What to do in a layover in Amsterdam?
June 28, 2016 7:33 AM   Subscribe

I have a 5-hour layover in Amsterdam on Thursday as well as a 10-hour layover in Amsterdam on Monday. What do you recommend for a solo female who's never been to Europe?

I'm super excited to have Amsterdam as a layover as part of a rare work trip this week. It was kind of an impromptu thing and the tickets were just booked. I've never been to Europe before. What do you recommend for a short (and then a longer) layover in the city? I'll be arriving to Amsterdam at 7AM on Thursday and then depart at 12:30PM. Then I have a second layover on Monday where I'll arrive around 9AM and leave around 8PM. I'll only have carry-on luggage.

I like food! Bicycling! Being outdoors if the weather is nice. I'll also need access to wifi for two hours of the day so if you have recommendations for a cafe or where to get wifi please let me know! Or if you have reccs on what to buy in Amsterdam (I live in Asia).

I've seen the old question about an Amsterdam layover that was 9 hours long, but would appreciate any suggestions for my 5-hour layover too.

Thanks so much!
posted by bluelight to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I would go to a cafe near the train station and then do some window shopping at stores as well as apartments. People in the canal area leave the curtains open so that people can look in the window and see their beautiful apartments. I was told that they have a tradition of open curtains so that people can see in and know they are not up to no good. The shops are wonderful and it's all right in the main train station district.
posted by waving at 7:38 AM on June 28, 2016

I was going to suggest visiting the Rijksmuseum outlet at the airport, but it's closed right now.

With 5 hours, assuming no significant delays in getting out of the airport and catching a train, you will get maybe an hour and a half in central Amsterdam. I'd use it as a recon mission for your longer layover. Take the train to Centraal station then wander a bit, maybe stopping in at the tourist kiosk outside where you could get a tram pass and maps. Get something to eat (frites maybe? Who cares that it's 10am), wander around Centraal station, and head back to the airport. There are also some coffeeshops near the station if you roll that way.

Unless you are a good airplane sleeper, you'll probably be pretty tired when you get there. I've made grand plans for AMS layovers and been too tired to do much more than wander around the station then head back to the airport.

With the longer layover I'd go to the Museum Quarter, but that's me.
posted by cabingirl at 7:53 AM on June 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

As touristic as it might seem, one of the best things you can do is take one of the many canal boat tours. It's a great way to see the city.

I don't think you have quite enough time on your first connection. But if you're adventurous you could go grab a coffee and breakfast at either of the Vinnie's locations near central station.
posted by humboldt32 at 8:09 AM on June 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

For a 5-hour layover, I'd hang at the airport... if you clear immigration, there's a mall of sorts; better food, a supermarket, a pub. Just outside the airport by the I AMSTERDAM sign there's a stall that sells oliebollen.

For longer, you definitely have time to make it into town and do a museum. I'd also recommend the Rijksmuseum; it's really something since the refurb. Easy access via tram from the Centraal Station. I'm a fan of Gollem's Proeflokaal on Overtoom, which is walkable from the museum. Great beer, wifi, nibbles. You can get a tram from right outside Gollem's back to the station.
posted by sagwalla at 8:19 AM on June 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

Well... what do you like to do?

Amsterdam is extremely walkable. If I had those layovers I'd take the train to Amsterdam, walk to the Jordaan, and just hang out at cafes and by canals for a bundle of hours.
posted by entropone at 8:28 AM on June 28, 2016

Just outside the airport by the I AMSTERDAM sign there's a stall that sells oliebollen.

Not in July. ;-)
posted by humboldt32 at 8:29 AM on June 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

A five-hour layover is in that annoying zone where it's a long time to spend at the airport, but it's cutting it fairly tight for a city jaunt, even with Amsterdam's superlative transit and connections to and from Schiphol.

I'd do as sagwalla says for the first layover, and use the time to set yourself up running for your second layover: withdraw enough euros from the ATM for your second trip, pick up any maps/tourist materials that you might find handy, and buy an Amsterdam Travel Ticket.

I highly recommend that ticket if you plan on using transit in Amsterdam: it comes in 1-, 2- and 3-day versions, allows you to take 2nd class (i.e. the normal class) trains to/from Schiphol and gives you unlimited travel on buses, trams and the metro in Amsterdam. A 1-day pass is €15 and given that a same-day round-trip to Schiphol is €9.40 (each way is €4.20 plus a €1 fee for a disposable ticket, since you won't have a OV-chipkaart) it's well worth it IMO. The ticket validity doesn't start until you "tap in" to the system so you could buy it on Thursday and save it for use on Monday. Plus when you get it you'll see it comes with a very handy fold-out map right on the pass.

In terms of what to do, I'm mostly a foodie traveler so totally ignore this if you're not, but I would try to get Dutch soused herring (Hollandse nieuwe), which you happen to be in the right season (May-July) for, and stroopwafels "syrup waffles" which are scrumptious paired with tea or coffee.

I've been to the Anne Frank House and found it very moving, especially if you've read the diary. I'm not much of a fine arts guy but I've heard the Rijksmuseum is spectacular, but I agree with other posters in that Amsterdam is superb for walking and I'd just stroll around if the weather is good.
posted by andrewesque at 8:45 AM on June 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

I wouldn't leave the airport during the short layover. Not much in the city will be open at ~7 AM anyway; generally the museums don't open until 9 and many shops don't open until 10. Schiphol has lots of souvenir shops, and there are more shops and restaurants if you leave the secure area (look for signs for "Schiphol Plaza").

On your longer layover, I'd say head for Museumplein and visit the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh, or the Stedelijk. Maybe start at the Rijks and do the Van Gogh if you have enough time and energy, and if the ticket lines aren't too long.

Walking or renting a bike from one of the rental shops outside Amsterdam Centraal (such as MacBike) is a fun way to get to Museumplein, but I'd only get a bike if you're a pretty confident city rider. Central Amsterdam has a lot of foot/bike/tram/car traffic to deal with.

Alternatively, you can take a tram. You can buy a ticket from a tram attendant, or get a 24-hour ov-chipkaart at the train station. You can look up the tram schedule at 9292.nl.

If the weather is really nice, you might want to visit the Vondelpark; it's between Museumplein and Amsterdam Centraal, and it's especially nice to cycle through.

If you'd like to take some food souvenirs back with you, I recommend stopping at an Albert Heijn supermarket along the way and picking up cookies such as stroopwafels or speculaas (they'll have them in tourist shops, too, but they're probably cheaper at the supermarket). You could also get black licorice (note that salty black licorice is called "zoute drop").
posted by neushoorn at 8:49 AM on June 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

By the way, you can buy museum tickets online beforehand, which is a nice option if you already know which one(s) you want to visit; this is a very good idea for the Anne Frank House, because now visitors without an online ticket can only enter after 3:30 PM.
posted by neushoorn at 9:01 AM on June 28, 2016

Sorry, one more thought: the Amsterdam Public Library is very close to Amsterdam Centraal Station, and you can use the wifi there for € 1 per 30 minutes. There's also a cafe on the top floor with a nice view of the city.
posted by neushoorn at 9:14 AM on June 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

I love a nice boat tour, but my favorite recommendation in any city (especially if you've only got a few hours) is to have a nice meal... maybe two! It's a good excuse to get out in the neighborhoods one doesn't often see when bogged down by the Standard Tourist Museum Timetable.

There's a great little soup joint called Soup En Zo at Nieuwe Spiegelstraat 54 that I visit every time I have a few hours to spare in the city. It's a very small, casual spot, near some of my friends' current (and former) apartments. I grab a bowl of soup, walk to a nice spot with a bench along a canal, and take it all in. It's a very walking-friendly city, so don't feel nervous about avoiding much planning and simply following your eyes and nose around.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 9:24 AM on June 28, 2016

Yes to staying at the airport for the short layover. I may be dorky (and I hate feeling rushed when I travel) but I think it's pretty nice with lots of interesting shops and good food.

For the longer layover, I'd say put your bags in a locker (or see if you can check them early) and take the train into town. I can recommend Blue Boat tours. I used to be against any kind of organized tours but now I think it's a great way to get an overview of a new city, especially if you only have a short time. We've taken a few boat and bus tours of various places and it's now on our to do list for any new city. Plus the canals are just cool.

If you are interested in art at all, go to the Van Gogh Museum right when it opens. Seeing some of his famous paintings in person was one of the highlights of our whole trip, especially since we got there first thing. Oh, and you can buy tickets online which saves a little time.

Have fun!
posted by Beti at 9:49 AM on June 28, 2016

get a 24-hour ov-chipkaart at the train station.

I know I'm repeating myself here, but if you're considering this, it will work out better in your situation to get the Amsterdam Travel Ticket: a 24-hour GVB chipkaart is €7.50; with the same-day round trip to Schiphol (€9.40 including the €1 surcharge for a paper ticket, since the 24-hour chipkaarts are sold as disposable chipkaarts that cannot be topped up with credit*) that's €16.90 in total. The 1-day Travel Ticket, which will grant you the exact same privileges, is a flat €15.

*You can load the 24-hour pass on an "anonymous chipkaart," but then that's €7.50 for the card + €7.50 for the 24-hour GVB travel + €8.40 for Schiphol rail fare = €23.40 in total
posted by andrewesque at 10:00 AM on June 28, 2016

I've had two extended layovers in Amsterdam, and they've been a breeze.

Our first was 8 hours while transiting between Tanzania and Boston. We also arrived at 7 AM, and I can confirm that there wasn't a lot open. We wound up burning an extra hour walking around and killing time while looking for some place for breakfast. But then we spent the rest of it hanging out in the Rijksmuseum, which was lovely.

There's also left luggage lockers in the airport if you have heavy carry-on bags that you don't want to lug around the city.

The second layover was 5 hours between Boston and Istanbul. Arrived 6AM, departed 11:30AM. I had some friends in the area who I stopped in for breakfast, and then took the tram back into the city. That was it. It was fine. You can't really do more than that.

fwiw, I found that early in the morning, getting through immigration to exit out into the city was a breeze (at least if you have the privilege of a passport from a respectable country) there's a lot of long layovers in Schiphol, and I think the staff are used to people going out for a peek. Getting back into the airport was about as straightforward as entering any airport where you don't have to check bags (because it's already checked) (ie. arrive an hour before your flight, etc.)
posted by bl1nk at 10:05 AM on June 28, 2016

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