Having to take a layover during a long flight can seem like a nightmare, but it doesn’t have to be! Airports can be destinations in themselves. We may be biased, but we definitely get excited to explore a new airport during a layover.
Because many airlines don’t offer every possible direct long-haul flight, you can expect to experience a few layovers during your travels. Luckily, many airports have traveller comfort and entertainment in mind.
If you have the ability to be flexible with your travel plans, choose an airport that offers plenty of amenities and exciting things to do. We know a thing or two about layovers. From jungles to Christmas markets, here are some of the best layover experiences (in no particular order).
A Layover Steeped in Culture: Amsterdam Schiphol Airport
If you’re travelling in Europe, there’s a good chance you’ll have a layover at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (AMS). The airport’s Holland Boulevard offers a taste of a true Dutch experience while you wait. Here, you’ll find a library, lots of food and shopping options, and even a mini version of the famous Rijksmuseum featuring famous 19th-century paintings by Dutch artists. If you’re looking to get some rest, you can book out a sleep pod in 4-hour increments at Yotel in lounge 2 or relax in the airport spa. If you want to stretch your legs, check out the airport park and ride a bike while charging your phone!
The Adventure Lover’s Layover: Singapore Changi Airport
The highlight of Singapore Changi Airport (SIN) is undoubtedly the HSBC Rain Vortex. Not only is it a beautiful water installation surrounded by lush greenery, but it also features a stunning light show. Nearby, you can walk up a suspended trampoline, visit Singapore’s largest hedge maze, or take a walk through Canopy Park. If you like greenery, you’re in luck! The airport features multiple gardens… even a butterfly garden and a cactus garden. If art is your thing, take in some of the many art installations, such as Daisy – a giant propeller that responds to your movements, or Kinetic Rain – featuring 1000 raindrops made out of copper.
An Active Layover: Incheon International Airport
Experience Korean culture without even leaving Incheon International Airport, (INC), by visiting the Traditional Cultural Center and museum. Food lovers will be spoiled for choice at Incheon International Airport – whether you’re craving something quick or something authentically Korean, you’ll find exactly what you’re hungry for. If you need a quick refresh, enjoy a shower in the airport’s complimentary shower facilities, complete with a toiletry kit for a small fee. For those who are in need of a hit of exercise after a long flight, there are plenty of options. Take a walk through any of the airport’s seven gardens, lace up your skates at the ice rink, go golfing at the airport links, or check out the virtual gym – yes, virtual!
Shop Till You Drop: Hamad International Airport
Doha’s airport is famous for its giant teddy bear (Lamp Bear), but there’s much more to see during your layover! Hamad International Airport’s shopping options range from designer boutiques to huge Duty Frees… It’s been said that the airport feels just like a high-end shopping mall. You’ll have no problem finding something you like. If you’re looking for a more relaxing way to spend your layover, check out the airport’s museum. After you’ve taken in the art, enjoy a quick snack at the café and have a look at the gift shop. And, while this isn’t technically in the airport, consider joining one of the airport’s free tours of Doha if you have enough time between flights. The tours cover all of the highlights of the city without having to plan your own itinerary.
A Layover for Art and Nature Lovers: Vancouver International Airport
Lovers of art and nature will enjoy a layover at Vancouver International Airport (YVR). The airport features a large collection of Indigenous art installations in the Pacific Passage – including a casting of Bill Reid‘s The Spirit of Haida Gwaii, and the architecture is distinctly British Columbian. Vancouver Aquarium has two satellite exhibits in the airport: a large main aquarium and a smaller jellyfish aquarium, both featuring marine life native to the area. In addition to the art and exhibits, you’ll find excellent shopping at the airport, from designer stores to large duty-frees, as well as a wide range of choices for food.
A Brilliant Layover: Chicago O’Hare
One of the best things about Chicago is the food – and just because you’re stuck at the airport during a layover, that doesn’t mean you have to miss out. You’ll find tonnes of dining options at Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) – whether you’re craving Chicago-style hot dogs or delicious grab-and-go snacks. If you’re wondering where some of the ingredients in your food are produced, discover the airport’s Urban Garden. With over a thousand planting spots, many of the restaurants in the airport source vegetables and herbs from the garden. Check out the neon light tunnel and the airport’s art installations while you wait.
Festive Fun: Munich International Airport
A layover at Munich International Airport (MUC) is a beer lover’s dream. Sample a range of Bavarian brews and visit the airport’s beer garden, complete with live music and a brewery tour. Fan of golfing? You’re in luck. The airport features mini golf at the Visitor’s Park. Here, you’ll also find a theatre with free showings of aviation films, displays of historical aircraft, and a stunning viewing platform to take it all in. But the real magic of the airport is best experienced during the holiday season, as the airport features a large German Christmas market with free hot chocolate, coffee, and tea. Sip on some mulled wine while you browse authentic German gifts and handmade crafts. There’s even an ice rink and carousel!
Take a Walk: Kuala Lumpur International Airport
There’s something for everyone at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KUL). Take a walk through the airport’s Jungle Boardwalk in the Main Terminal. You’ll feel the humidity and experience the freshness of the jungle, almost as if you’ve left the airport! If you’re not nature-inclined, check out a film for free at the theatre and relax on a comfortable reclining seat. You can also explore the large Gateway Mall and shop for just about anything you’re looking for. The airport features an impressive viewing deck that offers an expansive view of planes coming and going – the perfect place to take some photos.
This list is not exhaustive, there are tonnes of great airports just waiting to be explored. Which is your favourite airport for a layover? Let us know in the comments below!