Don’t you hate landing in an exciting city and instead of getting out to explore it, you have to race to a connecting flight? Wherever you’re off to, breaking up a long trip en route with a 48-hour minibreak could be the answer. Former Which? Travel editor Jill Starley-Grainger explains how to make the most of your time in five popular stopover destinations: Hong Kong, Dubai, Singapore, Amsterdam and Los Angeles.

Dubai

Dubai frame and the cityscape at sunset

Fastest way in

From Dubai International Airport, Metro and taxis both take about 50 minutes to the city centre, with the former being cheaper. On Friday mornings, however, the Metro doesn’t run, while during rush hour (Sunday to Thursday, 7-10am and 4-7pm), taxis will take much longer – check when you’re arriving so you can choose the best option.

What to do

Get yourself in the picture, literally, at the new Dubai Frame (pictured) – a giant structure that ‘frames’ parts of the city as you look through it. Go up one of its two 150-metre-high towers, then walk across the covered bridge that connects them and wave down to the people taking photos below. The city is famous for its spas and one of the best is Talise Ottoman Spa at Jumeirah Zabeel Saray Hotel, where you can recover from jet lag by lounging in the various steam rooms, saunas, snow rooms and thalassotherapy pools. Book your tickets a few days ahead to ascend the Burj Khalifa – the world’s tallest building at a height of 828 metres – in order to minimise your queuing time (especially if you want one of the prime sunrise or sunset slots).

Where to eat

One of the most authentic meals in Dubai is located, surprisingly, in a shopping mall. Dine on dishes from Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco and the Persian Gulf countries, at the alfresco Khan Murjan restaurant in Wafi Mall.

Where to stay

To revel in Dubai’s obsession with opulence, stay at the lavish Palazzo Versace Dubai. Book far enough ahead and it can be great value for money.

Hong Kong

The Dukling and the glittering Hong Kong cityscape

Fastest way in

The Airport Express train zips into central Hong Kong from Hong Kong International Airport in 24 minutes.

What to do

Climb or take the tram up to The Peak, the highest point on Hong Kong Island, with views of Victoria Harbour and Hong Kong’s skyscrapers below. Pop into Wong Tai Sin Temple (2 Chuk Yuen Village, Wong Tai Sin, Kowloon), a huge traditional Chinese shrine with red pillars, gold roofs and ornate latticework. Then, brace yourself for the melee of the Ladies’ Market – a kilometre-long street of stalls selling everything from t-shirts and teabags to tourist tat. Recover with a relaxing ride on the affordable Star Ferry, which will steer you past all manner of junk ships, houseboats and sailboats in Victoria Harbour, or try the fancy Dukling (pictured), the only antique fishing junk ship still sailing on the harbour.

Where to eat

At the Seafood Room, you can dine on a mixed seafood platter of oysters, shrimp, crab, sea urchin, ceviche and sashimi while enjoying views of Victoria Harbour.

Where to stay

Ovolo Central is a smart, affordable option that’s just had a revamp and is right by Central station, where the Airport Express stops to zip you back for your connecting flight.

Amsterdam

A sunny canal scene in front of the Andaz Hotel

Fastest way in

Trains to Amsterdam Centraal Station take around 20 minutes from Schiphol Airport.

What to do

Everyone in Amsterdam cycles because it’s the loveliest way to get around this beautiful city. Rent a bike and pedal along the canals of the Jordaan district, alongside gabled townhouses, cosy pubs and independent shops selling local cheeses and fashion. Book ahead to bypass the snaking queues at the Anne Frank Museum, a haunting exploration of the house that Frank’s family hid inside during the Second World War. Then, take your pick of the city’s world-class art galleries – Van Gogh, home to the largest collection of Vincent’s works; Rijksmuseum, home to Rembrandts, Vermeers and works by other Old Masters; or the Stedelijk, for modern art created during the last 140 years. Later, spend an hour or two on a charming canal boat tour, kicking back with a glass of bubbly as you glide through the city.

Where to eat

For hearty, home-cooked-style Dutch food in a vintage setting, head to Moeders, which is set up like a grandmother’s living room. Save space for the homemade apple tart served with vanilla ice cream.

Where to stay

Set in the Jordaan district, on one of Amsterdam’s prettiest canals, Andaz Amsterdam‘s (pictured) 122 guestrooms are decorated with heritage imagery – think tulips, Delft patterns, the triple-X symbol of the city – but with a quirky modern spin.

Los Angeles

A pool and rooftop bar at twilight

Fastest way in

Taxis from LAX take about 20-40 minutes to most places in the city, but allow much longer if you arrive during rush hour (Monday to Friday, 7-10am and 4-7pm).

What to do

Pop on your swimsuit and sunglasses and head straight up to one of West Hollywood’s rooftop pool bars for sweeping city views while you eat, drink or swim. Two of the best are the flashy Skybar at the Mondrian (pictured) and the retro-glam Private Rooftop at Petit Ermitage. Take a peek behind the scenes on the Warner Bros Studio Tour, where you can see sets of current productions and old props, as well as the Central Perk Café from Friends. Head to Venice Beach to see rollerbladers, bodybuilders and skateboarders strutting their stuff on this carnival-like stretch of sand. Get arty at The Getty Center – its sinuous white architecture and varied landscaped gardens are as impressive as the old and new artworks housed inside.

Where to eat

The vegan tacos, tamales and enchiladas at Gracias Madres are made with authentic Mexican sauces and flavours, using locally sourced Californian ingredients. The spot in West Hollywood has a cult following, so book ahead or arrive early to queue.

Where to stay

Stay in one of the glamorous white bedrooms at the Mondrian and you’ll get access to its rooftop pool during the morning hotel-guest-only hours.

Singapore

Singapore City Skyline at Marina Bay

Fastest way in

Taxis are affordable and fast, taking about 30 minutes to reach the city centre from Singapore Changi Airport.

What to do

The extraordinary Gardens by the Bay is a sci-fi oasis in the middle of the city, with glass domes, ‘Supertree’ towers, animal topiary, exotic flowers and cloud forests – plus unmissable laser light shows every evening. Orchard Road is crammed with fashions from international designers, and is also home to Keepers, which showcases local talent. Head to Little India, the city’s spiciest quarter, to browse the food stalls in Tekka Market (on the corner of Bukit Timah Road and Serangoon Road), before refuelling with a roti prata flatbread and vegetable curry, washed down with ginger tea. And – it’s a tourist trope, but no less magnificent for being so – have a Singapore Sling amid the colonial architecture of Raffles Hotel. They’re pricey here, but worth it.

Where to eat

What is possibly the world’s cheapest Michelin-starred meal can be found at Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle, a humble street food stall on Crawford Lane, which has been awarded one of those coveted stars.

Where to stay

With its rooftop bar, richly coloured rooms and prime location in Chinatown, the Scarlet Hotel is an affordable yet decadent place to sleep.

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