Stopover hotspots: Europe’s top cities for a layover

Stopover hotspots: Europe’s top cities for a layover

This year has seen flight numbers begin to recover as pandemic restrictions were eased, with 63 million1 passengers having flown in and out of the UK between April and June. With holiday makers 'catching up' on trips they've missed out on, 37%2 of people more likely to visit a country they’ve never been to before – and long-haul destinations proving more popular than ever.

With more people feeling a greater sense of adventure, travelling further for holidays and things like sporting events, long-haul destinations are now back on the cards; and that means more stopovers. For those who’ve never heard of this term before, a stopover is when your journey is broken up by having to stop in another location for a brief period of time, typically anything longer than four hours and up to a few days.

If you’re considering flying to a far-flung destination and want to break up the time with a long layover, then read on, as we’ve created the Stopover Hotspots Index. The index uncovers the top 50 stopover destinations in Europe, based on a range of factors, including the number of attractions and hotels, distance from the airport, and more. 

London is the top stopover hotspot in Europe

Planning a stopover on your long-haul flight, and want to see a new city in Europe? If you’re in need of some inspiration, then why not consider these cities? 

1. London, United Kingdom

With trains from Heathrow to the centre of London taking just 15 minutes, the UK’s capital has made it into first place for a European stopover. From key tourist attractions including the Houses of Parliament and the London Eye, through to museums like the V&A, and the Natural History Museum – not to mention all the parks, cafés, bars, and shops.

2. Paris, France

Coming in a close second place, with 8,163 tourist attractions and 2,518 hotels, Paris is a perfect way to spend a few days before heading off to your chosen destination. Start off by seeing classic sights such as the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, and the Louvre; before sampling all the best food Paris has to offer – think macarons, croissants, and copious amounts of coffee. If you’re into shopping, make sure you visit some of France’s best designer boutiques, including Celine, Saint Laurent, Dior and more.

3. Rome, Italy

With 11,356 restaurants, Rome is the perfect stopover for any foodie – especially if you love pasta, pizza, and gelato. If you haven’t been to Rome before, make sure you check out the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, and take a quick trip to Vatican City, so you can tick another country off your list. 

4. Barcelona, Spain

With 13,336 flights landing in Barcelona every 30 days, there are so many opportunities to turn the city into more than just a quick stopover. If you’re there in the height of summer and want a relaxing break, then the beach is the first place you could head to. But, there are so many other things to see and explore too, including La Sagrada Familia, and Park Güell – not to mention, sampling the tapas. After all, with 9,878 restaurants, you’ll have a lot to choose from.

5. Madrid, Spain

Rounding off our top five list of Europe’s stopover hotspots, is another Spanish city: this time, it’s the capital, Madrid. With its major airport just 19km away from the centre, you’ll be able to explore the city quickly and easily. The Prado is one of the top art museums in the world, and a must-visit when in Madrid, along with the picturesque El Retiro Park, and the imposing Royal Palace, which is a great example of baroque architecture. 

The best of the rest

Prague is another ideal city for a stopover, with its beautiful old town feeling like you’ve stepped straight into a gothic fairy-tale, with food and drink extremely cheap. Amsterdam and Warsaw in the Netherlands and Poland respectively, are also ideal places to spend a couple of days, so it comes as no surprise that they’ve also made it into the top 10.  
In Amsterdam, you can walk around the canals, pay a visit to the Anne Frank museum, and eat your weight in waffles. 

Top tips for planning the perfect stopover

If you’re planning a long-haul holiday, then a stopover is a great way to not only break up your long travel time, but to give you the chance to discover somewhere new. Want to know how to book the perfect stopover? Take a look at our top tips: 

1. Check which airlines offer free stopovers

There are many airlines that will offer free stopovers as part of your trip, which means you could change a two-hour stopover to a 48-hour one, with no extra charge to your flights.

For example, Icelandair offers stopovers to Reykjavik on their flights to and from the USA, Emirates lets you stopover in Dubai, and Finnair in Helsinki, so check with the airlines where you can visit.

If you have a particular destination in mind, then make sure you check this out before you book your flights. 

2. Check to see if there are any promotions

Some cities (like Singapore) are well-known as stopover destinations, and so will have promotions in place for people wanting to spend a couple of days there. Do your research and see if there are any cities or airlines offering these promotions.

3. Consider flying there and back with different airlines

Because each airline tends to only offer one or two destinations as a stopover, if you want to enjoy both a stopover on your way there, and on your way back, then you could fly on different airlines each way. 

Visit comparison sites such as Skyscanner or Expedia, where you’ll be able to see the different flight combinations available, and the cities where you can enjoy a longer layover.

4. See what there is to do in your stopover destination

Of course, one of the best parts about having a stopover is the chance to explore a whole new place while on the journey to or from your actual final destination. There are all sorts of websites such as Time Out and Tripadvisor that you can have a look at and see what sightseeing you might be able to squeeze in during your fleeting visit. But make sure you leave plenty of time to get back to the airport for the next leg of your journey too.

5. Make sure to keep your belongings safe

During a stopover, it’s just as, if not more, important to protect all your belongings so that they safely make it to their final stop with you. If you’re planning an overnight stay during your stopover then you’ll most likely be able to make use of the hotel’s facilities and keep them in your room, or at least a secure storage room. Otherwise, if you don’t need anything then it’s worth checking with your airline or the airport whether you can check in your luggage for the next flight or keep it safely stored with them. 

So, now you know where you’re heading off to (and where you want to book your stopovers), all that’s left to do is to get the right level of travel insurance. Make sure you mention all the countries you are stopping in as well as your destination country when you get our insurance quote too.

If you’re planning on booking more than one trip in 12 months, then annual travel insurance can be more cost-effective, and you can book dedicated winter sports insurance, if you’re planning on going skiing or snowboarding. 

Alternatively, if you have any questions about booking your insurance, then head on over to our travel help hub, which is full of useful information. 

Brought to you by the travel insurance experts at Comparethemarket


1 Civil Aviation Authority:

2 ABTA:  

We compiled a list of the 50 most populated cities in Europe with an airport (not including cities in Russia, Belarus, or Ukraine), and ranked them based on six factors: 

  • Number of flights - The number of tracked flights for each airport on flightradar24, from the 10th of July 2022 to the 8th of August 2022 (Past 30 days).
  • Airport to city distance - The drivable distance in km from each airport to the city centre, according to Google Maps.
  • Number of attractions - The number of attractions listed on Tripadvisor for each city.
  • Number of hotels - The number of hotels listed on Tripadvisor for each city.
  • Number of restaurants - The number of restaurants listed on Tripadvisor for each city.
  • Cost of a meal - The cost (In GBP) of a three-course meal for two people, in a mid-range restaurant, for each city. 

These factors were then normalised and summed, to give each location a score between 0 and 6. The locations were then ranked from highest to lowest, based on this score.