Secrets to Enjoying Yourself at the Airport, Part 2: Europe
In the past, airports were built with efficiency and practicality in mind. These days, well-traveled passengers demand comfort and entertainment, so some airports have successfully transformed into tourists’ attractions in their own right. In the previous article, we explored some of Asia’s most amazing airports, which turn transits into holidays. In this article, I’ll focus on the top airports in the neighboring continent: Europe.
Most airports have places of interest relatively close by that you may explore if your layover is long enough. However, this series uncovers secrets in the airports themselves that will make your travel more pleasant that you thought it could be.
Munich Airport (MUC)
You can visit the world’s one and only airport brewery at MUC. Airbräu brews eight varieties of beers you can taste at a very reasonable price. The brewery also offers local Bavarian fare with regular live entertainment, making it a good place to chill while you wait to board your next flight.
One of MUC’s greatest attractions is Visitors Park, where a myriad of activities exist to cater to all ages. Three historic aircrafts—a Super Constellation, Douglas DC-3, and Junkers Ju 52—are on display between 9:30 am and 5:00 pm every day. Videos and sound recordings on board the planes enhance the experience.
Fancy a game of golf? An 18-hole mini golf course at Visitors Park that will allow you to practice your putt. Or get a workout and a great view at the Viewing Hill. Climbing 172 steps will get you to the viewing platform at the top of the hill, which offers a panoramic view of the terminal and runway.
The Munich Airport Center is another area in the airport worth exploring. It is an ever-changing stage for events and exhibitions. Past events include showcases of luxury cars and sporting events. The most astonishing event might have been the Surf & Style event, where surfers showed off their tricks on a stationary wave right in the heart of the airport!
If you are fortunate enough to be in MUC during Christmas, do not miss the Winter Market. Consisting of hundreds of Christmas trees, live music, and a showstopper ice skating rink, it is the perfect way to spend your layover.
When you need to wind down from the activities, MUC considerately provides Napcabs, perfect for getting some sleep and privacy. Each pod includes a bed, music, and adjustable lightings.
London Heathrow Airport (LHR)
An airport that should be familiar to many, London Heathrow Airport (LHR) is the busiest airport in Europe by passenger traffic. Maintaining its 2015 standing, it was once again voted onto the 2016 Skytrax World’s Top 10 Airport list.
Business travelers will be glad to know that LHR offers services that allow you to continue working during your transit. Free Wi-Fi and computer desks keeps you connected throughout the terminal, and meeting rooms are available for booking by the hour. The Regus Express business lounge also features private workspace that transforms the airport into your own office.
Airports are notorious for overpriced and less-than-desirable food. At LHR, however, your palate is in for a surprise. Most notably, you can get a taste of master chef Gordon Ramsay’s creations at Plane Food. Plane Food also offers plane picnics that you can indulge in during your next flight.
While shopping is not unique to Heathrow, there is something to be said for being voted World’s Best Airport for Shopping. In fact, before LHR was recognized for being a top-10 airport, it had already gained fame for its shopping. There are plenty of high-street shopping and department stores to help you combat travel stress! For the serious shoppers, consider making an appointment with a personal shopper who will offer you complimentary stylist-trained shopping assistance.
If shopping is too physical for you, LHR also offers an oasis in the airport: Be-Relax Spa. that provides spa treatments customized to any travel schedule. Alternatively, feast your eyes on art masterpieces at the T5 Gallery, where you get to experience artwork on the fly.
Zürich Airport (ZHR)
Organized, clean, and efficient, the largest international airport in Switzerland is quintessentially Swiss. Zürich Airport (ZHR) is a handsomely designed airport that was ranked seventh in the Skytrax World Airport award. Also known as Kloten Airport, ZHR’s expansive and modern infrastructure serves as a prototype for future airports.
The basics for business travelers are covered at ZHR with free, speedy Wi-Fi for up to two hours, shower facilities at various locations, and lounges equipped with business necessities. These facilities are not exceptional, but they are far from being the highlights of the airport. You will only appreciate the wonders of this airport if you step away from your electronic devices.
You’ve probably traveled through numerous airports, but have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes? ZHR offers Guided Airport Tours that show visitors a side of the airport not many have seen. Note: reservations need to be made at least six weeks in advance.
If that sounds too juvenile for you (and you have loads of money to spare), consider booking a 1–2 hour scenic flight from the airport to get a bird’s eye view of Switzerland.
Want something low-key yet entertaining? Try plane watching at the Observation Decks. What sets these observation decks apart are the high-tech binoculars that also provide background information of points of interests as you sweep them across the runway. All very sci-fi!
Active jet-setters with longer layovers can rent bicycles and inline skates at the airport to explore the areas surrounding the airport. With scenery like Switzerland’s, this may be the best option yet!
ZHR also regularly holds special events that may interest you on your next visit. From art exhibitions to football viewing, layovers will never have to be boring
Layovers are never fun, especially when it stands between you and home. If you find yourself in Europe, though, one of these airports can make the time exciting rather than wearying!
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