Things to do in Amsterdam if you have a Amsterdam Schiphol Airport Layover or Extended Amsterdam Schiphol Airport Stopover
If you have a layover at the Schiphol Airport, consider taking the opportunity to get out and about to see the local sights. There's plenty to to see and experience, so take advantage of any extra time to see what you can.
Hang around the airport
If you have less than 4 hours, you are best to stay at the airport - but there is plenty to do. Go shopping, spas, theatre, viewing terrace - to name just a few; there's something for everyone. If you'd like to really freshen up, there are several onsite hotels where you can book a room for a few hours. Or visit a shower room at the Hotel Mercure Schiphol Terminal.
The AMS Amsterdam Schiphol Airport is also home to the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam Schiphol. This branch of the Rijksmuseum museum houses a permanent exhibition of ten works by Dutch masters of the Golden Age (yes, you will see a Rembrandt), as well as temporary exhibitions that change a number of times a year. Located on Holland Boulevard, in the area behind the passport control between the E and F Pier. The museum is open every day from 7:00 until 20:00 and admission is free.
With lots of flights, and some of the world's biggest aircraft, it can be a real thrill to watch the planes come and go. Aside of the Panorama Viewing Terrace (outside, at the terminal), Schiphol has fantastic planespotting opportunities around the airport. You'll need a car to get to them, but the airport has the best spots all mapped out for you.
The AMS Amsterdam Schiphol Airport indicates that there is a special Schiphol cycle route which takes you around the whole of the airport, however IHT is unable to confirm the availability of bicycles for rent, so you will need to inquire on-site.
Better yet - head into the city centre and hire a bike there to see Amsterdam. The city is very, very bike-friendly (there are more bicycles than people in Amsterdam!), and there are separate bike lanes on most major streets. Bikes cost about EUR 10-20 per day. Take time to learn about the routes, rules and precautions to stay safe while having fun. Bicycles can be taken on most transit - inquire where you rent your bike. Be sure to get and use a good lock. And have fun!
See Amsterdam by boat
There are several free ferry services across the IJ river, to Amsterdam North, the most frequent runs every 7 minutes. They all leave from a new jetty on the northern (rear) side of Centraal Station. The nicest one is the 15 minutr service to NDSM Werf, a funky, up and coming, industrial neighborhood with a nice cafe-bar (IJkantine) restaurant (Noorderlicht), indoor skateboard park, and the Pancake Boat (Pannekoekenboot) which sails many times each week. Ferries leave every 30 minutes from Centraal Station and from NDSM Werf. Double frequencies during rush hours.
Alternatively, take a canal cruise. Several companies offer canal cruises, usually lasting from one to two hours. The Canal Bus, for example, runs three fixed routes, stopping near major attractions (Rijksmuseum, Anne Frank's House, etc.). You can get on or off as often as you like, but it is expensive (EUR 20 per person/day).
Take in a World Class Museum (or 2)
Here are our top picks:
- Anne Frank House — dedicated to Anne Frank, a Jewish girl who kept a diary while hiding from Nazi persecution in hidden rooms at the rear of the building (known as the Achterhuis). It's an exhibition on the life of Anne Frank, but also highlights other forms of persecution and discrimination.
- Rijksmuseum — absolutely top-class museum that has a large collection of paintings from the Dutch Golden Age. Some artists you can't overlook are Rembrandt van Rijn, Johannes Vermeer, Frans Hals and Jan Steen. The must-sees are Rembrandt's Night Watch and Vermeer's Milkmaid. The museum also boasts a substantial collection of Asian art. The Rijksmuseum is under heavy construction until at least late 2012. Until then, there is a limited collection on display called 'the Masterpieces', showing all the highlights that are absolutely worth a visit.
- Van Gogh Museum — even someone with little knowledge of art must have heard about Vincent van Gogh, the Dutch Post-Impressionist painter whose work had a far-reaching influence on 20th century art for its vivid colors and emotional impact. This museum has the largest collection of Van Gogh's paintings and drawings in the world.
National Aviation Theme Park Aviodrome
Experience the adventures of 100 years of aviation at the Aviodrome in Lelystad. This aviation theme park, which has the biggest collection of historic aircraft, is the only one of its kind in Europe and is open the whole year round.
Red Light District
The Red Light District consists of several canals, and the side streets between them. The whole area has a heavy police presence, and many security cameras. Nevertheless it is still a residential district and has many bars and restaurants, and also includes historic buildings and museums — this is the oldest part of the city. The oldest church in Amsterdam, the Netherlands-gothic Oude Kerk on the Oudezijds Voorburgwal at Oudekerksplein, is now surrounded by window prostitution. If you ever get hassled, a firm and loud "Leave me alone" will work most of the time.
Red Light District Warning: DO NOT try to take photos of prostitutes even from the streets, or you might lose your camera without any warning!
Tip: Free public transportation is included if you buy an Amsterdam and Holland Pass. The city pass offers discounts and Skip the Line access to a long list of museums, sights and attractions, so if you have a long layover and plan to see a lot, it may make sense to get one. Buy your Amsterdam and Holland Pass online - and collect your pass either at Amsterdam Schipol Airport, or at Amsterdam Central Station.
Or, there is a Panoramic Amsterdam City Tour that operates from AMS Airport, perfect for a layover.
As always, make sure you leave plenty of time to get back to the Schiphol Airport and clear security in time for your connecting flight. Enjoy your transit city rather than whiling away the time leaning up against your luggage in the departures lounge.
More Amsterdam Schiphol Airport Transfer & Airport Connection Options
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