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16 hour layover in AMS -- what should we prioritize?

Going to Barcelona in September and have a 16 hour layover in AMS on the way back home.
Arrive in AMS on a Saturday, 4pm in the afternoon, and leave again at 8am the next morning. I've never been to Amsterdam before and am hoping to use the layover to make it into town, get a good meal, and get some sleep. I'm thinking of finding a hotel close to the airport so I can drop off my luggage, then go into town.

Looking for recommendations on the following:
- Hotels (near the airport? or will I have better luck closer to town?)
- Activities (what should I prioritize? what will be available during the late afternoon/evening? I'm not interested in the red light district)
-bike rental companies

Thanks in advance!

Posted by
7833 posts

Well, the good news is that you aren't going to be overwhelmed with jet lag while you are doing this layover! If you are leaving at 8 am, I would stay near the airport and I suggest the Citizen M hotel. It is a short walk from the main entrance to the airport on a walkway. It will be easy to check in on arrival and just walk 5 minutes for departure. You also have quick access to either the train from the airport to Central Amsterdam or the bus to the Museum District right there at the airport.

As far as activities, the real question is what interests you? There are museums, canal tours, Anne Frank House, etc. Perhaps you might consider signing up for a walking or bike tour of the city?

Posted by
9 posts

Thank you, Carol! Great idea, I hadn't even thought to check in in-person at the airport when we arrive!

As far as activities, I want to be realistic and not overly ambitious with the short amount of time. We love to bike, my husband and I ride a tandem all the time, but not sure if we'd be able to find a tandem bike for rent and how easy it would be to find bike rentals near the airport and take them into town.

I'd love to see the canals, but not sure if a tour is worth the time and expense. And given our time of arrival, not sure what museums (if any) we should prioritize.

Do shops and restaurants tend to stay open pretty late in Amsterdam? I want to make sure if we go through the trouble of leaving the airport and trying to have an adventure in the city, that it won't be difficult finding ways to enjoy the time.

Posted by
2109 posts

Unfortunately, the big art museums (Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh) close at 5 or 6 p.m. on Saturday, so even if you were magically transported there from the airport you won't have time to see much. I kind of doubt you'll find a bike rental place that will loan you a bike that late in the day (the ones I checked near Amsterdam Centraal station close at 6 p.m.) unless you can find a non-staffed option. Anne Frank house is open late but you must buy an advance ticket - there are still some late evening tickets available on Saturdays Sept. 16 and 23rd but you'd need to book those immediately. The good news is the canals are always open and are lovely to walk around and plenty of restaurants are going to be open on a Saturday night.

I would stay near the airport for ease. I've stayed at Citizen M hotel also and it's a great location for an early morning flight. Use the airport's trip planner to determine when to get to the airport based on your specific flight.

Posted by
9 posts

Thank you, CL! I was researching in the interim and also noticed many bike rental places close early, which was a bit surprising. Even found one with a tandem but it closes at 6 :-(

At the moment, thinking if we can find a place that will loan us a bike in the evening, will be worth it still to bike around the city, go to Museumplein and Vondelpark, see De 9 Straatjes neighborhood, bloemenmarkt, and enjoy a nice rijsttafel for dinner (seems Blauw and Tujuh Maret come highly recommended by the Rick Steves crowd). Hoping we can manage to do at least that. Maybe a canal tour as well :-)

I've seen lots of recommendations for the CitizenM hotel, I did book a room there. But also saw that there's a Moxy (Marriott family) 6 min drive from the airport and has a free shuttle from the airport (and cheap 5.5 Euro from the hotel to the airport). Seems a big factor in people's recommendation of the CitizenM is the ease of being able to walk easily from the airport to the CitizenM hotel, but curious if it will make that big a difference? We certainly don't want to spend a bunch of time in transit if we can avoid it, but the rate I got for the Moxy is about 60 Euros less.

Posted by
429 posts

Well, it may seem like a 16 hour layover, but with 7-8 hours are for sleeping, at least an hour to navigate out of the airport and possible check into your hotel, 1 hour back and forth on the train into the city, and 2-3 hours needed to check in for your flight in the morning, you really don’t end up with all that much time.for sightseeing - and you’ve got quite a list!

Since you haven’t been to Amsterdam before, I would suggest you look at one of the self-guided walking tours that Rick Steves details in his guidebook. That way, you will at least see a few of the major sights and get a feel for this wonderful city. You don’t really need any kind of tour for the canals, just wander around with a map - you can’t miss them and the city is rather compact.

You may enjoy doing all this by bike - or maybe not. Locals ride bikes as serious transportation from here to there. The bike lanes are crowded and move really fast. They really don’t ride in a leisurely manner. As a pedestrian, you’re much more likely to get run over by an aggressive bike rider than by a car! But if you are a confident and experienced rider, you might be fine.

The trams are easy to use if you want to cover more ground. Rick tells you how to use these and provides a map in the guidebook.

If it were me, I would just walk and wander, with a guidebook and/or map in hand, then have a nice dinner before heading back to my hotel at the airport.

Posted by
2109 posts

Stephthetraveler - I also considered the Moxy as an option. At the time I was choosing, their shuttle to the airport ran just once an hour in the very early morning, and my flight situation was such that didn't work (you have an even earlier flight than I did). But I just saw recent reviews that say there is no longer an early morning shuttle and you have to take a taxi, which adds cost and possibly time if they're slow in coming. I believe the most straightforward public transit into town is catching a train that is directly under the airport - so you'd have to either take the hotel shuttle back to the airport or figure out a local bus to get you to the airport station (or possibly another local option). Regardless, this will eat up valuable minutes of your very short stay. IMHO, efficiency matters in this situation, Citizen M fits that bill.

I'd also humbly suggest that even with a bike, Museumplein and Vondelpark are going to be way out of your way and they are just big open spaces that aren't as appealing as the central area in the grand scheme. Especially since it's going to be on the verge of darkness (depending on how late you're going in September). I'd stick to the historic core (cool buildings! canals!) have a lovely dinner, and save the bike riding and outlying areas for a trip when you have more time to enjoy them.

Posted by
1012 posts

“ At the moment, thinking if we can find a place that will loan us a bike in the evening, will be worth it still to bike around the city, go to Museumplein and Vondelpark, see De 9 Straatjes neighborhood, bloemenmarkt”

I’m sorry to say, but this isn’t a good idea. It’s a potentially very unsafe dangerous idea. The city center of Amsterdam is busy, very busy. Busy with locals biking from home to work, school etc. Busy with all kinds of delivery guys and girls on bikes or, even worse, dangerously silent electric scooters. Busy with tourists walking around looking up in awe at all the beautiful buildings and not looking at where they’re walking. You really do not want to drive thru this on a bike let alone on a tandem. You won’t be able to see the sights because you need to be 100% focused on the traffic around you.
What I would do with such a short layover if I were you, is book a hotel at the airport. Not a hotel that needs a shuttle, you’ll lose too much time. I would drop off my luggage at the hotel and take the train towards the city. Pick one of the many canal cruises that depart from right in front of the central train station and take a 60 or 90 minute canal cruise, that will enable you to get a great overview of the historical city center and the UNESCO world heritage Canal Zone. After the cruise, walk around the city and find somewhere nice to have dinner. Perhaps an evening stroll around the Canal Zone after dinner to see the canals beautifully lit up after sunset and then back to your hotel.

Posted by
7191 posts

The Citizen Inn was full when we did an overnight at the airport last year on our way to Africa for a safari.

We stated at the Airport Hilton that was walking distance from the airport terminal. Also, the walk in indoors and has a people mover.

The Airport Sheraton is a bit closer than the Hilton.

The Hilton was a luxury hotel and it was expensive, about $300 per night. Still, hotels are expensive in Amsterdam.

Posted by
9 posts

Just got back from this trip and wanted to update everyone on how it went. Ended up booking the CitizenM -- GREAT suggestion, so thanks everyone for recommending it. We absolutely appreciated the ability to walk out of the airport, get some fresh air and a short walk to the hotel to drop our bags. The room was TINY -- not easy to find a place to store our bags in the room and both be able to access them, but we managed and were actually quite impressed by the space efficiency of the room. Bed was incredibly comfortable, the iPad controlled lights were pretty neat, and there were so many interesting design features of the room we really appreciated (including the tiny shower/toilet capsule that magically didn't get the whole room wet when you took a shower!) We would absolutely stay there again and will recommend others do the same.

Unfortunately our flight from BCN to AMS was delayed 2.5 hours, so we had even less time to enjoy the city than we hoped, but we still managed to see the city (caught a beautiful sunset over the canals and a beautiful view of the Centraal station) and got an amazing dinner at Blauw (would recommend!) Got to sleep a little late due to the late dinner but still got better rest than if we'd tried to hunker down at the airport for the night, so worth the price of lodging.

We didn't get to rent the tandem due to the flight delay (no companies would rent a bike to us and allow for after hours dropoff, but as we walked around, we kept wishing we could see the city by bike), so maybe next time.

Thanks for all the suggestions -- it served us well!

Posted by
2109 posts

Thanks for reporting back on your successful layover, welcome back. I've got Citizen M booked for a stopover returning to US in early October and look forward to staying there again.