From Singapore's fun-filled Changi, to the understated charm of Copenhagen International airport, these seven airports were voted best in the Wanderlust Reader Travel Awards 2019
A city, nature reserve, shopping mall and hotel all rolled into one, Changi Airport has always led the way in showing what an airport can and should be. Light, spacious and with a judicious mix of quiet corners and glitzy shopping, it has dominated the ‘Best Airport’ lists since opening in 1981.
The airport is always evolving. It features six gardens, a koi pond, movie theatres, an entertainment deck with Playstations and Xboxes, and, in Terminal 3, the largest slide in an airport. A new heritage zone features shopfronts mimicking the multi-coloured facades of old Peranakan houses and a 1960s-themed food street where you can feast on local favourites from Hainan chicken rice to bak kut teh (pork rib dish).
The Changi website suggests things to do, based on the length of your layover, including a spa treatment and a free guided tour of Singapore.
Designed by Norman Foster, Hong Kong’s international airport is bright, airy and vast. Built on reclaimed land on the island of Chek Lap Kok, it replaced the infamous airport at Kowloon, where planes flew treacherously low over tenement towers.
The terminals contain extensive facilities for shopping, dining, leisure and entertainment, including an IMAX theatre. GreenLive Air is an indoor golf club where you can squeeze in a quick round while you’re waiting to board your next flight. The Aviation Discovery Centre hosts a fascinating display on the history and development of aviation in Hong Kong as well as a flight simulator where you can experience airplane takeoffs and landings from the pilot’s seat.
The food court here is sensational too, offering all the classic Cantonese dishes served in true authentic style. From beef brisket curry, pork cartilage with tossed instant noodles and Swiss sauce chicken wings to crispy bun with sweet condensed milk and Hong Kong-style milk tea, it’s all here. Just choose a picture and order.
Known for its luxurious lifestyles and towering skyscrapers, the rich experience of Dubai starts at the suitably lavish Dubai International Airport. It's a major hub for connecting travellers around the world through international flight transfers, as well as the universal language of music with live performances on its concert stage.
Among the airport's many facilities, visitors can take a dip in the whirlpool and sweat it out in the sauna at the Health Club, or relax with a spa treatment at one of the many Relax and Refresh stations.
Their VIP Al Majlis service offers a hassle-free experience, with a personal assistant on hand to organise baggage and check-in details, while the latest BMW 7 series is on standby to transfer passengers to their departure gate.
Named after Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey, Istanbul's Atatürk Airport is located 20 kilometres west of the city centre. It has been serving Istanbul since 1953 but will close for good in March 2019.
Thankfully a new, state-of-the-art airport has been built 20 kilometres to the north in Arnavutköy. Expect cafes selling really strong Turkish coffee and Dondurma, the country’s famously elastic ice cream, as well as Turkish Airlines’ famous free tours of Istanbul if your layover is more than 6 hours long. The tour program includes transport from and to the airport and a traditional Turkish meal.
Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport bills itself as the ‘Most Relaxing Airport in the World’ and, laying back on its beanbags, listening to recorded birdsong in the Airport ‘Park’, you’ll be hard-pressed to disagree.
Elsewhere, Massage-o-Matic chairs offer a quick massage, complete with soothing music and serene images. XpresSpa offers a deeper massage, as well as various beauty treatments. The Meditation Centre offers a non-denominational and interfaith space, where you can pray, meditate, or just relax in silence.
If that all sounds too calm for you, there are exercise bikes in the Airport Park that also charge your phone, plus a casino where, if you feel lucky, you could put all your loose currency on black.
Kuala Lumpur International Airport is one of the largest airports in the world, spanning over 100 square kilometres. It is the gateway to Malaysia and a popular hub for budget airlines servicing the rest of South East Asia.
The striking terminal was designed by the late Kisho Kurokawa. It encompasses Islamic geometry and cutting edge technology, and sits amongst a man-made tropical rainforest. Head to the Satellite terminal where you can wander in a rainforest, featuring some of Malaysia’s most distinctive flora, while you wait for your connection.
Copenhagen’s International airport reflects the city it serves – it is functional and elegant, comfortable and stress-free. The shopping here is understated and classy and the restaurants and cafes unmistakably Danish. Try the smørrebrød at Aamanns, a typical open sandwich restaurant.
The centre of Copenhagen is only 15 minutes away by tram or train, making a quick visit to Tivoli Gardens or the colourful harbour at Nyhavn a feasible distraction for those with a longish layover. Fans of scandal noir will be thrilled to learn that the airport sits in the shadow of Øresund Bridge, the famous ‘star’ of the acclaimed series, The Bridge.
Find out more about the Wanderlust Reader Travel Awards and discover the winners in all other categories, including Best City, Best Airline, Best Tour Operator and Best UK Destination.