The man sitting next to me on the plane looked a bit flustered. We were about to land at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol when he turned to me and muttered that he had a five-hour layover in Amsterdam and asked me if I was flying on to another destination as well. “No, I live here”, I replied. “What can I do on a long layover at Amsterdam Airport?”, he countered. I asked him if he’d been in Amsterdam before. The answer was negative, “no, just the airport many years ago”. It was a familiar answer. About 40% of all arriving passengers at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol are in transit to another destination. I didn’t hesitate for a moment: “This is your chance then tovisit Amsterdam”. I gave him some tips, suggested what to do and see and traced a walking route on the map of Amsterdam in the inflight magazine.
Update: May 2022
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, please be aware of any changes to restrictions or entry requirements. Please visit the airport’s website and the Dutch government checklist for travel to the Netherlands for more info.
The conversation on the plane prompted me to write this post about things to do while on a layover at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. Millions of transit passengers travel through the airport every year without grabbing the opportunity to explore Amsterdam’s UNESCO World Heritage canals or any of the beautiful attractions or historic towns located within easy reach of the airport. I’ve listed below, depending on the length of your layover, things to do at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol; how to visit Amsterdam and things to see and do in a short time; and attractions and cities near Amsterdam Airport Schiphol:
1 – 2 hours
You’d better get moving to your next flight! Keep in mind that if you’re transiting between a long-haul or a non-Schengen European destination (such as the United Kingdom) and a Schengen destination in the European Union – or vice-versa – you will have to pass through passport/security controls. There are fast-track lanes if you have a tight connection.
2 – 4 hours
There are many things you can do at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol to keep occupied:
Relax: If you don’t have access to an airline lounge, you can relax at one of the lounge chairs that are scattered throughout the airport or grab a shower. Or you can indulge yourself with a shiatsu massage in one of the Massage-o-Matic chairs or at the XpresSpa which offers a variety of spa treatments as well as waxing, manicures and pedicures. The Rituals boutiques also offer massage treatments and manicures/pedicures.
An alternative is to sit at any of the public or member lounges where you can check your emails or gaze out at the tarmac. Or you can do what many transit passengers do: sit around at one of the many bars and cafés, and mingle with fellow transit passengers or the bartender.
There are also two hotels, Yotel and Mercure, inside the terminal where you can get a room for a few hours to enjoy a shower and a rest.
Active: If you enjoy shopping, you’ll love the variety of shops at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, from fashion to consumer electronics, to books and chocolates, toys, sports gear, accessories and jewellery. You can also visit a branch of Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum. This little museum has a modest collection but it’s worth visiting to while away your time.
4 hours or longer
A layover of four hours or longer makes a quick visit into Amsterdam or a nearby town a real option, especially if your luggage has been checked through to your final destination and you have your boarding pass for the onward flight. Trains run directly from the airport (the station is a minute’s walk from any of the Arrival Halls) on a very frequent basis to Amsterdam and other towns. The journey to Amsterdam Centraal (Central Station) takes approximately 20 minutes.
Please note that, depending on your nationality, you may need a visa to enter The Netherlands. Find out here if you need a visa. Should you require a visa, you can apply for an online visa (iVisa.com).
Options for a quick visit to Amsterdam and surrounding attractions
Go it alone: Purchase a return ticket, then take the train to Amsterdam Centraal (make sure you only board a train that goes to Centraal). When you exit Amsterdam Centraal, you can either opt for a canal tour (boats leave from and return to the station’s doorstep) for a 1-1.5 hour tour along the canals. Read more about things to do in Amsterdam.
You can opt to purchase the IAmsterdam City Card (1-5 days) which includes a free canal cruise, free entrance to major museums and attractions, free public transport (metro, tram and bus in the city), 24-hour bicycle rental and much more.
Walking routes in Amsterdam
You can also choose to stretch your legs – I’ve included suggested walking routes below which can be done in an hour or as long as several hours (depending on your pace or how much time you have). These routes take you past some of my favourite parts of Amsterdam including the Brouwersgracht (one of the most picturesque canals), the Jordaan neighbourhood, the Anne Frank House, the Nine Streets neighbourhood, the intersection of the Keizersgracht/Leidsegracht, the Begijnhof (or Nunnery) and the Groenburgwal (another impossibly picturesque canal) before leading you back to the station.
Tulip fields and the Keukenhof flower gardens
In the spring months (late-March till May), you could hop on the Keukenhof shuttle bus from the airport that takes you in 20 minutes to the nearby tulip fields and the world-famous Keukenhof Gardens.
Overnight layovers in Amsterdam
If you have an overnight layover with an early-morning flight the next day, I recommend spending the night at one of the hotels at or near Schiphol Airport. If you have a bit more time, for instance, if your flight only leaves in the afternoon or evening the following day, then it’s worth booking an overnight stay in the Amsterdam city centre.
Discover historic towns near Amsterdam Airport Schiphol
If your layover is four hours or longer and you’re already familiar with Amsterdam, I recommend spending this time to visit one of the nearby historic towns:
Leiden (map) is a vibrant university city located southwest of Schiphol Airport. The city played an important role in the history of the Netherlands as well as globally in the scientific field (Leiden University has since its inception in 1575 spawned thirteen Nobel Prize winners!). Leiden is also the birthplace of Rembrandt. From Schiphol Airport station, frequent trains take you to Leiden in just 20 minutes, making it a great alternative to Amsterdam.
From Leiden Centraal (central station), stroll along the Steenstraat into the historic town centre (the country’s second-largest 17th century town centre after Amsterdam) with its canals and beautiful homes. Main attractions include the Museum of Antiquities, the Burcht (hilltop medieval fortress) and Pieterskerk (Peter Church). Americans will find this church particularly interesting: the Pilgrims, the Founding Fathers of the United States, lived here before moving to the New World.
Delft (map) is a historic town situated roughly between The Hague and Rotterdam. Famous for its Delft Blue pottery and as the birthplace of Vermeer, Delft played an important role in the creation of The Netherlands in the 16th century. The Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) in Delft is the the official burial place for the House of Orange (the Dutch royal family), a tradition that began in 1584.
These days, Delft is a charming town with many things to see such as the Nieuwe Kerk and Oude Kerk (Old Church) where the famous painter Vermeer is buried. If you’re a fan of Vermeer, don’t miss the Vermeer Museum (Vermeer Centrum). If you love Delft Blue, you have to visit Royal Delft, the original Delft Blue factory from the 17th century, where you can see craftspeople at work. In addition, on Saturdays in the spring/summer months, a big antique market opens up along Delft’s picturesque canals.
Delft is accessible by train from Schiphol Airport in just under 40 minutes, making it a real option if you have a layover longer than six hours. If you have time, sign up for a guided walking tour of this fascinating town.
The Hague (Den Haag)
The Hague (map) is the administrative capital of The Netherlands. All the government ministries are housed in this vibrant city which is just 30 minutes by train from Schiphol Airport. The Hague is a city of contrasts: from gleaming, futuristic-looking skyscrapers, to historic monuments such as the Binnenhof (one of the oldest Parliament buildings in the world that’s still in use) and the Peace Palace. The city also houses all embassies and important international organisations such as the International Court of Justice. The King of the Netherlands also has his official residence (Huis ten Bosch) and office (Noordeinde Palace in the city centre) in The Hague. Another important attraction in The Hague is the Mauritshuis Museum, which is home to a stunning collection of, among others, Vermeer and Rembrandt paintings.
Sign up for a walking tour of the historic city centre to see the most important sights.
From Schiphol Airport station, there are frequent trains to Den Haag Centraal (The Hague Central Station) which takes approximately 30 minutes.
Can you leave Amsterdam airport during a layover? ›
These factors may cut into your layover time. So considering all of this if you are left with 5 hours or more you can definitely leave the Amsterdam Airport. If you have 4 hours, you can leave but you will not be able to see as much. Under 4 hours I would not recommend leaving the airport, unfortunately.How can I spend an 8 hour layover in Amsterdam? ›
8 hours layover Amsterdam
- Make a quick visit to Amsterdam.
- Soak up the atmosphere during a boat tour.
- Visit one of the museums on the Museumplein.
Go to the Museum Quarter In Amsterdam
The Museum Quarter is where the most popular and best-known museums in Amsterdam are situated. The three famous museums are the Rijksmuseum, the Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art, and the Van Gogh Museum. You can book a guided tour to see the museums.
While 4 hours can allow you some time to see the city, we recommend at least a 6-hour layover in Amsterdam. A 6-7 hour layover will allow you to comfortably see Amsterdam without having to snap a quick picture of the nearest canal before rushing back to the airport.Do you have to go through security again during a layover Amsterdam? ›
"The minimum required transfer time at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is 40 minutes for Schengen flights and 50 minutes for non-Schengen flights. Please note, though, that if you travel to a non-Schengen country, you'll need to go through additional security and passport checks.Can I leave the plane during a layover? ›
The short answer is yes. It is possible to exit and reenter the airport. Whether or not you should depends on a range of factors, including if you're traveling internationally or domestically and how much time you have between flights.What can you do on a 5 hour layover in Amsterdam? ›
- Check out the Anne Frank Museum. The Anne Frank Museum was the highlight of my recent visit. ...
- Walking/Photography Tour of Amsterdam's Canals and city centre. ...
- Visit an Amsterdam Café ...
- Visit the Amsterdam Centrale Bibliotheek (central library) ...
- Visit an Amsterdam coffee Shop. ...
- Rent-A-Bike in Amsterdam.
If you have some hours to spend at the airport while waiting for your connecting flight, hitting the lounge is one of the best ways to enjoy your time. These days, major airports offer a plethora of facilities like sleeping pods, gyms and spas. Some lounges also offer free drinks and snacks for all the members.Can you leave the airport during a 8 hour layover? ›
Yes, you can leave the airport during domestic layovers. For instance, if you're a US citizen and have a layover within the country, it is legal and safe to leave the airport. Be aware that you'll probably be getting two boarding passes if the domestic layover is more than an hour.Do I need a Covid test if my layover is in Amsterdam? ›
If you stay at Schiphol during your transfer, you do not need a new negative COVID-19 test result. The test result you had upon arrival at Schiphol remains valid during your transfer, including any potential delays.
Do airlines provide free hotels for layovers over 8 hours long? ›
Most airlines only provide free hotel accommodations for passengers that have a layover between 8-12 hours or overnight. However, each airline is different, so be sure to check your carrier's website.Is a 7 hour layover enough time to leave the airport in Amsterdam? ›
Be sure your layover is at least five hours to give yourself time to explore and find your way back to the main train station (Amsterdam Centraal); the city is compact, but it's also easy to get lost in the maze of narrow, winding streets and canals.How do you survive a 12 hour layover? ›
- Catch Up on Sleep. ...
- Play a Game. ...
- Research Your Destination. ...
- Read or Write. ...
- Meet New People. ...
- Get Some Work Done. ...
- Exercise. ...
- Take a Short Trip Out of the Airport.
If you do have an overnight layover and will be spending the night at the airport, remember your options. You can stay in an airport hotel both within transit or on the public side, you could sleep or rest in the airport terminal itself.Does Amsterdam Airport have sleeping pods? ›
Amsterdam Airport Hotels, Sleep Pods & Day Rooms
Sleep pods, perfect for single travellers seeking some privacy, are also available. A number of nearby hotels can be found within walking distance or connected by free airport shuttles.
On a domestic flight you are limited to a 4 hour connection which does not leave much time to leave the airport for sightseeing. If you are connecting from an international flight to a domestic flight then a layover is defined by the airlines as no more than 23 hours and providing ample to time for sightseeing.How much time do you need to transfer flights in Amsterdam? ›
The minimum required transfer time at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is 40 minutes for Schengen flights and 50 minutes for non-Schengen flights. Please note, though, that if you travel to a non-Schengen country, you'll need to go through additional security and passport checks.What can you do with a 4 hour layover in Amsterdam? ›
During these 4 to 6 hours in Amsterdam, we suggest you go to the red light district, as it's less than 5 minutes walking from the central station. It's the most famous (or infamous?) part of Amsterdam, and it's home to the oldest building in town – Oude Kerk (yes, a church, the old church).Do I have to go through security twice if I have a layover? ›
For connecting domestic flights, you almost never have to exit and reenter security, though there are some exceptions at airports where the terminals aren't all connected. For domestic-to-international connection, it's still pretty rare that you have to exit and reenter security, even if you're changing terminals.Do we have to check in again during layover? ›
In general, if you're on a domestic flight, once you land for your layover, you'll pass through a transfer area that will take you to the gate for your next flight without having to check in again. Your bags will automatically pass through to the next flight without you having to collect them.
What are the rules for layover? ›
Most airlines define a layover as any connection of less than 4 hours on a domestic flight or less than 24 hours on an international flight. Rules about when stopovers are allowed varies by airline, and it will often depend on whether the ticket is an award ticket or a paid ticket.What is the longest layover allowed? ›
A layover is a connection that lasts no longer than 4 hours for domestic flights and no longer than 24 hours for International flights. Layovers are fairly common, especially overnight layovers, but usually they aren't long enough to benefit you.What happens during layover? ›
A layover is what happens when you take a flight from one place to another, with a stop in the middle. During a layover, your first flight will be to the layover destination, and then you can fly from the layover airport to your final destination.Is a 5 hour layover enough to leave the airport? ›
How long does a layover need to be to leave the airport? Because layovers are your choice, you can leave whenever you like, but seasoned travelers, including McGee, seldom leave airports for less than six hours.Where can I sleep during an airport layover? ›
Consider On-Site Hotels and Sleep Pods
It's not uncommon to find popular chains such as Hilton, Sheraton and Hyatt inside airports around the world. In some cases, inside means the hotel is actually inside the terminal, bypassing the inconvenience of going through customs and/or security.
- Clean out your phone. You may have left your house a mess from last-minute packing, but clear the clutter off your phone. ...
- Charge up! ...
- Prep some jams. ...
- Skype or FaceTime a friend or family member. ...
- Budget your trip. ...
- Make last minute plans. ...
- Read. ...
- Organize your carryon.
Many (but not all) countries that require visas do not require them if you're simply transiting through the airport. You bypass customs and immigration, so you never get stamped into the country, but you can't leave the airport during your layover.What happens to your luggage when you have an overnight layover? ›
Each airline, and even sometimes each airport, will have different rules about what is and is not allowed. As a general rule, most airlines will NOT automatically check your luggage through for an overnight connection. You will normally need collect your luggage when you land, and re-check it the following morning.What happens if you get off at your layover? ›
Can you book a connecting flight and get off at a layover? You need to not check any bags, AND it needs to be on the last leg of your itinerary. If you check bags, they will go to the destination you are ticketed for. If you don't board your connection, the airline will cancel any remaining portion of your itinerary.Can I transit through Amsterdam without a visa? ›
If you are transiting through 2 different Schengen airports for onward travel to a country outside Schengen and the first transit airport is in the Netherlands, you need to apply for a short-stay Schengen visa.
Do I need a transit visa using KLM? ›
If you are flying with KLM, you may need a transit visa depending on your destination. Please check with the embassy or consulate of your destination country to see if you need a transit visa.Does Schipol airport have rapid Covid test? ›
It's important that you get tested on time before arriving at the airport. It's also possible to take a PCR or rapid antigen test at Schiphol, but you will need to make an appointment first at Test2fly.What is the minimum hours for layover? ›
In most cases, a 30-minute layover for domestic flights and an hour for international flights is considered a minimum, or short, layover.What happens if you miss a connecting flight because of a delay? ›
What happens if a flight is delayed and you miss your connection? If you miss your connection due to a delay, usually the airline is responsible for providing you with a replacement flight to your destination. They will have to book you on the earliest possible flight available.How long does it take to get through customs at Schiphol? ›
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 and immigration queues. Obviously if you have checked luggage to pick-up this will slow you down a few more minutes.What can you do on a 10 hour layover in Amsterdam? ›
10 hour layover in Amsterdam
If you don't spend too long browsing Van Gogh's amazing paintings you'll have time for a swift tour and tasting or two at the House of Bols Cocktail and Genever Experience. To enter the Van Gogh Museum you need to pre-book online and state the starting time of your visit.
Many airports where layovers are common include these facilities as they want the layover passengers to feel comfortable. You can get your batteries charged and energized by having a hot shower or getting yourself a massage to relax after a tiresome flight.Can we use airport lounge in layover? ›
A lounge can be a great way to pass the time on long layovers since they're often much less crowded and quieter than the general terminal, giving you a chance to relax, work or even nap between flights.Can we sleep in airport lounges? ›
Many of the best Priority Pass lounges in the world are open 24/7, which makes catching a cat nap (or more) very easy. Keep in mind that some lounges frown upon people sleeping there, and many also have time limits on how long you can stay, so factor this into consideration when planning out your night.Where can I nap at the airport? ›
In most airports, you have to two options: sleeping on the bench seating, or taking to the floor. You may need to explore a few gates or terminals to find the right spot. The best bet would be armrest-free rows of seating or recliners you can stretch out on.
Do airports have resting rooms? ›
Airport Sleeping pods (sometimes called nap pods) provide travelers with a place where they can rest and sleep. These sleep pods are capsule-shaped beds, built-in different airports across the world.Can I leave the airport during a layover in Amsterdam during Covid? ›
Yes, and you can also fly if you have not (yet) been vaccinated. A coronavirus vaccination is not a requirement to be able to travel. However, do check the travel advisory for your destination before departure. You can find it on Netherlandsworldwide.nl or you can contact your airline.Can you walk out of the airport during a layover? ›
The short answer is yes. It is possible to exit and reenter the airport. Whether or not you should depends on a range of factors, including if you're traveling internationally or domestically and how much time you have between flights.What can I do with a 6 hour layover in Amsterdam? ›
During these 4 to 6 hours in Amsterdam, we suggest you go to the red light district, as it's less than 5 minutes walking from the central station. It's the most famous (or infamous?) part of Amsterdam, and it's home to the oldest building in town – Oude Kerk (yes, a church, the old church).Do I need a visa for a layover in Amsterdam? ›
If you are transiting through 2 different Schengen airports for onward travel to a country outside Schengen and the first transit airport is in the Netherlands, you need to apply for a short-stay Schengen visa.Can I get my luggage during a layover? ›
Normally, when layover flights are booked with the same airline, your baggage will be automatically transferred through to your final destination. However, if the two flights are with different airlines, you may have to claim and re-check your baggage during your layover.Does Amsterdam require transit visa? ›
If you live in India and want to apply for an airport transit visa for the Netherlands, find out about the rules and how to apply. As of 17 September 2022, there are no longer any COVID-19 entry rules for travellers to the Netherlands.Is a 4 hour layover long enough to leave the airport? ›
On a domestic flight you are limited to a 4 hour connection which does not leave much time to leave the airport for sightseeing. If you are connecting from an international flight to a domestic flight then a layover is defined by the airlines as no more than 23 hours and providing ample to time for sightseeing.Can I leave the airport if my layover is 6 hours? ›
Yes, you can leave the airport during domestic layovers. For instance, if you're a US citizen and have a layover within the country, it is legal and safe to leave the airport. Be aware that you'll probably be getting two boarding passes if the domestic layover is more than an hour.Do you have to go through security again after a layover? ›
For connecting domestic flights, you almost never have to exit and reenter security, though there are some exceptions at airports where the terminals aren't all connected. For domestic-to-international connection, it's still pretty rare that you have to exit and reenter security, even if you're changing terminals.
Does Schiphol Airport have sleeping pods? ›
Luckily Schiphol airport has some nice comfortable sleeping pods to make sure that flyers can feel refreshed on their return to flying once again. Staying in a sleeping pod is a completely new experience for some people and it is like moving from economy class to first class for first-timers.How do you entertain yourself on a long layover? ›
- Avoid Long Layovers Altogether. ...
- Explore a New Place – Even If It's Just the Airport. ...
- Rest. ...
- Check Off Your To-Do List. ...
- Take a Stroll. ...
- Eat or Drink (My Personal Favorite!) ...
- Visit Gift Shops. ...