Oh, the layover. That annoying middle ground waiting time before you get to your real vacation. It can be frustrating if you have an extra long layover, or if the airport you’re laying over in is lacking in amenities and things to do. Travellers often dread the layover and see it as the worst part of their journey.
Travelling to Europe is a popular choice come those year-end holidays, so make your layover an awesome one! Here, we’ll be sharing some of the best airports in Asia, the Middle East and Europe for a layover on the way to your final destination in Europe! There’s also a bonus section on airports with free layover tours which is useful for travellers who need a substantial break in between flights.
If you have yet to book your flights, pick specific airlines based on the airports they use as a hub. You could also use Skyscanner’s multi-city search to ensure that you will have a layover at the airport of your choice!
What’s in this guide:
- Best layover airports in Asia
- Best layover airports in the Middle East
- Best layover airports in Europe
- Airports with free layover tours
- How to book stopover flights
- Can you leave the airport during an international layover?
Best airports in Asia for your layover
Depending on your airline or your destination in Europe, you may end up laying over in Asia! This will make a quick first leg of your flight. Take a look at our list of best airports in Asia for a layover on the way to Europe.
1. Hong Kong International Airport
Hong Kong International Airport is the hub for Cathay Pacific and if you’re flying to Europe with this airline, you’ll be stopping off at Hong Kong.
If you want an active layover, then Hong Kong is a great choice! At Hong Kong International Airport, you can play a round of golf at their nine-hole golf course which is open 24/7. You could also head to the world’s first IMAX theatre in an airport or check out their iSports simulator to play basketball, soccer, or go racing. You could tour through the Aviation Discovery Centre to learn about the history of aviation in Hong Kong.
Need to calm it down a bit? Then dine in one of the Michelin star restaurants or check out the Cathay Pacific Lounge in Terminal 1.
2. Beijing Airport
If you’re flying with Air China to Barcelona or Zurich for a holiday, you’ll have a layover in Beijing. Beijing Capital International Airport provides free showers in Terminal 3 for you to freshen up before your next flight. Treat your body well in the spa with a foot massage or take the free shuttle to the Hilton Beijing Airport Hotel to get access to the gym or spa for a fee. Or for a bit of relaxation, feed the fish in the ponds of the two gardens in Terminal 3. You can also catch a bit of shuteye in their GoSleep Pods, which you pay for by the hour.
Best airports in the Middle East for your layover
Since the Middle East lies between Singapore and Europe, many Europe-bound passengers have a stopover in the region. Check out these Middle East airports for your next layover!
3. Doha Hamad International Airport
The airline that uses Doha Hamad International Airport as a hub is Qatar Airways. If you’re flying to London, Paris, Athens, or Milan with Qatar Airways, then you will stop over in Doha.
This airport has a lot of great amenities for folks on layovers. At this airport, you can get free WiFi and a wonderful shopping experience plus plenty of duty-free shops. There are many different lounges to choose from; Al Safwa First Lounge and Al Mourjan Business Lounge are accessible to Qatar Airways passengers. There are also spas, art exhibitions, a wellness club, and free quiet rooms!
And, book a layover tour if your layover is 5+ hours! On a layover tour, you can check out the highlights of the city including souks, museums, and more! On a longer layover, you can take a desert tour or even get a privately-chauffered tour around the city! A regular tour costs 75 QAR ($28), and a private tour costs 250 QAR ($93.50).
4. Dubai International Airport
This airport is a booming success and it continues growing. A major hub, Dubai International Airport hosts layover passengers on Singapore to Europe flights, including those flying with Emirates and Singapore Airlines.
Everything in Dubai is going for the biggest and best, and their airport is no exception! You will find high-end shopping locations as well as the largest duty-free store in the world. There are open-air gardens, a gym with a pool and showers (open 24/7), free WiFi, and sleeping areas called Snoozecubes where you can get a snooze for a small fee.
Singapore Airlines flies into Terminal 1, but you can easily travel between terminals. Terminal 3 is just for Emirates Airways passengers, and it is the largest terminal in the world! Book yourself into a lounge such as the Emirates Business Lounge for a relaxing trio of a buffet, drinks, and a shower!
You won’t be at a loss for activities at Dubai International Airport! Head out into the city if you have a long layover. The airport is close to downtown, and taxis are easy to grab right outside of the airport.
5. Abu Dhabi International Airport
Abu Dhabi International Airport. Photo Credit: Forlis via Flickr
Another hotspot in the UAE is the beautiful city of Abu Dhabi. On your way to Barcelona, Manchester, or Milan with Etihad Airways, you will have a layover in Abu Dhabi International Airport.
In Abu Dhabi, you can get a free, 48-hour visa-on-arrival and then grab a taxi to head out into the nearby city to sightsee! But if you’d rather stay inside the airport, then there’s plenty to keep you busy! You can get free WiFi, free showers, and a free newspaper and magazine service. There are also spas, art exhibitions, and lounges to choose from in each terminal.
Terminal 3 is solely dedicated to Etihad Airways and includes 3 different lounges, so take your pick!
Best airports in Europe for your layover
For travellers flying to a European city that is not home to a major airport, you might have a layover in another airport in Europe before your final connecting flight. Book your flight to hit one of the best airports in Europe for a layover.
6. London Heathrow Airport
The main airline that uses Heathrow as a hub is British Airways. If you’re flying with British Airways from Singapore to head to Frankfurt or Amsterdam, you’ll have a layover in London at Heathrow Airport.
Lucky you – this is one of the most popular airports in the world. So yes, it is busy, but that means there are so many things to do! If you’re a shopper, then this is the layover airport for you. At Heathrow, you can find high-end retail outlets and they offer free personal shoppers! There are also over 100 restaurants, and the city is only 25 kilometres away if you have a long enough layover to take a quick tour!
7. Helsinki Airport
Helsinki Airport is the hub if you’re flying with FinnAir, and it’s a great choice
if you’re heading to Frankfurt, Amsterdam, or Berlin for a holiday! When thinking of good airports, Helsinki may not initially come to mind, but the theme of this airport is relaxation.
Relax for free in Helsinki Airport’s relaxation area with reclining couches or cosy up with a book in the book exchange and reading area. There is also an art exhibit as well as a terrace for when you want to get some fresh air. And, you can catch a movie at the cinema area to help pass that layover time.
8. Amsterdam Airport Schiphol
Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is the layover point if you’re flying with KLM to Europe, so you can get a stopover in historic Amsterdam.
This airport is so unbelievable; you can consider a layover there as a vacation in and of itself! First off, you can tour the Rijksmuseum Schiphol for free to see rotating and permanent art exhibits created by Dutch artists. You will also find the world’s first airport library replete with books in 29 languages! And if you’re not a reader, then check out over 75 shops and different restaurants, or hit the spa options or gamble at the casinos!
If you want to take a rest, then take your pick from 2 KLM Crown Lounges which are both located in the main terminal.
9. Zurich International Airport
Zurich International Airport will meet your every need if you fly with Swiss International Airlines and are heading to London, Paris, or Amsterdam.
At this airport, wander up to the two rooftop terraces to watch the planes land and take off. There are free showers and large, communal rest areas with reclining chairs for your comfort. If you’re travelling with kids, then head to the kids area to give your children a place to get their energy out! If you need to get a little energy out yourself, then you can rent bikes or in-line skates to get the blood flowing before your next flight!
Airports with free layover tours
Some layovers come with extra benefits to make it much more interesting. What about a free layover tour? That way, you can get out of the airport, get moving, and see a city you might not otherwise see!
- Book a spot on Touristanbul if you’re flying with Turkish Airways and have a layover of 6-24 hours at Istanbul Airport.
- If you’re stopping over at Tokyo Narita Airport, take a layover tour around Tokyo! Look into the Narita Transit Program and choose from guided tours or bus tours.
- As a layover passenger at Taipei’s Taoyuan International Airport, you’ll need at least a 7-hour layover to join the free half-day tour. Book the morning or afternoon tour slot at the Tourist Service Center in Terminal 1 and 2 or online.
*Note: Consider luggage storage and calculate your layover duration to make sure there’s enough time for a tour!
How to book stopover flights
To plan your layover so that you get a good layover airport, use Skyscanner’s multi-city flight search.
Instead of keying-in just a departure city and destination city as you would when searching for return flights, a multi-city search enables you to pick the stopover airport. You’ll need to fiddle with the flight times to make sure you’ll make your connecting flight and have enough time to enjoy the amenities of the airport or have a layover tour.
How to use Skyscanner’s multi-city flight search:
- Select the multi-city option.
- Fill in your destination city and your choice of stopover airport.
- Select the number of travellers and cabin class.
- Adjust your departure times to fix your layover duration.
- Pick from your list of flight options.
Can you leave the airport during an international layover?
It depends on several factors. First, your passport. Singaporeans can get into many countries visa-free or with a visa-on-arrival. Take a look at Skyscanner’s guide to where Singaporeans need to get a travel visa to double check if you’re allowed to leave the airport visa-free.
It also depends on your layover duration, the distance between the airport to the city, and access to transportation for this journey. Find out more about your layover airport, and then decide whether it’s feasible for you to leave the airport.
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Originally published in April 2019. Any prices are lowest estimated prices only at the time of publication and are subject to change and/or availability.