Ah, airports. Unless you have elite airline or lounge status, chances are they can be one of the most forgettable parts of your trip, an experience to grit your teeth through rather than enjoy.
Long security or passport check lines; crowds; the overwhelming, sweltering casino-bright lights and noxious perfumey clouds in the duty-free area... how much does that all-access lounge pass cost again?!
Here at Roamwide, we try and bring you products that make the logistics of your trip a little bit easier. But we’re here to spread a little gospel too - did you know that SOME airports spark joy, and not just horror?
When we reflected on some of our recent trips, we came up with a list of airports we’d have NO problem shuffling through again - in fact, some of them may even be on our list of reasons to return to a place.
But compared to many of our customers, we’ve only scratched the surface in our travels. Let us know in the comments which airports you’d add to this list!
5. Venice Marco Polo Airport (VCE), Italy
Water transfer for the win! We can’t imagine a better or more glamorous way of arriving at an airport than via boat, and VCE’s location alongside the Venetian Lagoon makes it possible.
For those of us not willing to spend 100+ euros on a private water taxi, the Alilaguna water bus was the perfect affordable alternative at around 15 euros. A quick hop-on at the nearest stop to your hotel grants a leisurely tour of the Grand Canal before slicing high-speed across the lagoon in a filmic sea spray. No, you’re not in a Bond movie, but minus murder, intrigue and an actual gondola hovercraft, it might feel like it for a second.
Speeding across the Venetian Lagoon
Even using the public transport option, there’s something red-carpet-esque about stepping out onto the docks at VCE before boarding your flight. Who needs an annual film fest?
Pro tip: traveling with bulky or oversized luggage using this mode of transport can be a bit clunky. We recommend harnessing the cinematic Venetian vibe not only do they help you rock that easy breezy “honey, it’s time to board the boat” look, they’re highly compact and stash-able after you do step onto that boat, darling.
4. Nice Côte d’Azur Airport (NCE), France
Sometimes it’s all about the stunning approach or ascent. Plenty of airports lie alongside water, but something about landing and taking off from NCE has our mobile phones pressed up against the window every single time.
We think it’s not only the flash of cool Mediterranean turquoise (tur-kwahs, merci beaucoup) from the air, but watching the long, graceful cat stretch of beaches lining the Promenade des Anglais reaching out into the rest of the French Riviera. It’s an iconic, welcome sight on arriving, and a bittersweet “au revoir till next time” upon departure.
Flying over the Promenade des Anglais in Nice
3. Harstad-Narvik Airport (EVE), Norway
We loved this airport for how LITTLE time we spent in it... does that still count? One of the gateway airports to the Lofoten islands in northern Norway, it’s also the nearest one with a commercial jet-sized runway for those of you who prefer to avoid prop or small aircraft.
Picture landing in a beautiful, rugged northern Norwegian landscape, surrounded by snow-capped mountains. Then picture less than a minute’s walk from aircraft to airport exit, through a compact, earthy space; a Nordic lake house with a baggage claim. And with only the pax from our flight collecting their bags, we were cruising with our rental car into the moose-laden wilderness in less than 30 minutes. It was the anti-Heathrow, and a stress-free, easy way to start our trip in Lofoten.
Sorry we didn't get a better picture! Approaching EVE through the mountains
2. Kona International Airport (KOA), Hawaii, U.S.
Excited for that tropical experience ahead of you? Imagine your surprise when what greets you upon landing is not a jet bridge and a crowded arrival gate, but warm air, palm trees and not a single wall in sight.
Waiting to board at KOA
KOA is not the only fully open-air island airport in the world, but it was our first, and waiting al fresco at the baggage claim with the tropical breeze saying aloha is an experience we’ll sign up for again.
The outdoor baggage claim at KOA
That’s right, all normal airport functions at KOA, from check-in to security to shopping, are completely outdoors with only a cluster of small Polynesian-inspired pavilions for cover from rain. The only thing better would be landing directly on the beach!
1. Lyon-Saint Exupéry Airport (LYS), France
This one’s for the design nerds. Up there with the bouchons, the Notre Dame and the relaxed neighborhoods of Lyon, we’d count LYS as a sight worthy of a return trip. With only a one-way arrival, we didn’t get a chance to enjoy the ultra-modern-looking lounges we glimpsed through floor-to-ceiling glass on our way out of passport control, but this was just a teaser of what was to come.
As we stepped into the main arrivals space in Terminal 1, our jaws slowly but surely fell south at the IRL Architectural Digest spread before us. Designed by Rogers Stirk and opened in 2018, LYS should set the bar for revitalizing mopey, outdated facilities around the world. Soaring, airy spaces; a clean mix of concrete, steel, wood and glass; curves, sunlight, atmosphere - overall a place that makes you want to stay, not leave.
So we did. We parked ourselves with laptops at one of the coffee bars inside and alternately worked and gaped at our awe-inspiring surroundings for a couple of hours. When was the last time you hung out at an airport on purpose after your flight?!
The cafe area in Terminal 1 of LYS (our photo doesn't do it justice)
The bonus design treat is a four-minute walk outside the airport to the TGV station designed with Santiago Calatrava’s signature bird-in-flight-style (see also: Milwaukee Art Museum, NYC’s World Trade Center Station, etc.). The Gare de Lyon Saint-Exupéry is another masterpiece of contemporary design - Instagram geeks, have fun snapping shots of the way the curved arches shape light and shadows on the concourse.
Concrete arches at the Lyon Saint-Exupéry train station
And then enjoy the massive airy space in the main hall, the “body of the bird” - and play some foosball in the corner while you’re at it.
Foosball table inside the train station
What other airports make you want to come back? Geek out on your favorites in the comments!
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