Looking for a quick layover spot to break up a long trip? Short on time but eager to travel? Fear not, we’ve got you covered. From easy-to-manage long layover destinations to compact cities where most of the top attractions are clustered together, here are a handful of destinations that are perfect for just a 24-hour visit.
1. Hong Kong
A sure contender for the most vibrant city in Asia, this fast-paced business hub makes for an easy intro into Chinese culture. Unlike mainland China, visitors to Hong Kong from Europe and North America don’t have to worry about getting a visa ahead of time. Highlights include the Hong Kong Museum of History, which can help demystify the destination’s thousands of years of history, and the gargantuan Tian Tan Buddha on Lantau Island. For the best views of the city, take a tram ride to Victoria Peak, or just stick to the city center, which offers a huge number of restaurants and bars, plus tea houses (the teas found at the MingCha Tea House are considered among the world’s finest).
Hong Kong Hotel Pick: Cordis, Hong Kong
Compact and easily walkable, Amsterdam is an solid choice for those who want a taste of Northern Europe but don’t have a lot of time. While many people come to the city to party, there’s also plenty for culture buffs. For starters, the city offers some of the finest museums on the continent. Don’t miss the huge collection from Rembrandt and Vermeer at the Rijksmuseum, as well as the iconic works by Vincent van Gogh at the Van Gogh Museum next door. The Moco Museum is only a few steps away and features exhibits from the likes of Banksy and Lichtenstein. Other not-to-be-missed experiences include taking a boat trip along one of Amsterdam’s many canals or seeing a symphony performance at the 19th-century Concertgebouw. Most visitors also make a stop at the sobering Anne Frank House, where the author of “The Diary of a Young Girl” chronicled her experiences hiding from the Nazis.
Amsterdam Hotel Pick: Canal House
Although Seattle is the largest city in the Pacific Northwest, its main cultural attractions are close enough to one another to make it easily doable in just 24 hours. Some of the most popular attractions are clustered together, including the iconic Space Needle with its rotating restaurant, and the Museum of Pop Culture (formerly known as the Experience Music Project), which offers hands-on musical experiences along with exhibits on local musicians such as Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana. Just next door is Chihuly Garden and Glass, which showcases many of the finest chandeliers and soft-glass works by Dale Chihuly, a world-famous Washingtonian glass sculptor. And don’t miss a visit to Pike Place Market, where you can listen to the cries of fishmongers while sipping coffee from the world’s first Starbucks, which opened at the market in 1971.
Seattle Hotel Pick: Inn at the Market
Straddling the Bosphorus, which marks the geographical division between Europe and Asia, Istanbul offers some of the most cultural and historic bang for your buck, and most of the main attractions are within easy walking distance of one another. The city formerly known as Constantinople is chock-full of beautiful architecture, much of which dates back to the Roman and Ottoman Empires. Highlights include the Hagia Sophia, a sixth-century basilica that served as a mosque for some time before it was transformed into a museum, as well as the Topkapi Palace, where Ottoman sultans once lived. Other must-sees include the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, known as the Blue Mosque due to its blue-tiled interior, and the Grand Bazaar, one of the oldest covered markets in the world, where everything from Turkish delight to woven rugs are on sale. You may even be able to squeeze in a steam session at the Cagaloglu Hamami, one of the city’s many historichammams (or Turkish baths).
Istanbul Hotel Pick: Ciragan Palace Kempinski
Conveniently situated en route to the U.K. and mainland Europe from North America, the Icelandic capital city of Reykjavik makes for an easy 24-hour stopover (and the country’s national carrier, Icelandair, is famously flexible when it comes to adding long layovers). While hanging out in the city’s numerous cozy pubs and clubs might be enough for those who want to soak in the local culture, there are plenty of things to see and do in and around the capital. Popular attractions include the Blue Lagoon, a stunning geothermal spa situated between the city center and the airport. The Lagoon easily merits a good two or three hours, but this still leaves plenty of time to head into town to check out local attractions like the spaceship-esque Hallgr?mskirkja (the largest church in town), along with the National Museum of Iceland and the quirky Phallological Museum, which pays homage to — ahem — phalluses.
Reykjavik Hotel Pick: Hotel Borg