Long Layovers – 8 Hours in Amsterdam

On our way back to the USA from Norway, we spent a day in Amsterdam. We had booked our flights so we could have a couple of quick extra stops in our favorite European cities. I was thrilled because the only time I have ever been to Amsterdam was on my very first trip to Europe during high school, just after I turned 16. While I remember it being a fun couple of days, I don’t recall doing much besides going to the Anne Frank house and the red light district (not surprising for a group of immature high schoolers!). Alex had been to Amsterdam in college twice, but it had still been several years for him too. We decided not to worry about trying to visit any museums or hot tourist spots with only 8 hours in the city, but rather focused on soaking up the city and its people through a day of exploring and eating. It was a lovely way to spend a beautiful day and I left utterly enamored by this charming little city and hoping for a return visit in the near future!

With a day in Amsterdam, here is what I recommend…

Take the train from Schipol Airport to Central Station. The trains leave every 10 minutes or so during the week and it only takes about 15 minutes to get to the station. It’s definitely the easiest way to get to the city center. If you don’t have a PIN on your credit card, you’ll have to buy your ticket from the counter. Tickets are less than 5 euros.

Centraal Station, a short walk from everything you’ll want to see in the city center

Head straight for breakfast. Obviously you’ll want to start with Dutch pancakes. These delicious thin pancakes can be made with whatever toppings you want, sweet or savory. We went to the original location of Pancakes Amsterdam in the adorable Nine Streets area and window shopped in the many cute boutiques nearby. Of the three locations of the restaurant, this is definitely the coziest and least touristy. If you have an I-Amsterdam card, you’ll get 25% off of any pancakes. What to order: Banana and chocolate Dutch pancake. Don’t forget to order a coffee or tea – hot drinks are served with a stroopwafel.

Pancakes Amsterdam
Image via Flickr

After breakfast, we walked over to the Prinsengracht to walk around the many canals. I loved seeing locals biking to work or out for a boat ride. The Prinsengracht canal is the outermost and longest of the three main canals of Amsterdam and the neighborhood includes the canal houses dating back to the 17th century, the narrowest house, Western Church, Anne Frank House, and Houseboat Museum. The canal system is so delightful and it really made me want to come back and rent a little boat to cruise around the canals and explore the city more.

Continue your walk to Vondelpark where you can soak up the sunshine and people watch over drinks at Vondelpark 3 Kitchen and Bar. While I might typically recommend having a picnic in such a nice park, this little cafe is way to cute to pass up. We visited on a Thursday at lunch and it was filled with people enjoying the perfect weather.

Enjoying Vondelpark

Finally, have a late lunch at Cafe Het Molenpad. Cafe Molenpad is a traditional Dutch “brown cafe.” Brown cafes are known for having dark wood and smoke-stained walls with a “gezellig,” or cozy atmosphere. They are places to relax and unwind with friends. Cafe Molenpad is one of the few cafes on the canal with a waterside terrace. We saw several boats dock in front of the cafe to eat lunch at the restaurant, although if requested, boaters can actually order food and drinks for delivery on board. What to order: Share a couple of toasted sandwiches and beers!


On your way back to the airport, don’t forget to stock up on stroopwafels at one of the many local cafes for your flight home. They are so much fresher and more delicious than anything you can find back in the states!

Thank you for reading! Next week, I’ll be posting about the last leg of our 2017 European vacation – an evening in a city that is very near and dear to my heart, Madrid!

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