Europe, Travels

How to Spend a Layover in Amsterdam

Upon learning I had a nine-hour layover in Amsterdam, I immediately hit the google. Was that enough time for an adventure? How close is the airport to the city center? How hard is it to get out of the airport and back in a handful of hours? I had all the questions and the internet reassured me that yeah, sure, I could totally get into the city and see some things with relative ease and that nine hours was plenty of time for a mini-adventure and airport escape.

So I was all, okay, cool, I trust you internet, I’m gonna go explore Amsterdam for a few hours.

But then I started second-guessing myself. Anxiety, my faithful companion, popped up and was all, YOU’RE GONNA MISS YOUR FLIGHT AND GET MURDERED AND DROWN IN A CANAL AND DEFINITELY GET LOST, and so I started to second guess myself. Finally, as I flew across the Atlantic Ocean, I decided to do it. Fuck it, I reasoned. I was going to be in Amsterdam for nine hours and, dammit, I was going to see something.

My flight was late getting in, OF COURSE, and then we sat for a while waiting for a gate assignment. By the time I got off the plane, I still had about seven and a half hours before my next flight. I scampered through the airport, grabbed a coffee along the way because, found a train ticket kiosk, got my ticket (€5.20), scampered down to the platform, checked with a very helpful worker that the train was going to Amsterdam’s Centraal Station, boarded the train and 17 minutes later I was there, in Amsterdam.

I was coming from Texas and on my way back to Kuwait and it was November, so Amsterdam was COLD, especially since I’d become mostly acclimated to the 100° days of Kuwait. I wanted to see some of Amsterdam, but I was worried I’d get lost and/or freeze to death if I set out on foot by myself without a map or a guide or even cell phone service. So I got on a boat.

Directly across the street from Centraal Station there’s a handful of companies that offer canal cruises. I reasoned a canal cruise (€15) was the perfect way to stay warm while also getting to see at least a little bit of Amsterdam.

I boarded the boat, all excited about what I’d get to see and wondering how soon we’d be heading out. I unraveled my provided headphones, plugged them in and found the English channel so I could follow along.

At this point, I was the only person on the boat and so I waited and waited until another couple came on and then we waited some more and a few other passengers came on and then we waited even more and I was getting all nervous about all my time evaporating and anxiety started creeping back in, but then, finally, we were off.

And it was great. Really. I didn’t freeze to death, and, an hour and a half later, I got off the boat feeling like I’d actually seen some of Amsterdam. We cruised past the Anne Frank House, learned about the architectural features of the older homes along the canals, and learned some basics about the history of the city.

It was beautiful, too, from the very impressive houseboats lining the canals to the historic homes and buildings we cruised past. For me, it was the perfect introduction to a city I’d always wanted to visit.

After the cruise, I walked around for a little bit until the numbness in my fingers pushed me back inside the train station and onto my train. I felt a little rushed at the airport because everything seemed to take longer than it should from security to passport control. Still, I had a little more than two hours to get back to the airport and through security, and made it through in just enough time to have one last beer before heading back to the desert.

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