Airports these days offer so much more than just shopping and food. From giant slides to miniature terminals, not to mention priceless works of art, here’s our rundown on eight of the world’s most unusual airport terminals.
1. Zurich Airport
Until recently the only way to find out what goes on behind the scenes at an airport was to get a job there. If you’re curious, then Zurich Airport is for you. The Swiss airport organises guided tours of its airside operations, letting you see a side of things that few travellers get to experience. You’ll need to book the two-hour tour six weeks in advance and the minimum age is primary school (grade 3). They’ll even organise a drinks reception to help you celebrate a special occasion.
2. Amsterdam Schiphol Airport
Most travellers are used to browsing duty free to kill time at the airport, but admiring van Gogh? You can do exactly that at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, which has a small museum managed by the Rijksmuseum. It’s free to visit, and exhibitions change all the time. Previous shows have covered Rembrandt, Henry Moore and van Gogh, as well as Asian works such as a collection of Japanese prints. The museum is in the process of being relocated to Holland Boulevard within the airport, and will reopen in mid-2015.
3. Eindhoven Airport
Anyone who has ever driven around an airport car park trying to find a space within walking distance of the terminal will understand the frustration it causes. This is what makes Eindhoven, the Netherlands’ second-largest airport, so different. They allocated some prime parking spots right outside the entrance for their Facebook fans. Like the airport on Facebook and you could win the right to park in the blue spaces, complete with fast track security clearance and free meals.
4. Gibraltar Airport
There is no shortage of novelties inside airport terminals, but Gibraltar Airport is memorable for a different reason: it’s probably the only airport in the world where your flight might be delayed by passing traffic. Land is so scarce that the main highway runs across the airport, complete with railroad-style barriers to stop cars every time a plane takes off or lands.
5. Heathrow Airport and others
Gone are the days of airport food being limited to pre-packaged sandwiches and weak coffee. Michelin-starred chef Gordon Ramsey’s latest airport venture, Plane Food, offers delights such as short rib burgers to passengers at London’s Heathrow. Other Michelin-rated chefs at airports include Top Air by Claudio Urru at Stuttgart, Altitude by Gilles Dupont, Thomas Byrne, Fabien Legon at Geneva, and La Moraga by Dani Garcia at Malaga.
6. Boston Logan International Airport
We all know how hard it can be to keep the little ones entertained at the airport, so Boston Logan has a novel solution: an airport of their own! The Kidport, found in all three terminals, comes complete with climbing frames shaped like aeroplanes, a runway and even a mini control tower. A great way for them burn off some energy before boarding.
7. Stockholm Arlanda Airport
Most travellers are relieved to get off the plane, but if you really haven’t got your fill then Jumbo Stay, located next to Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport, is for you. Billed as the world’s first hotel in a jumbo jet, the property is a converted 747 complete with café, conference rooms and sleeping facilities for eight. The luxury suite (in the cockpit of course) comes complete with panoramic views and the plane’s controls. For a layover to remember, Jumbo Stay may be hard to beat.
8. Changi International Airport
And finally… living in Singapore it’s easy to forget just how special Changi Airport is. The free city tours for transit passengers might not appeal to those of us fortunate enough to live here, but with a butterfly garden, giant indoor slide and free movie theatre, there’s plenty to do for the whole family. And if you do find yourself with time to spare, where else in the world can you take a rooftop swim while waiting for your flight?