Unlike the dreary, functional (and all too often unfunctional) depots many travelers dread passing through, the best airports in the world are as efficient as they are engaging. In many cases, they are evocative of their broader locations, giving arriving passengers a sense of the destination before they even exit customs—and giving fliers on a layover a peek at the landscape beyond the terminal gates.
Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, Travel + Leisure asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe—to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise lines, spas, airlines, and more. Readers rated international airports (those located outside of the United States) on access, check-in/security, restaurants/bars, shopping, and design.
The airports category is just three years old, and for each of those years Singapore Changi Airport has held the No. 1 spot—and Asian hubs, in general, have dominated the list.
These airports have a history of incorporating smart tech to make the lives of travelers easier, as well as staggering architecture that helps the airport seem like a destination in its own right.
Dubai International Airport, perhaps thanks to its luxurious amenities (think: showers in the bathrooms) and the airy, spacious design. “Plan extra stopover time, if possible, to explore this incredible airport,” said T+L reader Robert Ruminski.
Another World’s Best voter appreciated Seoul’s Incheon International Airport, which turned 15 years old in March. “Fly here just for the airport. It’s so modern and huge, you could get lost—and honestly, you wouldn’t mind.”
Hong Kong International Airport, which has held the No. 3 or No. 2 spot every year, offers hungry travelers Chinese specialties (marinated goose, duck tongues) from an outpost of the Michelin-starred Hung’s Delicacies. This airport also woos fliers with every amusement imaginable, including an IMAX theater and a golf course. It's enough to make you wish for a flight delay.