If you are trying to find the best flight deal on your travels, chances are more than once you’ve had to pick which city you want to spend a long, 6+ hour layover in. But instead of seeing it as an annoyance and hassle, why not make the layover an extended part of your journey by discovering the best layover cities in the world?
When I returned from Budapest to LA this May I spent six hours in Oslo, Norway. A 19-minute express train from the airport to the city center meant I could zip to Oslo, take in a few sights, have a meal, and get back with more than enough time for my second flight to LA.
I loved this little excursion and wanted to start doing something similar on all my other trips as well. The only problem was, for many cities offered as layover options, I didn’t know how easy it would be. Did the airport have a good range of amenities? Quick and easy transport into the city center? Was the center easily walkable?
So I asked my favorite travel bloggers, writers, and photographers, which cities in the world they love to spend their time between flights in. Now next time you fly, you will know which are the best layover cities to add to your journey (a couple of East Asian airports especially seem preferred among travelers worldwide).
Best Layover Cities
1. Hong Kong International Airport (2x Choice!):
Ken Kaminesky (Ken Kaminesky Photography)
My favourite city for a layover is Hong Kong. The airport is one of the best in the world but what makes it special is the Cathay Pacific lounge! I always fly with Cathay Pacific to Asia if possible and their lounge at Hong Kong International Airport is the best I’ve ever seen. Showers, good food, complimentary massages, and more. Just what a weary traveller like me needs after a super long haul flight. I’m blessed to live a life well-travelled and grateful that there are companies like Cathay that value their customers to such a high degree. In fact, I’m heading to Cambodia tomorrow and thrilled to be stopping in Hong Kong for my layover on the way to Siem Reap.
Michael Hodson (Go See Write)
I tend to complain a lot about airports and layovers. There are, however, many airports that do everything they can to make your layover more comfortable and enjoyable. The best experience I had was in Hong Kong International Airport. If education is your thing and you want to stimulate your brain more than you want to get a hand massage, then you’ll really enjoy this airport. There’s shopping and dining, as usual, but there are also a lot of really interesting exhibits to experience and enjoy.
2. Singapore Changi Airport (2x Choice!):
Barbara Weibel (Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel)
Kristin Addis (Be My Travel Muse)
It has fast, free Wi-Fi, a movie theater, and even a free tour of the city if your layover is a long one. It’s easily the best airport in the works for layovers!
3. Dubai International Airport: Liz Carlson (Young Adventuress)
My favorite city for layovers is Dubai. Usually I stop there on trips between New Zealand where I live, and Europe. Since it’s such a long journey and I hate to do back to back long haul flights, I try to stop there for a day or two to rest. Dubai is a city for comfort so I don’t feel pressure to go out and about and explore, but rather to relax in the nice hotels with spas and just chill, which is exactly what I need between trips. Also I usually do all of my shopping there for gear and clothes that I can’t find anywhere else. Dubai is perfect for stopovers and a place to indulge.
4. Keflavík International Airport, Reykjavik: Stephanie Yoder (Twenty-Something Travel)
Keflavík is a really nice, safe, and clean airport where you can safely hang out for hours. It is kind of boring though, so I recommend taking a bus to the famous Blue Lagoon, a milky colored hot spring set against a barren moon-like landscape. Within the span of just a few hours you can visit one of Iceland’s top tourist attractions and get back in time for your flight!
5. Minneapolis – St. Paul International Airport: Gary Arndt (Everything, Everywhere)
Minneapolis. MSP is, in my opinion, the best airport in North America. It has great restaurants and many options. If you have a really long layover, you can also take a light rail train from the airport to the nearby Mall of America, which is less than 10 minutes away.
6. Istanbul Atatürk Airport: Earl Baron (Wandering Earl)
With either a 45 minute shuttle ride to Taksim Square or 45 minutes on the metro/tram to reach Sultanahmet, you have excellent food, fascinating sights, interesting neighborhoods and markets, shisha cafes, shops, museums, bars and more are all right there, ready to fill up the hours you have between flights.
7. Prague, Václav Havel Airport: Ivana & Gianni (Nomad is Beautiful)
You get from the airport to the heart of the city in half an hour easily by bus and metro. Even if it’ll be difficult to avoid crowds in the very center of Prague, especially if you visit it only for a few hours, it’s definitely worth to roam in the gardens near Petrin, in Letna park, Prague’s Castle and the Lesser Town district.
8. Bangkok, Suvarnabhumi Airport: Melvin Boecher (TravelDudes)
My favorite layover city is Bangkok, as that city just gets you. Usually travelers who come here first enjoy their stay a lot, but also don’t mind to leave again after 2-3 days. The city is full of culture, friendly people and yummy food. But it also provides lots of traffic, smog and some scams. So a few days gives you a great first feeling for the city and then you can head on to your next destination. This could be in Thailand itself, in the surrounding countries or even further away, as Bangkok has good flight connections all over the world. And my experience is, the more often you visit and explore Bangkok, the more you will fall in love with the city and could stay a complete holiday alone in the “City of Angels”.
9. Amsterdam Airport Schiphol: Spencer Spellman (Whiskey Tango Globetrot)
The reason I love layovers in Amsterdam is two-fold. One is that theoretically, you could be into the heart of Amsterdam in 20-30 minutes from the airport, since the core of Amsterdam is less than 10 miles from the airport (rare for most cities). However, additionally, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is one of my favorite airports. You’ve got a couple of different spas, a museum, casino, and a number of great bars and restaurants, such as East Bar & Bites, which I particularly like for their sake cocktail menu.
10. London Heathrow Airport: Ayngelina Brogan (Bacon is Magic)
There is so much to see, do and eat. There are great airport lounges and spa services but I also love shopping at Boots so I’m happy to stopover and spend an hour browsing around. But most of all I like Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant Plane Food, it’s a great dining room and very reasonably priced.
11. Shanghai Pudong International Airport: Laurence Norah (Finding the Universe)
The city is very easy to get to from the airport, and in fact the mode of transport is one of my favorite things – it’s the fastest train in the world. Then the city itself is very easy to explore, you can sight see for as long or as short as you like, and if you get tired there is no shortage of tea houses to relax in!
Layover Tips & Lessons
With layovers, ALWAYS make sure to watch the clock, as Dan & Audrey (Uncornered Market) warn:
And keep an eye out for Layover Perks: Alyssa Ramos (My Life’s a Movie)
When I think of making the best out of long layovers, I always suggest finding flights with the longest layover (if a long layover is inevitable) so that you can possibly go see a little bit of the city. I did that during my flight to South Africa with a layover in Dubai. I chose the longest layover which was 8 hours (it also made the flight cheaper), and the airline even gave us a free hotel to shower and relax in while we waited!
What’s your favorite layover city? Have you ever had a great layover experience? Share below! If you liked this article and think it will be useful for your traveling friends as well, Pin away!