A Long Layover in Amsterdam

Ever booked a flight just for the layover?

That’s exactly what we did on our recent trip to Turkey. Typically, the first thing I do if I see a layover over three hours is adjust the filters on my search. But when an 11 hour layover in Amsterdam appeared for our flight search Istanbul, I did some digging.

What did I find? That around 10 daylight hours is all you really need to get a taste of this cute Dutch city, one that really felt like a town.

Lina and the crooked houses of Amsterdam.

With a convenient 15-minute train ride to Centraal, a quick trip into Amsterdam is possible with anything longer than a five hour layover. So off we went straight from our flight from San Francisco, with brushed teeth, tousled hair, and neck pillows in hand.

Unfortunately, my lack of sleep put us on a train heading in the opposite direction, to The Hague. After the initial confusion and some help from the locals, we were right back where we started, and headed in the right direction.

Amsterdam Central Station

Eleven hours doesn’t give you a ton of time, but it was enough to hit the highlights. From the train station, we immediately jumped onto a riverboat cruise, which was a nice way to orient ourselves with the city and get some scenic shots from the water.

Canals of Amsterdam
Bridge upon bridge upon bridge upon... well you get it

From there, my only to-do was the Anne Frank Museum. We meandered over canals and around cyclists, with Rob stopping every few feet to take photos of the impossibly cute houses, many leaning at precarious angles.

Amsterdam in one picture: bikes, canals, and leaning historic houses

We learned that houses were taxed by how much riverfront space they took, so some people built houses like this, taking up a mere 1 meter in width but going back much further in length.

The smallest house in Amsterdam. 1 meter wide! If you used to live on the canal, you were taxed based on how wide your house was, which is why so many of these houses are so skinny. But 1 meter? Wow!

Because many of the houses were too narrow to allow furniture in through the staircase, builders installed large hooks on the outside to lift items in through the window.

Suspence. Amsterdam.

Once at the Anne Frank house, we waited in line for about 45 minutes before touring the house, now fully converted into a museum. There were no photos allowed, but the included audio tour gave a holistic glimpse of life for the Frank family under occupation. It’s a must-do if you’re in Amsterdam for the first time.

From there, we did what we love to do in new cities—got purposefully lost in the cliches that are Amsterdam. Leaning houses, canals, and cyclists made up our afternoon, before a quick detour into the Red Light District, which was positively PG-13 rated at 6pm.

Lina and an alien with laser beams
Brouwerij't Ij Ijwit Amsterdam Beer, with a perfect Amsterdam background.

And then? Back to the airport and onto Istanbul!

More Amsterdam

Want to see more of Amsterdam? Check out our Amsterdam photo tour!

Have you ever made a trip out of a layover?

Let us know in the comments!