Not all airports are created equal. Some are soulless, clinical spaces with little more than bright blueish lighting and endless corridors. They are nothing but a functional building from which to launch your next adventure, be it a weekend away with friends or a big solo trip in a new, far-flung destination.
Others, however, can make your vacation experience special from the outset. The good airports are the ones we look forward to, despite all the lines and bureaucracy. They’re the ones with appealing food and drink—a champagne bar, perhaps, or a micro-brewery with a taproom—and unique spaces that offer more than simply a place to sit and charge your devices. Perhaps they have indoor gardens, rooftop terraces with runway views, or even entire adventure playgrounds to keep the kids happy while you’re waiting for your flight to be called.
These kinds of added luxuries have put 20 airports on the Skytrax World’s Best Airports list this year, with Singapore Changi Airport stealing the show for the 12th time since 1999, when Skytrax launched its first airport customer satisfaction survey. Voted by travelers in a global customer satisfaction survey, which takes into account everything from public transport options and line waiting times to cleanliness, choice of food and shops, and accessibility adjustments, the Asian hub took its title back from Doha’s Hamad International Airport, which was the 2021 and 2022 Airport of the Year.
Japan’s aviation hubs performed well this year, with 4 of the country’s main airports in the top 20, while Paris, Istanbul, and Madrid garnered spots in the top 10. Here’s the full ranking from Skytrax.
1. Singapore Changi Airport, Singapore
Singapore is famous for its vast and varied food scene, and this even extends into its airport. In addition to taking the top spot overall, Changi International (pictured above) won the Skytrax world’s best airport dining award and best airport leisure amenities awards in 2023. When you find yourself in Singapore’s gargantuan terminals, don’t miss spicy Indian cuisine from Bikanervala, comfort food at Burger & Lobster (a London favorite), or traditional Singaporean flavors at Kopitiam. As for those amenities, the Jewel Changi complex is home to a glass-floored canopy bridge, the world’s tallest indoor waterfall, as well as giant trampolines and slides.
If you have an overnight layover, check into the Crowne Plaza Changi Airport—it was voted the world’s best airport hotel for the eighth time in 2023. Those with long layovers that aren’t overnight can pay for a day pass to the outdoor pool at the Aerotel Airport Transit Hotel—it’s located inside Terminal 1 so you don’t have to go through customs to use it.
2. Hamad International Airport, Qatar
In 2022, Hamad International saw nearly 36 million passengers pass through its terminals in Doha. To accommodate the surge of people who traveled to Doha for the FIFA World Cup in November and December 2022, the Middle Eastern transport hub expanded to increase its capacity to over 58 million passengers per year, while also adding a second airport hotel and an indoor tropical garden called the Orchard.
If you’re traveling through Hamad—which connects Washington, D.C., New York, Miami, Los Angeles, and Houston with South Africa, Tanzania, and India—expect to see high-end designer stores like Burberry, Gucci, and Jimmy Choo with duty-free price tags within its terminal. (It’s no surprise it won first place for world’s best airport shopping.) The varied dining options include divine cakes from L’eto Caffe on Concourse C and sandwiches in Harrods Tea Room in the south duty-free zone. Best of all, the airport even has a pay-to-use fitness center and spa, as well as pay-by-the-hour sleep pods for long layovers.
3. Tokyo International Airport (Haneda), Japan
The main entry point into Japan’s capital is a favorite among passengers for many reasons. This year in the Skytrax awards, Haneda’s Tokyo International Airport won cleanest airport, best domestic airport, and the award for best accessibility for reduced mobility passengers. We love it for its “calm down, cool down” secluded seating areas for anxious or stressed passengers who are sensitive to light, sound, or crowds and for the numerous spas and massage chairs available throughout its three terminals.
4. Incheon International Airport, South Korea
With a spa, myriad gardens for relaxation, a movie theater, and an ice skating rink, Incheon International has been designated the fourth best airport in the world with the best airport staff overall. This vast airport is the main aviation gateway for Seoul, South Korea’s sprawling modern capital, and it served over 17.8 million passengers in 2022.
5. Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, France
Even if you’re only transiting through the French capital’s main airport, you can still soak up a bit of that Parisian culture and world-class art. In both terminals 1 and 2, you’ll find rotating exhibitions by top museums, including the Louvre and Palace of Versailles. Relax in the chic Instant Paris lounge for free, or head to the spa for a massage or beauty treatment in Terminal 2E.
6. Istanbul Airport, Tükiye
In addition to being named the sixth best airport in the world, Istanbul airport also earned the accolade of the most family-friendly airport in 2023. There’s a brilliant soft play area for kids, which has a pretend airplane to climb in and out of. The airport provides family-focused shuttles for getting around easily.
7. Munich Airport, Germany
In 2023, Munich Airport held on to its place as seventh best in the world. We love the free relaxation lounges where you can recline on beds surrounded by plants, and the VIP Wing lounge (starting at €382), which offers a private shuttle to your flight, high-end dining, and a biergarten serving traditional Bavarian food, such as weisswurst and dumplings.
After a two-year pandemic break, Munich Airport also brought back its Christmas market in 2022 complete with a forest of decorated firs, live music, and an ice skating rink.
8. Zurich Airport, Switzerland
Efficiency was what impressed travelers passing through Zurich Airport, which won best security processing as well as eighth best airport in the world. Considering Zurich saw more than 22.6 million passengers pass through its terminals in 2022, that’s quite a feat. Facilities here are pretty good, too, with beauty salons, a hairdresser, a dental center, and a gym.
9. Narita International Airport, Japan
The largest airport in Japan, Narita is now the world’s ninth best aviation hub according to passengers. It’s little wonder this airport impresses, as Narita has all manner of unusual features. Terminal 2 has its own Japanese art gallery, and there’s an exhibit on traditional Kabuki theater in Terminal 1. At the Nine Hours capsule hotel in Terminal 2, ideal for layovers or early morning flights, you can nap for under $12 per hour.
10. Madrid-Barajas Airport, Spain
Madrid Barajas Airport is located northeast of the Spanish capital, and from there it’s a cheap train ride to anywhere in the city. But you’ll want to linger in this airport that over 50 million travelers passed through in 2022. Head over to Terminal 4—with its iconic curved bamboo roof—to the two macrobiotic mini-spas from SHA Wellness Clinic. Called Esenza by SHA, each one offers therapeutic treatments as well as organic foods and juices.
And the rest of the top 20 airports . . .
11. Vienna International Airport
12. Helsinki-Vantaa Airport
13. Rome Fiumicino Airport
14. Copenhagen Airport
15. Kansai International Airport
16. Chubu Centrair International Airport
17. Dubai International Airport
18. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
19. Melbourne Airport
20. Vancouver International Airport
Additional reporting by Lyndsey Matthews. This article was originally published in 2022; it was updated on March 15, 2023, with new information.