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Airport stopovers: what to do with a few hours in...

When we travel to far-flung corners of the world, inevitably some places can’t be reached in one flight. Sometimes even two aren’t enough! One could take the glass-half-empty approach to a stopover and just sit in the airport for four hours, impatiently waiting for the connection… Or, with a bit of planning, why not step outside and enjoy the incredible city you’ve found yourself in?

We’ve put together some ideas of things to do if you find yourself with a few hours to kill in these cities.

The capital of Spain and a stopover destination for many en route to South America. Madrid-Barajas Airport is about 30 minutes by taxi from the city centre. Alternatively, hop on the Metro which takes about 45 minutes. Head to Puerto del Sol, considered to be the historical and cultural centre of Madrid, and check out the famous Bear and Madroño Tree statue. Honestly, it is famous! Then take a leisurely stroll over to Plaza Mayor, enjoy some tapas in one of the numerous cafes and marvel at the incredible architecture surrounding the square. If you’ve got time, squeeze in a visit to the world-famous Prado Museum, located about 20 minutes’ walk from the Plaza Mayor.

Hop on a train from Schiphol Airport into central Amsterdam. It’s really easy as the station is underneath the airport, the trains are cheap (about 8€, return) and they take you right into the city centre. From the station, head southwest towards Dam Square, where there are some really nice coffee bars (really, they sell coffee, promise). Onwards, take a wander behind the Royal Palace until you hit one of the four main canals that half-loop the city. This area is known as the Nine Streets and has shops, cafes, boutiques and bars. It’s a remarkably beautiful and quirky part of Amsterdam, well worth a visit. If there’s time, check out the NIMK Museum -- known for its unusual exhibitions. Lastly, head towards Leidseplein, one of the main squares of Amsterdam. Enjoy a tasty Dutch beer and pat yourself on the back for packing so much into a "boring" stopover!

If you’re thinking of traveling with Icelandair and the thought of a stopover in Iceland seems a little daunting, fear not. Keflavik International Airport is about 50km from Reykjavik and can be reached in under an hour by taxi (about £75). Alternatively, completely skip Reykjavik! This may sound controversial, but why not head to the Blue Lagoon instead? Reykjavik Excursions (http://www.re.is) will pick you up straight from the airport and transport you to the famous geothermal spa. Take a soak in the mineral-rich water or revitalise your skin after a long flight with a silica mud mask. Whilst not cheap (entrance fee -- with a towel and bathroom rental -- can cost up to 64€), the Blue Lagoon is a truly stunning environment in which to wile away a few hours and refresh yourself before continuing on your journey.

Many flights between Europe and Asia transit via Gulf States these days and chances are if you’re flying with Qatar Airways, Doha will be your stopover destination. Getting out the airport and having a little explore certainly beats sitting in a boring terminal. As Doha is quite compact, the airport is right on the edge of the city (and the sea!) so taxis into the city are quick and fairly cheap (note: visitors require a visa to exit the airport. This costs QR 100 = £18). Head for the Corniche and enjoy the stunning views of the ever-expanding West Bay business district. Meander down the promenade and check out the Museum of Islamic Art, widely considered to be one of the most beautiful museums in the world. From here it’s only 3km back to the airport, although we’d recommend a taxi as the temperature can reach up to 40°C during the summer months.

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Tips by

Deal Expert, London
Tuesday, 23 July 2013
See more Tips from
Daniel Conway