8 Hours in Amsterdam
I recently found myself with several hours to kill in Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, and had two choices: I could either immerse myself in one of Europe's most modern airports, which offers an excellent range of entertainment options, including a museum and a casino. Or I could venture out of the airport and into Amsterdam itself, a truly vibrant, world class city.
Whilst ideally you would want to spend at least 48 hours in the city, i discovered that you can also do plenty with half a day, or even less. So here is an hour by hour guide for what to do in Amsterdam. You can narrow or widen our itinerary depending on the precise length of your layover.
Amsterdam Airport is very well connected to the city centre, with regular and efficient trains taking you directly between the two in just 20 minutes. You will arrive into Amsterdam Centraal Station, which is the country's busiest and most important railway hub. From Centraal Station it is a brisk 25 minute walk into the heart of the city.
If you head directly down Damrak (the main thoroughfare facing you as you come out of Centraal Station) you will eventually come to Dam Plaza, one of Amsterdam's most prestigious squares. You will want to spend at least an hour around here, taking in the atmosphere and checking out the impressive architecture which includes the neoclassical Royal Palace, 15th-century Gothic Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) and the National Monument, a white stone pillar erected in memory of WWII victims.
Keep walking in a southeasterly direction and you will arrive at Amsterdam's most famous green space: Vondelpark. This vast, 120 acre park is pleasant enough merely to stroll around, but it also boasts a film museum, an open air theatre, and a playground.
From Vondelpark it is just a 5 minute walk to the world famous Van Gogh Museum. You could spend hours strolling around this iconic museum, which houses the largest collection of Van Gogh's paintings and drawings in the world, but you can still take in plenty in an hour.
A 10 minute walk north of the museum is another of Amsterdam's legendary squares - the Leidseplein. More low-key and intimate than many of its counterparts, the Leidseplein comes to life in the summer, with its cafes, bars and coffee shops brimming with activity. Street performers also liven up the square with their family-friendly acts.
Though it will require a 10 minute taxi journey, anyone with a cultural and historical inclination will want to visit Anne Frank's House. This site is a museum dedicated to Jewish WWII diarist Anne Frank, who hid from the Nazis in secret rooms at the rear of the building.
Making your way back towards Centraal Station, you may fancy something to lighten the mood after the maudlin surroundings of Anne Frank's House. You will find it on Damrak in the shape of the Sex Museum Amsterdam. But fear not, far from being a seedy museum, this is actually one of great historical interest, housing an extensive collection of erotic paintings, pictures, objects and recordings from different ages.
This will leave you just a 5 minute walk from Centraal Station, from where you can take regular trains back to Schiphol.
Of course, if you're too tired to throw yourself into Amsterdam's chaotic urban life, you could always check into a hotel near the airport to catch some shut-eye before your flight. There is an excellent selection of Amsterdam Airport Hotels to choose from, including the 3-star Ibis Amsterdam, which offers a shuttle service to and from the airport.