10 Coolest Airports
With everything from golf courses and beer gardens to striking design and monumental art instillations, there are some airports where you won’t care if your plane has been delayed.
Hamad International Airport, Doha, Qatar
The oil-rich nation of Qatar has poured billions into building this sleek, glitzy airport ahead of hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2022. Boutiques not selling high-end handbags, perfumes and designer fashion specialize in massive displays of duty-free gold and diamonds. Coffee shops even have gold-plated counters. There are life-size animatronic dinosaurs, and a giant installation in the shape of a golden teddy bear too.
Changi Airport, Singapore
Asia’s leading air hub just keeps getting better. So far there are around 340 stores spread out over three terminals, with many more planned for a fourth terminal too. With an outdoor swimming pool, a rooftop cactus garden, a butterfly garden, ‘hawker stalls’ selling local dishes, eight massage and spa salons, free movies, snooze chairs and hotels, you might decide to move in.
Helsinki Vantaa Airport, Helsinki, Finland
You’d be forgiven for thinking you’ve flown into a set of the Jetsons animated sitcom when you fly into Finland’s main airport. There are plush blue swivel-pod chairs, designer furniture everywhere, galleries and exhibitions, an art-house cinema, and a roof terrace Arctic Bar inspired by the Northern Lights. The Finnair Premium Lounge even has a sauna.
Madrid Barajas Airport, Madrid, Spain
Madrid’s airport is huge, and post-modernist terminal four is the largest and most impressive of all. It’s topped by a dramatic undulating bamboo roof held up by tree-like columns and punctuated by large curving skylights that allow the sunshine to beam into the interior. It’s won several major architectural awards.
Hong Kong International Airport, Hong Kong
One of the busiest airports on the planet is located on reclaimed land next to the sea. The food courts are among the best anywhere, but it’s the technology that really makes this airport stand out. There are all sorts of sockets to recharge things, free Wi-Fi everywhere, a flight simulator, and the largest Imax theatre in China. Outside is a nine-hole golf course.
Incheon International Airport, Seoul, South Korea
South Korea’s flagship airport ranks alongside Singapore’s Changi Airport when it comes to winning awards. There are free showers, nap rooms with recliners, themed gardens, a casino, a spa and sauna, free shuttles to an 18-hole airport golf course, and a Korean Traditional Cultural Experience Centre, where you can paint a wooden key chain guided by a kimono-clad helper.
Munich Airport, Germany
Being home to the world’s largest beer festival you’d expect Munich Airport to serve up a brew or two. However, you might not expect a full-blown brewery serving several styles of beer, with names like Jetstream, Mayday and Aviator. You can tour the brewery, eat sausages and dumplings in the beer garden, and listen to oompah-bands in the evenings. Sip mulled wine in the 50-stall airport Christmas Market over the festive season.
Marrakesh Menara Airport, Marrakesh, Morocco
This desert city’s terminal extension is known for its extraordinary architecture. The façade is made up of metal panels featuring stylized Islamic ornamental designs and sculptured windows that make it look like a massive white honeycomb. The light plays across the interior, making it feel as if you are in some sort of magic lamp.
Wellington Airport, New Zealand
New Zealand is still mad about hobbits and Wellington’s airport runs rings around anywhere else when it comes to Middle-earth. Giant sculptures here include the head of Smaug the dragon, which has lifelike blinking eyes and puffs smoke. Then there’s Gandalf the Grey, riding on the back of one of two giant eagles with wings that span almost 15 metres, and an enormous Gollum catching fish.
Beijing Capital International Airport, Beijing, China
Bright and shiny Terminal 3 is the second largest airport terminal in the world, after Terminal 3 in Dubai. It’s shaped like a Chinese dragon, with scales on the roof, and a light-filled interior painted in the traditional colour scheme of red and yellow. A Feng Shui expert even advised on the design of the arrival area. Stay next door at the luxurious Langham Place Beijing Capital Airport.