Travel is mostly fun, but hanging out at the airport? Sometimes not so much. Many international gateways these days are fine for hanging out, with their shops, bars, and dining, but there are a select few that can be downright enjoyable thanks to some special – sometimes surprising – amenities, Here’s a quintet of the best examples:
Hong Kong: Movies & More
HKIA on Chek Lap Kok Island can boast among the most developed leisure options of any airport in the world may well go to In addition to several hotels as well s hundreds of restaurants and shopping outlets, cool perks include a 350-seat IMAX cinema featuring Hong Kong‘s largest movie screen, nearly 14 metres high and more than 22 wide (46 by 72 feet) and showing both 2D and 3D films. There’s also an indoor golf club with simulators; an Aviation Discovery Centre with a bunch of fun, interactive exhibits as well as a flight simulator; and a soothing spa. What’s more, over the next five years, a project called SkyCity aims to add hundreds of dining, drinking, shopping, and entertainment options – enough to make it a destination unto itself.
Madrid: Harmonising Body & Mind
Beyond the soaring, inspiring modern architecture of international Terminal 4 of Madrid Adolfo Suárez Barajas Airport (MAD) and its many shopping and dining possibilities, passengers can find an oasis of relaxation and pampering at Esenza by Sha, a “wellness and beauty space” run by the world-famous SHA Wellness Clinic resort and medical spa on the Alicante coast. Its impressive list of services includes relaxing face, back, and deep-tissue massages, but also beauty treatments such as waxing, manicure and pedicure, hairdressing, and facial cleansing. You can also pick up healthy salads, snacks, and drinks, and even take a free yoga or tai chi class. All treatments and classes are designed to take from maximum 50 minutes down to as little as ten (!), so as to put you in a glowing mood with time to spare before your flight.
Munich: Fresh Brews & a Snooze
One of Europe’s largest airports, MUC has its own pretty cool perks: a Visitors Park with a cool adventure playground and family-friendly interactive exhibits; its very own Airbräu beer brewery (this is Deutschland, after all); and perhaps most appreciated of all by exhausted travellers, Napcabs, which are sleeping pods rentable for a minimum of two hours and equipped with separate, WiFi-enabled work spaces if you’d rather work in peace than sleep.
San Francisco: Sleeping, Playing & Pets!
Not long ago (four years, to be precise), SFO was rated the best in North America by Skytrax for good reasons. For example, around 40 art exhibits and even a little aviation museum for avgeeks. Sleeping rooms with showers. Several Kids’ Spot play areas. Several yoga rooms. But perhaps the coolest thing of all about SFO is its Wag Brigade programme, which bring a calvalcade of critters into the terminals near boarding gates to help lighten passengers’ moods – and especially to de-stress anxious flyers. The brigade is formed by more than a dozen adorable doggos from shelters, along with LiLou the pig and Alex the Flemish giant rabbit (and yes, most of them have their own Instagram accounts).
Singapore: Butterflies, Adventure & Taking a Dip
One of Asia and the world’s busiest transportation hubs, Changi Airport (SIN) won another previous top spot with Skytrax thanks to amenities like not just playgrounds and sleeping spaces but also the world’s first airport butterfly garden, in the middle of one of their larger gardens (something nature lovers and kids will of course love); a verdant canopy park with mazes, a 12-metre slide, an elaborate net trampoline and a canopy bridge overhead; an aviation-themed multimedia studio; a pair of cinemas (although these are closed at the moment); and even a pool and jacuzzi at the airport’s transit hotel.
Vancouver: Airport Meets Ocean
Located on Seaview Island in the Pacific Ocean right near Vancouver, YVR naturally boasts magnificent marine views. But it also goes the extra nautical mile with a 114,000-litre (more than 25,000-gallon) aquarium featuring more than 5,000 examples of local fish and other sea life. How’s that for a unique and awesome aquatic amenity?