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Layover Cities Worth Exploring

The dreaded layover has long been a source of travel frustration: Inconvenient connection times leave you with an empty chunk of time, and if the travel gods have routed you through a small city with few attractions, you have little choice but to waste precious vacation hours watching TV at an airport bar or wandering the terminal. If, however, you transit through a major hub like Abu Dhabi, Hong Kong, Singapore, Dubai or Doha, rejoice! These blossoming metropolises are not just easy to get to from their airports but have vibrant culinary and cultural scenes to explore plus a plethora of activities and luxurious hotels, so you can rest up before beginning the next leg of your journey.

At Indagare, we believe all travel experiences — even layovers — should be embraced. So here, we highlight four of the most frequent stopover destinations and outline why you should venture outside the airport if you land at one of them en route to your destination on your next trip.

Contact Indagare to speak with a travel expert about making the most of an upcoming layover.

Abu Dhabi

Composed of several islands in the Persian Gulf, Abu Dhabi is the capital of the United Arab Emirates and center of its oil production. The city center is defined by cutting-edge architecture, many examples of which have sprouted up in recent years, thanks to the country’s booming industrial sector and high per capita income. Etihad Airways has incredible facilities at Abu Dhabi International Airport, its hub, including a premium lounge for business-class travelers. But the showstopper is the first-class lounge, which has a relaxation area, spacious gym, spa, salon, kids’ play room and several restaurants.

  • Where to Book a Room: The sleek Four Seasons Abu Dhabi, in a thirty-four-floor high-rise, offers pampering amenities like a spa and several beautiful restaurants.
  • Can’t-Miss Culture Stop: The city’s major attraction for visitors is also a draw for locals: the stunning Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the largest and most important mosque in the UAE.
  • Lunch: Enjoy a bite at the Emirates Palace, perhaps the most gilded hotel ever, with a gold ATM in the lobby.
  • Dinner: Take in the bird’s-eye view of Abu Dhabi’s massive sprawl from Jumeirah at Etihad Towers’ observation deck before enjoying a meal at one of the hotel’s twelve restaurants.
  • If you have more than twenty-four hours: Venture out of the city to the Anantara Qasr Al Sarab, an oasis in the desert near the Saudi Arabian border.

Related: Where to Go in November: Top 10

Hong Kong

At first glance, Hong Kong seems like a Western outpost — all shiny skyscrapers and multilingual businesspeople. But only slightly closer inspection reveals its deep roots in Chinese culture, including superstitions and traditions. Cathay Pacific, which is based here, has six spectacular lounges at the international airport, the most luxe being the first-class Pier, a sleek minimalist haven with green onyx walls, day suites, washrooms equipped with showers, a foot massage parlor and full-service restaurant.

  • Where to Book a Room: The Four Seasons Hong Kong is a classic choice, with a great location and a pool with breathtaking views of Victoria Harbour. A more serene option is the 117-room, minimalist Upper House.
  • Can’t-Miss Culture Stop: The funicular tram takes visitors on a dramatic ride to Victoria Peak, the highest point on the island.
  • Lunch: Sample traditional Cantonese fare at the Four Seasons’ three-Michelin-starred restaurant, known for its lunchtime dim sum and Peking duck.
  • Dinner: Contact Indagare to make a reservation at the members club.
  • If you have more than 24 hours: Take a stroll through Central, where architectural highlights include Norman Foster’s Hong Kong Shanghai Bank and M. Pei’s Bank of China buildings, as well as César Pelli’s International Finance Center.

Related: Top Tables Hong Kong

Singapore

An extraordinary gateway city, Singapore is emerging as a destination in its own right, thanks to its exciting architecture, Michelin-starred restaurants and tech-friendliness. Located not far from the city center, Changi Airport, has won Skytrax’s World’s Best Airport award multiple times, thanks to amenities like a 24-hour movie theater and day spa. Singapore Airlines, which has its hub here, has four lounges and private spaces for outbound first-class passengers.

  • Where to Book a Room: The dazzling Fullerton Bay Hotel has a lovely waterfront location and a beautiful rooftop pool.
  • Can’t-Miss Culture Stop: The Gardens by the Bay, in the sprawling downtown, comprise nearly 250 acres of gardens and conservatories.
  • Lunch: For an authentic Singapore experience, sample the street food purveyed by carts in the city’s open-air food halls. Traditional dishes to try include chicken rice, fried oyster omelets, carrot cake, beef noodles and bone-marrow mutton soup.
  • Dinner: The fine-dining Waku Ghin, which appears on numerous world’s-best restaurant lists, serves a ten-course tasting menu, as well as more casual fare at the bar.
  • If you have more than 24 hours: Head to the hip, young Kampong Glam (Arab) neighborhood, a smaller version of New York City’s Nolita, and browse the cute independent fashion and accessories boutiques lining its narrow Hari Lane.

Related: Singapore Rising

Dubai

Once a tiny village at the edge of  the desert, Dubai has morphed into the largest city in the United Arab Emirates, a tax-free haven sporting megamalls, five-star hotels and elaborate real estate projects. Despite this in-your-face modernity, it holds unexpected cultural treasures. Its international airport is the world’s seventh busiest, so it comes as no surprise that it is also one of the most luxurious. Fliers in all classes who are members of Emirates Skywards program can use the airline’s first class lounge, which includes a spa, cigar bar and salon.

  • Where to Book a Room: The Four Seasons Dubai at Jumeirah Beach mixes Arabic design with contemporary style.
  • Can’t-Miss Culture Stop: Dubai’s centuries-old Bastikaya neighborhood, with its sand-colored buildings made of coral harvested from the Persian Gulf, is home to cool art galleries and cafés.
  • Lunch: For a casual repast, try the classic thali dishes at Maharaja Bhog. For a more upscale meal, PierChic has great views of the Burj Khalifa.
  • Dinner: Dine at Dubai’s renowned Al Nafoorah, a Lebanese restaurant many believe serves the best Arabic cuisine in the city.
  • If you have more than 24 hours: Drive three hours to Musandam, Oman, and spend the day on a dhow, or go hiking in some of the wadis outside Dubai.

Related: Dubai & Oman

– Emma Pierce on June 7, 2018

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