Disclosure: Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links, which can provide compensation to me at no cost to you if you decide to make a purchase.
It’s no secret that some airports are just better than others. Cleanliness, food options, shopping, layouts, transportation, and more all affect your experience at that airport. And let’s be honest—some airports are just terrible.
But some airports go above and beyond the travel necessities to make your time within their walls an experience. These airports care about your satisfaction on another level—not just getting you on the next flight. And thanks to the World Airport Awards (which allows customers to upvote or downvote airports based on experience), we know exactly which airports you’ll want to enjoy during your next layover.
1. Hamad International Airport (HIA)
The best airport in the world is the Hamad International Airport in Qatar. It’s only been in business for 6 years, but it is certainly doing something right. Last year, it ranked at #3. But the incredible services it offers bumped it to the top for 2021.
Depending on layover length, customers passing through HIA can enjoy unique perks, such as free city tours, VIP transfer service, and even free food and lodging.
If you have a few hours to fill during your layover, take a visit to the old-world-style Souq Waqif market. You’ll find an incredible selection of fabric, food, spices, pottery, and artwork in the massive maze of stalls while soaking in the Qatari culture.
2. Tokyo Haneda Airport (HND)
This year, the Tokyo Haneda Airport topped the charts in multiple categories, coming in at #2 overall. It also took #1 for the World’s Best Airport Cleanliness!
Haneda Airport goes above and beyond to make sure that its terminals are as user-friendly as possible, earning consistent 5-Star Airport ratings from SKYTRAX over the years. Additionally, the airport puts a significant focus on creating an enjoyable ambiance for customers to enjoy.
While you may be content to spend your layover exploring this fascinating airport, the nearby Shinagawa Aquarium is also worth a visit. The aquarium has a fantastic range of sea creatures from Japan and the world, dolphin and sea lion shows, and even an underwater tunnel!
3. Singapore Changi Airport (SIN)
For the first time in nearly a decade, the Singapore Changi Airport isn’t the #1 airport in the world. But coming in at #3 isn’t too bad either. This year, the airport racked up multiple other awards that contributed to its overall success, including the World’s Best Airport Staff.
The Changi airport hosts full events for travelers to enjoy, such as the Sift & Pick Fashion Fest, Craft Beer Appreciation Festival, and Around the World Exhibitions! But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Guests can also stroll through a Butterfly Garden, an Arrival Garden, a Heritage Zone with Peranakan shophouses, and a mesmerizing art, music, and science conglomeration called Petal clouds.
You’ll definitely want to schedule an extra-long layover here to enjoy some more fun. And you won’t even need to leave the airport to access the Jewel Changi Canopy Park, located at the airport’s uppermost level. Here, you can bounce next to the clouds on the Sky Nets, navigate hedge and mirror mazes, zip down four levels of slides, walk on a glass bridge at the top of the airport, and more!
4. Incheon International Airport (ICN)
The Incheon International Airport in South Korea is one of the busiest airports in the world. But it has the world’s best security screening process, which can automatically remove half the stress from any airport visit!
During your layover, you can enjoy various entertainment options, from cultural performances and experiences to the Incheon Airport Museum. There are also luxury shopping and dining options, dozens of lounges, internet zones, showers, digital gyms, and even nap zones! Or, take advantage of their K-Stopover packages, which include transportation, city tours, and accommodation.
Book an 8-hour layover tour with Joy Tour Korea to see Gyeongbokgung Palace and the Namsangol Hanok Village for an easy layover adventure. Or take their shorter 3-hour excursion to the Odusan Unification Observatory and peer into North Korea from the border.
5. Tokyo Narita Airport (NRT)
The impressive Tokyo Narita Airport earned Japan another spot in the top 5 this year. One of the airport’s most impressive services is its face recognition technology, which enhances contactless boarding procedures!
While killing time at NRT, guests can take advantage of many amenities similar to the Incheon Airport, like nap and shower rooms, lounges, and capsule and pet hotels. For fun, check out the art installations in each terminal, such as the Art Promenade, Japanese Culture gallery, and NAA Art Gallery.
During your layover, you may want to check out the Naritasan-Shinshoji Temple. This prominent site is over 1,000 years old and is Narita’s most popular tourist attraction. Guests can visit multiple pagodas, as well as peaceful parks and the Omotesando lined with shops.
Next time you’re making travel plans, you may want to hold back on picking the shortest layover. Instead, see if it’s possible to schedule a nice long break at one of the world’s best airports and turn that downtime into an adventure!
Also check out the best flight-booking hacks to help you save as much as possible on your next vacation!