Directly following "best possible price" on my flight booking priority list is 'a long layover literally anywhere' (passport/visa permitting). 8-10 or more hours is preferable, and is only worthwhile if you land in the morning- I 100% never recommend wandering at night alone anywhere if you're not very familiar with the location (and most attractions will be closed anyway)
Sometimes there is a choice. Fly Emirates, you get Dubai. Fly Turkish Airlines, you get Istanbul. And China Southern? You get Guangzhou.
En route to and from Bangkok, we had 7 and 10 hour layovers in China. For a proper stay China is definitely on the "someday" list, but not immediately so, and probably not Guangzhou (Shanghai, please). That's the beauty of long layovers- sometimes you can get a great deal with a little bonus location you never would have thought to go otherwise. And China is just so cool- I've never seen so many LED lights in one place.
Beijing road, a popular shopping destination in the Danan District of Guangzhou. Probably the brightest lights I've seen in one place, and I live in new york city.
When staying somewhere for a while, like most regular travellers I love to explore "off the beaten path" locations but with layovers I find I get the most out of the big attractions- whatever Trip Advisor lists. Monuments, temples, restaurants or other well known locale types suit your fancy. A sure plan to make that rush to and from the airport worthwhile with highly rated, low-risk confirmed locations. Usually these things are found in popular areas of town, and therefore easier and quicker to reach.
Monks exiting the Bright Filial Piety Buddhist Temple after a chanting service. It was beautiful.
After the doors closed, we continued on our well-planned walk. A good walking route between attractions offers enough random chance to satiate wanderlust, while ensuring you remain on schedule with a smooth return to the airport in time.
So many of these little stores simultaneously sell buddha sculptures, various jewellery and what appear to be nuts and dry legumes in large tubs (lower left corner here). Pretty similar to the shops in NYC Chinatown actually.
Huaisheng Mosque was our next planned location, one of the oldest mosques in the world built 1,300 years ago. I love beautiful religious buildings, especially old ones. The energy is electric; intense with the essence of hopeful prayers and meditations forever fused to sacred spaces.
In addition to Beijing road, there is a Shanghai street in Guangzhou. All commercial - clothes and cell phones mostly- with just enough satisfying side streets and fusion food galore. This area is a short train ride from the airport; a safe use of our small 7 hours. We just walked up and down, taking it all in before our departure to Thailand.
A quick 7-11 stop, new favourite thing: