The average person isn’t going out of their way to hang out in the airport. You won’t catch folks knocking back beers in baggage claim or getting the party started in the TSA line. In general, these spaces were built some time ago with a focus on functionality. And though small changes have been made to accommodate the increase in passengers and provide some degree of refuge for the weary, many airports are still simply awful — which makes finding an innovative, fun, or downright fascinating airport truly a pleasant surprise.
We’ve gathered 10 airports from around the globe that are sure to complicate your hatred of these often-ominous structures. After all, how can you loathe a place with a four-story slide or a freaking rainforest inside? Better to save your animosity for public restrooms and the D.M.V. and consider re-routing your next flight through at least one of the airports on this list. A few are even worth scheduling a long layover just to explore.
Changi Airport — Changi, Singapore
For the past seven years, the London-based research firm Skytrax has named Changi Airport the world’s best airport, and it has snagged this title 10 times in the 20-year history of the World Airport Awards. Impressive, right? There’s more — Changi has been given roughly 600 total awards of excellence, and 30 of them were “best airport” honors in 2018 alone. There may not be another airport that is this freaking cool (or lauded), and it only takes one layover to turn a weary traveler into a believer.
There are four terminals and between them, passengers can access a butterfly garden with as many as 40 species represented, a bunch of other gardens like the sunflower and the cactus ones, a heritage zone that looks like a showcase of Peranakan shophouses, an entertainment area with arcade games and Xbox Kinects, a four-story-high slide (the largest in an airport), and a rooftop swimming pool. In April of 2019, a multi-use structure called the Jewel Changi Airport launched and it expanded the opportunities for adventure with a hedge maze, a rain vortex, a canopy bridge, sky nets for walking and bouncing, and a mirror maze.
No lie, this is the kind of airport where you want to be waylaid for hours.
Kuala Lumpur International Airport — Selangor, Malaysia
A lot of airports have taken to bringing the outside in by way of gardens, and that’s clearly a stellar way to break up the sterile environment of the average airport. The Kuala Lumpur International Airport, however, took a real “hold my beer” approach to this trend and opted to design an in-house jungle. The lush, indoor rainforest stretches through two of the airport’s buildings. And it’s not just some greenery to admire through a window; you can totally enter the glass enclosure that houses the botanical garden and walk a large wooden boardwalk through the plants and trees. It is humid as hell, but it’s also beautiful. Plus, there’s a waterfall.
Passengers who are total aviation stans will be happy to know that the KL airport recently opened the Anjung Spotter Observation Deck, which is located next to runway 32L. That means passengers can take advantage of the panoramic view of planes landing to take the perfect shots for the ‘Gram. It holds up to 40 people, so it’s also a great way to connect with other airplane spotters looking to capture the excitement of flight.