The 10 Best Airports for Long Layovers

Could being stranded at the airport be a relaxing, entertaining experience? Maybe. Here are 10 airports where it’s possible.

Like it or not, sometimes as much of your travel time is spent in the airport as it is in the air. Between long layovers on connecting flights, flight delays, and the like, airports can become a traveler’s second home.

In many cases, being stranded in the airport is akin to being condemned to one of the Nine Circles of Hell, or in a mashup of all of them. That’s no surprise. Most airports just weren’t designed to provide much in the way of comfort or entertainment. They’re short-term holding areas for people who would rather be elsewhere.

There are exceptions, however, mostly among airports that handle large numbers of travelers flying internationally. Because flyers typically spend more time in such airports, they’ve made it a priority to provide a more engaging experience for travelers. Some of them have, anyway.

Which are the standouts?

Helpfully, Refinery29, which bills itself as “the #1 new-media brand for smart, creative and stylish women everywhere,” has compiled a list of “10 Incredible Airports Where Getting Stuck Is Actually Fun.”

While “fun airport” may be an oxymoron, the following are certainly a cut above when it comes to comfort and relaxation:

  • Changi, Singapore (five lush gardens, and an outdoor swimming pool)
  • Haneda, Tokyo (outdoor observation deck, capsule hotel, communal bath)
  • Heathrow, London (personal shopping service and lounge, 105 restaurants, some of which will prepare a picnic meal for your flight)
  • Schiphol, Amsterdam (displays of old master paintings, library, meditation center, free childcare, all in a single terminal)
  • Hong Kong Airport (air-travel museum, rooftop observatory, IMAX theater)
  • Zurich, Switzerland (bike and skate rentals, fitness center, hair salon, transit hotel)
  • Incheon, South Korea (cultural museum, musical performances, 240-seat theater, ice-skating rink)
  • Munich, Germany (world’s only airport brewery, live music in the beer garden, 18-hole miniature golf course)
  • Dubai Airport, United Arad Emirates (shopping, shopping, shopping — almost 18,000 square feet of duty-free delight)
  • San Francisco, U.S. (art exhibits, wine bars, yoga studio, manicure and massage services)

The takeaway here isn’t that you should route upcoming flights through the above airports. That’s probably impractical, and may be impossible. Rather, it’s a reminder to flyers that they may have more airport time on their hands than they planned for. So it’s worth researching in advance the amenities available at any airports on their itineraries. Then, if you find yourself stranded, you’ll know there’s a Zen garden, or a miniature golf course, just around the next bend in the terminal.

Reader Reality Check

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By Tim Winship

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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