Layovers have long been seen as one of the great inconveniences of traveling. For most travelers, layovers translate into unwanted downtime on their trips — hours of time wasted waiting for a connecting flight. But you don’t need to throw away your valuable time stuck in an airport counting down the minutes until you can make your escape. Instead, think of your layover as a mini-vacation ripe for fun and exploring. We’ve got a handy list of places and pit-stops that will leave you actually looking forward to your next layover.
Hong Kong – China
If you have a layover at the Hong Kong International Airport, you’re in luck. This is hands down one of the best places to have a few hours to kill. With an amazingly fast rail system, tourists can get in and out of the city quickly enough to make their next flight, while still seeing a whole host of sights. There are plenty of local layover tours to help you soak up the culture (and sample the amazing local cuisine), without having to stress about making your connecting flight.
Reykjavik – Iceland
Widely hailed as the best layover city in the world, Reykjavik has become a tourist destination in its own right — particularly for those on a tight schedule. Why is this city so popular with those on the go? It’s quick bus ride from the airport to the heart of the city, which is overflowing with historic locations, beautiful sights, and plenty of delicious food options (always much appreciated when you’re sick of airline food). Sneak off for a quick soak in the famous geothermal baths of the Blue Lagoon or get in some sightseeing. Several airlines work with local companies to provide you with a great deal (and make sure you’re back in time for the next leg of your trip).
Zurich – Switzerland
This picturesque Swiss city is among the many reinventing itself as a go-to location for layover-weary travelers. You won’t have to waste any time at the airport, as Zurich’s city center is a mere 15-minute commute from the airport. This gives you plenty of time for a quick tour of the remarkable local museums, some fun shopping, or even a leisurely meal.
Not in the mood for sightseeing? Well, you don’t even need to leave in order to have a blast if you’re at Zurich Airport. Watch the goings-on from a high-class observation deck, or relax in one of the cozy lounges. You can drop off the kids at daycare if you need a break, and enjoy a good meal at an assortment of impressive restaurants. Zurich is one of those rare airports you’ll find yourself reluctant to leave.
San Francisco – USA
If you’re staying domestic during your layover, keep your fingers crossed and hope that you’ll end up in San Francisco. There is a ton to do even if you’re not blessed with an abundance of time, and the fast and convenient public transit makes getting around a breeze. Grab a ride on a cable car for a speedy and scenic tour of the gorgeous city, hitting famous locales like Chinatown and North Beach. Have a slightly longer layover? Grab a cab to Fisherman’s Wharf. One of the most popular tourist attractions in the city, Fisherman’s Wharf has incredible views and a plethora of shops and sights to keep you busy. They even offer GoCart tours, if you want your layover to pass by at maximum speed.
What are your favorite places to wait out a layover?