Amsterdam in an afternoon: Is it possible?

Yes, it is.

This will be a trip report to Amsterdam with a bit of a twist. Rather than focusing on the onboard service, lounge etc. I will be focusing more on the timings of things.

When mentioning to others that I’m popping over to Europe for the afternoon, they look at me as if I’m mad.

“But you won’t be leaving the airport, right? Surely there’s no time?”

“That’s ridiculous, you can’t possibly see the city in that time”

“Doesn’t that only leave you with about 2 minutes in the city?”


Above are all actual responses I’ve had over the years. All of which are mostly inaccurate.

Let me explain.

I generally try to arrive at the airport around two hours prior to departure. Today’s flight will be departing from London at 13:05. I aimed to arrive at the T5 car park at around 11:00.


Within 15 minutes I was in the BA Galleries First lounge enjoying breakfast.


Whilst I’m able to enjoy the First Wing, cutting down the time it takes to clear security greatly, the two hour rule still works even when I don’t have any access to fast track security.

I decided to get my fill of food in the lounge this morning. As my time in Amsterdam would be a little limited, I didn’t want to spend time eating while I was there.

I stuck around in the lounge until the gate was announced, around 50 minutes prior to departure.

Terminal 5

With around 30 minutes to go before departure, boarding began.


On board

Within 20 minutes, boarding was completed, meaning we were ready to go with 10 minutes to spare.


A flight time of 45 minutes was given by the captain. Being Heathrow, the taxi time was expected to be around 25 minutes. Push back came around seven minutes ahead of schedule.

At 13:20, we lifted off, meaning we would be touching down in Amsterdam at 15:05 local. This would be a good 20 minutes ahead of schedule although knowing Schiphol, that 20 minutes could easily be eaten up taxiing. On this occasion we were in luck however. We managed to pull off the runway and more or less straight on to stand. This resulted in us arriving on to stand a good 15 minutes ahead of schedule.

Wing View

Any advantage I did have however was lost by not only the fact that BA uses the furthest gates on the D pier at Amsterdam, but also that passport control was absolute chaos when I arrived.

Amsterdam passport

Taking the train to Amsterdam

By 15:45 I was at the airport train station. Within a few minutes I was on a train heading for Amsterdam Centraal.

Schiphol station

15 minutes later, by 16:05 local, I was at the central station. Using my two hour rule, this would leave me just over three hours to explore the city.

Below is a small selection of pictures from the city. The full collection will be posted in the next few days.

As the afternoon went on, the BA app showed a 30 minute delay to my flight home. This meant I’d get an extra 30 minutes in the city.

Time to head back

Despite this, I still found myself back at the central station at around 19:00.

Amsterdam Centraal

As the train was not only a few minutes late, but also a stopping service I arrived at Schiphol station at 19:35.

Schiphol departures

I made my way through an empty security and was in the lounge by 20:00. Again, there will be a full review of this lounge posted in the next few days.

Drinks in the lounge
Much needed after a warm afternoon!

As the earlier delay appeared to have come forward a little, I made my down to the gate at just after 21:00. I knew from experience it was a long walk from the lounge.

I made it to the gate at 21:10. Despite the lounge staff calling for boarding just as I was leaving, this wasn’t the case when I reached the gate.

Boarding was called, although we were then held on the jet bridge for a good ten minutes.

Back on a plane again

By 21:25 I was on board, and the doors closed at 21:40.

British Airways A320

During the captains welcome speech, he mentioned a flight time of 45 minutes. However we would be departing from the Polderbaan. For those unfamiliar with Schiphol, this is the newest runway which is a LONG way from the rest of the airport. It usually takes a good twenty minutes or so to reach it from the main terminal area.

We pushed back at 21:50, which was 25 minutes behind schedule.

Sure enough, a 20 minute taxi over to the Polderbaan. We departed at 22:10.

After a quiet flight, we landed 45 minutes later, as promised.


Like most of my other arrivals at Heathrow past 21:30, we ended up parking on one to Terminal 5’s satellites at 21:55. As we were “double parked” (two A320’s on one heavy stand), a bus journey over to the main terminal followed.

British Airways A320

I was one of the last to board the bus. This meant that this way was probably quicker than taking the transit over to the main terminal area.

Back where I started

By 22:15, I was waiting for a shuttle back to the car park. As I was using the business parking, the wait was only a few minutes. I was back at my car just before 22:30.

Terminal 5 arrivals
T5 Bus station

And that was my afternoon in Amsterdam. Granted, it’s probably not possible to do this in every city. Amsterdam itself isn’t that big, so fairly easy to see most of it. It wasn’t a particular rush either. The only public transport I used was the train from the airport to the city. If there’s further areas you want to see, then there are trams and buses to speed things up a little.

More info

To see how you can get a day return with British Airways, see my guide here:

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