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An Irish flight attendant’s guide to the five best cities in which to spend 24 hours

Where do flight attendants go when they only have one day in a big city?

You have exactly 24 hours to spend in one of the most amazing cities in the world. The clock starts ticking with the click of your hotel room door.

You must quickly ditch your suitcase, rip off your uniform and hop into the shower. There is just enough time for a quick make-up refresh and spritz of something under 100mls before you head out to savour the nightlife. This is the life of a flight attendant for an international airline.

You must jam as much fun as you can into those 24 hours in Rio, Paris, New York or Miami, because you never know when the airline-scheduling gods will allow you to return.

Like Cinderella waiting for midnight to chime, soon you will be turned back into a pumpkin, handing out chicken and beef at 35,000ft.


But for these precious few hours, Cinderella will go to the ball, so what should she do and where should she go?

After 10 years living the glamorous life of an international flight attendant, I have picked up a few tricks on the best ways to cram as much as possible into an incredibly short period of time.

So, allow me to give you the lowdown on the five most exciting cities to spend 24 hours in, and what to do while you’re there.

1) Singapore

This super city is a marvel to behold. Anyone who visits Singapore is struck by just how clean and efficient it is. You can walk down the street at night feeling safe and secure, knowing you will struggle to find even a scrap of chewing gum on the pavement. It is one of those rare cities where you could leave your phone in a bar and come back an hour later to find it still there.

My favourite spot to start off the night is Chijmes, a collection of charming bars and restaurants located on the site of a former Catholic convent.

A trip to Singapore wouldn’t be complete without a cocktail on top of the fabulous Marina Bay Sands. Like everything in Singapore, it’s pricey, but well worth the money to experience the grandeur of sipping a cocktail with an expansive view over the whole city.

2) Barcelona

For something a little closer to home, you can soak up the warmth of a Catalan welcome here.

This city is abuzz with creativity, excitement and magic, and has drawn a huge diaspora of Irish people over the years.

Start the night off by lining your stomach with a traditional tapas meal at Cerveceria Catalana, before hitting the trendy cocktail bar Mr Robinson to savour the sangria and Spanish nightlife. Salud!

3) San Francisco

Without a doubt, one of the best cities in the world.

With its distinctively eclectic vibe, you can see why Frisco was the birthplace of the hippie movement and is still a countercultural hotspot today. The Castro district is famous around the world. My favourite spot there is The Midnight Sun, which has been a hub of activity for almost 50 years and is known as one of the first video bars in the US. If this bar could talk, it would have some wild stories to tell.

Some of the most famous and infamous LQBTQIA+ icons have patronised The Midnight Sun. It’s an incredibly friendly and inclusive space where a solo traveller will feel comfortable propped up at the bar, ordering a mojito and enjoying an afternoon drag show. Be sure to bring plenty of dollar bills for the tips!

If you’re still standing after the Drag show, head across the San Francisco Bridge to the charming little enclave of Sausalito, where you can enjoy an ambient and relaxed seaside meal in the many quaint restaurants and bars. Far from the thronging crowds of tourists on Pier 45, you’ll feel just like a local.

4) New York City

Most international flight attendants will have a love/hate relationship with the Big Apple, as you can guarantee they will be spending more time on Manhattan layovers than layovers anywhere else.

On a recent trip, a seasoned crew member told me she was “so sick of these Manhattan night stops”. I balked. How could anyone tire of the concrete jungle where dreams are made? I still get a thrill walking around Manhattan, feeling like Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City.

If I’m staying in Midtown, I’ll start the day with a leisurely stroll around Central Park, where I’ll prop myself up at the bar in Tavern on the Green while celebrity spotting. This is a gorgeous little gem of a place, perfect for brunch and a mimosa and one of the places John Lennon used to frequent.

While on the Upper East Side, head over to J G Melon for one of the best burgers in New York. Then get the subway down to the east Village for a trip to the oldest Irish Bar in New York, McSorley’s.

Don’t be afraid of the subway, it’s safe during the day, you can use contactless payment and it’s the quickest way to zip around Manhattan. The bar staff in McSorley’s are the friendliest in the city and might even give you an impromptu history lesson, as the walls are covered in fascinating relics, including the original WANTED poster for Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth.

5) Buenos Aires

There will always be a special place in my heart for the city known as the Paris of South America. The locals, or “porteños” as they’re called, are friendly, outgoing, charismatic and love to party! Be prepared to be swept off your feet by the enthusiastic welcome you’ll receive.

Us Irish will love Buenos Aires as the partying never ends, with bars going on until the very early hours. Start the night off with, in my opinion, the best steak restaurant in Buenos Aires, La Brigada, in the San Telmo district, where the jovial owner Hugo Echevarrieta will greet you warmly at the door and show you to your table.

After your steak and Malbec, pop over to Mitos Argentinos also in San Telmo – for some live Argentinian rock music.

Buenos Aires is still buzzing with excitement from their World Cup win, so now is a great time to soak up some of that energy. If you have 24 hours to spend in BA, be prepared for a wild night!

  • Paula Gahan is an international flight attendant and hosts The Bad Air Hostess podcast on Apple and Spotify. Every week she interviews cabin crew and takes listeners behind the galley curtain to find out what life is really like
  • If you live overseas and would like to share your experience with Irish Times Abroad, email with a little information about you and what you do