This guide to Amsterdam Centraal train station explains what to look out for when departing and arriving in the city by train.
It also includes details of how to travel to the main tourist sites and the airport from Amsterdam Centraal and our pick of places to stay with easy access to the city's main railway station.
Beautiful and newly modernized Amsterdam's central station, which is also often referred to as Amsterdam CS, is the main railway station in the city and it is located on the northern edge of the historic heart of Amsterdam.
There's a lot to like about taking a train to Amsterdam Central
When you step outside the front of the station, you're greeted with a scene which confirms you have arrived in one of Europe's greatest cities.
You'll see canal boats and bridges and typical examples of Dutch architecture.
However, if you're not used to how large Dutch stations typically function, with their sub-divided platforms/tracks etc, it can be a confusing place to catch a train, hence the info below.
The seven things worth knowing about the main railway station in central Amsterdam:
(1) The entrances/exits at Amsterdam Centraal are at street level, but the sporen (platforms/tracks) used by the trains are at an upper level.
(2) These sporen (platforms/tracks) which the trains depart from are exceptionally long and are divided into 'a' and 'b' sections.
All trains depart from a specific section of these sporen (platforms/tracks) - on the departure screens you will see '6a' and '9b' etc.
(3) Three passage ways run beneath the railway lines within the station and enable step free access by escalator and or lifts to/from the trains.
There also two new passageways; the IJ passage and the Amstel passage which run beneath the railway lines, but DON'T give access to the trains.
They are solely for people who want to walk from one side of the station to the other.
(4) All the signage at the station is in Dutch and English - though Dutch names of cities outside of the Netherlands are used on the departure screens.
Cologne = Koeln
Lille = Rijsel etc
(5) NS International operates a 1st Class lounge which is located on platform/track 2A.
It is only available if you have a 1st class international ticket.
(6) If you will be heading TO Amsterdam Centraal by train from another destination, you may see Amsterdam CS on the info screens at stations and on the train.
Amsterdam CS = Amsterdam Centraal.
(7) However, some trains will be heading to Amsterdam Zuid rail station and NOT Amsterdam Centraal; avoid these trains if you are heading to the city centre.
For first time users taking a train from Amsterdam Centraal can be a somewhat bewildering experience.
It is an enormous station with multiple access points to the trains; which are out of sight because they don't depart from street level.
It isn't a terminus, therefore many of the trains to other Dutch destinations are passing through the station, hence most of the sporen (platforms/tracks) have multiple departures per hour.
Seven things which are good to know about the train departure information:
(1) Amsterdam Centraal does not have a main large electronic departure board.
Instead departures are listed solely on the smaller TV screens that are scattered around the station; in the multiple entrance halls and passage ways that give access to the platforms/spoors.
(2) However, most of the time, only trains departing within the next 30-45 minutes will be shown on these screens; and that's because there are so many departures per hour.
(3) Only the final destination and the main calling points are shown on these screens - also note that the Train Numbers for the international trains are NOT shown.
(4) When looking at these screens, you may see both Intercity and Sprinter trains heading to your destination; the Intercity trains will be faster.
(5) The numbers of the spoors (platforms/tracks) which each train will be departing from are shown on these screens as soon as they're added.
Amsterdam Centraal isn't a station, at which the specific sporen (platforms/tracks), that each train will be leaving from, are only confirmed 10-15 mins prior to departure.
(6) Other (lesser) stations that trains will call at, are only listed on the yellow departure poster sheets, which you can find in the passage ways that lead to the platforms.
You can also find information about subsequent departures on these departure posters, but beware that each train route from the station has a dedicated sheet.
So you may need to look through multiple departure sheets to find your destination.
(7) When you have arrived at the sporen (platform/track) that your train will be departing from, be aware that your train may not be the next train to be departing from it.
There will be a specific departure screen on the sporen (platform/track), but it will only show the details of the next train to be leaving.
Five things worth knowing about the Sporen (platforms/tracks):
(1) The sporen (tracks /platforms) at Amsterdam Centraal are exceptionally long and are divided into two separate and distinct sections 'a' and 'b''.
These 'a' and 'b' sections are at either end of a spoor (platform/track) - 'a' to the west and 'b' to the east.
Therefore trains rarely use the middle section of a spoor (platform/track).
If you’re new to using the station, this can be confusing; so aim to be at Amsterdam Centraal a minimum of 10 minutes before your train departs.
(2) Trains nearly always depart from these specific sections of a spoor (platform/track); 8a or 8b etc.
Therefore 8a or 8b etc will be shown on the train departure screens which are located in the entrance halls and the passage ways which lead to the sporen (platforms/tracks)
Having seen 8a etc on a departure screen, don't then wait for your train anywhere on spoor (platform/track) 8.
(3) Each specific spoor (platform/track) 8a, 8b etc, has its own dedicated departure indicator on its part of the platform, showing the details of its next departure.
However, these screens don't show details of any subsequent departures, so if your train isn't what's being shown, it doesn't mean you are in the wrong place.
(4) Trains can be departing simultaneously from the 'a' and 'b' sections at each end of a platform/track/spoor.
(5) The sporen/tracks/platforms are now also split into zones, but this zone info is typically only used for the international trains; the Eurostar, ICE, Thalys,, IC to Germany and Nightjets, as these trains have numbered coaches.
So you can use the zone info to locate a specific coach in which a reserved seat or bed is located, as this zone info is used on the departure info for these trains.
The zone info isn't used for Dutch trains to other destinations in The Netherlands.
As a result, when waiting for a train, people tend to gather by the spoor/platform departure indicators; resulting in a scramble to board by the nearest door when the train arrives.
So move away from the crowds.
If a departure indicator, further along the spoor/platform also shows your train, wait by it instead.
Three passage ways run beneath the tracks and enable access to the trains.
All have stairs and escalators to/from the platforms/sporen, but the central one has no lift access, but those to the left (west) and right (east) DO have lifts
The passage way on the left (west), when heading into the station from the tram stops and city centre, gives the easiest access to the ‘a’ platforms/sporen.
While that on the right (east) has the quickest access to the ‘b’ platforms/spoors.
But it doesn’t particularly matter which of the passage ways you use.
You can follow the numbers to guide you to the right platform/spoor and then if need be, walk along the platform to find the specific section of the platform that your train will be departing from.
The 'a' tracks/platforms/sporen with high numbers; which the Thalys and Intercity Direct trains usually depart from, are the furthest from the main entrance
When you step off of a train at Amsterdam Centraal you can follow the crowd.
You don’t have to use specific exits from each sporen (platform/track) in order to access the city centre, bus station, tram stops or the Metro.
The spoors (platforms/tracks) are above street level, but if you have luggage etc you don’t have to use the stairs; which are likely to be the first exit down which you will come to.
Beyond the stairs will be a lift and a set of escalators.
The stairs, lifts and escalators will lead you down to one of the passage ways which are located beneath the spoors (platforms/tracks).
It doesn’t matter which of these passage ways you find yourself in.
At one end they all have exits which lead to front of the station, towards the city centre and this is also where the tram stops and the metro station are located.
While at the other end of these passages is the access to the bus station and the ferry shuttles to the north bank of The River Ij.
Amsterdam Centraal station is at the northern edge of the city centre, Dam Square in the heart of the city, is a 10-15 min walk away.
Canal tourist cruises depart from a terminal in the dock in front of the station.
The station is on the south bank of The Ij; ery frequent ferries connect the station with the north bank.
All of Amsterdam's Metro lines call at Amsterdam Centraal, but the metro station entrances are outside the main station building.
You'll find them on the forecourt outside the front of the buidling, by the tram stops.
The Metro ticket machines accept coins and cards only
The new Amsterdam Nord-Zuid Metro line '52', the blue line, has now opened and as a result, access to many parts of the city from Amsterdam Centraal, station has been hugely improved.
This new new Nord-Zuid line has stops at Rokin in the heart of the city's shopping district, and at Vijzelgracht; located a 5 min walk from the Rijksmuseum.
The easiest means of accessing most of Amsterdam's most popular tourist sites from Amsterdam Centraal station is to take the tram.
There are two sets of tram stops (tram stations) outside the exits to the front of the station.
As you face the city centre, the tram stops to the right are the Westsidje tram stops and tram lines/routes 2, 11, 12 13 and 17 depart from there.
For tram lines/routes 4, 14 and 26 use the set of tram stops over to the left.
(1) For the heart of the city at Dam Square, you can take any tram, though the lines 4 and 14 take you to closer to the main attractions in the area.
Or it is a 10 - 15 min walk along the street named Nieuwendijk, but this street is also the heart of the city's red light district.
(2) For the Rijksmuseum take tram lines 2 or 11 or 12, all of which depart from those Westsidje tram stops.
(3) For the Van Gogh Museum also take tram lines 2and 12 and alight at the Van Baerlstraat tram stop.
(4) For the Ann Frank House take tram lines 13 or 17 which also depart from those Westsidje tram stops, and then alight from these trams at the Westermarkt tram stop.
Amsterdam Centraal is located on the south of a waterway named The Ij, which is much wider than the canals in the city centre.
Frequent ferry shuttles connect Centraal station to the north bank of The Ij, but there are two piers at Amsterdam Centraal.
If you're heading to the main tourist area on the north bank, the neighborhood in which the The A'DAM Tower is located, you can take ferry to the Buiksloterweg terminal.
These travel guides will help you see and expererience the best of Amsterdam - btw nobody has paid to be on this list, ShowMeTheJourney has simply taken the time to curate a list of relevant and current articles.
35 Things To Do In Amsterdam (newly added to Tripplo)
Amsterdam Centraal is located on the northern edge of the heart of the city on the south bank of The Ij, so there is a fairly limited number of hotels within a 5 min walk of the station.
The best option can be to seek out accommodation that is either, on a direct tram route to Amsterdam Centraal, or is located by a metro station, or is on the north side of The Ij canal - a 2 min boat ride from Centraal.
Hotels within 5 min walk of Amsterdam Centraal station:
Sir A'dam Hotel
The Flying Pig Downtown
Money saving options with direct public transport links to/from Amsterdam Centraal:
Train Lodge (stay in converted sleeper trains, near Sloterdijk station)
The Student Hotel Amsterdam (near Wibautstraat Metro station)
The Hampshire Hotel – Rembrandt Square (tram route 9 to Linnaeusstraat/Wijttenbachstraat)
Boutique View Hotel (trams 1, 2 or 5 to Leidseplein)
CityHub (tram 17 to Ten Katestraat)
Places to stay on the opposite bank of The Ij:
Take the ferry from Centraal statiion for the 5 min ride to the 'Veer Buiksloterweg' stop on the opposite bank of the The Ij to the station.
SirAdam Hotel (the hotel in the A'Dam Tower)
During the day there are 8 x trains per hour between Amsterdam Centraal and Schiphol Airport including the InterCity Direct trains that depart every 15 mins.
If you're making the journey FROM Amsterdam Centraal it's worth targeting these InterCity Direct trains, as their branding stands out on the departure screens.
They will have Breda or Rotterdam Centraal as the final destination.
They're also marginally faster than the other four Sprinter train services, the journey time by the InterCity Direct trains is only 14 minutes.
No supplement is charged on the InterCity Direct trains for journeys between Amsterdam Centraal and Schiphol.
When travelling from Amsterdam Centraal to Schiphol, tickets are not valid on Thalys trains.
This is one of more than 300 station guides available on ShowMeTheJourney, which will make it easier to take the train journeys you want or need to make. As always, all images were captured on trips taken by ShowMeTheJourney.