Netherlands Airport Guide

Travel Channel's guide to Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam.
By: Rudy Maxa
Show: The Layover
Episode: Amsterdam

The words “airport” and “fun” go together about as often as “military” and “music.” But with the increase in competition among the world’s major airports to serve as hubs for flights, the pressure to please and retain passengers is intense. Despite the Netherlands’ relatively small population, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (that’s it’s official name, and Schiphol is pronounced “ski-pole”) is Delta Air Line’s European hub and a major player in the big league hub business that includes the airports of London, Hong Kong and New York, among others.

But here’s the thing about Schiphol: It’s big. (Check out the airport map.) In fact, it’s one of the world’s so-called Airport cities, an airport that does more than handle planes by also providing offices, retail businesses, entertainment venues, medical facilities and hotels all within the airport “fence.” It’s the fourth largest airport in Europe, and the walk between gates can be long. But your walk won’t be boring. If you have time, you can play a little blackjack or even get married. Let’s review the basics to navigating Schiphol.

Coming and Going
Beneath Schiphol, trains provide direct connections to Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague, as well as destinations out of the country via high-speed trains. Amsterdam is only 20 minutes from the airport, and a second-class ticket is 6.40 euros (about $8.50). A word of warning: Beware pickpockets in the train station.

Highway A4 also provides easy access to Amsterdam and The Hague via bus, rental car or taxi. A taxi costs about 40 euros ($53) between Amsterdam and the airport, but be sure to only take a taxi from the taxi line outside the main entrance to arrivals or the train level station at the airport. Buses leave every 30 minutes between 5:30 a.m. and 11:40 p.m. near the taxi stands. Fare to between Amsterdam and the airport: 3.60 euros ($4.80).

Also nearby, an Amsterdam hotel shuttle runs every 10 minutes between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. from platform A7. The trip can take up to an hour if your hotel is the last stop during a run. Cost: 13.50 euros ($18) for an adult, 6.25 ($8.40) euros for children, though there is a significant discount by buying a round-trip ticket.

If you travel with your bike, you may also bike from the airport into town along a 9-mile bike route. Turn right as you leave the terminal, and the cycle path is about 200 yards down the road. There are also bike paths around the airport.

Airport Amenities
Along with London’s Heathrow, Schiphol is one of Europe’s first airports to realize passengers wanted more than a few fast-food outlets and shops with coffee mugs sporting the word “Amsterdam.”

Yes, you can still pick up a pair of classic Dutch wooden shoes, but you may also buy packets of seeds for a rainbow of different tulips at a garden store and feast on Champagne and caviar. You can get married in a hanger, atop the Skyport building with a view of airplanes taking off and landing, or even have a wedding reception aloft a 1930s Dakota aircraft. A baby care lounge provides cribs, baby baths, changing tables, play areas and microwaves. Cost: free.

Access to the mini-Rijksmuseum, between the E and F piers, is free. Grab a little culture behind passport control between the E and F piers. Had enough culture? The airport casino is just steps away.

An airport park in Terminal D offers at least the illusion of being one with Mother Nature. The grass is artificial -- as are the songs of birds -- but there are free stationary bikes, beanbag chairs and chaise lounges, as well as a small outdoor terrace.

There is Wi-Fi throughout Schiphol, and your first hour is free.

The Overnighter
If your layover is 5 hours or longer, you can take a quick tour of Amsterdam. Just visit the airport’s Tour Desk. Overnight stay or an early morning departure? Check into the Schiphol Sheraton that’s linked to the terminal by a covered walkway. The newer citizenM features high-pressure showers, free Wi-Fi and free on-demand movies. It’s also connected to the main terminal and train station.

For the budget-minded traveler, the Yotel offers clean cubicles (some with double bunks and a double bed for families). Showers are available, and the Wi-Fi is free.

The in-terminal hotel, Mercure, allows passengers to enjoy a shower (soap and towel provided).

If it seems you can spend a couple of days at Schiphol, you’re not far from wrong. And that’s more than you can say about most airports.

Rudy Maxa is host of Rudy Maxa’s World, a public television series on the world’s great destinations and a syndicated weekend radio travel show. He’s passed through Schiphol airport about 20 times and has the passport stamps to prove it.

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