Layovers that exceed 5 hours, in my book, are considered long layovers. In the amount of time you have, you can easily leave the airport and explore the city and country you are in. Honestly, I book my layovers so that they are +10 hours. When this happens, I do not have to pay to fly into the country, I can leave my carry on in the airport (they have storage areas), and venture out into the city.
One of my first long layovers was in Amsterdam.I had a 22 hour layover in Amsterdam en route to Tel-Aviv. I was not about to wait for 22 hours in Schiphol Airport. Sorry, no. Originally, I worked it out to where I would land at midnight, have a shuttle pick me up, and spend the night in the hostel before wandering the city in the morning. That did not happen. Rather, my flight into Amsterdam was delayed by over two hours, I did not land until almost 3am. Once I found where the baggage storage was, had an attendant come assist me because the lockers would not work, and find where I was in the airport, my shuttle had confused me and it was almost 4am. I gave up and acknowledged I would be spending the night in the airport. I found a comfy corner near an outlet and took a nap.
Sleeping in airports is not necessarily the worst place someone could sleep in, but employees wake the airport up quite early, around 6am when they begin their shifts. At this point, there was no trying to sleep, so I went to Starbucks and waited until the trains started running out of the airport. I took the 7:30 train out of Schiphol and into Central Station, finally able to explore the city.
*Pro tip: Schiphol is extremely cold at night, when spending the night in the airport, do not forget a blanket or jacket.
When I learned I was going to be in Amsterdam for a day, the first thing I did was book a ticket to see the one site I just HAD to visit, the Anne Frank House. I did not know it at the time, but for admission into the house, you must have purchased a ticket online (it is not overly expensive). According to the docents, tickets for the day I went in June had sold out over a month in advance! When I got there, the line wrapped around the building way before the entry time on my ticket was valid. My tour was at 10:30am, I arrived at 10:00am and the line was around the building. (HINT: you can never arrive too early!)
The Anne Frank House was beyond worth the wait! While no pictures are allowed to be taken inside, the house is so moving, you will not even think about bringing your camera out. As a teenager I read Anne Frank’s Diary, read the play, and watched the documentary. The hallways are more narrow than I imagined and the bookcase entrance was stunning. I had read about this as a kid and was finally able to see it in real life! The rooms the Franks, van Pels, and Frank resided in were tiny. The blackout curtains effectively cut out all light. Even the kitchen was small! I honestly do not know how they were able to remain in the Secret Annex as long as they did, because it was suffocating. Moreover, the Anne Frank House currently has no furniture inside of it. When the SS raided the Secret Annex, they removed all furniture as well. In the center of one of the rooms is a replica of how the house would have looked like when it was occupied by the Franks, constructed by Otto Frank upon his return after liberation. As you stroll through each room, there are quotes from Anne Frank’s diary on the walls and curtains describing a scene that occurred in the room. In addition, at the end, there are interviews from Anne’s friends and Miep Gies. I strongly recommend this site to see on a layover in Amsterdam
*Fun fact: Anne’s room still has the Hollywood movie stars up!
After the Anne Frank House, just off one of Amsterdam’s many, many canals, I wandered around the area marveling at the sites and ate a delicious lunch at Dialoog.
After lunch, I had booked an afternoon free walking tour with Sandeman’s NEW Amsterdam Tour! It was phenomenal! The tour was almost three hours long, included neat tidbits about the city, and we received free samples! Moreover, at the end, most of the tour group went to dinner with the guide at a Danish restaurant. The tour began at the National Monument on Dam Square, around where Madame Tussaud, Starbucks, and the Royal Palace were located. The tour then went to the Old City of Amsterdam, where the first church was located. Interesting tidbit, the church was where sailors would go after visiting the Red Light District to confession. Moreover, in the Red Light District, if you take a picture of any of the girls in the windows, yes there are actual live girls standing in the windows, they will hunt you down and throw a cup of pee on you. True story. The tour then went by more historical location, my favorite was the building where the Dutch East India Company was headquartered. This walking tour I highly recommend for those visiting Amsterdam to better have an overview of the city and the history as well as receive pointers on what to and to not see (the guide recommend the IceBar was not worth anyone’s time). The free walking tours (highly recommended to tip them at the end for their hard work) are a great way to better understand the history and sites.
*Fun fact: The Starbucks in Dam Square is the coolest Starbucks I have ever been to! It’s located in an old bank and is fascinating!
*To try: Try bitterballen, Dutch meatballs, they are delicious!
*To know: despite being June, Amsterdam was still rainy and cold, bring a jacket just in case!
*Must try: Tony’s Chocolonely bars and Stroopwaffles ! Dutch specialties and both delicious!