While life may be “all about the journey,” traveling is not. When you’re going to an exciting destination, the worst part can be sitting around in a crowded airport waiting to get going. But it doesn’t have to be a drag: these ten airports are not only great to spend time at during a layover, they’re practically vacation-worthy destinations themselves.
1. Changi Airport, Singapore
If you stop by Terminal 2 in the Changi Airport, you may be enchanted by the featured orchid garden and koi pond. But if you walk one terminal farther, you will see the real price: Terminal 3’s tropical retreat for passengers, the indoor Butterfly Garden. The first of its kind in an airport, the Butterfly Garden opened in 2008 and is home to a six meter waterfall and over 1,000 live butterflies, who will perch on you if you stand still. The butterflies are specifically bred to live in the garden, and the types of species change every season. When you enter the garden’s Emergence Enclosure, you will get to see caterpillars coming out of their cocoons as butterflies for the first time.
2. São Paulo-Guarulhos International Airport, Brazil
São Paulo-Guarulhos is just as practical as it is beautiful. For passenger’s convenience, Terminal 2 has a Dental Clinic open Monday through Friday, 8am until 8pm. Their dental services include whitening treatment and x-rays for $40-$60, so you can come home with a perfect smile. The airport also hosts a small art gallery, Espaco Cultural. The gallery has exhibits of painting, sculptures, or photography by Brazilian artists every month. When the artists are popular, their art overflows right into the terminals for everyone to enjoy.
3. John F. Kennedy International Airport
Composed of 90 airlines, and 46 million passengers, the JKF airport was made to please. During your layover you can shop at the Metropolitan Museum of Art store, grab a vegan vanilla cupcake from French Meadow, or choose from over 200 glasses of wine at the Revive Wine Bar (although we don’t recommend trying all 200). With over 40 bookstores and free wifi in Terminal 5, we dare you to say “I’m bored.” If you’re pressed for time between flights, you can still enjoy a 10 Minute Manicure for $15, or 5-minute foot massage for $5.
4. Munich Airport, Germany
From the country that brought you Oktoberfest, Germany’s Munich Airport boasts not only its own microbrewery, but a beer garden as well. The microbrewery is headed by master brewer Rene Jacobsen, and offers brewery tours. Or you can sit in one of the beer garden’s 600 seats under the chestnut trees and have a meal. Beginning in May there are musical performances, which will entertain you as you try the Weiss Wurst and pretzels or cheese noodles with your Airbrau beer.
5. San Francisco International Airport, California
San Francisco International is all about body and health. Terminal 2 has a designated Yoga Room, complete with mats and mandatory quiet. You’ll see it right after you walk past security, at which point you’ll probably be grateful for the calm blue walls. Besides shopping at Gucci or Coach, you can take care of yourself by getting a flu shot from Terminal 3’s Harmony Pharmacy.
6. Dubai International Airport
Dubai International Airport is the perfect place for a long layover. Their G-Force Gym is open 24/7, and though you have to pay $8 an hour, it buys you Jacuzzi and pool privileges. Or you can go walk in the open-air gardens and bask in the free wifi. The Safar Restaurant goes as far as to offer a free meal to those flying Emirates whose transit time is over three hours.
7.Hong Kong International Airport
Hong Kong is another international airport intent on making sure you enjoy your visit, with their Sky City Nine Eagles Gold Course. Located in Terminal 2, the course is complete with nine holes and a fake lake. While not free, the gold course is available 24/7. But if you’re more into video games, the airport also hosts a free gaming area in the Play Station Gateway with the newest PS3 and PSP games.
8. Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, the Netherlands
Not only is the Rijksmuseum the first museum to be added to an airport, but the admission is free. It won’t cost you a dime to peruse masterpieces by van Gogh, although you may lose some euros if you visit the Holland Casino. Located between Gates E and F, the casino is another first as it is allegedly the only airport casino. If you win big, you can always celebrate by getting married at Schipol using the in-terminal wedding-planning service.
9. Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, Taiwan
The Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport is the perfect layover stop for bookworms. The airport rents iPads and e-readers to its passengers in the first “e-book airport library.” Each device comes with over 400 books, plus thousands of newspapers and magazines. The reading material is available in English and Chinese, so you can sit in a reading trance for hours as you wait for your plane.
10. Zurich Airport, Switzerland
Although other airports offer you a hint of nature, none of them compare to Zurich Airport. Zurich actually has a conservation reserve between terminals 16/34 and 14/32. And it’s not just for looking. You can rent skates, a bicycle, or Nordic walking poles to wander through the green meadows. The former marshland is now home to a variety of rare flowers and fauna, which allow a welcome escape from the crowded hustle of the airport.