You don’t usually hear the words “breathtaking” and “airport” in the same sentence. Airports are associated with anxious travelers, ugly fluorescent lighting, and an oddly cold feeling that makes the travelling experience even more anxiety inducing. Well, these airports are beautiful enough to make you actually enjoy the experience. They’re still connectors between cities, but they’re also pieces of art. Be sure to check these airports off your bucket list!
1. Denver International Airport
You wouldn’t think that this picturesque tipi dwelling against a mountain range would be anywhere close to the US – but it’s right in Denver! The peaks glow against the Rockies for an unbeatable sight, and looks more like a remote village than a manmade piece (which it is, by architect Curtis Fentress). In reality, its white Teflon-coated fiber glass meant to imitate the mountain range. Trippy.
2. Madrid–Barajas Airport, Spain
This colorful and majestic airport with integrated skylight diffusers looks more epic than a museum! The mixture of undulating and stark structures inside the terminals along with the open, natural light would make this airport a treat to visit, not a bore!
3. Marrakesh Menara Airport, Morocco
People have likened this airport to a huge, sugar-laced cake, and it’s hard to disagree. The lace-like designs actually imitate the mosaic designs found in Islamic architecture, and it also lets the light in quite beautifully. It hosts 4 million passengers a year, and the colossal size along with the design make this a selfie lover’s dream come true.
4. Wellington International Airport, New Zealand
This huge, wooden structure is actually nicknamed “the rock” and was inspired by mythical sea monsters! That’s pretty cool – the outside is modelled after cliffs, and copper plates that are supposed to “reflect light like water on stones” as the Guardian put it. And they try to use ramps over steps or escalators! Inclusive, and still going with the sea theme. We like.
5. Kuala Lumpur International Airport
This airport in Malaysia features a spotlight-dotted ceiling comprised of wooden slats and tapered beams. It looks very serene to stroll through, and was designed by Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa. In international departures, hyperbolic paraboloids (surreal domes) are held up by tapered columns, giving an overall sophisticated but simple look.
6. O’Hare International Airport, Chicago
A neon lit tunnel under the tarmac connects Concourse C to Concourse B in a surreal way that looks like a futuristic rainbow skating rink out of “A.I” or something. It was designed by Canadian artist Michael Hayden and even if you’re having a terrible day, seeing this will definitely get you giddy.
7. Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai, India
This futuristic building looks more like a palace than an airport, with it’s curved white roof and vibrant honeycomb style pillars that support the building. It’s notorious for terminal 2 which looks more like s science fiction movie with its mind-bending woven patterns and stylish usage of light and dark contrasts.
8. Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport, Shenzhen, China
According to architect Massimiliano Fuksas, the model of this airport was based on a manta ray. Walking inside of it, you feel as though you’re in the belly of the beast, due to the cavernous, high nature. The honeycomb design on the outside also gives it an animalistic feel and is gorgeously meticulous as well as a bit of an optical illusion.
9. Daocheng Yading Airport, Tibet
This airport is sky-high, and truly magnificent. It’s the highest-altitude airport that civilians can access at 4,411m, offering some insane views (if you’re scared of heights, this might not be a favorite) but if you can stomach it, what a view in the clouds.