6 of the World’s Coolest Airports to Spend a Layover in
Forget shopping malls. Some of the top airports in the world not only offer a top-notch shopping experience, but also unparalleled entertainment and dining options. Going above and beyond to impress foreign visitors, these airports are a destination on their own. Locals flock to get a taste of the country’s bests (for instance, the largest cinema screen, the most delectable eats, etc.), and jetsetters fly in for no other reason than to see what all the fuss is about. Here are the top six airports that will make your stopovers feel like a breeze—spoiler alert: they’re all situated in Asia.
Singapore Changi Airport
Topping off this list is the undefeated champion, Singapore Changi Airport, which has just unveiled Jewel, a monumental mall in the shape of a glass dome with the world’s tallest indoor waterfall at 40m. Before this addition, its rooftop pool, 24-hour movie theatres, Xbox and Playstation-equipped entertainment decks, four-storey tall indoor slide, and flotilla of luxury boutiques have long impressed travellers the world over. Now, you can hop over to the immersive forest-themed waterfall wonderland at Jewel, which holds regular light shows, while shopping at Foot Locker and dining at Shake Shack, before losing yourself in an actual Pokemon Centre.
Tokyo International Airport
More commonly known as Haneda Airport, this 1st runner-up has been lauded as the best domestic airport and the cleanest airport in the world. It’s the kind of destination where anyone can spend an entire day in without feeling the fatigue. With a charming indoor street market (known as the Edo Alley) food and shopping area, and a replica of the 1911 Nihonbashi River bridge, this airport certainly doesn’t feel like one. It’s more like a food paradise with an open-air observation deck, where you can watch as the planes land and take off. You can even rent a RoBoHon, a mini walking robo-guide that also doubles as an unorthodox smartphone.
Incheon International Airport
At this South Korean gem, also known as the world’s top transit airport, efficient customer service, diverse and iconic food options (including street food samples), and alluring luxury retailers are all a given. What makes the Incheon International Airport a cut above the rest is its cultural treats. Foreign travellers get to experience the local culture with Korean crafting workshops, traditional shows, and even try on a hanbok for a photoshoot, all for free. The kids are also well taken care of with indoor play zones that include an artificial ice skating rink.
Narita International Airport
Remember those Gacha vending machines that dispense toys and other paraphernalia encased in large plastic balls? With a glorious 170 of them lined up in the basement of Terminal 2, this airport is giving conventional arcades a run for their money. Over at Terminal 3, colour-coded indoor running tracks (a quirky, yet ever so hilarious addition) guide passengers towards departure and arrival halls. Minimalist Muji lounge furniture and a canteen-style dining area add to its aesthetic appeal. Venture towards Gallery Toto, an unexpected exhibition of state-of-the-art water closets, for either some comic relief or design inspiration.
Hong Kong International Airport
Proving that Asia is dominating the airport market is the Hong Kong International Airport, which boasts a hanging replica of an old-timey Farman biplane—a welcome blast from the past amidst the contemporary interiors of the airport. While its IMAX cinema features the largest and widest cinema screen in Hong Kong, its 24-hour premium lounge offers private napping nooks, shower facilities and Internet-enabled workstations, making sure your layover is as painless as possible. Head to GreenLive Air, an indoor golf club, to try your hand at a simulated game with the little ones, or nerd out at the free-entry Aviation Discovery Centre with its flight simulator.
Hamad International Airport
Opened in 2014, this fairly new airport in Qatar is, first and foremost, an architectural marvel with a giant undulating roof, inspired by the Arabian Gulf. Inside, it breaks records with two of the world’s longest runways, and a mammoth 2,100sqm public mosque that looks like a giant jewel. A 25m technicolour lap pool sits at the top of the building, where ample natural light streams through its glass roof. While the Hong Kong International Airport has its biplane, the Hamad International Airport has a 7m-tall bright yellow teddy bear as the centrepiece of its duty-free hall. Sculpted by Swiss artist Urs Fischer, it originally resided in New York’s Park Avenue, before it was purchased by the royal family of Qatar for about $6.8 million.
Image Credit: Jewel Changi Airport