Around The World Via Holland – An Alternative Layover In Amsterdam
Written by Jaillan Yehia
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Amsterdam Schiphol Airport is one of the busiest travel hubs in the world. Dutch national airline KLM flew more than 32 million passengers in 2017 and plenty of those people took advantage of the opportunity to sneak in a little layover in Amsterdam.
If you’re one of the 60 million passengers who are set to fly through AMS airport this year, you might be considering a short side trip into Amsterdam, and wondering how much of the city you can see in just a few hours – and how you can get away from those other 59,999,999 people. This post might help.
Why You Should Consider A Layover In Amsterdam
The good news is that you can see a lot of Amsterdam in a short space of time, partly due to the fast and frequent train connection from Schiphol to Amsterdam Centraal Station (15 mins), as well as the compact nature of Amsterdam’s centre once you arrive.
The Netherlands’ capital city is one of the most popular and pretty cities in Europe, and if you’ve never visited before it’s well worth jumping on that train to get a taste of The Dam; you’ll get a lot of out even a short visit because it is just so different to anywhere else in the world.
There are some obvious pursuits in Amsterdam for the first timer of course – I’m talking tulips, canal tours, shopping for wooden clogs, riding bicycles and eating cheese. Maybe even visiting a coffee shop (that’s Amsterdam code for a place that sells cannabis with the coffee) like the Ocean’s Twelve boys, or seeing the Red Light district in real life.
There are world famous museums like the Van Gogh Museum and Anne Frank’s House too – but the problem with doing all these classic Amsterdam tourist activities, is that you’ll be doing them surrounded by tons of other tourists.
So if you’re looking for something a little bit more quirky and decidedly less Dutch, and you’re open to seeing the world while in Amsterdam, there are a few options in the most cosmopolitan place in Holland.
I’d like to show you some snapshots of the world, via some cute corners of the canal city. You can follow this itinerary step by step and create a full day in Amsterdam with breakfast lunch and dinner, activities, shopping and drinks, or pick and choose the bits that take your fancy.
Around The World On A Layover In Amsterdam
First things first, you’ll want to leave your luggage behind and get yourself on a train to Centraal Station to start your layover in Amsterdam.
Getting To Amsterdam
You can store your luggage at lockers in AMS Airport which are scattered around the terminal and cost €7 for 24 hours and can fit a couple of small bags/suitcases.
Or use the Schiphol luggage storage room on the lower ground floor of the airport, which is slightly pricier at €7 per day per item, but better for bulky items, and open 24/7. There’s also a luggage storage option at Amsterdam Centraal itself.
An easy solution if you want total freedom for travel during your short layover in Amsterdam is to buy an Amsterdam Travel Ticket which is valid to and from Schiphol Airport as well as on all public trams, buses and ferries in the city (it’s not valid on sightseeing tours).
A one day ticket costs €16, and two days is better value at €21 and you can buy these tickets at the airport – but just to confuse you, not at the little booth on the concourse which says Amsterdam Travel Ticket, as that’s for information only, so don’t waste your time queuing up there!
French-Style Petite Dejeuner – Breakfast at Metropolitain
If you’re starting your day in Amsterdam and looking for an all day breakfast and brunch place to get your energy levels up, there are plenty of options to choose from.
You can definitely go Dutch, keep it traditional and have pancakes or waffles anywhere in town – but if you want to take yourself and your taste buds on an international tour of Amsterdam, start with a visit to Paris at the Cafe de Paris’ all day breakfast eatery, Metropolitain.
There’s a lovely menu of brunchy favourites like pancakes, eggs, croques and club sandwiches, eaten in a cosy atmosphere surrounded by continental decor. The service on my visit felt a bit hit and miss but the food was spot on, with plenty of caffeine and carbs, and the location is very central which is great if you’ve a day of sightseeing on your agenda.
Canadian Shopping – Souvenirs at Hudson’s Bay
While living in Vancouver, British Columbia, I fell for this luxury Canadian department store which was the closest thing I could find to London‘s Selfridges. So I was surprised to see the brand taking up almost a whole block of central Amsterdam’s main shopping street.
It turns out the Hudson’s Bay shop on The Rokin IS the first and only Hudson’s Bay branch outside Canada – and if you haven’t shopped at The Bay before but like browsing for upmarket beauty, men’s and women’s fashion, you should put this on your Amsterdam layover list. It’s basically like you’ve had a little side trip to Canada, which can’t be bad.
The company’s signature stripes spurned an entire Instagram phenomena when parody Pacific Northwest account Sociality barbie was spotted flaunting her Hudson’s Bay blanket – so that’s another great reason to pop in.
If you’re in a shopping mood this whole area is perfect for a browse but I also recommend small independent local shops of which there is no shortage – Posthumus is one of those gorgeous olde worlde boutiques which you won’t find anywhere else, and it’s been making traditional wax stamps and stationary for international clients since 1865.
Israeli Lunch – Dip Into D&A Hummus Bistro
No, not a branch of old UK opticians Dollond & Aitchison but a rustic temple to low-key Middle Eastern cuisine specialising in hummus.
D&A are actually the initials of the Israeli co-founders of this hummus haven and a nod to the fact that this food is in their DNA – but instead of flying to Tel Aviv you need only take a tram to Marnixplein to experience some heavenly hummus.
As an Egyptian I am a bit of a falafel and hummus connoisseur and the Israelis and Egyptians have long argued about who invented falafel (amongst other topics).
Even though both countries make this Levantine dish differently, any equal-opportunity hummus and falafel lover will find the food at D&A satisfying and homely. The surroundings are pleasantly pared back and the place has a friendly local neighbourhood vibe. A second branch of D&A Hummus Bistro has also opened up in Oostenburg.
Enjoy English Graffiti & Spanish Surrealist Art – At The Moco Museum
Amsterdam is packed with more museums and art galleries than you could ever hope to see on a short layover. As well as the Van Gogh Museum, there’s the world famous art and history heavy-hitter The Rijksmuseum and its modern art sister the Stedelijk Museum.
But what’s great about Amsterdam is that they’re all in the same place so you can just decide which museum to visit when you arrive at Museumplein, and for those who prefer graffiti to gold framed art, there’s an alternative museum offering something a lot more tongue in cheek; the Moco Museum.
Perfect for fans of Banksy and Dali this is your chance to see some of the Bristol artist’s most famous international artwork here in Amsterdam.
While you’re in the area don’t forget to catch up with all your fellow tourists and snap a photo at the I Amsterdam sign, and allow plenty of time – there are just so many people clamouring for a photo with the famous Amsterdam logo that you’ll need to have some patience to get the perfect photo. Be careful clambering on that thing too!
Go Dutch For Dinner – Mum’s The Word At Moeders Restaurant
I promised international delights in Amsterdam, but you have to try at least one traditional Dutch delicacy while in town and I thoroughly recommend making it a homestyle Dutch dinner.
One of the most charming places I’ve ever eaten, ‘Mothers Restaurant‘ serves warming, homely comfort food on mismatched crockery, in a restaurant decorated entirely with pictures of mothers.
Brought in by sons and daughters from all over the world, there are thousands of smiling mom pictures adorning every surface here – and I do mean every: I found it mildly disconcerting that someone’s mum was looking down on me while I went to the loo.
The mains are home-cooked Dutch dishes like stamppot which I instantly wanted to try – we’re talking meat and potatoes and plenty of it.
The food is filling but skip the bland starters and leave room for apple pie. This is what every tourist wants – traditional Dutch food you just can’t get at home, served by a friendly waitress in a quirky setting that you can tell all friends about when the trip is over.
An American Pool Hall in Amsterdam – Say Cheers At The Poolbar
Everybody might not know your name when you walk into The Poolbar Amsterdam, but the friendly atmosphere means they soon will – as well as the fact that you have to put your name down on a list to get on a table.
It’s a popular spot, with other bar games to keep you occupied if you haven’t sunk an eight ball in a while and don’t fancy it, and the jugs of beer go down well after a day of pounding the streets of Amsterdam.
If you are looking for a fun, laid-back evening out before catching a flight home, and want to throw some booze into the mix, and maybe some cueing action too, The Poolbar is a great bet.
Japanese-Style Sleeping – Bed Down At Yotel Schiphol Airport
Schiphol Airport is notoriously big, so rather than rushing to catch your flight after a layover in Amsterdam, consider staying in at this Japanese-style pod hotel right inside the terminal.
If you have an early morning flight booking yourself into Yotel Schiphol the night before could be a convenient choice.
Rooms are clean, comfy and actually pretty cool – they give you everything you need from a hotel room, all on a cleverly compressed scale.
There’s a decent double bed that folds out of the way when you aren’t using it, a flat screen TV, bathroom with monsoon shower, free wi-fi and hot drinks, and you can stay for a few hours at any time of day or night depending on your transit times.
Some YotelAir hotels are landside – that means they’re in the airport terminal but before security but Yotel in Amsterdam airport is actually airside, which means that it is located after passport control so you can do all the time consuming stuff like waiting in line and having your bags scanned when you’re not in a hurry and then chill in your room right up until your flight time.
The Yotel at Schiphol is within a few steps of luggage lockers and a host of cafes – there’s even a McDonald’s right outside – and it is a couple of minutes walk to many of the gates, so if you need to be inside the airport, it couldn’t be more convenient.
If you’re looking for more ideas for your layover in Amsterdam, check out this encyclopaedic post of free things to do in Amsterdam by local resident, friend and super blogger Frankie.
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