8 Great Cities for a Layover

by  Christine Wei | Sep 5, 2014
Zurich / sorincolac/iStock

If you're traveling internationally or even just across the country, chances are you'll have a layover somewhere during your journey. Rather than waiting for hours inside the airport, why not take advantage of your location and head into the city? You've already paid to get there, after all. Whether you've landed in Honolulu or London, Beijing or Reykjavík, these cities are easy to visit from the airport, even if you just have a few hours.

In Honolulu, four hours is plenty of time to explore. You'll have time to hang out at the beach, sample the best food in Chinatown, or go back to the 1950s at the last authentic tiki bar.

If you've really only got four hours in London, let your mini-adventure start at the Hyde Park or Kensington Gardens, where you can enjoy free art or even take a swim. The Tate Modern is a must for art lovers, and the walk there along the Millennium Bridge from Westminster will bring you by Big Ben, the London Eye, and other famed sights.

Trains leave from the Zurich airport and get you into the city in less than 15 minutes. A ZurichCARD gets you entry to most museums, and along the city's mile-long retail street, we like Jelmoli department store's food hall for stocking up on Swiss goods.

To explore Reykjavík's nature and history, the rugged lava-covered Reykjanes Peninsula is near the airport. From there, it's easy to hop on a bus to the Blue Lagoon and its famed healing waters -- what better way to ward off the effects of a long flight? Then there's the nearby Keflavík, where the Viking World museum delves into the history of legendary Viking ships.

Hip Amsterdam is so much more than its picturesque canals. Beyond the popular Old Center and Red Light District, you can easily spend a few hours in the artistic Jordann neighborhood and enjoy its cafes, boutiques, and people watching -- though hopping on a bike is a great way to roam the streets and get to additional attractions like the Anne Frank House.

Considering Helsinki is small enough to cover on a single tourist tram loop, there's no reason not to head into town. With the rest of the time, we suggest going on a DIY architecture and design tour, sipping cocktails with views of the Baltic Sea, grabbing a snack in the market square, and, of course, hitting up the sauna.

If it's warm enough in Copenhagen, a canal tour is one of the best ways to see the city's colorful buildings. But a visit to the theater/gardens/amusement park mash-up that is Tivoli Gardens is wonderful, as is a champagne cocktail or coffee in the King's New Square. For elevated views, try the top of the soaring spire of Von Freslsers Kirke church.

And lets not forget Beijing, where a layover is enough time to see Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, shop for knockoff goods and handicrafts at Silk Street Market, or channel your inner zen at the park surrounding the massive Temple of Heaven. Tip: If you're truly short on time, we suggest splurging for a half-hour taxi from the airport into the city center.

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