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10 Most Exciting Airports in the World

A layover or flight delay can be down-right fun in these international airports. From craft classes to mini golf and an on-site jacuzzi, the world’s most exciting airports are destinations in themselves.

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1. Munich Airport, Germany

Aviation lovers passing through Munich can take a behind-the-scenes tour to learn how the airport operates. Visitors can also tour three historic aircraft and a retired rescue helicopter, climb up to a 28-metre high observation platform for an up-close view of take-offs and landings, and watch films on aviation in the airport’s 60-seat cinema. Travellers can also kill layover time at the 18-hole mini golf course, play the slots at the arcade or even stop in for a teeth cleaning at the airport dental office. There are also several medical professionals, including a midwifery practice, a law office and accountants operating at the airport.

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2. Incheon International Airport, South Korea

The 96,000 travellers who pass through Incheon every day can get a comprehensive introduction to South Korea without even leaving the airport. Drop into the Cultural Museum of Korea to view a collection of artifacts spanning 5,000 years of history. Visitors can also watch a mask dancing performance or learn how to make traditional crafts like kites and embroidery at the Traditional Korean Cultural Experience Zone. For a calming experience, take a stroll through one of seven artfully designed garden exhibits.

((Photo courtesy of DG-Jones/Flickr)

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3. Hong Kong International Airport, China

It’s easy to see why Hong Kong International is named Airport of the Year at the 2011 World Airport Awards. The 50 million people who travel through here each year can catch a flick at the 4-D movie theatre (which offers a “multi-sensory” viewing experience), hit a few rounds at the Sky City Nine Eagles Golf Course out by Terminal 2, or learn to fly a plane in a simulated cockpit at the Aviation Discovery Centre. You can even try skiing at iSports, a facility that offers simulated sports games.

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4. Changi Airport, Singapore

After a long flight to Singapore, travellers can decompress in a Balinese-style swimming pool and jacuzzi; work out at the airport gym or enjoy a drink and live musical performance at the airport’s Music Bar. The airport also boasts a tranquil butterfly garden and “fragrant garden,” which is home to 15 species of aromatic plants and trees. Free movies at one of two airport cinemas keep passengers entertained, while the Xbox Kinect room; MTV viewing booth and a 12-metre high indoor slide provide distractions for kids during flight delays.

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5. Schiphol Amsterdam Airport, the Netherlands

There’s no shortage of things to do at Schiphol, Europe’s fifth-largest airport. The facility is home to the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam Schiphol, an annex of the famed art museum of the same name located in Amsterdam’s city centre. Passengers who have cleared passport control can view the museum’s collection of works by Dutch masters free of charge. Passengers can also try their luck at the airport’s casino. You can even get married at Schiphol – couples can choose from four different wedding packages, including a 1930s-style ceremony held on a Dakota military aircraft.

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6. Aukland Airport, New Zealand

More than 70 per cent of visitors to New Zealand enter the country through Auckland Airport. As the major gateway to the country, it features cultural attractions like a traditional Maori meeting spot called a Mare, which features intricate Maori carvings and textiles. But the most interesting aspect of Auckland Airport might be its green initiatives. The roof of the international arrivals area is made up of 300 square metres of solar panels that power lights and public toilets. There’s also a rainwater catchment system that recycles water for use in the international arrival’s air-conditioning cooling towers. The airport also provides priority parking for energy-efficient cars.

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7. Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Malaysia

This airport, which sees 25 million passengers every year, was designed with the surrounding rainforest environment in mind. Not only is it surrounded by lush green space, but, with the co-operation of the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia, a section of the rainforest was also transplanted into the airport to fully incorporate it into its surroundings. If you’re travelling for business, this airport has everything you need to get work done while in transit. The Plaza Premium Lounge offers secretarial services, couriers and meeting facilities. There’s even an oxygen bar and hot food buffet on hand to keep execs energized. When work is done, wind down at the Reflexology and Massage Centre.

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8. Denver International Airport, Colorado

Designed to reflect the surrounding snow-capped peaks, the roof of this airport’s main terminal is made of Teflon-coated fibreglass that’s as thin as a credit card. Unique design elements continue inside with the airport’s 30-piece public art collection. During construction, artists and architects worked together to integrate art into the airport’s design. Highlights include an installation called Cloudscape, which features sculptures of clouds that range from 16 to 40 feet tall and a sculpture of a mustang with glowing red eyes. The airport also hosts temporary exhibits of contemporary art.

(Photo courtesy of Denver International Airport)

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9. San Francisco International Airport, California

This airport was designed with kids in mind – there’s plenty to do to keep young travellers occupied. The airport’s 24-hour AirTrain moves passengers between terminals, but it also provides a fun view of the runways. There are also three aquariums to explore, interactive play areas and an aviation museum and library and approximately 40 annual rotating exhibitions throughout the terminals, which focus on subjects such as Pacific Coast League Baseball and TV in the Antennae Age. If that’s not enough to keep the little ones busy, travellers can also rent portable DVD players and movies for use in the airport.

(Courtesy AGrinberg/Flickr)

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10. Zurich Airport, Switzerland

A nature conservation area situated between two of Zurich Airport’s runways is home to various local species of plants and animals. If you’ve got time to kill between flights, pick up a pair of Nordic walking poles or a bicycle from the airport’s sports equipment rental facility and explore the surrounding area. You can also hop on a bus for a guided site-seeing tour of the airport, including the cargo area, hangars and maintenance shop. If indoor relaxation is more your speed, you can rent a day room equipped with a TV, shoe-cleaning machine and wake-up service. For a short nap, travellers can also pay for time to snuggle up under a wool blanket on a reclining chair.

(Photo courtesy of brokendwarf/Flickr)