Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (IATA: AMS, ICAO: EHAM), is the Netherlands’ main international airport, located 20 minutes (9.1 km; 5.6 mi) southwest of Amsterdam. The airport’s official English name, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, reflects the original Dutch word order (Luchthaven Schiphol). Schiphol is an important European airport, ranking as Europe’s 4th busiest and the world’s 16th busiest by total passenger traffic in 2012 (14th in 2011).
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So what’s recommended to do on a layover in Schiphol? well, that depends on the layover duration, time of day, time of year… the most important factor is the duration of your layover, that will dictate the nature of your layover, from a stressed run for your flight to a relaxed semi-vacation.
Please note that these are just general recommendations. It is always best to consult with your airline and booking agent, so take these recommendations as they are – general guidelines…
Layover of 1 to 2 Hours in Schiphol Airport
You will most likely be spending your time running through corridors with your hand luggage to your next flight… Keep in mind that arrival time is the time that your flight has reached its parking position in the gate, and you will still need to wait until the crew has opened the doors, you left the plane and walked all through the terminal to board your next flight.
Other users commented:
- “we had a 2 hr layover back to Canada by the time we got a bite to eat had a walk around some shops it was time to get to the gate…” (TripAdvisor)
- “Two hours – lots of time. Schipol is a reasonable sized airport and I’ve made connections there with less time” … “make absolutely sure you go there as soon as the gate is displayed in the departure lounge. I … nearly missed our plane because security was so slow at the pier entrance” (VirtualTourist)
- “Often there are very long queues for passport control when entering NL from outside a Schengen area” … “it can take a very long time to get from one gate to another, which can be very difficult if you have a short connection” (AirlineQuality)
Layover of 3 or 4 Hours in Schiphol Airport
So you have plenty of time to make it to your next flight, but you’d still like to make the best of these hours. The security lines in Schiphol airport may be long at busy times, and the terminal has some long stretches of walking (see terminal map with walking times), so with a layover of 4 hours or less, it will be best to spend your time inside the terminal and enjoy what it has to offer. Consider yourself lucky, though, Schiphol is one of the best airports to spend your time in!
Shopping: Use the time to browse the airport’s shops and duty free items. Schiphol’s website lists dozens of shops, all located within one stretch of 10 minutes walk, which conveniently feels more like a mall than a terminal. Opening times vary, but most shops are open from 6 am till 10 pm or midnight. Make sure your purchases will fit in your carry-on allowance!
Dining: Get some refreshment or a proper meal at one of the dozens of bars, restaurants and cafés in Schiphol airport, full list on the airport website.
Lounges: For a handsome fee, you could spend some time in one of the airport lounges.
Relaxation: The airport boasts several spas, and shower room rentals in the airport’s hotels. If you’d like to use the time to do some workout, the Sheraton Airport Hotel offers a day pass which also includes the use of sauna and showers.
Entertainment: Schiphol airport has some fine entertainment spots, making it a unique layover. It boasts its own museum, an extension of Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, with a modest free exhibition. Next to the museum, you will find the stylish airport library with books and multimedia stands, focused on Dutch culture. Finally, you can get rid of some excess money at the airport casino.
Kids: Travelling with kids? Spend some time in the Kids Forest, a lovely and colorful play area, with convenient lounging spaces for the tired parents.
Wi-Fi: Internet connectivity is free for 1 hour (2 sessions of 30 minutes), after which it is available for an hourly fee.
Layover of 5 Hours or more in Schiphol Airport
If you have enough time to venture out of the airport, go and experience Amsterdam. There are several transportation options out of the terminal including a local train station (situated right below the terminal), and Amsterdam central station is only 15 minutes ride away. However, take into account the time to exit the terminal, round trip time, and the time required to be back in advance for boarding, all of which easily amounts to at least 3 hours overhead, turning a 6-hour layover to at most 3 hours net free time.
If your luggage is inconvenient to wander around with, store it in the convenient locker services throughout the terminal.
If your layover is over a Sunday, make sure the destination you have in mind are open. Many shops and restaurants in Amsterdam will be open on a Sunday (though probably for shorter hours), as well as many museums and attractions, but if you have a specific venue in mind you would want to check in advance.
For a hassle-free excursion into Amsterdam, consider taking a short guided tour to pick you up from the airport terminal:
Or browse other ideas on how to spend a few hours in Amsterdam.
Do I need a visa in order to visit Amsterdam during my layover?
You may need to issue a short stay visa in advance in order to leave the airport during your layover. The answer depends primarily on the passport you carry, and whether or not your destination is within the EU (Schengen area). Check your personal case in this detailed Dutch government visa info page.
Note: we get many specific visa-related questions in the comments. Please understand that visa rules are quite complex and unfortunately we cannot answer most of these questions, as the focus of this site is on the airport stay itself. Your best advice would be to consult with your travel agent or the local Dutch consulate in advance.
Enjoy your trip!