Perhaps in an ideal world, we would all fly directly to our destinations. But if you’re breaking up your journey at an airport like Amsterdam Schiphol, you’ll realise why stopping over can be an unforgettable experience in itself.
Hubbing over Holland’s gateway can also be a lifestyle choice, as the airport has become an attractive destination in its own right – a “city” that never sleeps.
Most of the 24/7 entertainment can be found at Holland Boulevard, where elements of Amsterdam and Dutch culture have been incorporated into the airport scene and can be felt, be it when you’re soaking up Dutch culture in the airport library or in the art gallery.
TERMINAL U explores 10 experiences that make Amsterdam Airport Schiphol an ultimate place to stop over:
1. See the bright lights of Holland Boulevard
Follow the crowd to Holland Boulevard – a popular and vibrant area where you can try dutch-inspired poffertjes (mini pancakes) while sitting in giant tea cups, dabble in art, try a spot of gambling or simply sit back in a recliner chair or pod in the lounge. There’s something here for everyone and even if you’re just chasing a connection, you have a cool introduction to Holland.
Holland Boulevard mimics the bright lights of Amsterdam’s streets, with a walkway running parallel to the zone’s attractions, lit up by florescent blue lamps.
It’s hard to miss the blue lights, but if you get lost, head to the airport’s transit zone between piers E and F.
2. Perform to a crowd of passengers
For those of you with musical flair, here’s your one opportunity to shine by staging your own mini concert to a potential audience of hundreds of waiting passengers.
A sleek black piano awaits passengers at Holland Boulevard, set against a backdrop of cosy living room areas. Even if you can’t hit the right notes, learning to play the piano is a productive way to spend your time in transit.
Amsterdam Schiphol staff have also pulled out all the stops to create lounge areas that are a home away from home, and each “room” is replete with television sets and quirky furniture, including pods. There’s even digital (special effect) fireplaces.
3. Place your bets at Holland Casino
Try something unconventional and play a few hands of blackjack, or perhaps some poker or roulette at Schiphol’s in-terminal casino.
The novelty factor? It’s also allegedly the only airport casino in existence.
There’s also something quite alluring about having the chance to double your holiday spend between flights – if you’re disciplined enough not to spend all your cash.
Winnings are paid in Dutch guilders, which can be exchanged for other currencies at the casino.
You’ll find the casino between Gates E and F at Holland Casino (in case you can’t sniff out where all the money is).
Entry itself is free, but you must be over 18 and will need to show valid ID – so don’t lose your passport.
Open daily from 6:30am-7:30pm.
4. Learn to create Dutch-inspired Cocktails.. then drink away.
Holidays are always a good excuse to indulge yourself in a luxury or two, and sipping a cocktail near your gate room is a experience not to miss (you don’t have to be a business traveller in a lounge either).
“The Bols Genever Cocktail Experience” at Holland Boulevard is a place where you can order your favourite cocktail (or try something new) by touch-screen. Your virtual bartender will show you how to make one yourself, then take your printed receipt to the Dutch bar where your drink will be created with pizzazz.
If you haven’t heard of the Bols Brand, it’s an institution – founded in 1575 and is big in the Dutch market – producing “Genever”, the Dutch form of gin.
5. Feel well-cultured by browsing the Rijksmuseum
If you have time to contemplate the beauty of period art, Amsterdam Schiphol has built an annexe of Amsterdam’s renowned Rijksmuseum in the departures area.
Here there’s an impressive collection of drawings and paintings from the Golden Age: a period in Dutch history dating back to the 17th Century.
The inspiring gallery leads down into a museum shop, where you can browse and buy art products reflecting the work of some of the Dutch artists featured in the gallery.
Entrance is free and you’ll find the gallery next to the library at Holland Boulevard.
6. Lounge in the airport’s reference Library
Amsterdam Schiphol is not only one of Europe’s biggest hubs, but an information hub for passengers, with a decently stocked library, if you’re interested in Dutch culture.
For more details on Amsterdam Airport Schiphol’s library, see our earlier news story
7. Surf the web on iPads
At Amsterdam Schiphol, iPads are part of the furniture in the KLM Crown Lounge. Take note that you can only access the lounge if you are a KLM World Business Class/Europe Select passenger, KLM American Express Corporate card holder, or an elite Flying Blue member.
But iPads are available for all passengers in the airport Library where you can browse through books and art, as well as download digital audio and video files.
The airport currently offers free WiFi access for one hour from anywhere in the airport terminal. From a laptop or mobile device, select the network labelled ‘KPN’ and you will be presented with two options. For free WiFi for one hour, select ‘free, limited-time access’.
8. See Holland’s highlights while you wait
If you have well over four hours dwell time at Schiphol, why not book a whistlestop tour to Amsterdam at the airport’s tour desk?
With the city centre just 10kms away from the airport, there is a trip on offer to suit everyone’s time needs.
Excursions include a gentle one-hour daytime cruise (€20), a two-hour candlelit evening (€29.50) and a two and a half-hour city tour (€49).
Make your way to either Arrivals 4 (opposite Starbucks), Arrivals 2 or Holland Boulevard (between E and F piers) to book a tour.
Or visit www.greatamsterdamexcursions.com and book ahead to receive a 10% discount per tour.
9. An inspired rest stop at the gate
Here’s a novel way to wait in style for your flight, if you’re lucky enough to be flying with the airline paying a premium to use this snazzy gate technology.
At Pier G, the airport opened “innovative gate” last year – an experiment with technology giant Philips to make the gate experience more inviting and fun.
The seating area looks more like a funky bar area than a holding room and is lit up in the airline’s brand colours.
Mood lighting changes from warmer to darker colours as passengers board their jet.
Other nice touches include giant video screens, a concierge desk staffed by the airline, binoculars for plane spotting, work desks for business travellers and little water fountains to quench your thirst before dehydration on the plane sets in.
First used by Cathay Pacific, other airlines are also using the gateroom for certain flights and Schiphol is looking at expanding the concept to other gate rooms.
10. Pick up a bunch of flowers
Anyone who loves spring flowers, especially tulips, should visit the Keukenhof flower gardens near Amsterdam. But if you’re only spending time at Schiphol, you can pick up your own bunch at one of the many flower shops scattered around the terminal. If you’re flying long-haul, bulbs or seeds may be the better option!
Transfer passengers – what you need to know
Amsterdam Airport Schiphol has one terminal, making connections a little easier. To check-in for your connecting flight, head to a transfer desk at any of the following locations:
To help you get your bearings, here’s a map of the terminal, below: (click to enlarge)
Air France-KLM also have around 100 self-service transfer kiosks in the terminal, where you can check in for your connecting flight.
The standard transfer time at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol to a flight within Europe is 40 minutes and 50 minutes for an intercontinental flight.
If you are travelling to/from Schengen and non-Schengen countries, you should count on having to go through additional security checks and customs inspections.
Also remember to arrive at the gate at least 30 minutes before your flight departure time.