At these 9 game-changing terminals around the globe you’ll find everything from world class art to golf courses to a dog hotel. Your long layover just got better.
Having to strip to one’s underwear in an airport is rarely cause for celebration. But this is different: I’m at the Vitality Wellbeing & Fitness Center, inside the transfer terminal of Doha’s brand new Hamad International Airport. After the masseuse works out my long haul–induced knots (the spa is free for guests staying at the terminal’s hotel; it’s around $35 for others), I make my way to the nearby squash court. But I’m waylaid by the 80-foot lap pool suspended over the main shopping concourse, a universe featuring such wonders as six-foot-tall animatronic dinosaurs, specialty caviar shops and prestige cars being raffled off with the casualness of a bake sale. Welcome to airport life in the 21st century.
Hamad International Airport, Doha, Qatar
Arriving at Hamad Airport in Doha — the glitzy, futuristic capital of Qatar — offers travelers a tantalizing peek at Middle Eastern luxury to come. There’s a swanky hotel, a spa and a squash court, and an LED-lit pool suspended over the departure concourse, so jetsetters in transit can do lazy laps while gazing down at the giant teddy bear lamp sculpture by Swiss artist Urs Fischer.
London Heathrow Airport, U.K
It seems only fitting to leave one of the world’s most stylish cities with a brand new wardrobe, and Heathrow is your last chance to stock up. Personal shoppers are available by appointment (book 48 hours in advance) to help travelers stock up on goods from venerable British names like Harrods, Mulberry and Paul Smith. If you’re flying within the European Union, there’s also an option to “Shop and Collect,” which means you can pick up your purchases on the way back through Heathrow. Flying Virgin Atlantic? Chill out in the game-changing Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, and indulge in a straight razor shave at the spa — with unlimited champagne.
Incheon International Airport, Seoul, South Korea
The real question at South Korea’s dazzling Incheon Airport is what can’t you do here? For starters there’s an 18-hole golf course and driving range (five minutes away by free shuttle), along with a spa, casino, top-notch restaurants and food courts, indoor gardens and a skating rink. And those looking to get some shut-eye before boarding can check into one of the airport’s private sleeping rooms.
Munich Airport, Germany
While you can’t actually surf at Munich Airport year-round, this busy European hub has hosted five seasonal surfing competitions by creating the world’s largest artificial standing wave, a 33-foot-wide, five-foot-high behemoth open to both professionals and amateurs. That’s not the only extreme sporting event the airport has hosted: In 2015 Lukas Irmler, one of the world’s top slackliners (think tightrope walking without the tight part), showed off his killer moves on a line stretched 75 feet above the Munich Airport Center.
Nashville International Airport, Tennessee
It makes sense that the airport in one of America’s greatest music cities puts on killer live performances in all terminals (it’s been a Nashville tradition since 1988). Look out for local talent on four stages (up to 100 bands play in the course of a year), and don’t miss the cool, Bonnaroo-themed skylights in Concourses A, B and C.
Hong Kong International Airport
Forget catching the latest blockbuster on your tiny seatback screen: Hong Kong International Airport has an IMAX theater that features the largest screen in the city, with seating for up to 350 people. There’s also a laser-aligned digital sound system and immersive theater design, so you’ll feel as if you’ve already taken off into the stratosphere.
Frankfurt Am Main Airport, Germany
This German hub has two of the wackiest airport amenities anywhere: a wedding chapel and a dog hotel. Impulse romantics can get married — that’s right, married — before liftoff, taking their vows in one of the terminal buildings. A professional wedding planner arranges all the details, including flowers, wedding cakes and pre-wedding salon appointments. Dog lovers, meanwhile, can house their beloved pooch at the airport’s dog hotel (Hundepension in German), which has 25 large kennels and a big open space where they can play while their owners travel abroad.
Narita International Airport, Japan
Eating airport sushi can be hazardous to your health, right? Not if you have a layover at Tokyo’s Narita Airport. This popular Japanese hub is home to some of the best sushi joints in Japan, including Sushi Kyotatsu, an Old Tokyo–inspired counter with a cult following in Terminal 1 (be ready to join the long line), and Sanbei in Terminal 2, which dishes up insanely good udon and soba noodles.
Singapore Changi Airport, Singapore
Widely considered the world’s greatest airport, the jaw-dropping Changi has a tropical butterfly garden with more than 1,000 resident insects, an oasis of flowering plants and lush greenery, and a 20-foot grotto waterfall. There’s also a rooftop sunflower garden that lights up at night. Magical.