Whether you're traveling across the country or across the globe, there's no doubt that airports are where many travelers get their first impressions of their destinations. It's not just a place for airplanes to land and take off but also a place where tourists can get some idea of the local language, culture, and cuisine!
Here are RoadGoat's favorite airports in each region that will deliver amazing experiences.
Portland International Airport
There's a reason why PDX, located in - Portland, Oregon, USA - is named the best airport in the United States! Where else can you find an airport featuring a retro carpet that's adored by hipsters around the world? The carpet has its own instagram account with over 20,000 followers and its pattern has been used for Nike and Adidas shoes, among other things.
PDX also has its own spa, a barbershop, and a mini-movie theater where you can actually watch some free flicks. Moreover, Deschutes and Hopworks breweries are located here, along with convenience stores that sell cold craft beer from local favorites such as Cascade Brewery. Go ahead and take one right to your gate.
To further its artsy and quirky image, PDX also has volunteer musicians that play anything from classical, jazz, or contemporary music for travelers to enjoy.
And has a branch of world-famous Powell's Books, the world's largest independent bookstore. Don't miss your flight while you lose hours in here!
It's never a dull moment at PDX.
Vancouver International Airport
With each of its terminal buildings representing a specific geographic and cultural region, YVR - located in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada - houses the world's largest collection of Northwest Coast Native art. Each stunning piece of artwork and architecture reflects the diversity of British Columbia's flourishing landscape and people. One cannot miss these sculptures that are placed around the airport. Thus, YVR is it's own museum of a sort.
YVR even has its own aquarium and hosts its own honey bees! How cool is that?
In addition, this airport offers a pharmacy, dental and medical clinic if one happens to need some care. Other cool amenities include a spa, a 24 hour nursery, and ambassador dogs for you to cuddle with before your trip. This airport is like an adventure on its own, and one can never get bored of it!
Princess Juliana International Airport
The Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM), the main airport for the island of Saint Martin (also spelled Sint Maarten in Dutch). The island is part Dutch and part French. What really makes SXM memorable is the amazing close-up views of plane landings at Maho Beach. Where else in the world can one watch a plane glide overhead just a few feet above? Grab a beer at Sunset Bar and Grill next door and watch out for the jet blasts!
Singapore Changi International Airport
Ranked the world's best airport a whopping seven consecutive years, the Singapore Changi Airport (SIN) is no doubt a luxury destination on its own. In 2019, SIN opened up the "Jewel" - a luxury mall that doubles as an indoor rainforest. How amazing is that?
The Jewel hosts the world's largest indoor waterfall, which is seven stories tall and falls into a lagoon below. It's truly a wonder to behold. Travelers can walk through the forest trails or take the skytrain (which runs next the waterfall).
SIN also boasts a Canopy Park that has a 164 feet long glass bridge that's 75 feet off the ground, complete with mirror and hedge mazes.
In addition, there's a free movie theater, butterfly garden, sunflower garden, cactus garden and more! There are always things to do and places to explore at this airport.
Combining beautiful architecture, nature, and amenities, it's no wonder SIN is the best in the world.
Koh Samui International Airport
Koh Samui International Airport (USM), located on the Thai island of Koh Samui, is named one of the most beautiful airports in the world. Surrounded by its famous luxury beach resorts, dense jungle, and coconut groves, the airport architecture and interior itself reflects the tropical nature of its surroundings. It has a persona of a tropical paradise, with most of its facilities being outdoors!
USM also offers travelers a nice spa and stores where they can shop in. Unlike most airport malls, stores and restaurants are located outdoors, where they're surrounded by coconut trees on Samui Park Avenue. This airport is like a resort in itself, emulating the gorgeous nature of Koh Samui right when passengers step off the plane. Even the smoking area is beautiful!
Haneda International Airport
Haneda Airport (HND) - located in Tokyo, Japan - is Japan's largest and busiest airport for good reason! Perhaps more than any other airport in the world, Haneda captures the breadth of its country's local culture.
There's a lot of amazing things one can do at this airport, which includes crossing a 25m replica bridge of the actual Nihonbashi ('Japan Bridge') in Tokyo. HND also has 'Edo Alley' (also known as Edo Koji), where it's like an actual mini-street of Edo-inspired architecture right inside the airport itself. Travelers can head there to grab udon, green tea, and yakitori while reveling in the ancient feeling of Edo design.
If you're lucky enough to have access to the ANA Lounge, you can do a line of sake tastings between flights.
Additionally, tourists can rent a Robohon - a cute mini guide robot. This robot has a guide app, built-in phone, camera, and email that'll help tourists get around Tokyo.
No Japanese experience would be complete without a dose of Japanese pop culture. Head to Tokyo Pop Town where you can get your favorite anime, manga, or choose from a wide selection of Hello Kitty plushes.
You can also enjoy the much-heralded Japanese fall foliage season, known as Koyo or Momijigari, right in the terminal.
To top it all off, HND has capsule hotels if one's in need of rest - a true Japanese experience!
Incheon International Airport
Incheon International Airport (ICN) - located in Seoul, South Korea - is the main hub of the country. This airport is one of the top airports in Asia for very good reasons. Blending modern and cultural styles, ICN has a cultural museum where people can try on traditional clothing, make handcrafts and watch performances.
In addition, there's a 72 hole golf course where golf-lovers can play and take golf lessons. It's perfect for those with long layovers! For movie-lovers, there are two movie theaters that show movies in seven different languages.
Watch some Korean dramas there as well. ICN also hosts seven indoor gardens with different themes, along with an ice skating rink for around $5! It's great for those who want exercise while enjoying nature or show off those ice skating skills.
Indira Gandhi International Airport
Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL) - located in New Delhi, India - is a major hub and named after a former prime minister, and one of the few airports that has achieved carbon neutral status. This airport has many beautiful sculptures representing the country's culture and beliefs.
Travelers can stay at one of their first class lounges, some which include showers. There are also baby care facilities and play area for children, plus a gaming area for family fun! DEL provides a medical clinic and a pharmacy to ensure the health of its travelers. For aspiring pilots, there's a flight simulator that offers more than 24,000 different airfields to choose from!
Sleek and well-designed, it's no wonder the Zurich Airport (ZRH) - located in Zurich, Switzerland - is named one of the top airports in the world. Although it's not a gigantic airport, ZRH offers a lot to its travelers.
The airport has a large nature preserve, which is highlighted at the environmental exhibition.
Many people love the Swiss eateries here, from restaurants, cafes, and bars. Our favorite is the Sports Bar Terrace in the Airside Center. Where else can you drink a coffee this close to airplanes?
Or enjoy one of the many Swiss dairy delights!
It's also the perfect opportunity to shop for some Swiss made chocolates, watches, and jewelry! In addition, this airport offers salons, showers, and a gym at the connecting Radisson Blue Hotel. One can also ride the quick SkyMetro for transportation and get tickets for a 75-min bus tour of the airport that offers an inside peek! For those who are looking to explore the majestic countryside, the airport offers equipment for avid explorers/travelers to rent (such as bikes, skates, walking poles).
Amsterdam Airport Schipol
Amsterdam Airport Schipol (AMS) - located in Amsterdam, Netherlands - is not only the busiest and largest airport in the Netherlands, it's also the only airport in the world that's still located in the same spot after 90 years. One can also get married here!
In addition to the numerous shops and restaurants that offer authentic Dutch dishes, travelers can visit the Rijksmuseum annex within the airport. This art museum has both classical and contemporary art, and it's free admission! Get free hugs as well!
AMS also houses the world's first permanent airport library, boasting over 1,000 books by Dutch writers, translated into several languages. It's a great place to learn about the Dutch culture and history!
For those with long layovers, AMS has its own airport hotel and sleep cabins as an alternative option. And don't forget to indulge in some intense selection of dutch cheese!
Munich International Airport
Munich International Airport (MUC) - located in Munich, Germany - is called one of the best airports in the continent for several reasons. Munich is located in Bavaria, a state known for its beer culture. As a result, MUC was the first airport in the world to have its own brewery, Airbrau! Don't miss this chance to have an airport-made beer in their outdoor beer garden.
Surfers love this airport because it houses the world's largest man-made standing wave where surfers can have fun; sometimes there is a pro judging contest here too. Take some time to watch those surfers! MUC also has Visitor's Park, which offers a golf course, playground, and historic aircrafts for plane-lovers. Additionally, travelers can get some rest at Napcab sleep cabins.
During the winter, the airport comes to life with a traditional German Christmas Market as well as an ice skating rink!
Heydar Aliyev International Airport
Branded as globally acclaimed when it comes to its architecture and interior design, Heydar Aliyev International Airport (GYD) - located in Baku, Azerbaijan - is one of the most beautiful airports to behold. The inside of the airport is full of sleek wooden structures, including giant wooden 'cocoons' that welcome its travelers. Each of the cocoons has cafes, stores, bars, kiosks, and other amenities. The contemporary approach to this airport truly reflects the modernity of airport designs.
There are plenty of gorgeous lounges for travelers to admire the inside views. Free sleeping pods are offered on the first floor as well. Interestingly, GYD has duty-free shops in both the arrivals and departure area! For those which children, there is a baby care area as well as a play area for kids. Step in here and it'll feel more like an artistic masterpiece than an airport.
Hamad International Airport
The Hamad International Airport(DOH) - located in Doha, Qatar - is known for its luxurious and lavish atmosphere. The architecture is modern, sleek, and elegant - fascinating many travelers who come early to explore the airport. Interestingly, DOH has 20 art pieces, some of which are rather large. Tourists love taking selfies with the "Lamp Bear", a giant yellow teddy bear sitting under a black lamp.
To add that luxury component, one can ride in a futuristic-looking indoor train to their gate! Not to mention, DOH has its own gym where passengers can take a swim at their 25m pool, get pampered at the spa, and play squash. As if the airport isn't posh enough, high-end boutiques, furniture, and restaurants are spread throughout the buildings. Be sure to make time for coffee and dates, a signature of authentic hospitality.
Dubai International Airport
DXB - located in Dubai, UAE - is a posh airport that is loved by all passengers who've set foot here. In fact, Dubai International Airport has the world's fastest free (for 60 min) Wi-Fi, averaging a download speed of 39.50 mbps. With this, anyone within the airport can stream TV shows for free! If the Wi-Fi isn't convincing enough, DXB has its own zen garden and McGettigan - a well known Irish pub where travelers can grab a beer at. Additionally, the airport offers a swimming pool, spa, jacuzzi, and sauna! It's the perfect blend of exercise and relaxation. There are plenty of events at DXB, such as the annual Winter Wonderland!
For those needing a place to stay while on a stopover, DXB has a 5-start hotel, complete with luxury amenities. Finally, for those with children, there's a climbing area and gaming zone where kids can also fully enjoy this airport! Staying true to its reputation as luxury and high-class, Dubai's airport is an adventure.
Brisbane International Airport
Adored with sleek architecture and local artwork on its walls, Brisbane International Airport (BNE) - located Brisbane, Australia - is the third largest airport in the continent. The cool thing about this airport is that its Plaza Premium Lounge is open to everyone as per pay entry instead of needing a First Class plane ticket to get inside. Other ways to relax include a Wellness Spa, salons, and free showers. For those who love whisky, there's a 100 Whisky tasting bar where travelers can sample whisky from all over the world.
BNE also has The Village Green, a large faux-lawn for those who want to stretch or do some yoga. There's the Kingsford Smith Memorial for those who love aviation history. Lastly, you can play some golf at Golf Central BNE.
Wellington International Airport
A small, cozy, and quirky airport, Wellington International Airport (WLG) - located in Wellington, New Zealand - is known for its two gigantic eagle installations. These soaring bird sculptures were inspired by the second Hobbit trilogy and features the Wizard Gandalf the Grey atop of one of the eagles. Visitors may also find Gollum reaching for a trout above the food court!
It's no wonder this is the airport to go for many Lord of the Rings fans. In addition, the airport has its own 4-star hotel - complete with a restaurant, bar, and meeting rooms for business travelers.