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Ultimate Atlanta Layover Guide: Itineraries & Things to Do

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Delta Airlines aeroplanes on the tarmac at an airport with a cloudy sky in the background.
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Did you know that Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson is the busiest airport in the world?

It might be surprising, but it’s true! It's also the main hub of Delta Airlines, one of the top airlines in the world, making Atlanta a common stopover for international travellers.

While Atlanta isn’t exactly the easiest to zip around on a tight schedule thanks to its sprawling layout, there are some excellent spots you just can't miss if you're here. From the heart of the civil rights movement to the delicious world of Coca-Cola, you’ll finish your layover in Atlanta wishing you had slightly longer to explore!

Ready to find out how to make the most of your layover at ATL? Let's get into it.

Things to Do in Atlanta Airport

If you don’t have time to leave the airport, fear not - there’s plenty to do without stepping outside!

Atlanta Airport is known for its impressive art program, which features permanent and rotating exhibitions throughout the terminals. Make sure to check out the Zimbabwe Sculpture exhibit in Terminal T or the fascinating installation “Flight Paths” in the International Terminal, an environmental simulation designed to make you feel like you’re walking through a forest.

For a bit of relaxation, visit the Minute Suites in Concourse B, where you can rent a private room to nap, work, or watch TV. If you're feeling tense, the XpresSpa in Concourses A and C offers massages and other spa services to help you unwind between flights.

Hungry? Lucky for you, the airport doesn’t skimp on Southern hospitality, and you can grab a bite of classic Southern fare like fried chicken or barbecue at one of the many restaurants throughout the airport. For a taste of local flavour during your layover in Atlanta airport, don't miss Paschal’s in Concourse B, famous for its soul food.

Best Atlanta Layover Itineraries

View of Midtown Atlanta's skyline with modern skyscrapers reflected in a calm lake surrounded by green trees.

Atlanta is known for its southern hospitality and is very welcoming to visitors, including those travelling solo. Unfortunately, unlike cities like New York or Chicago, the centre of Atlanta isn’t very walkable, so you’ll have to be super selective about what you try to see and do.

Getting to downtown Atlanta from the airport is straightforward and efficient thanks to the MARTA train system. The airport station is conveniently located right within the domestic terminal, and it takes around 20 minutes to reach the heart of the city. Trains run about every 15 minutes, ensuring you don’t lose valuable time during your layover.

While taxis and ride shares are available, there’s not much point - they’re expensive and take longer than the train, especially during peak traffic hours.

So, now that you're ready to explore, what should you do? Here are some tailored layover itineraries to help you get a real taste of Atlanta.

4 hours layover in Atlanta

With only four hours, your short layover in Atlanta is too tight to leave the airport. Instead, explore the airport itself, which has plenty to do and a range of shops, restaurants, and art installations to keep you entertained.

If you’re in the international terminal, be sure to check out the Zimbabwean sculpture collection!

5 hours layover in Atlanta

Ferris wheel with enclosed gondolas in front of tall buildings at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta.

A five-hour layover gives you just enough time for a quick trip out of the airport, but it’s still too tight to visit the city itself. Instead, take a 5-10 minute taxi ride to the Delta Flight Museum, located just a couple of miles from the airport.

This fascinating museum is dedicated to aviation history and is home to a range of historic aircraft, including a retired Boeing 747. It’s also super informative, offering up a bunch of interesting historical info about the airline industry. The fact that it’s so close to the airport is the icing on the cake, minimising travel time and stress.

6 hours layover in Atlanta

With six hours, you have just enough time to explore one of Atlanta’s top attractions. Take the MARTA train directly to the heart of downtown and visit the Georgia Aquarium, one of the largest aquariums in the world.

Here, you'll be captivated by massive tanks filled with a mind-blowing variety of sea life, including whale sharks, manta rays, and beluga whales. After exploring underwater worlds, you’ll still have enough time to catch the MARTA back to the airport, refreshed and ready for your next flight.

7 hours layover in Atlanta

Time-lapse photo of light trails from cars on a highway leading to downtown Atlanta during sunset.

With seven hours to spare, there’s no better way to spend your layover than peeling back a layer of American history at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park. Take the MARTA from the airport to the King Memorial Station, then it's just a short walk to the site.

This historic park is home to several significant buildings including Dr. King's birth home and the Ebenezer Baptist Church where he co-pastored. To visit his birth home, you'll need to join a guided tour. It’s free but requires registration at the visitor centre on a first-come, first-served basis.

Inside the church and other buildings, you can explore exhibitions that delve into Dr. King’s life and the broader civil rights movement. This is one of the top things to do in Atlanta, and an unmissable layover activity if you have time!

8 hours layover in Atlanta

With eight hours, it’s time to tackle Atlanta’s art scene. Start your layover by heading to Midtown via MARTA. First stop: the High Museum of Art, famous for its contemporary and classic art collection of more than 15,000 works, including an impressive range of American, European, and African Art.

After roaming the artworks to your heart’s content, it’s time to try some real-deal Southern cuisine. Head over to Mary Mac's Tea Room, a local favourite just a short ride away, where you can indulge in classic soul food dishes like fried chicken, collard greens, and sweet potato pie.

10 hours layover in Atlanta

Start your 10 hour layover with a visit to the World of Coca-Cola, where you can learn about the surprising history of one of the world's most famous drinks. Interactive exhibits, a 4D movie experience, and a chance to taste over 100 different Coca-Cola flavours from all over the world? Don’t mind if we do!

After your tour, head over to Ponce City Market for lunch. This historic market has something to suit every taste, with a whole host of local Southern dishes as well as international cuisines. This is one of Atlanta's most beloved markets, and the atmosphere here is always lively.

Round off your long layover in Atlanta with a walk through Centennial Olympic Park, the centrepiece of the 1996 Olympic Games. The park, with its iconic Fountain of Rings and expansive green spaces, is perfect for stretching your legs before getting on your scheduled flight.

12 hours layover in Atlanta

Large whale shark swimming in an aquarium tank surrounded by smaller fish at the Georgia Aquarium, one of the top things to do on a layover in Atlanta. You can see the silhouettes of visitors observing the aquarium’s tank.

With a long layover in Atlanta you can see the majority of the city’s top attractions! Start your adventure by taking the MARTA train directly from the airport to the King Memorial Station. From there, it's just a short walk to the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park.

Visit Dr. King's childhood home and the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he and his father preached, and then head to the nearby Atlanta History Center in Buckhead, where you’ll find a bunch of historical exhibits including a historic farmhouse, a 1928 mansion, and the Centennial Olympic Games museum.

For lunch, grab a bite in Midtown, where you can try some Southern soul food at local favourites like Mary Mac’s Tea Room, and then either pay a visit to the Georgia Aquarium or the World of Coca-Cola, depending on what you fancy, before returning to the airport.

Overnight layover in Atlanta

Lucky you! An overnight layover in Atlanta opens up bunch of new sightseeing possibilities. After dropping your luggage off at your hotel, it’s time to delve mouth-first into Southern cuisine in Midtown. You can’t really go wrong no matter where you choose, but one of our favourite spots is South City Kitchen, famous for its signature fried chicken and top-tier shrimp and grits.

After dinner, catch a performance at the Fox Theatre, where you’ll find a busy roster of Broadway plays, touring musicians and comedy acts to choose from.

In the morning, grab breakfast (biscuits and gravy is a local favourite) and, once you're fuelled up, head over to the Atlanta BeltLine. This massive redevelopment project has transformed historic train tracks into a network of public parks, multi-use trails, and art installations, perfect for a morning walk with a coffee before returning to the airport to catch your next flight.

Best Atlanta Layover Tours You Can Book

Atlanta cityscape with a tall, prominent building in the centre against a blue sky, with some cars and people visible in the foreground.

If organising your own Atlanta layover seems daunting, consider booking a guided tour for a hassle-free way to cover the city's highlights. Here are some top options:

Perfect for long layovers, this 5-hour Atlanta city tour is the best way to squeeze a bunch of attractions into your brief stay in the city. You’ll get around via air-conditioned bus, so you won’t suffer during Atlanta’s notoriously humid summers, and you’ll make a bunch of exciting stops, including the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park and the Atlanta History Center in Buckhead.

If you’re even more pressed for time, this 1.5-hour Atlanta highlights trolley tour offers a brief overview of the city’s must-sees, including Martin Luther King’s home and Olympic Park.

Unusual Things to Do in Atlanta

Atlanta has its share of quirky and unique attractions that go beyond the usual tourist spots. Here are some of our favourites when it comes to the city's more unusual offerings!:

One of the weirdest museums in town has got to be the CDC Museum. Yes, that’s right, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has its own museum where you can learn about the history of disease prevention and the CDC's role in public health. Admission is free, making it one of the top free attractions in Atlanta.

If you’re into all things music, don’t miss the Trap Music Museum. This offbeat and niche museum pays homage to the trap music genre, a style of rap that started in Atlanta in the late 90s.

For something truly weird, visit the Doll's Head Trail at Constitution Lakes Park. This eerie yet fascinating art installation is created from discarded doll parts and other objects, all arranged by local artists and walkers. Creepy!

FAQs About Layovers in Atlanta

Crowd of people at the entrance to the Atlanta Braves stadium in Atlanta Georgia, featuring prominent signage and the Chop House Gate.

Can you leave Atlanta airport during a layover?

Yes, you can leave Atlanta airport during a layover. As long as you have enough time before your next flight, you can step out to explore the city. Just be sure to factor in time for security screening when you return to the airport.

How long of a layover do I need in Atlanta?

While the official minimum Atlanta layover time is 45 minutes, that's very tight given the size and busyness of the airport. Realistically, you'll want at least 2 hours for a domestic transfer to comfortably navigate between gates, especially if your flights are at opposite ends of the airport.

How do I get from Atlanta Airport to City Centre?

The most efficient way to travel from Atlanta Airport to the city centre is by using the MARTA train. The Airport station is located at the terminals and it takes about 20 minutes to reach downtown Atlanta. Trains run frequently, every 10-20 minutes depending on the time of day.

Check out our other airport layover guides:

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