Though I always stress the importance of travelling slowly in order to spend enough time to see a destination and truly understand local life, there are a few exceptions. For example, I consider only a handful of destinations to be ‘perfect layover cities’ and therefore do not require a long stay – they are ideal for an exciting pit stop, and inject a surge of energy into longer journeys.
Layover cities generally meet the following criteria:
- Home to an airport that is a major international transit hub
- Have a solid transit system with the capacity to quickly shuttle passengers to and from the city centre
- Have a simple city layout to allow visitors to navigate with ease
During my recent trip to Europe, I made a one-night stop in Amsterdam. I planned this short detour in order to get a little dose of the city and more importantly, to test my perfect layover theory. Although my visit was technically a stopover (i.e. 24 hours or more), I have no doubt that the thousands of passengers who visit on their layovers (i.e. 23 hours or less), also have an excellent time, and here’s why:
Amsterdam Airport: Schiphol is one of Europe’s busiest airports, and is known for hosting passengers with connecting flights. Outfitted with cafes, restaurants, and shops, Schiphol is a great environment for passing time.
Transit: In my opinion, the sign of a good transit system is when you don’t have to leave the airport to catch the train to the city centre. The train station is located beneath the airport in Schiphol Plaza, just a couple of minutes walking distance from the arrivals area. This stop is actually a major hub in the Dutch railway system, and several other destinations can be reached from here. For a few euros, you can purchase a 24-hour pass, which will grant you unlimited access to the trains (perfect if you get lost and have to hop on and off a few times!).
City Layout: Amsterdam is a cyclist’s city, where bikes are essentially the easiest and quickest ways to get around. If you don’t want to bother with renting a bike during your layover, it’s just as easy to walk around.
I’m sure I didn’t see everything during my one-night stay, but I’m certain that I’ll have another flight connecting through Amsterdam in the near future – that’s why it’s the perfect layover city!