9 Great Airports for a Layover

by  Karen Gardiner | Feb 25, 2014
Woman in airport
Woman in airport / VladTeodor/iStock

Ah, airport layovers. Few of us will ever actually look forward to them, but there are some airports where top-notch facilities make waiting for a connection much easier. Here's a list...

Helsinki Airport
Finnair is offering some very attractive fares right now, including a $770 round-trip flight between New York and St. Petersburg, Russia. The only catch is that you need to layover in Helsinki for a couple of hours. Thankfully, Helsinki Airport is a very pleasant place to pass some time between flights. As you'd expect in design-savvy Finland, the airport is filled with striking sculptures, an art gallery, book swap area, and stores from designers like Marimekko. WiFi is free throughout the airport, and if you are lucky enough to access the Finnair lounge, you can hang out on retro Eero Aarnio-designed chairs.

If you have a long layover, check out our four-hour layover guide to Helsinki that will take you well outside the airport.

San Francisco International Airport
Try not to smile at San Francisco International when you see the Wag Brigade approach. What's the Wag Brigade? Last December, the airport launched the program, which brings trained dogs to the terminals to make passenger travel more enjoyable. The San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) brings nine dogs into the terminals, all of which were specially selected for their temperament, including a Yorkshire Terrier and a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. They're certified through the SPCA's Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) Program, and are happy to be patted and played with while you wait for your flight.

Two-legged travelers can practice their downward-facing dog at the airport's yoga room in Terminal 2 or take time out in the meditation room. If you are lamenting the fact that you don't have time to visit San Francisco properly, you can get at least a taste by snacking on sourdough from the airport's outpost of the famous Boudin's Bakery and Café

Keflavik International Airport 
You will often find some of the most competitive fares between North America and Europe with Icelandair –from $780 round-trip between New York and London in March – but these routes always require a stopover in Iceland. Clean, small enough to not be overwhelming, and with free WiFi and good shopping, Keflavík International Airport, is a pleasant place to while away a layover. Plus, Bus Travel shuttles meet all arriving flights and transport passengers to the Blue Lagoon within 15 minutes for a cost of $26, round-trip. If you decide to stick it out in the airport, make sure to treat yourself to a traditional hot dog with all the fixings and take a look at Icelandic design at the Epal Design store.

If you have an even longer layover in Keflavík, check our guide for more suggestions.

Narita International Airport 
Almost unavoidable for those who frequently travel to Asia, Narita International gets some deserved slack for its distance from Tokyo. Taking the limousine bus into the city is the smoothest method, but that costs $30 and takes around two hours. However, if you find yourself with a layover at Narita International with a few hours to spare, there is time to visit the underrated city of Narita. The Keisei local train takes you to Keisei Narita Station in just ten minutes. From there you can walk along the main Omotesando street, buy souvenirs, eat ramen, and visit the 10th-century temple, Narita-san. If you would rather not leave the airport, you'll find plenty to keep you busy, from the stores selling traditional items and beautifully designed bottles of sake, to restaurants serving udon, donbori, and sushi.

Amsterdam Airport Schipol
A common stopover on routes from North America to Africa or the Middle East, Amsterdam Airport Schipol is home to the world's first permanent airport library. Literary-minded passengers have access to a collection of 1,200 books by Dutch authors, and on subjects relating to the country's history and culture, as well as e-books and music by Dutch artists and composers that can be downloaded free of charge. With an annex of the Rijksmuseum (state museum) also on the grounds (free entry), Schipol has our vote as world's most cultured airport.

Singapore Changi Airport
With its high-end duty-free shopping and restaurants offering global cuisine, Singapore Changi Airport makes for a pleasant layover, but if you are just dying to see the city itself, you can hop on a free city tour. The two-hour-long tours takes in the highlights of Singapore, but passengers are required to have a minimum five-hour layover to participate.

Munich Airport
The home of Oktoberfest, Munich's airport keeps the beer theme alive with its on-site brewery, Airbräu. The brewery offers a wide variety of local beers for all tastes, from the hoppy FliegerQuell, to Kumulus weissbeer, and the traditional Bavarian Jetstream. Airbräu also offers group tours of the brewery that cost €6.50 and last 30 minutes – perfect timing for a layover.

Dubai International Airport
With the largest duty free retailer in the world, you can shop 'til you drop at Dubia International. But the airport also offers more modest services too, such as complimentary baby stroller service for passengers arriving and transiting. The strollers, which are provided by the airline, are available at all Emirates gates.

Copenhagen Airport, Kastrup
At Copenhagen Airport, passengers are also welcome to make use of the BRIO brand pushchairs located inside the international departures hall. The airport also has a large family lounge for those traveling with small children. The lounge is well-equipped with toys and games and (because this is Denmark) LEGO blocks. Copenhagen's city center is only a 15-minute train ride from the airport. For more information, check our layover guide to Copenhagen.

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