Estimated reading time: 17 minutes
Table of contents
- Public Transport at Amsterdam Central Station
- Map of Amsterdam Central Station
- Train Tickets: Schiphol Airport to Amsterdam Central Station & More
- Amsterdam Central Station to Schiphol Airport
- Bus Terminal at IJzijde, Central Station
- A Few Words About Amsterdam Noord
- Luggage Storage Lockers at Central Station
- Lost & Found in Trains or Station
- Shops, Restaurants, Fast Food
- Currency Exchange
- Amsterdam Tourist Information Office / GVB Service Desk
- Central Station – Construction Zone
- Underwater Bicycle Parking Facility
- Other Bicycle Parking Garages at Amsterdam Central Station
- Bicycle Parking Rates at Amsterdam Central Station
- Scooters, Cargo bikes and outsized bicycles
- Fietsflat and Other Bike Parking Spots Permanently Closed
- From 200.000 to 275.000 Passengers a Day
- Amsterdam Central Station – Ongoing History
Amsterdam Central Station [Dutch: Centraal Station] is the city’s main public transportation hub.
Almost all streetcars and buses operated by GVB, Amsterdam’s Municipal Transportation Service1, start or end at this station. That also applies to many regional buses and most subway/metro lines.
Public Transport at Amsterdam Central Station
The stops for all streetcars (trams) are located at the front of the station, which faces Amsterdam Centrum — the mediaeval city center.
The stops for all buses are in the bus terminal at the back of Central Station. The bus station faces the river IJ — and, across the river, Amsterdam Noord. Signs inside the station direct you to IJzijde (if you pronounce it like “eyesight,” most people know what you mean).
The entrances to the metro (subway) lines are located directly in front of the station – as well as on the IJzijde (inside, at the back of the station). Note: some guidebooks write IJ-zijde instead.
The free ferries to Amsterdam Noord are at the back of the station.
Cabs line up at the taxi rank at the back of the station, on the west side.
Kiss-and-ride stops are also located at the back of the building, on both the east and west sides.
Map of Amsterdam Central Station
This map of Amsterdam Central Station shows the locations of ferries, the taxi rank, bus stops, trains, trams, and metro. Click the image for a larger, PDF map (not annotated) — or get a larger, zoomable image version of the annotated Amsterdam Central Station map here.
Train Tickets: Schiphol Airport to Amsterdam Central Station & More
Even better choices:
Get either the Amsterdam Travel Ticket for 1-3 Days: Benefit from one ticket for all public transport within Amsterdam, and between the city and Schiphol Airport (both ways). Travel on buses, ferries, metro, trains, and trams.
Or the Amsterdam & Region Travel Ticket for 1-3 Days: Use one pass to travel without limits across the region of Amsterdam. Includes travel between Schiphol Airport and the city (both ways) Valid on all public transportation within the region of Amsterdam, including buses, ferries, subway, trains and trams.
The vast majority of foreign visitors to Amsterdam arrive at Schiphol Airport, located 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) as the crow flies southwest of the city.1By car the distance is 20 kilometers (12.5 miles)
From there, most visitors catch a train into the city. [Check these other public transport options as well]
The 15-minute ride to Amsterdam Central Station first takes you through some dreary suburbs that show none of the picturesque scenes the tourist board advertises. If you’re into graffiti, though, you’re in luck, because the tracks are lined with some very creative examples of this art form.
The Sloterdijk train station, about halfway along the route, is worth mentioning only because it serves an extensive office and warehouse district that includes a growing number of hotels.
The village of Sloterdijk — a church and a handful of small houses — is still there as well, amid all the “award-winning” architectural high-rise wonders.
The last leg of the short train ride offers brief glimpses of Amsterdam’s harbor and a first look at gabled houses – former warehouses long ago converted into expensive apartments.
Buy Train Tickets: Schiphol Airport – Amsterdam Central Station
Amsterdam Central Station to Schiphol Airport
Trains from Amsterdam Central Station to Schiphol Amsterdam Airport usually depart from platforms 13, 14 or 15.
These are the last three platforms at the rear of the station – the side closest to the river IJ. After the platform number is either an “a” or a “b”. The “a” stands for the west side of the platform (with your back to the river IJ River, that is on your right), “b” for the east side.
Trains serving Schiphol Airport run so frequently that you do not need to schedule a specific time. Depending on which train you take, the trip will last 13-17 minutes.
There are fewer trains in the evening. During the night, between 1 and 5 am, one train per hour goes to the airport.
At Schiphol, your train arrives at an underground station, from where escalators or elevators take you up one floor to the central hall. From there you can walk to departure area 1, 2 or 3.
Bus Terminal at IJzijde, Central Station
Buy Public Transport Tickets
For bus, tram (streetcar), and metro (subway). The ferries across the river IJ are free of charge.
The bus terminal is on the IJzijde of the station. IJzijde literally means: the side of the IJ. That’s the name of the river which separates Amsterdam North from the rest of the city. [Note: some guidebooks write ‘IJ-zijde’ instead.]
How to Pronounce “IJ”
The name ‘IJ’ consists of a digraph — two letters that are pronounced like a single letter. In Dutch both letters are capitalized.
Pronounce IJ like ‘ay‘ or ‘eye‘.
You will hear locals refer to “Het IJ,” so use that when asking for directions: something like ‘hat eye‘ will work fine.
The bus station is at the same level as the train tracks, and provides magnificent panoramic views of the river IJ. [Mind you: do not cross the bus lanes in order to take a photo. You can be fined]
The terminal can be accessed via escalators, elevators or stairs.
It is located underneath a new, glass roof that features the name ‘Amsterdam’ in giant letters. The roof covers not just the bus terminal, but also the taxi rank, the kiss & ride places, and a significant portion of the quay.
Amsterdammers — us included — are happy that the roof was designed to match the older glass roofs of the train station. Too many iconic buildings in the city are assaulted by architects who have a complete disregard for monuments.
A Few Words About Amsterdam Noord
For a long time, Amsterdam Noord — across the river from Central Station — was the city’s stepchild, so to speak. For decades, those who consider themselves “genuine” Amsterdammers said they did not even want to be caught dead there.
Starting about a dozen years ago, that slowly changed. Once a district primarily for the poor working class, Noord is now a sought-after location. It has many hotspots [including the popular A’DAM tower], and lots of new houses built on the prime real estate vacated by the port industry.
“Once Unfashionable, Noord District of Amsterdam Gains Cachet,” the New York Times wrote in April, 2012. And, “From Blue Collar to Red Hot in Amsterdam” later that same year.
The busy river IJ — which connects the North Sea to the Port of Amsterdam and the latter to the rest of Europe — still forms a physical barrier. And while there now is a North/South Metro line, there is still no bridge that connects Noord to the city Center.
As the city expands, urban planners and marketers sometimes refer to the river as Amsterdam’s “blue square,” insisting that it is located in the city center. This explains why the IJ-side of the station is often referred to as Amsterdam Noord’s front entrance to Amsterdam. Or, in the language of brochure writers, “the entrance that makes Noord feels connected to the rest of the city.”
Luggage Storage Lockers at Central Station
There are luggage storage lockers just inside the eastern-most entrance of Amsterdam Central Station. They operate by debit card (PIN) or by credit card (VISA or Mastercard, as long as the card includes the MAESTRO logo).
– Small locker: 90cm deep, 45cm high and 40cm wide
– Large locker: 90cm deep, 60cm high and 40cm wide
You pay per 24 hours. If you open your locker in the meantime, you will have to pay again.
The maximum rental period is 72 hours, after which your luggage will be removed and sent to the Central Found Items Bureau in Utrecht.
Rates and terms are listed here. But note: in Amsterdam non-standard, higher rates apply. For the first 24 hours, you pay €8,50 for a small locker and €11,00 for a larger locker.
Lost & Found in Trains or Station
Shops, Restaurants, Fast Food
Amsterdam Cental Station is home to a number of shops — anything from fashion- and beauty stores to a supermarket and a small warehouse.
There are many restaurants and fast-food places as well — more than 65, in fact. They offer a wide variety of dishes from around the world.
Frankly, most of them are forgettable, but we do have two personal favorites: Salsashop (Mexican, but basically a clone of the America’s Chipotle), and the classy Grand Café Restaurant 1e Klas:
1e Klas – Number One of the Top 10 Station Restaurants in Europe
The opulently decorated 1e Klas is named after the former first class waiting room. British newspaper The Guardian listed it as number one of the Top 10 Train Station Restaurants in Europe.
Enjoying bitterballen and croquettes, two traditional Dutch snacks, at 1e Klas is quite an (Instagramable) experience — especially with a glass of Heineken draft beer, house wine or a soft drink.
You will also want to indulge in a delicious 3-course meal for lunch or dinner at 1e Klas. Highly recommended!
We’re sorry to see Starbucks in no less than three locations. As coffee connoisseurs we think Starbucks serves poor quality coffee at high prices.
If it’s good coffee you want, better take a free ferry ride across the IJ river behind the station. Head for genuine Italian coffee kiosk Al Ponte on the other side. Great coffee and fantastic Italian sandwiches at reasonable prices.
Underneath the bus terminal is the IJhal (IJ hall), which is home to shops, restaurants and services.
You’ll find an Albert Heijn supermarket, public toilets, and GWK/Travelex — a currency exchange we think you should avoid in favor of….
Also in this hall is the ‘I amsterdam‘ store, which doubles as a tourist information spot, and a NS (Netherlands Railways) tickets and information service point.
Below the IJhal is a traffic tunnel for cars and motors, which leaves the quay along the river IJ free for pedestrians and bicyclists.
You’ll see GWK Travelex currency exchange offices and cash machines throughout the station — and there are several hole-in-the-wall exchanges along Damrak, the main road to Dam Square. But the best place to change your money is Pott Change.
Amsterdam Tourist Information Office / GVB Service Desk
The tourist information office is located outside Central Station — in the white building across from, and to the left of, the main entrance.
VVV Tourist Office
Stationsplein 10 [Google Map]
Tel: 020 551 25 12 [ Amsterdam phone info]
This building also include the GVB Public Transport Service Information & Service Desk
Central Station – Construction Zone
Currently large sections of Central Station, both inside and outside, are construction sites.
The controversial new metro extension, the Noord/Zuidlijn (yes, North/South line), enables you to travel from Amsterdam-Noord (North) to Station Zuid (South) in just 15 minutes.
Meanwhile there are many projects to spruce up Stationseiland — literally ‘station island’, a reference to the fact that the train station was actually built on three artificial islands.
The train station itself is undergoing a metamorphosis, which brings the 134-year old monumental building up-to-date and ready for the ever-growing number of people that pass through it.
Work on the so-called ‘Entree’ (plain and simple: Entrance) commenced in 2018. Currently it already looks like the artist’s impression.
Underwater Bicycle Parking Facility
The project is designed to reduce motorized traffic, to bring back the ‘open harbor front,’ and to construct an underwater bicycle parking facilities.
With 7000 parking spaces for bicycles, this is the largest bicycle parking facility in Amsterdam — and the first underwater bike parking structure in the world.
The official opening takes place on January 26, 2023.
Construction of the facility, which involved draining the water, took four years. This timelapse video shows the whole process in just 60 seconds:
Other Bicycle Parking Garages at Amsterdam Central Station
By the middle of February 2023 another underground bike parking facility will open up in front of the station.
At the other side of Central Station, facing the river IJ, another underwater bicycle parking garage is now open. This one has space for 4.000 bicycles.
The IJboulevard – a 6000 square meter walking boulevard on top of the garage – provides unobstructed views of the river IJ.
All in all, by the summer of 2023 there will be a total of 13.000 covered bicycle parking spaces at Central Station.
Parking your bike in any of the bicycle garages at Central Station is free of charge for the first 24 hours.
And that’s not all. East of the main station is a building that looks like it is the east wing of the station. It was designed by Joseph Cuypers, the son of the architect Pierre Cuypers, and was the former post office.2
Under this building, De Oost (The East), ProRail has planned yet another bicycle parking facility. When completed, in 2029, it will hold 8.500 bikes.
The current ground-level parking garage in this building will remain open. It has space for 1,350 bicycles and 200 OV-Fietsen. 3
Bicycle Parking Rates at Amsterdam Central Station
Each time you park your bike in one of the facilities at the station, the first 24 hours are free of charge.
After that, you pay €1,35 per each additional 24 hours.
Scooters, Cargo bikes and outsized bicycles
Scooters and other motorcycles are not allowed in the bicycle parking facilities. They may only be parked in two designated areas behind Central Station, outside the so-called Stationseiland (Station Island).
Cargo bikes and other outsized bicycles are only allowed in the indoor Stationsplein Oost parking facility — or in the designated scooter parking areas.
Fietsflat and Other Bike Parking Spots Permanently Closed
On January 30, 2023 the fietsflat – a multistory bicycle parking structure – will close. Sadly, many think. This temporary structure, in operation since April 2001, has become one of Amsterdam’s most photographed and filmed unintentional tourist attractions.
Equally popular with tourists are the seemingly endless rows of bicycles parked elsewhere around Central Station. That will be a thing of the past as well. Bike racks at and around the station will be removed between February 6 and 24, 2023. By the end of February, 2023, you will no longer be able to park your bike anywhere other than in the bicycle parking facilities.
If you park your bike illegally, it will be removed and brought to the Fietsdepot — from which you can retrieve it, at a price.
You can see the Fietsflat – and the other bike parking spots – in this slide show:
From 200.000 to 275.000 Passengers a Day
Central Station currently serves 200.000 passengers a day. This makes the building the most visited monument in the Netherlands. The train station was declared a National Heritage Site (Rijksmonument) in 1974.
ProRail, a government organization that manages the Dutch national railway network, expects that by 2030 some 275.000 travelers a day will use Amsterdam Central Station. That is about 10 times the number of customers the building’s architect, Pierre Cuypers, had in mind.
Mind you, already every day, 300,000 travelers pass through Stationsplein — the area in front of the station. Some 1,300 tram rides a day depart there.
Amsterdam Central Station – Ongoing History
The magnificent Central Station is a work of art in and of itself. It was built in the 1880’s in the Neo-Renaissance style atop three artificial islands, and resting upon 8,687 wooden pilings rammed 30 meters into the sandy soil — a necessary building technique anywhere in Amsterdam.
Note that since it was built the entire station has subsided some 25 centimeters. The owners of the building, Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS, Netherlands Railways) and ProRail say that nowadays the station is stable. The construction work for the controversial North-South metro line — which included building a tunnel and metro station underneath the building does not appear to have done any damage
By the way: when you visit the Rijksmuseum, which opened its doors in 1885, you’ll notice it greatly resembles the Station, which opened four years later. Architect Pierre J.H. Cuypers designed both buildings, aided — in the case of the Station — by A.L. Gendt, who also designed the Concertgebouw.
At the back of the station is the river IJ which separates downtown Amsterdam from North-Amsterdam. At the time the station was built, the IJ used to be Amsterdam’s connection to the open sea — the Zuiderzee, a saltwater inlet of the Northsea. The construction of a major dike, finished in 1933, turned the sea into a lake, the IJsselmeer. Building the station at this location — effectively cutting Amsterdam off from its own waterfront — was a controversial decision.
The front of the station the medieval city center. All of Amsterdam’s top attractions are within easy reach from Central Station, whether by foot or by public transport — bus, tram and metro.
Indeed, Amsterdam Central station is the hub of the city. Trains, trams, buses and subways — along with ferry boats, taxis, regional buses, water taxis and canal cruise boats — make this a hive of activity.
This entry is written by Amsterdam locals, who themselves use Central Station several times a week. While some of us are nostalgic for the way things used to be, we all like the many improvements in and around the station.
By the way, Anton says that if you want to taste awesome French Fries, do not order them anywhere within the station. Instead, take the free Buikslotermeer ferry across the river. Then walk 5 minutes to the Pont Neuf kiosk. We all agree.
See our Amsterdam Hotel Guide
These are Amsterdam’s top museums
Do you need to change your money for euros? There are plenty of currency exchange businesses in Amsterdam. We’ve done the research, and will show you where you get the most euros in exchange for your dollars, pounds, or other currency. Plus: should you bring cash? Or is is better to use a credit card/debit card?
- The Gemeentelijk Vervoersbedrijf (GVB) is the primary municipal transport service of Amsterdam. It is an independent corporation wholly owned by the city of Amsterdam. All trams and most buses you see in Amsterdam are owned and operated by GVB ↩
- In the 1920s the warehouse- and shipping facility of Central Station was demolished to make room for a post office. The building served as such until the 1960s, when a new post office was built on nearby Oosterdok. ↩
- OV stands for Openbaar Vervoer – Public Transport. An OV-fiets is a public transport bicycle. These bikes are for rent at train stations throughout the Netherlands. ↩
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