One of the best ways to get more from your travel dollar is to take advantage of a long layover. If you can try to schedule them in places that have a good connection from the airport to downtown, along with a number of attractions to explore, you’ll be surprised at just how much you can experience. These destinations, in particular, are ideal for those 24-hour layover visits.
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Amsterdam (Nearby Hotels)
Getting into Amsterdam from the airport is incredibly easy, with a fast, direct train that will take you directly into the heart of the city at Centraal Station in just 20 minutes. That leaves lots of time for exploring many of Amsterdam’s top sites, including some of the best museums in Europe. Start by exploring the must-see works by Vermeer and Rembrandt at the Rijksmuseum and follow it up by browsing the Vincent van Gogh collection at the Van Gogh Museum right next door. You can even take a boat trip down one of the many canals and visit the Anne Frank House where the author of “The Diary of a Young Girl” chronicled her experiences hiding from the Nazis.
San Francisco, California (Hotel Prices & Photos)
San Francisco International Airport offers a lot on its own for keeping visitors busy, ranked No. 1 for its unique services and best overall concessions program among major North American airports by Airport Revenue News. But if you have 24 hours, you should definitely make time to see the city’s iconic sights by hopping on BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit), a roughly 40-minute trip to the downtown financial district. The Golden Gate Bridge is worth more than a picture, walk the 1.7-mile span, with its sidewalks open during the day to both bicyclists and pedestrians and enjoy the spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean, San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz Island and the myriad of boats that glide across the water.
Seattle, Washington (Nearby Hotels)
While Seattle is a big city, the largest in the Pacific Northwest, many of its tourist attractions are clustered together, making it easy to fit in a lot in 24 hours. Right around the iconic Space Needle is the Museum of Pop Culture which features hands-on musical experiences and exhibits showcasing local music greats like Nirvana and Jimi Hendrix. Chihuly garden and Glass is right next door and has become one of the most highly rated attractions in the city, displaying impressive soft-glass works and fine chandeliers created by internationally renowned glass sculptor, Washingtonian Dale Chihuly.
Reykjavik, Iceland (Nearby Hotels)
Reykjavik has become a popular stopover destination, thanks to being en route to mainland Europe from North America. If you want to extend your layover, Icelandair and Wow airlines offer special deals to allow you to do just that. But if you have just 24 hours, you can still squeeze quite a bit in, including the Blue Lagoon. Shuttles are available from the airport that make it easy to experience Iceland’s most famous pool and its milky, warm aquamarine waters surrounded by black lava rocks. Or, hop on one to Reykjavik and visit Hallgrimskirkja Church for a stunning panoramic vista of the city, the sea and mountains beyond before checking out the shops, galleries and one-of-a-kind museums like the Icelandic Phallological Museum.
Munich, Germany (Nearby Hotels)
Munich Airport offers plenty of delights on its own, home to Airbräu, a traditional tavern with a beer garden and onsite brewery – the only airport brewery on the planet that crafts its beers in compliance with the exacting standards of the Purity Decree of 1516. But it’s only a 20-minute ride by taxi to visit the famous Bavarian State Brewery Weihenstephan for a pint, bratwurst and take in views of the charming town of Freising, one of the oldest settlements in Bavaria. Head to Marienplatz, the central square in the heart of the city, and from here you can explore many of its many landmarks, buildings and churches, including the Mariensaule, the Marian Column topped with the golden statue of Virgin Mary, as well as the Old and New Town Hall.
San Diego, California (Nearby Hotels)
San Diego, one of California’s most popular vacation destinations, not only offers a year-round mild climate and miles and miles of spectacular stretches of sand, but it”s the U.S. city that has the closest airport to its downtown, just a 5-minute cab ride, making it easy to experience its many delights. Sample the fantastic Mexican cuisine, outstanding beer and nightlife scene, or head to the beaches on Coronado Island, home to Coronado Beach, frequently ranked the finest in the entire nation, with its powdery, soft sands that glisten in the sun due to its high mineral content.
Boston, Massachusetts (Nearby Hotels)
Downtown Boston is also very close to its airport and offers a ton of sights and attractions. Hop on the Silver line and it will bring you right to all of the excitement – if it’s baseball season, you might even be able to catch a Red Sox game. Year-round you can walk the famous Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile route marked by a red stripe that traverses through the most historic neighborhoods in the city, and includes 16 important sites that pertain to the Revolutionary War along the way, including the historic North End and Back Bay. For one of the best views around, head to the observation deck at the Custom House where the open-air observation deck offers panoramic views of the harbor and the city from the 26th floor.
Istanbul, Turkey (Nearby Hotels)
Istanbul is an especially interesting city as it straddles the Bosphorus, which marks the geographical division between Europe and Asia. That means you’ll get a taste of both, with many of its popular attractions within easy walking distance too. Check out the magnificent architecture, much of which dates back to the Roman and Ottoman Empires, including the 6th-century Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace, where Ottoman sultans once lived. Of course, the Blue Mosque is a must-visit, as is the Grand Bazaar, one of the oldest covered markets in the world, where you can buy all sorts of Turkish delights. If you still have time, enjoy relaxing in one of the many Turkish baths known as hammams.
Copenhagen, Denmark (Nearby Hotels)
It’s just a quick train ride into Copenhagen from the airport, making it easy to explore this compact city and its grand architecture with some beautiful old buildings that speak to the centuries that sit tucked between trendy boutiques. The best way to experience it is to rent a bicycle by the hour. Be sure to pedal out to Rosenborg Castle, which houses the Danish Crown Jewels, though all three of its central palaces are worth a visit. At Amalienborg you can watch the changing of the guards, and at Christianborg, climb the tower to take in magnificent views.