the Netherlands

Amsterdam Layover: What to do in one day

Ah, the long layover. To some people, they’re hours wasting away in an airport. To others, they have the potential to squeeze in some unexpected time in a city en route! Lucky for you, Amsterdam is a very layover-friendly city.

So let me break down how to prepare for your Amsterdam layover. I’ll go over how to get into the city from the airport, some ideas on how to spend your morning, and afternoon, and even some tips if you have more time than just a day.

By the end, you should be fully prepared to make the most out of your Amsterdam layover, even if it only is a short and sweet visit!

*Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking one of these links, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.


Best time to visit?

If this is a layover, you probably have already planned your holiday based on the ‘best time to visit’ for your final destination. So rather than highlighting the best time to visit Amsterdam, I’ll explain what you can expect from Amsterdam during each season. This should give you an idea of how to prepare for your quick visit:

🌷Spring (Mar-May): This is when the high season begins in Amsterdam because of the world-famous tulip season! You should expect plenty of people around to enjoy the colorful tulip fields, comfortable temperatures, and a bit of rain!

READ MORE: Best time to visit Amsterdam for Tulip Season

☀️Summer (June-Aug): This is considered Amsterdam’s high season (along with spring) where the weather is typically warm and sunny. People tend to enjoy terraces, bike rides, and canal cruises during these warm months!

🍁 Autumn (Sept-Nov): This is when the canals are lined with colourful foliage and crowds begin to slow down. The weather isn’t super cold but it does get more unpredictable and rainy.

❄️ Winter (Dec-Feb): Even though the trees will be bare, the decorations will be out! Amsterdam is covered in twinkling lights and there are many winter festivals that take place including the Light Festival and the Winter Festival. You can expect temperatures to be chilly and the weather to be rather grey and overcast.


How to get into the city from the Airport?

Probably one of the most important questions when planning your Amsterdam Layover is how to get into the city centre. It is surprisingly quite simple. Schiphol Airport has many options to get you into the city such as bus routes, trains, and taxis. Since you are trying to make the most out of a layover, I think taking a train is the quickest solution.

The NS train station is only a few minutes walk away from the arrivals in the airport. The train from the airport can take you to Amsterdam Centraal Station within 15 minutes! Tickets should cost around 4.60 euros and trains run roughly every 10-15 minutes.


How to spend a layover in Amsterdam?

Depending on how much time you have to work with, you might not be able to accomplish everything on this list. Feel free to pick and choose the activities that fit best with your schedule.

PRO TIP: If you want to spend time in a museum, book your tickets WELL in advance! The past few times I have visited Amsterdam, we weren’t able to visit any museums because tickets were completely sold out – even a few weeks before!



Wander around the canals

2 photos of bikes lining the Amsterdam canals on a sunny day in spring

I personally believe one of the best ways to explore Amsterdam is to just get out there and wander! Part of what makes Amsterdam so charming is the cute canals and lively energy, and the best way to experience it is to go out and find it!

Straight off the train when depart on your Amsterdam Layover, you will be right in the centre of Amsterdam. This is a great jumping-off point because you can choose any canal and see where it takes you!

If you’d like an idea of where to start, I’d highly recommend the Damrak Canal/Harbour. It is one of the most picturesque corners of the city and is lined with the iconic thin, tall Dutch buildings. I’d also recommend exploring Ouderkerksplein, another cute and charming area I found during my last visit. From here, you are super close to the Red Light District, another side of Amsterdam’s personality.


Snack on a Stroopwafel

Two people holding their iconic stroopwaffels overlooking the canals, the perfect snack for an Amsterdam layover.

Stroowafels are a Dutch snack made up of two thin, waffles that are held together by caramel. You can then dunk them in chocolate and add toppings! An iconic place to try Stroopwafels is Van Wonderen Stroopwafels. It is a popular, super classy shop that is super tasty! There is always a line out front but I’ve recently learned that it is quite a tourist trap.

Instead, why not explore some of the local markets and shops to try a more authentic Stroopwafel? The Albert Cuyp Market runs every day except on Sundays and here you can visit Rudi’s Original Stroopwafels. This little food truck serves freshly baked stroopwafels, made the authentic way. Definitely worth giving them a try!

To keep in mind: Even though the market is open every day except Sunday, the food truck is open on Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays!


Visit the Flower Market

tulips waiting to be purchased inside bloemenmarkt - where you can find tulips IN Amsterdam

Did you know there is actually a floating flower market in Amsterdam? The Bloemenmarkt sits atop the canal and is where you can find flowers all year round. The flower market has been around since 1862! This is a great place to do some shopping, whether it be for flowers or souvenirs there is a lot you can find here.

PRO TIP: if you want to bring tulip bulbs home with you, make sure you check the regulations for your home country. Bringing bulbs into other EU countries is no concern, however, bringing them overseas, you most likely will need an official certificate to show they are thoroughly cleaned.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: Best Weekend Itinerary: Seeing the Tulips in Amsterdam



Depending on the time you have available you might be able to fit in some excursions or activities into your Amsterdam layover. Choosing the right activity might also depend on the weather but as I said above, you will most likely need to book your tickets in advance. I’d advise not waiting to know what the weather will be like before you book.

Instead, book your activity based on the time of year you are visiting and find an activity that matches your interests.


Indoor Activity: Visit a museum

A view of the Heineken experience building from the outside and from the inside. The inside photo is showing the evolution of the Heineken logo over the years

When we visited in the winter, we opted to visit the Heineken Experience. It was one of the most exciting and immersive experiences I have ever done! It is a multi-sensory experience that shares with you the evolution of this Amsterdam-based brewery.

💰The basic self-guided tour costs 23 euros

🎧 Tours are in English but there are audio tours offered in 6 languages

🍻 2 beers are included with your tour

You have 1.5 hours to explore

📆 Tickets need to be booked online with a time slot

Not interested in the Heineken Experience? Check out some other museum suggestions below!



Outdoor Activity: Canal cruise

Another beautiful way to experience Amsterdam is from the water! I personally went on a canal cruise during the Amsterdam Light Festival in the winter and it was absolutely magical!

What’s great is that there are so many tour options available, meaning you can find a tour that works best for you and your schedule! There are also Wine and Cheese cruises, Night cruises (like the one I went on), and cruises with unlimited drinks. Experiencing cities by water is something I have fallen in love with and have had similar experiences in cities such as Paris and Bruges!

To keep in mind: even though my personal boat experience was at night and during the winter, there was seating inside for people to stay warm. No need to worry about feeling freezing!



Enjoy some Poffertjes

Inside the Carousel restaurant in Amsterdam, one of the cutest and most unique places to eat I came across on my visit.

Another classic Dutch meal is the mini pancakes called Poffertjes! You might have seen these in different markets across many European cities but Amsterdam is an excellent place to revisit this local speciality!

One of my favorite restaurants in Amsterdam is called De Carrousel Pannenkoeken Amsterdam and it’s a restaurant in a converted carousel! How cool is that! They serve many breakfast-type recipes including waffles, pancakes, and Poffertjes. This was definitely a cool dining experience I’d highly recommend!


More than one day in Amsterdam?

2 photos of a girl exploring the Dutch countryside. One of her holding a bike in front of colorful tulip fields another of her standing in giant clogs with traditional homes and windmills in the background

If you are lucky enough to have more than just a layover in Amsterdam, you should definitely explore more Dutch culture! Check out my Weekend Itinerary on visiting iconic windmills, such as Zaanse Schans, and the extremely impressive tulip fields!

If you’d like some more museum suggestions to check out while in Amsterdam, the Anne Frank House and the Rembrandt Museum are both excellent choices!

Anne Frank House

💰 It costs 16 euros to visit

 You need at least 1 hour in the museum

🎧 A free audio tour is included with your visit

📸 Photos are not allowed inside

📆 Tickets can be booked online with a time slot. I HIGHLY recommend booking well in advance. I tried visiting this museum on 2 separate occasions and both times I could not go because tickets were sold out.

Rembrandt Museum

💰 It costs 19.50 euros to visit

 A visit tends to take between 1-1.5 hours

📆 You can book your tickets online here!


Hope you’ve made the most of your layover in Amsterdam

Amsterdam Layover: how to spend one day

Returning back to the airport is just as simple as it was for arriving. Even though your visit was short and sweet, I hope that this post gave you some ideas and inspiration for some spots to check out during your visit.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: How to spend one day in Luxembourg

If you need any more help with your trip planning, check out my travel planning services on my Thatch shop!

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Caity Zagar

Travel Planner & Blogger

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