You couldn’t do anything worthwhile in 24 hours, right? Wrong.
Maybe you’re backpacking and can’t allow yourself any longer than a day in a certain place, but still want to explore. Perhaps you have a long layover, or your flight has been delayed or cancelled, and you suddenly find yourself with some spare time in an unfamiliar city.
It could even be that you’ve decided on a whim to take a trip to a nearby city, but you need to be back home the next day.
Even if you have a few days in your chosen city, thinking about what you would do if you only had 24 hours there is a great way to get the most of your trip. In doing this, you will be able to find out what you’re most interested in seeing and doing, and what you’re not sure is worth the time and money.
That way, you can make sure you see the things at the top of your list, and simply let the rest fall into place depending on how you’re feeling.
A top tip for getting round a city’s attractions in record time is to buy your tickets in advance, from the internet or a tourist information centre, or to buy a city card if there is one.
Often a city card will offer you free or reduced entry to many top attractions and access to public transport, so that you can whizz around the city on buses and trams to save time.
Another tip to get the most out of your time is to sign on to a walking tour or bus tour, in order to see as much of the city as possible in a relatively short space of time.
These are usually inexpensive – or often free, with the guides working on a tips-only basis – and will point out the most popular sights. Many tours only take around an hour, so you can head off to further explore anything that looked interesting after it’s finished.
Read on to find out some suggestions for what to do if you have 24 hours in three popular European cities.
24 Hours in… Prague
You’ve just arrived in the Czech capital and the clock has already started ticking. The astronomical clock in the Old Town, that is. What’s first on your agenda? If you’re already in the Czech spirit of things, it will be having a pint of beer in one of the city’s many bars and pubs.
Once you’ve had a few beers – hopefully not too many – it’s time to head up to the castle. With a limited timescale, you might not be able to see every part of the castle, but you can spend an hour or two wandering around.
Now that you’ve imagined yourself as king or queen of the castle, you might be feeling hungry. Head back into the city for some lunch. It is traditional in the Czech Republic to eat your main meal early in the day, and simply have a snack in the evening.
If you want to do as the Czechs do, then find the nearest restaurant to feast on soup and bread, slow cooked beef or pork with bread or potato dumplings, and some pancakes filled with cream and fruit. Order some fried cheese for the table – it might sound odd, but it is delicious.
If you would prefer a larger meal in the evening, grab some street food now. You can easily find fries, sausages and fried cheese sandwiches. Once you’ve eaten, it’s time to walk off the stodge by walking up Petrin Hill to the observation tower. On your way up, take a moment to look at the Memorial to the Victims of Communism.
Still need to fill some time? Walk across the Charles Bridge. Gather in the Old Town to watch the astronomical clock. Take a river boat tour on the Vltava. Visit the Jewish Cemetery and pay your respects at Franz Kafka’s grave.
24 Hours in… Amsterdam
You’ve just chained up your bike and are ready to explore the Dutch capital. Your sights are set on boats, beer, tulips and art. So that you are well nourished for your hectic day, head to the nearest café to feast on typical European breakfast fare such as croissants, yoghurt, muesli, bread and cheese.
Now that you are fed and ready for the day, make your way to the Rijksmuseum. Having recently been renovated, this museum is currently in its full glory, offering you a taste of Dutch art and culture.
There are a number of fantastic museums in Amsterdam, and it possible to see them all in 24 hours if you plan carefully. Other museums include the Van Gogh museum, the Anne Frank Huis, and the Rembrandt House Museum.
Now that you have marvelled at some amazing works of art, you might need to relax a little bit – especially if you have visited the Anne Frank Huis, which can be overwhelming and upsetting. The perfect place in Amsterdam to relax is the Vondelpark, a huge park near the Museum Quarter. If you’re feeling hungry grab a broodje or a portion of fries, and take them with you for an impromptu picnic.
After you have decompressed and are ready to rejoin the hustle and bustle, head back into the streets of the city. Now is the time to see some more of the city, either by renting a bike or going on a boat tour.
The two most popular options for an evening meal are traditional Dutch cuisine, or Indonesian cuisine, as Indonesia was once a Dutch colony. After enjoying a feast of your chosen cuisine, it’s time to soak up Amsterdam’s famous nightlife. Whether you want an exciting party or a laid-back drink in a nice bar, you will be able to find something to your taste.
Still need to fill some time? Go to the multicultural Tropenmuseum. Walk around Jordaan, a quirky and relaxed neighbourhood.
24 Hours in… Rome
You’ve just got to Rome and you’re ready to sample all its historic and cultural delights. The Colosseum is calling your name, beckoning you to take a step back into the days of ancient Rome.
Grab a slice of pizza or a tub of gelato on the way to keep you full until lunch, and make your way through the streets. You could take in the whole experience of the Colosseum in around an hour and thirty minutes, but how long you spend there depends on your plans for the rest of the day.
Now that you have left ancient Rome and rejoined the modern day, you might want to stop for a coffee and something sweet. After resting your feet and relaxing in a café, it’s time to see the Trevi Fountain.
This sprawling, iconic fountain is a treat for the eyes, and for the senses if you manage to sit at the edge on a hot day. Throw a coin in and relax here for a while – but don’t try to dip your toes or go for a swim, as the Italian police take this fountain very seriously.
After you have seen the fountain, you might want to head to the Vatican. Bear in mind that this is one of the busiest tourist attractions in Rome, and once you have taken into account the time you will spend queuing and having your bag searched before you enter, this could take up a large portion of your day.
If it is something you are desperate to see, this is worth your time, but if not you may simply want to see the crowds gathered outside and walk around St Peter’s Square. It may be possible to book a ‘private tour’ in advance that will allow you to skip the queues.
If you are serious about seeing as much of Rome in one day as possible, contact a tourism agency before you go to see what can be arranged.
Next on your list, if you aren’t too exhausted, should be the Spanish Steps. The steps are quite steep, so if you don’t want to climb them, you could simply find a place to sit and spend some time people-watching, or seek out the lift situated near the metro station.
Since you’re in Italy, you’re bound to want to enjoy some fantastic cuisine. Rome has a vast array of restaurants serving up traditional and modern Italian cuisine, and you are bound to find one within your price range and to suit your appetite. After you have feasted on pizza, pasta, antipasto and tiramisu, you can enjoy Rome’s lively and varied nightlife.
Still need to fill some time? Explore Trastevere, unique neighbourhood full of character. Go for a walk through the Villa Borghese. Climb one of Rome’s seven hills and admire the view.