We know there are questions around travel amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Read our note here.
Airport layovers were once synonymous with dullness: Those unable to access private lounges would consider themselves lucky to get a decent bite to eat and a seat with a view of the runways. Fortunately, travel is rapidly changing, and airports around the world are installing imaginative and practical amenities that aim to provide travelers a fun and stress-free environment — far more than just power outlets and free Wi-Fi. From in-airport aquariums and art exhibitions to a brewery and a rainforest, here are eight of the world’s coolest airport amenities that will make your next layover fly by.
Airbräu Brewery and Beer Garden at Munich Airport
Fancy experiencing Bavaria’s centuries-old brewing and beer hall traditions prior to a flight? At Munich International Airport, beer lovers can sample signature and seasonal brews at Airbräu, the world’s first airport brewery. Airport passengers can even go behind the scenes on a guided tour with a brewmaster to learn about the ins and outs of craft beer making. Alongside the brewery and its rustic bar is Europe’s largest indoor beer garden, which has space for around 600 thirsty guests. With classic Bavarian dishes, chestnut trees, and free live music, it’s everything you’d expect of a quintessential Munich biergarten — only inside an airport.
Aquarium at Vancouver International Airport
Armored sea cucumbers, China rockfish, and wolf eels probably don’t come to mind when you think of an airport, but that’s exactly what awaits travelers at Vancouver International Airport’s domestic terminal. This joint venture between the Vancouver Airport Authority and Vancouver Aquarium showcases the diversity of British Columbia’s aquatic wildlife. It features a 114,000-liter tank that recreates a rocky kelp forest, home to some 20,000 colorful marine animals and plants. The area around the aquarium has ample seating for viewing the fish and is next to an artificial creek which flows through the terminal.
Flight Training Simulator at Zurich International Airport
Many airline passengers dream of what it would be like to sit in a cockpit and pilot an aircraft during take-off and landing. It’s possible to get close to the real thing in the flight training simulator at Zurich International Airport. With the help of a qualified instructor, individuals and groups can learn about an aircraft’s instruments, receive a detailed briefing, and then take control of a virtual flight. Aspiring pilots can choose from four experiences, including flying a Boeing 777 into Hong Kong and landing a Bell-407 helicopter on the Aletsch Glacier. The flight simulator is one of several aviation-themed attractions at Zurich’s airport.
Jewel Rainforest and Retail Complex at Singapore Changi Airport
Art displays, themed gardens, and an outdoor swimming pool mean there’s never a dull moment at Singapore Changi Airport, renowned for its innovative passenger amenities. But perhaps it’s the Jewel that might just tempt you to miss your flight in favor of a stay at the airport. This dome-shaped complex connects three airport terminals and features almost 300 retail, food, and drink outlets. The true wow factor comes from the curtains of water cascading down the 130-foot-tall Rain Vortex — the world’s tallest indoor waterfall — and the surrounding indoor rainforest with more than 900 trees. A canopy bridge, treetop net walkway, topiary walk, and hedge and mirror mazes make the Jewel a veritable (and family-friendly) theme park in its own right.
Korean Traditional Cultural Experience Center at Seoul Incheon International Airport
Those transiting through Incheon International Airport can delve into Korean customs and folklore at the Korean Traditional Cultural Experience Center. The five exhibits, which are located in the airport’s main concourse, Terminal 1, and Terminal 2, all offer free programs for passengers. Guests can make traditional Korean crafts like hanji paper and dancheong paintings and pose for photos while dressed in hanbok clothing. Regular performances of traditional gugak music showcase the sounds of the fiddle-like haegeum and janggu drum. There are even more cultural activities to look out for elsewhere in the airport, including masked dances and mock royal parades.
Rijksmuseum Art Exhibition at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport
The Rijksmuseum is one of the world’s most prestigious art museums and a must-see for tourists in Amsterdam. But if you run out of time in the city, you can browse a sample of the museum’s vast collection of masterpieces before your flight at the Rijksmuseum Schiphol Airport. There are typically eight to 10 works on display, which are chosen according to rotating themes. The airport collection offers a rare chance to admire the talents of Jan van Goyen, Jozef Israëls, Willem van de Velde the Younger, and other Dutch Masters. The exhibition is free and is located next to the kid-friendly NEMO Museum, on Holland Boulevard after passport control.
Yoga Rooms at San Francisco International Airport
If passengers get the urge to practice downward dog and mountain pose — or simply need a quiet space to relax and meditate before boarding their flights — San Francisco International Airport has installed two dedicated yoga rooms. Situated in Terminals 2 and 3, the rooms are free to use, open 24 hours a day, and have communal mats, which are wiped clean after use. The blue-hued walls, wooden flooring, mirrors, and mood lighting create a zen-like ambience that can be particularly useful before or after a crowded flight. Since San Francisco inaugurated one of the first airport yoga rooms in 2012, other international airports have followed suit.
18-Hole Golf Course at Bangkok’s Don Mueang Airport
Kantarat Golf Course sits between two runways at the Don Mueang Airport and is one of the world’s most unforgettable golf courses. Players tee off and challenge bunkers, water features, and pristine greens while commercial flights take off and land at regular intervals just 20 yards away — one wrong swing and a ball could go flying toward an Airbus. Beside the typical golf course hazards, golfers have to deal with noise disruption and pay attention to a red light, which warns of incoming and outgoing planes. The course is open to passengers and non-passengers, but all players have to pass a security check and be accompanied by a caddie.