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Amsterdam Central Station

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Amsterdam Central Station
Amsterdam Central Station is the city’s main public transportation hub

Amsterdam Central Station [Dutch: Centraal Station] is the city’s main public transportation hub.

Almost all streetcars and buses operated by GVB, the Municipal Transportation Service1, start or end here. This also applies to many regional buses and most subway lines.

Public Transport at Amsterdam Central Station

All streetcars (trams) stops are located at the front of the station, which faces Amsterdam Centrum – the mediaeval centre of the city.

All buses stop 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 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

Amsterdam Central Station Map
Download a larger (zoomable image) version of this annotated map. You can also download a PDF version, not annotated, by clicking the image.

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.

Schiphol Airport to Amsterdam Central Station

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 new bus terminal, opened in December 2014, is on the IJzijde of the station. IJzijde literaly 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 are assaulted by architects who have a complete disregard for monuments.

Amsterdam Central Station
Amsterdam Central Station, as seen from the A’DAM Lookout observation deck across the river IJ

Trivia: Amsterdam Central Station Bus Terminal

Just in case you were wondering, here are some facts about the bus terminal:

  • Length: 360 meter (393.7 yard)
  • Width: 60 meter (65.6 yard)
  • Height: 22 meter (24 yard)
  • Steel: 150000 kilograms (330693 pounds)
  • Glass: 4500 panels

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).

Dimensions:
– 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 €7,50 for a small locker and €11,00 for a larger locker.

Lost & Found in Trains or Station

Lost property form

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 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. Among our personal favorites: Salsashop (Mexican, but basically a clone of the America’s Chipotle), Saigon Càphê (Vietnamese), Fishbar Saltzer (‘World’), and Saté Bar (Indian).

We’re sorry to see Starbucks in no less than three locations — poor quality coffee at way too high prices. If it’s coffee you want, better take a free ferry ride across the IJ river for Italian coffee kiosk Al Ponte. Great coffee and fantastic Italian sandwiches at reasonable prices.

IJhal

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 free for pedestrians and bicyclists.

The borough of Amsterdam Noord has long been the city’s stepchild, so to speak. For decades, ‘real’ Amsterdammers wouldn’t want to be caught dead there. In recent years that has changed. Once a borough meant mostly for the poor working class, Noord — with its many hot spots and prime property vacated by port-related industry — has become a sought-after location.

 

The busy river IJ — which connects the North Sea to the Port of Amsterdam, and the latter with the rest of Europe — still forms a physical barrier.

As the city expands, city planners and marketing types have come to refer to the river as Amsterdam’s “Blue square,” insisting that it is located in the city center. This explains in part why the IJ-side of the station is often referred to as Amsterdam Noord’s front entrance ‘that makes Noord feel connected to the rest of the city.’

Currency Exchange

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

tourist information
The main Amsterdam Tourist Information Office is just across from Central Station’s main entrance

The tourist 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

Centraal Station

Currently large sections of Central Station, both inside and outside, are construction sites.

The latest new metro extension, the Noord/Zuidlijn (yes, North/South line), makes it possible to travel from Amsterdam-Noord 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 has undergone a metamorphosis, which has made the nearly 130-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’ (yes, plain and simple: Entrance) commenced in 2018. The area will eventually look like this:

Central Station Amsterdam project
Artist’s rendition of what the area in front of Central Station will look like in the near future.

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.

By 2022, 17.500 bikes will be parked underneath the water at the front in that photo. By 2030 that number will have increased to 21.500 bicycles. [Watch the construction work via a live webcam]

By comparison, this is what the area in front of Central Station used to look like in the 1970s:

Amsterdam Centraal Station jaren zeventig
Amsterdam Central Station and surroundings in the 1970s
Central Station currently sees 170.000 passengers a day, making it the most-visited monument in the Netherlands. By 2028, the station is expected to host 267.000 passengers a day — about 10 times the number of customers architect Pierre Cuypers had in mind.

Bicycles Everywhere

bicycles at Central Station
Bicycles are everywhere around the station. A solution is being worked on, including two underwater bike garages

Amsterdam Central Station – Ongoing History

The magnificent Central Station [Google Map] 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 owner of the building, Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS, Netherlands Railways) says that nowadays the station is stable. The construction work you see going on in and around the station is part of the controversial North-South metro line project.

Once you have visited 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.

Amsterdam Central Station from the air. Dutch narration.

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, which nowadays serves more than 1500 trains a day, faces downtown — the center of Amsterdam. All of the city’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 glass-topped tour boats — make this a hive of activity.

arrow We’ve got more information about Amsterdam Central Station, such as where to change your money, where to find luggage storage lockers, how to report lost property, where the tourist office is, and what to watch out for.

 
DutchAmsterdam

See our Amsterdam Hotel Guide
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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?

Notes:

  1. 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
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Category: Public Transport
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An Amsterdammer last updated this post on CET (Central European Time)

   
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