Most of us like to travel, in the sense that we enjoy discovering new places, immersing ourselves in different cultures, and trying mouthwatering food from all around the world.
But few people really like the act of travelling itself – particularly when airports are involved. Long queues, even longer delays, lost baggage…it’s no wonder travelling by air gets a bad rap these days.
Though, not all airports are created equal. While some are soulless, stressful environments, others are so beautiful and serene that you’ll end up wishing you had a longer layover.
And luckily, many of the world’s most dazzling airports are located in some truly exciting and inspiring destinations – meaning you can book a holiday where the travel experience is just as much fun as the trip itself.
So, to get you inspired, here are eight of the most beautiful airports in the world.
1. Changi International Airport, Singapore
Singapore might be one of the smallest countries in Asia, but it packs a big punch – and its airport is no different.
While Singapore is an urban city-state that’s worlds apart from its neighbours Malaysia and Indonesia, it’s managed to offset the ceaseless city buzz by introducing numerous gorgeous green spaces, giving this mega-city plenty of pockets of peace.
The airport takes the same approach, merging slick travel facilities and ritzy shops and restaurants with breathtaking natural features. There’s a rooftop swimming pool, mirror maze, hedge maze, fish pond, and a viewing deck with a playground and slides.
Nature lovers will also appreciate the butterfly garden, orchid garden, cactus garden, and sunflower garden – as well as the indoor forest complete with a towering 40-metre waterfall!
If that weren’t enough, there are free cinemas that are open 24/7 and an entertainment deck which boasts everything from the Xbox360 to Kinect stations. No wonder Changi’s been voted the world’s best airport for 12 consecutive years. This is an airport where you’ll be actively hoping for delays!
2. Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport, Spain
While Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport first opened back in 1933, a new terminal was unveiled in 2006, and it’s this terminal that’s become renowned for its beauty.
Terminal four is impressively ornate, with an undulating bamboo ceiling that makes the terminal seem light, airy, and peaceful – which is no mean feat considering how many passengers pass through each year.
Although terminal four was designed nearly two decades ago, it’s still considered to be one of the first airports that pushed design boundaries – and many of the newer airports on this list would have been inspired by this innovation. The wooden pillars that stretch towards the ceiling are painted in rainbow colours, making it seem as though you’re walking through a forest of colourful trees.
As the Spanish capital, Madrid itself definitely isn’t short of beauty or charm. Home to exceptional museums and galleries, world-class gastronomy, and Europe’s largest palace, its vibrant, inclusive atmosphere and buzzing bars will give you a new lease of life.
If you want some outdoor adventure, the Sierra de Gredos Mountains are just outside the city, and offer some of the best trekking in Spain.
3. Beijing Daxing International Airport, China
In 2019, Beijing opened its new airport, Beijing Daxing International.
Thought to be the world’s largest terminal in a single building, the clever starfish-shaped design means that passengers never need to walk more than eight minutes to their gate, no matter where they are in the airport – so there’s little chance of that stressful last-minute dash!
Designed by the world-renowned Zaha Hadid, it’s no surprise that this is such a well-made airport. Its unique starfish design reflects the interconnectedness of Beijing itself, and its new high-speed rail line and motorway network quickly connect the airport to the lively Chinese capital.
Capable of handling 75 million passengers per year, this gargantuan airport also has no less than seven runways.
Things get even more impressive once you leave the airport. Beijing has gone from an ancient walled capital to an ever-expanding megacity in little over a century, and its buzz is contagious.
You can lose yourself in the city’s historic hutong alleyways, feast upon authentic street food, explore the UNESCO-listed Forbidden City, trek along the iconic Great Wall, and watch the sunrise at Tiananmen Square.
4. Denver International Airport, Denver, Colorado
Colorado is known for the majestic beauty of its snow-capped Rockies – so it’s no wonder that this stunning state wanted its international airport to reflect its iconic landscape.
The peaked white roof doesn’t only evoke the surrounding mountains, but also the Native American teepees that once stood on the same land, and the covered wagons of the first pioneer settlers. This is an airport that’s become a symbol of not only its state but its region and country too.
The fibreglass roof also allows sunlight to stream into the airport, making it seem as though you’re walking beneath a big, bright white cloud.
Regularly voted the best airport in the USA, the bold design and unique collection of sculptures and murals have made it an American architectural icon.
As stylish as the airport is, it gives tourists just the merest hint of the charms of this city. Denver has it all: great weather, excellent restaurants, lively bars, and an exciting art scene.
The remarkable beauty of the Colorado mountains the airport draws inspiration from are just a drive away, so if you’re looking for outdoor adventure, you’ll definitely find that here too.
5. Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, India
Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport is another airport that’s successfully embodied the spirit of the country in its design, and it manages to feel both futuristic and culturally traditional.
The striking diamond-shaped patterns of the canopy roof are a reference to the tail feathers of the peacock, India’s national bird and make the space seem light, bright, and elegant.
The 30 soaring pillars that stretch towards the sprawling roof are a nod to India’s traditional open-air pavilions, and the bright-coloured desks and welcoming lighting reflect the warmth and vibrancy of Indian culture. So it’s no surprise that Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport won Airport Council International’s (ACI) ‘Best Airport by Size and Region’ back in 2019.
Outside the airport, Mumbai is the perfect place to discover just how compelling Indian culture is. The city is a melting pot of lively bazaars and tranquil temples, high-rise towers and crowded shanty towns, fragrant food and furious energy.
As the Indian capital of film, fashion, and finance, this is a city that may seem overwhelming on arrival, but it won’t take long for you to be utterly captivated.
6. Incheon International Airport, South Korea
The South Korean city of Incheon is known for being an ultra-modern transportation hub – so it’s no surprise that its airport, Incheon International, is just as impressive.
As the largest airport in South Korea – and one of the world’s busiest – its won multiple accolades over the years, including World’s Best Transit Airport in 2020, and World’s Best Airport Terminal in 2020 (for Terminal 2).
If you’re looking for comfort and luxury, Incheon International Airport is unrivalled. It has massage chairs, sleeping areas, and free showers, so if your flight is delayed you don’t need to worry; just treat yourself to a massage, enjoy a relaxing shower, and settle down for a good sleep!
You can also play golf, go shopping, hit the casino, and admire indoor gardens…so you definitely won’t be short of things to do.
As South Korea’s third-largest city, you won’t be bored in Incheon, either. Colourful, lively Chinatown and Open Port are popular with tourists, but as Incheon is only 22 miles west of the capital Seoul, you’ll probably want to base yourself there.
Futuristic and fashion-forward, this dynamic, cultural city is also deeply traditional, and the surrounding mountains are perfect for hiking and peaceful respite.
7. Dubai International Airport, United Arab Emirates
Another airport that offers passengers a seriously luxurious travel experience is Dubai International Airport.
The airport is central to the growth of both tourism and business throughout the United Arab Emirates, so it makes sense that the government spent 10 years planning the airport’s rather spectacular upgrade – and today, it’s one of the world’s busiest airports.
Aside from the extensive travel facilities, which include 221 check-in counters and 28 gates, this sleek airport offers much more to keep travellers comfortable and entertained. The beautiful zen gardens are ideal for unwinding in – or you can treat yourself to an indulgent massage in one of the luxurious spas. There are also complimentary shower pods, superb restaurants, and designer shops.
However, this decadent sense of luxury isn’t just reserved for the airport, as not for nothing is Dubai known as the ‘City of Gold’. This is a city of extremes – a place where you can find the world’s tallest building, the largest indoor ski slope, and shopping malls so vast you could get lost for days.
Relax on beaches, explore rugged deserts, lose yourself in urban backstreets, or simply shop til you drop.
8. Oslo Airport, Norway
And finally, an airport that’s as sustainable as it is is beautiful: Oslo. When expanding the existing airport, the Nordic Office of Architecture decided to put sustainability at the forefront of the design – yet this doesn’t mean they scrimped on elegance.
The steel and glass building helps the airport retain heat during the harsh winter, and snow is stored to be used as a coolant during summer. The new pier was also made entirely from wood sourced from Scandinavian forests, and a 300-metre-long skylight and curved windows allow people to admire the surrounding landscape.
Green walls and water features are a nod to the lush forests outside of Oslo too, and the result is one of the most energy-efficient and beautiful airports in the world.
The city of Oslo is bordered by mountains and sea, so if you’re looking to embrace the Nordic nature its airport celebrates, you’re in luck.
And, while Oslo is rapidly growing, it’s still one of the greenest cities in the world, with plenty of gorgeous green spaces and a sustainable, exciting food scene. Home to many excellent museums and contemporary-art galleries, there’s plenty of culture to be found too.
While we don’t advise picking your next travel destination based solely on the airport, it can be comforting to know that if delays occur – and, unfortunately, they often do! – you won’t be stuck in an oppressive airport without any comfort or amenities.
Airports like Singapore’s Changi International Airport, South Korea’s Incheon International Airport, and Dubai International Airport are incredibly luxurious and offer travellers so much entertainment, that you’ll probably find yourself hoping your flight is delayed by at least a few hours!
And if your travel experience goes smoothly, the good news is that each of these destinations offers tourists something different: from snow-capped mountains perfect for hiking to miles of vast sand dunes, and futuristic cities to Nordic wilderness, there’s something for everyone.
Even if none of these destinations is for you, we hope this article has inspired you to explore somewhere new at the very least – and to remember that the travel experience itself can often be part of the fun!
For more travel tips and ideas, head over to the travel section of our website.