Top 10 cities for long layovers

Jul 8, 2013 at 9:47 a.m. ET

Long layovers can be a drag, especially if it's due to something out of your control (like a cancelled flight or delay). Instead of moping at the airport, grab your cameras and explore these fabulous layover cities!

Hagia Sophia Museum.
Hagia Sophia Museum in Istanbul, Turkey

Not only are the main city centers close to the airport, each of these 10 cities has spectacular public transportation, making it easy to zip in and out while you await your plane ride home. Plus, this gives you a chance to see some cities you may have not had the chance to see before!


Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul is easily one of the most interesting cities in the world since it's split between two continents. One side of the city houses the chic European part, while the other is the Asian side, offering an entirely different perspective. Be sure to see the Blue Mosque, which is near Sultan Ahmet Square and the Grand Bazaar, home to many great shops. The city center is just 20 minutes from the airport and you can reach it via bus, underground metro or taxi.


Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon is not only one of the most beautiful cities in the world; it's one of the easiest to get to from the airport! The sights of Lisbon are just five minutes from the airport and can easily be accessed via taxi or even an airport transfer. If you're there in spring or summer, be sure to stop by and view the gorgeous flowers in Jardim da Estrela. Another must see sight is the World Heritage Belém Tower, which is a worldwide landmark.


Bordeaux, France

Bordeaux, which was once a shabby town in desperate need of renovation, is now a bustling hub of southern France. The city center is just a 20 to 30 minute drive from the airport, and can be reached via shuttle bus, tram or taxi. Stop by the Grand Théâtre for some incredible photos and then spend some time shopping on Rue Staine-Catherine. If you have an extra hour, grab a wine lesson at the École du Vin de Bordeaux, situated right by the Girondins memorial.


Amsterdam, Netherlands

The airport is just 6 miles from the center of Amsterdam, and there are a handful of ways you can escape into the enchanting land of Amsterdam. We love the Euro train, which gets you downtown in less than 20 minutes. You can't visit without a trip to the red-light district, which is just a hop and skip from the train station. The Van Gogh Museum is another popular tourist spot.


Hong Kong, China

Hong Kong can be very overwhelming. Travel experts say to visit a specific area during a long layover so you don't get stuck in traffic on your way back to the airport (which can take a few hours). If you can make it to the Southern District, stop by the Aberdeen Fish Market Canteen, which is where the locals do all of their shopping. If you want some more skyline photos, take the Star Ferry, which is only about 30 cents and will take you from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon.


San Francisco, California

After a few hours in San Francisco, you may find it hard to board your plane home! The airport is about a 30-minute trip from downtown, but you can get there effortlessly on the BART train. After you reach the center, you can hop on a cable car or in a taxi to explore. Although it's a bit touristy, the Ferry Building Marketplace is a must-see and it has some great affordable eats. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is also a great place if you have a few hours to kill.


Brussels, Belgium

Many people underestimate just how beautiful (and delicious!) Brussels is. The city was modeled after Paris, so many of the buildings have the same 18th century, aristocratic architecture as the City of Light. The main spots within the city are just 7 miles from the airport, which means you can get there in less than 30 minutes. If you're starving, take a tour of the Belgium Chocolate Museum.


Portland, Oregon

Nothing helps a long layover like a pint of beer, are we right? Luckily, Portland is home to 39 breweries so you can easily taste a few while you waste time before your flight. The airport is about 20 minutes from the city, but the free TriMet can get you there in about 45 minutes. Once downtown, stop at Henry's Tavern to try one of the 100 beers they have available. Then stop by Powell's Books to grab some vintage reads for your flight home.


Frankfurt, Germany

Unlike the other German hubs, Frankfurt is a beautiful place to have a layover! The city hub is about 8 miles from the airport and can be reached in 30 minutes by the S-Bahn train. For some gorgeous panoramic photos, go to the top of the Main Tower. If you're around during the Christmas season, walk along the Römerberg Square, which is filled with fun holiday-themed markets.


Washington, District of Columbia

Few cities in the world have as nice a public transportation system as Washington, District of Columbia. If you're layover is at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), you can be in the city in less than 10 minutes via the Blue or Yellow Line. If you're in Dulles or Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI), it may take you up to an hour to reach downtown. Once downtown, stop off at the National Mall to see the touristy sights, like the Lincoln Memorial and Smithsonian museums (which are free!). For a great meal, visit Penn Quarter or Dupont Circle and then do some shopping in Georgetown (accessible by cab).

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