But hopefully this is a good place to start on your next Schiphol layover.

Best Amsterdam Hotels/Hostels for a Longer Layover or Dayover

And if you’re just really tired and need a nap, there are tons of option from cute boutique hotels to luxury brands to party hostels to B&B’s to please anyone at almost any price range.

Here are our top picks – whether it’s just for a day room or you plan to spend the night in Amsterdam:

Best Hostel: The Flying Pig

Screenshot courtesy of

With its epic location in the center of the center, everything from bunks to private rooms & bathrooms, top notch reviews and available breakfast, the Flying Pig Downtown hostel offers a great way to save some money without sacrificing comfort.

The Ultimate Budget Hotel: CityHub Amsterdam

Screenshot courtesy of

By a long shot, the CityHub Amsterdam hotel is the ultimate budget hotel. Their reviews are literally the best in Amsterdam – not just for budget hotels, but all kinds of hotels.

Of course, the hub-sized rooms are a bit small, but they offer just what you need.

Epic Midrange: Zoku Amsterdam

Screenshot courtesy of

There’s no other way to say this: the Zoku is an incredible hotel. Dramatic rooftop views, astounding rooms, fantastic service, and alllll the amenities – even deep tissue massages to make you feel more relaxed than when you left home.

Top Luxury in Amsterdam: the Waldorf Astoria

Screenshot courtesy of

Without a doubt, the Waldorf Astoria is the best hotel in Amsterdam. Period.

Just make sure to book ahead, because it sells out quick.

Make sure to get back in time!

All this awesome fun may make your layover pass quickly – perhaps too quickly.

Just keep mind of your time, set an alarm, download your airline’s app to get push notifications, whatever it takes not to miss your next flight.

Keep up with the Schiphol Airport website or app to monitor wait times, keeping in mind they might not be 100% accurate – but it’s something.

I am an affiliate with several companies linked in this article, and as a result may receive a commission for transactions. This is how I keep the website running – so I can make your travel experience a little bit better. Thanks for reading!

What is the minimum time I need to transit/connect at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol in 2023?

Summary: a 50 minute minimum connection time is generally enough to transit at AMS Airport Schiphol, and there are special "Short Connection Passes" to help ensure you make it to your next flight. Keep reading for important details.

If you have a shorter layover at AMS, you may be wondering if you even have enough time to transit.

It ultimately depends on where you’re coming from and where you’re headed. The below estimations are based on recommendations by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, the largest carrier at Schiphol and the Netherlands flagship airline:

  • Europe to Europe*, or Outside Europe to Outside Europe: no security checks or passport control.
    • This means the only factor for transit time is how long it takes to walk to the next gate.
    • 40 minutes minimum recommended
  • Outside Europe to Europe (such as arriving from the US and transiting to most of Europe): only passport control, no security check.
    • 50 minutes minimum recommended
  • Europe to Outside Europe (such as arriving from Italy and transiting to the US): passport control and additional security checks
    • 60 minutes minimum recommended
  • Arriving from non-compatible destinations (non-EU green countries) do have extra security screening on top of passport control.
    • 2 hours minimum recommended

*This is the list of European countries included in this list.

These additional factors may also significantly impact the time it takes for you to connect at AMS, negating the above recommendations:

  • Are you flying on two different tickets? You may need to collect your baggage at baggage reclaim, which means going through customs and re-entering the secure zone via normal security and passport control (if your next flight is outside of Schengen).
    • This can add considerable time – as much as 4 hours (usually 2 hours) – to your connection time. Ask your airline personnel when checking in for your first flight.
  • Staffing strikes: these can make things very precarious, and increase transit times – even with a Short Connection Pass.
  • Bad weather: though this will unlikely affect passport control lines, your arriving flight could be delayed – reducing your connection time.
  • Are you able to get your boarding pass electronically for the next flight from AMS? If not, you will need to print one at a transfer desk. This is usually very quick.

Even in 2023, the above recommendations are sound. But there’s a catch;

If you do have a short connection time (generally under 1 hour) and need to go through passport control (see above), you’ll need to stop at an yellowish-orange Special Short Connection Unit in the transfer area to obtain a “Short Connection Pass.” This in turn grants you access to specially designated short connection lines at passport control.

If you miss this step, or your connection time is longer than the minimum for the short connection pass, the passport control line can take as long as 1-2 hours (but it’s usually much shorter than that).

After passing through passport control (if required, see above), it takes between 5 and 25 minutes just to walk to your next gate. Schiphol is pretty big. And some gates require you to take a bus, which may cause the gate to close earlier than normal.

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