These 11 Airports Give You a Reason to Miss Your Flight
Nobody wants to get stuck at the airport, right? Not so fast! Airports the world over seem to have gotten the memo that passengers need more than a newsstand or shoeshine during a layover, however long it may be. Airport culture is a new catchphrase. In-terminal museums are popping up at different hubs around the world, and then there are the quirky things that take "just passing through" to a new level, whether that’s a tropical rooftop swimming pool with a bar in Singapore (pictured) or shuttle bus to volcanic spa bliss in Iceland. The details vary, but the theme is the same: airports with personality. You might actually want to miss your flight.
Athens International Airport, Greece
On your way home but missing the Acropolis already? Well, there’s a museum for that, right inside the main terminal building of the Athens airport, on the upper departures level. There, you’ll find some 172 archaelogical artifacts that date from the Neolithic and Early Hellenic to post-Byzantine periods. Perhaps the coolest part is that the relics were found in Mesogaia, the area right around the airport itself. Take a peek daily, 6am –11pm.
San Francisco International Airport, U.S.A.
It should come as no surprise that innovative San Francisco would take airport culture to new heights. Just about everywhere you go, you’ll see contemporary artworks on display. But there’s also a self-contained permanent exhibition, the Louis A. Turpen Aviation Museum, located pre-security on the departures level of the International Terminal Main Hall (no airline ticket required). Its extensive aviation collection includes everything from model planes to vintage flight attendant uniforms and even some far-out airplane seats from the 1970s—think psychedelic floral print fabric. It’s open daily from 10am to 4:30pm, and it's free.
McCarran International Airport, Las Vegas, U.S.A.
What happens in Las Vegas… might also happen at the city’s busy McCarran International Airport. That’s because uniquely here, slot machines are located throughout the terminals. So if your Vegas vacay left you with no time to play the slots—or with no interest in stopping—you’re covered. The best part of gambling on a layover? You can’t part with too many coins, because at some point you’ll have a plane to catch. Just remember: You must be over 21.
Hamad International Airport, Doha, Qatar
It’s no secret that to find some of the most architecturally innovative airports, you should look to Gulf countries such as Qatar. Less known is that one of these, Doha’s Hamad International Airport, boasts a fantastic collection of cutting-edge contemporary art that gives added reason to linger. We’re talking big installations here: the colossal Lamp Bear by Urs Fischer (pictured), Arctic Nurseries of El Dorado by Marc Quinn, Untitled by Rudolf Stingel, and more from the biggest names in modern art today.
Changi Airport, Singapore
Singapore’s Changi Airport has well-deserved reputation as one of the world’s best airports. Where else can you sip a Singapore Sling in your bathing suit from a Balinese-themed rooftop pool as you watch the planes take off? The pool is located right across from the Transit Hotel at Terminal 1. If you don’t fancy the water, check out the Cactus Garden, on the roof of the Departure Transit Lounge, Level Three. At the center of this collection of more than 100 kinds of cacti and arid plants, you’ll find another bar. Inside, you'll find another garden: the Hello Kitty Orchid Garden, a café that never closes.
Incheon International Airport, Seoul, South Korea
You don’t have to be Tiger Woods to enjoy a little action on the putting green, although the airplanes may remind you that this is no ordinary golf course. There’s a full-size golf course minutes from the main terminal, too: the Sky72 Golf Club. And, of course, an ice rink. Or join a free crafts session at one of its Traditional Culture Centers and take home a jewelry box that you made out of hanji, a traditional Korean paper.
Marco Polo Airport, Venice, Italy
Venice’s Marco Polo Airport comes with its own boathouse—and why wouldn’t it? After all, we’re talking about a town where the streets are made of water. And that makes the Venetian airport one of the coolest anywhere, with infrastructure in place designed to help you make the most of a layover. Right outside the arrivals hall, follow the covered walkway to the airport's dock. Have a waterside cappuccino before taking one of the vaporetto (water bus) boats making stops at Piazza San Marco, Rialto, Fondamenta Nuove and Le Guglie. This could also be your chance to visit the lagoon islands of Murano and Burano—the airport boats go there, too.
Keflavik International Airport, Reykjavik, Iceland
Missed your flight out of Reykjavik’s Keflavik International Airport? Great! All the more reason to make a break for Iceland’s famous Blue Lagoon, which is less than 7 miles from the runways. This prismatic blue lagoon of geothermal sea water is chiseled into the black volcanic landscape, and it's rightfully one of the country’s top sights. It offers an array of spa services, too, so you can work out the kinks of a long flight. Hourly transfers from Keflavik to the lagoon make it easy to soak your stress away instead of killing time in the terminal.
Philadelphia International Airport, U.S.A.
All things considered, you could do worse than to be stuck in Philadelphia. In fact, Philly International is one of the more art-smart airports, with a long-established program of rotating exhibits appearing throughout the terminals. There may be a whopping 20 exhibits to be found at various points in Terminals A through F. On one day in the spring of 2016, ticketed passengers found confetti-filled eggs between terminals A-East and B (pictured) and Philadelphia artist Deirdre Murphy’s ethereal Sky Paintings between terminals C and D. How Philly Moves at the Terminal B-C Baggage Claim is a nearly 85,000-square-foot mural that celebrates the city’s dance traditions. Philadelphia street artist Nosego’s colorful Bodacious graces a section of Terminal F, and yes, we think all this art is pretty bodacious.
Gustaf III Airport, St. Barts
You didn’t really need an excuse to linger longer in the French Caribbean island of St. Barts, did you? It may not please your airline, but this is one place where missing your flight "by mistake" means you can bask in the Antillean breeze as you watch planes thread their way onto the landing strip set precariously between a mountaintop and the sea. One of the most dramatic runways in the world makes for memorable viewing. But don't intentionally miss your flight just because you're afraid to take off again.
Chubu Centrair International Airport, Nagoya, Japan
You could do a lot worse than to be stuck in Japan’s Chubu Centrair International Airport. First of all, the structure itself is fascinating: This major off-shore airport was built on a manmade island. But maybe it could be equally famous for its wide range of ramen and noodle eateries. Enjoy dashi soup with its flat, chewy noodles at the Yondaime Kagisaburo Miyakishimen or the local delicacy, kishimen (long flat flour noodles) at the Shinuchi Koubou Kishimen Minomishou. Both eateries are located in airport’s Sky Town 4F section—and take your time, because there are five more noodle joints to try.
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