Top 5 cities to spend a short layover

Most of us have experienced a long wait at an airport. But how do you choose to spend this time?

 The majority of passengers will try to find a comfortable bench to sleep on or while away the time in a nice restaurant, but have you ever considered stepping outside airport grounds?

 Many airports are blessed with world-class facilities designed for your comfort over many impatient hours. However, some international airports are incredibly close to city centres. If you are efficient enough and plan well, you can catch a few hours in some of the world’s greatest layover cities.

 If you’re hoping to visit outside of airport grounds, just make sure you have a layover of at least six hours to allow for delays.



Dubai International Airport is just 14km from the famous Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. When you leave the airport, immediately book an Uber or hail a taxi and travel the 15 minutes it takes to reach the tower.


The tower is half a mile tall but you can gaze out over Dubai from the 555 metre high observation deck while your fellow passengers are still queueing for McDonald’s. On a clear day, you can ever see as far as Iran!


Other options include embarking on a helicopter ride over the city (there is a helipad 10-15 minutes from the airport), going to see the Burj Al Arab (just a 20-minute drive away), watching the fountain shows outside Dubai Mall, having a drink at the seriously impressive Ritz-Carlton on Dubai Marina or relaxing on the world-famous Jumeirah beach. Many people have achieved 3.5-hour layover trips, some of which are documented on YouTube.


Should you be delayed, fear not. Dubai International Airport has a restful Zen Garden in Terminal 3 and sleep pods built for a few hours’ rest. The G-Force health club also provides visitors with the chance to work out, swim or shower.


Las Vegas

Should you be lucky enough to have a few hours in Sin City, there is a plethora of options in the place also known as the Adult Disneyland.


The journey from Harry Reid International Airport to Caesars Palace is only 4km, meaning you could walk (in theory) were it not for the searing heat. As it is, traffic can make the journey slightly longer, but you should calculate around 20 minutes or so to reach the Strip.


If you’re aged over 21, you could leave the 1,200 slot machines at the airport and ensconce yourself in a comfortable seat at one of the many hotels such as the Venetian or Flamingo. Whilst you’re in the area, you could even quickly dine in one of the outstanding restaurants Vegas does best, such as Gordon Ramsay Steak, Guy Savoy or Nobu. After your meal, be sure to catch the fountain show outside the Bellagio which is genuinely jaw-dropping.


For a more daring adventure, catch a taxi to Red Rock Canyon, a National Conservation area on the cusp of Death Valley. You could also ask a taxi driver to drive you around so you can see the wonders of this unique place without stepping foot outside.

Hong Kong

If the allure of popping into the centre of Hong Kong is too much to resist, note that you should allow for a layover of at least three hours. Travelling from the International Airport to the centre of the city takes 24 minutes on the efficient MTR Airport Express. The journey itself is an adventure, taking in some incredible views of the city from the Tsing Ma Bridge.


Once in the centre, maybe you could visit the franchise dubbed “the world’s cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant” TimHoWan. If you love a bargain, you can shop for some discounts in Citygate Outlets shopping centre (just ten minutes from the airport) or Maritime Square (35 minutes away).


The city’s famous thoroughfare, Nathan Road in Kowloon, takes three-quarters of an hour to travel to, but a bowl of noodles on the city’s most famous street may be too difficult to resist. At the end of Nathan Road lies Victoria Harbour, where you can experience panoramic views including Hong Kong Island.



The capital of Georgia is a great place to spend a layover. The city’s metro service MARTA can bring you into the centre of the city in around 25 minutes.


Once there, you can embark on a food tour around the capital’s artisanal Municipal Market. If you have time, you can take your pick from some eclectic museums including Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthplace and final resting place or the World of Coca-Cola. Should the queues be too long, Piedmont Park and the Botanical Gardens are beautiful.


If you don’t have time to step outside, the International Airport has exhibitions in the two miles between the international and domestic gates. The airport also offers several day rooms, perfect for those who wish to relax and shower before moving on to their next destination.



One of the great benefits of a layover in a European city is the relatively short distance between the airports and city centres. One such example is Denmark’s capital, where you can leave the airport on the metro and arrive at the city centre’s Strøget shopping street within twenty minutes.


Copenhagen is a very walkable city. Two hours can easily be spent eating pølser (Danish hot dogs) or smørrebrød as you marvel at the Marble Church. Maybe you can head straight for the Rosenborg Castle in Frederiksstaden before grabbing a cinnamon roll from the city’s oldest bakery Sankt Peders Bageri.


If you’re in the mood for something less traditional, recover from your flight by eating along the harbour at the Reffen Street Food outdoor food hall. The food hall is seasonal, so if you find it closed you can head along to Broens Gadekøkken instead.


If you need to stretch your legs even more, consider hiring a bike and blending in with the locals. Then lock up your bike outside the Rundetaarn (Round Tower) where you can navigate the spiral ramp to the top and enjoy gorgeous views of the
March 21, 2023 by Jason Wallis-Johnson