More than half of the airport consists of nature spaces.
Credit: Courtesy of Zurich Airport

Travelers flying in and out of Switzerland’s largest international airport can spend their layover exploring nature.

Close to half of Zurich Airport is made up of green spaces, many of them dedicated as nature conservation areas and home to a variety of rare plant and animal species. Visitors can view these crawling critters and blooming flowers at observation decks or by taking to the trails around the airport.

On the airport grounds, there are green spaces between runways, and a nature path circling the perimeter. The airport's natural assets are part of its history, according to Emanuel Fleuti, head of environment at Zurich Airport Ltd. When Swizterland looked to Zurich for its large international airport, the chosen location was the mostly uninhabited area north of the city that is home to marshlands and wetlands.

As the airport was being constructed, the apron, terminal, and runways were built while leaving all of the green spaces in between, Fleuti told Travel + Leisure.

The area has a range of birds that travelers can admire.
Credit: Courtesy of Zurich Airport

On the east side of the airport, there's a natural spring that’s a popular spot for relaxing: “It’s a place of inspiration; it’s very quiet there,” Fleuti said.

The area is also prime for birdwatching, and the birds in the area range from larks to buzzards. Migrating birds also stop and take a “layover” at the airport, as Fleuti puts it, resting in the surrounding trees in the spring and fall. Frogs can often also be heard here during their mating season in the spring.

Flowers bloom to provide a colorful scene.
Credit: Courtesy of Zurich Airport

There are many ways that travelers can take advantage of Zurich Airport's natural surroundings. For those with only a little time, the airport has a spectator terrace where travelers can enjoy the view with binoculars. There are also bicycle and skate rentals, and the hiking trails and paths are only a 10 to 15-minute walk away, allowing plenty of time for exploration.

There are also plans for a new green space called the The Circle, opening in 2020, which will include more hiking trails, resting platforms, and protected conservation areas right across from the airport.