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The Rijksmuseum | © pixabay
The Rijksmuseum | © pixabay | © pixabay
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What to Do on a Layover in Amsterdam

Picture of Tom Coggins
Updated: 5 December 2017
Whether you’ve only got three hours to spare or an entire afternoon at your disposal, there’s plenty of awesome things to see and do in Amsterdam during layovers. Fortunately, Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport lies pretty close the city’s centre and travelling between these two destination only takes around 20 minutes by train – which means that even short layovers can provide enough time for quick excursions.

If you have three hours…

While it might seem impossible to fit anything into such a small window of time, it is worth remembering that Amsterdam’s main travel hub, Centraal Station, is surrounded by several popular attractions. The city’s infamous Red Light District, for example, is only around five minutes walk from the station and features many important landmarks such as the city’s oldest building, de Oude Kerk, and a charming, socially conscious craft brewery called Brouwerij de Prael. There’s also several excellent places to eat nearby, such as the floating Chinese restaurant Sea Palace, or Mediamatic ETEN which serves, fresh, vegan meals made from ingredients grown inside an onsite greenhouse.

De Oude Kerk, Oudekerksplein 23, Amsterdam, +31 20 625 8284

Brouwerij de Prael, Oudezijds Armsteeg 26, Amsterdam, +31 02 408 4469

Sea Palace Restaurant, Oosterdokskade 8, Amsterdam, +31 20 626 4777

Mediamatic ETEN, Dijkspark 6a, Amsterdam, +31 6 31903218

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There’s a floating Chinese restaurant called Sea Palace near Centraal Station | © pixabay

If you have five hours…

An extra two hours in Amsterdam leaves room for considerably more opportunities, even though it’s still wise to stay close to Centraal Station. Anyone looking for modern cultural hotspots, for instance, can take the boat from behind Centraal Station across the river IJ to Veer Buiksloterweg dock. This harbour serves as a gateway to the city’s trendy Overhoeks neighbourhood which features many important sites such as the state-of-the-art EYE Filmmuseum, the multi-storey cultural hub A’Dam Toren and ground-level venue Tolhuistuin. Each of these landmarks contains at least one restaurant and bar, meaning that it is easy enough to spend a whole afternoon wandering around Overhoeks before heading back to the southern side of Amsterdam.

EYE Filmmuseum, IJpromenade 1, Amsterdam, +31 20 589 1400

A’DAM Toren, Overhoeksplein 1, Amsterdam, +31 20 237 6310

Tolhuistuin, IJpromenade 2, Amsterdam, +31 20 763 0650

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The EYE Filmmuseum in Amsterdam | © pixabay

If you have seven hours…

Even though Museumplein is only 20 minutes away from Centraal Station via tram number 5 it is always worth setting aside at least five hours to visit the area as it contains some of the largest and most iconic museums in Europe. In fact the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum and Stedelijk are all located on the square and form a semi-circle around its centre. Spending an afternoon exploring one or more of these museums is always rewarding partly due to the large number of groundbreaking artworks contained within their collections. After taking in some culture, grab some fresh air in Vondelpark which is within walking distance Museumplein. Feeling hungry? Then head over to ‘t Blauwe Theethuis or Vondelpark3 which are both located inside the park.

Rijksmuseum, Museumstraat 1, Amsterdam, +31 20 674 7000

Van Gogh Museum, Museumplein 6, Amsterdam, +31 20 570 5200

Stedelijk Museum, Museumplein 10, Amsterdam, +31 20 573 2911

Vondelpark, Amsterdam

‘t Blauwe Theehuis, Vondelpark 5, Amsterdam, +31 20 662 0254

Vondelpark3, Vondelpark 3, Amsterdam, +31 20 639 2589

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Rembrandt’s The Night Watch is part of the Rijksmuseum’s collections | © pixabay

If you have 12 hours…

There’s good news for anyone with 12 hours to spare in Amsterdam. The city is actually pretty small compared to other European capitals and many of its main attractions are concentrated around its historic canal belt. These waterways are actually protected as an UNESCO World Heritage Site and form a concentric network around Amsterdam’s city centre, which means that they are easily accessible from Centraal Station. Walking around Amsterdam’s canals is among the best ways to experience the city and there are literally thousands of other landmarks located on their banks including Anne Frank House. Although paying your respects at Anne Frank House is certainly possible within this timeframe, it is important to remember that queues for the museum are notoriously long (but are avoidable if you book tickets in advance).

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Daniel De Leau / | © Culture Trip

Other possible destinations include FOAM on Keizersgracht, which ranks among the most respected photography museums in the Netherlands, or a delightful gallery on Herengracht, called KattenKabinet, that exclusively exhibits artwork featuring cats. There’s plenty of places to eat throughout this part of Amsterdam including many spots inside one of the city’s most popular shopping areas de Negen Straatjes (the Nine Little Streets). Aside from boutique and brand stores, this picturesque neighbourhood also features many excellent restaurants that range from high-end brasseries like Ambassade to down-to-earth takeout joints such as The Lebanese Sajeria.

Canal Belt, Amsterdam

Anne Frank House, Prinsengracht 263-267, Amsterdam, +31 20 556 7105

FOAM, Keizersgracht 609, Amsterdam, +31 20 551 6500

KattenKabinet, Herengracht 497, Amsterdam, +31 20 626 9040

Brasserie Ambassade, Herengracht 339, Amsterdam, +31 20 555 0255

The Lebanese Sajeria, Wijde Heisteeg 1, Amsterdam, +31 20 737 3386

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Inside de Katten Kabinet | © Jorge Royan / WikiCommons