Few travelers can honestly say they look forward to a long layover and even fewer are likely to admit to raising a smile upon hearing a delay announcement. Fear not, though, because gone are the days of unimaginative food options, uncomfortable seating and a general lack of anything more exciting than a newsstand in many major airports. Today’s airports have evolved to offer us everything from Michelin-starred eateries to art exhibitions, golf, live entertainment and even rooftop swimming. Next time you are caught up at one of the following airports, you might just think twice about reaching your departure gate in time.
Changi Airport, Singapore
There’s so much to see and do at this serial winner of Skytrax’s World Airport Award that you’ll want to spend a fortnight here and not just a few hour’s delay. You can go for a swim and sip on a Singapore Sling at a poolside bar, browse exhibits by known artists, catch a movie and ride the world’s tallest airport slide. If that’s not enough then a butterfly garden and cactus garden are just two of several themed gardens. Drink and dine at over 100 bars, cafes and restaurants. Shop at luxury brand outlets and prepare for your flight with spa treatments. Should you exhaust the attractions then take a free 2.5-hour Singapore bus tour.
Hamad International Airport, Doha, Qatar
Art lovers will rejoice when waiting at Qatar’s principal airport. The moment you set foot inside this modern terminal complex you are met by Urs Fischer’s Lamp Bear, a giant teddy bear with its head stuck inside a huge lamp. Besides this there are works by British sculptor Marc Quinn, the Italian Rudolf Stingel and a beautiful collection of oryx by Tom Classen. Kids will particularly enjoy the playground, made up of eight bronze sculptures by Tom Otterness. Airport dining options range from Arabic to Italian and everything in between while shopaholics can pass time at over 50 outlets.
Hong Kong International Airport, Hong Kong
A plethora of culinary, shopping, sporting and entertainment attractions will fend off any boredom in Hong Kong. Discover the evolution of toys at The Legend of Hong Kong Toys exhibition and catch a movie at the IMAX cinema or drop into the interactive Aviation Discovery Centre. Play a round of 9 or 18 holes at a virtual golf course and let the kids run off some steam at an educational theme park. With Asian classics and international fast food joints there are dining options for all tastes. Free Wi-Fi and pay-as-you-go lounges will keep you connected and relaxed before departure.
Incheon Airport, Seoul, South Korea
Similar to its Asian counterparts, Seoul’s international airport goes all out to make sure travelers leave with long-lasting memories. You’ll find dozens of cultural attractions, including the chance to make Korean crafts, watch Talchum masked dances, browse ancient artifacts and attend live concerts. The airport even has two observatories, where you can check out the runway action and admire the surrounding countryside. Need more? Check out the casino, ice skating rink and putting green. Or take a transit tour to a Hanok village and the temples, markets and beaches situated in and around Seoul.
Terminal 5 London Heathrow, London, England
Heathrow’s exclusive British Airways and One World terminal is a slick and modern masterpiece by notable British-Italian architect Richard Rogers. Eat and drink yourself into nirvana at the impressive drinking and dining offering. Sample the exquisite menu of the Michelin-starred Plane Food by celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, sip coffees at a Jamie Oliver cafe or enjoy everything from champagne and oysters to tea and pastries at Fortnum & Mason. Armani, Bulgari and Harrod’s are just a selection of the upscale brands with outlets here. Why not take advantage of the complimentary personal shopping service?
Marco Polo Airport, Venice, Italy
True to the style of Venice, the airport of this watery Italian city has its own boathouse. That’s right, you can cruise in and out on board a vaporetto water bus from the islands of Burano, Lido and Murano. This is ideal if you didn’t get the chance to visit or want to snap one last photo of the Rialto Bridge and Saint Mark’s Basilica. Anyone that prefers to stay close to the terminal can continue the Venetian traditions by ordering cappuccinos at the airport’s canal side coffeeshop.
McCarran International Airport, Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.A.
Sin City’s airport has hundreds of casino-style slot machines spread around its two terminals. So pull up a chair, watch the reels spin and hope Lady Luck is on your side. Your flight will eventually depart, so, unlike at a casino, you’ll almost be forced to leave at some point. Both terminals also have exhibitions from the airport’s Aviation Museum in addition to eclectic dining and shopping, therefore there’s plenty to keep you occupied beside just gaming.