We’ve all been there. Your flight’s delayed and there’s nothing you can do but wait, patiently or rather less patiently. Rather than stand in a queue at the gate with your bag in your hand, gnashing your teeth, why not hit the shops?
You can indulge in retail therapy in most airports, but some of them offer shopping facilities so immense that it’s almost worth the trip for the shopping alone! Well, actually we doubt anyone would go that far, but make sure to take advantage if you’re passing through any of the airports featured below – they’re a sight to be seen and you’re bound to pick up a bargain too.
Dubai International Airport
Dubai is known for its opulence and its fabulous shopping, and the airport is no exception. Open 24 hours a day and housing over 30 tax-free superstores, at the award-winning Dubai Duty Free you can expect to find big-name designers from Gucci to Stella McCartney with up to 50% off the city prices. DDF is also known for its massive monthly giveaways. The more you spend in the shops, the more raffle tickets you get, so you might leave with more than just your suitcase. £1 million, anyone?
Hong Kong International Airport
© Eric Hui
With a not-too-shabby 280 shops across the two terminals, Hong Kong International Airport is a shopping destination to rival the city’s Causeway Bay and is a shoo-in for this list. In both Terminal 1’s SkyMart and Terminal 2’s SkyPlaza, you’ll find everything from Bose and Apple electronics to Chanel and Versace luxury goods. Fancy a round of golf before your flight (who doesn’t)? Not a problem! At Terminal 2 you can get in nine holes at the airport’s own golf course, visit the 4D cinema and even be a pilot for a few minutes in a cockpit simulator. Chocks away!
Heathrow Airport, London
We’re blowing our own trumpet a little, but on our doorstep is one of the world’s best airports as far as shopping goes. Heathrow won the award for World’s Best Airport Shopping in 2011 and 2012 thanks to its huge range of shops, from traveller essentials like Boots and WHSmith to luxury stores like Hermès and Jo Malone. If you’re determined that you must visit Harrods before boarding, don’t fret – there’s one in every terminal!
Sydney International Airport
© Jan Kratochvila
At Sydney’s airport is the largest duty-free store in the southern hemisphere – now, that’s not something to be sneezed at. You’ll find one of just two Lonely Planet stores in the world (the other is in Manchester) and the first Apple store to open in an Australian airport. There’s also a variety of both designer and high-street brands, and all the boardies and flip flops you could wish for at Billabong and Rip Curl. And for a gift that really hammers home where you’ve been, Adventure Australia and Australian Made won’t let you down.
Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam
We’re big fans of Schiphol Airport’s (ahem) novel idea of creating the world’s first airport library! Pick up a book on your way through the airport and return it on your trip home – why don’t more airports do this? There’s also a casino and a branch of Amsterdam‘s Rijksmuseum with a showcase of Dutch masterpieces. And of course, the shopping! You’ll find both designer names and more purse-friendly retailers, as well as several florists where you can buy traditional Dutch tulips; just the thing to perk your weary self up after a dreary flight.
O R Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg
With over 100 stores, Africa’s busiest airport is a fantastic shopping destination, especially if you’re after traditional crafts and presents. You’ll find five duty-free outlets and brands like Lacoste and Timberland, but when it comes to African souvenirs, the airport really comes into its own with a huge range of quality local crafts at Johannesburg market prices. Don’t miss the Out of Africa store, with everything from handcrafted leather accessories to animal-skin rugs, or the South African wines and amarula cream liqueur at Big Five Duty Free.
Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport
At Paris’s biggest and busiest airport, a new shopping centre opened in April 2012 which connects Terminals 1 and 2. With a modern, luxurious décor featuring shiny marble floors and plenty of white leather upholstery, it’s designed to resemble a department store with no end of luxury brands and a range of eateries. Whether you’re looking for up-to-the-minute fashion, duty-free goods or scrummy French treats for your loved ones, you’ll find what you’re looking for at what is now the largest shopping centre at a Paris airport.
Narita International Airport, Tokyo
At Narita International, one of Tokyo’s two main airports, a range of duty-free outlets, luxury labels like Coach and Tiffany & Co. and Japanese brands such as Uniqlo and Seiko make up the 135 or so stores. To buy a gift with a difference or simply to gaze in awe, visit the Nippon Origami Museum in Terminal 1, with displays of 400 origami creations, or quench your thirst at the beer vending machines dotted throughout. And if you’ve got a hankering for a soy sauce- or green tea-flavour KitKat, the various gift shops won’t disappoint.
Singapore Changi Airport
Spread throughout the three terminals of Singapore Changi Airport are 230 retail outlets, including duty-free stores, luxury global brands like Miu Miu and Singaporean brands like Chomel (selling jewellery and accessories) and ubiquitous names such as Nike. For traditional souvenirs, try Top Orchids for a gift box of fresh flowers and Discover Singapore for a jar of the finest Tiger Balm. And if you can find any item that’s more expensive than in the downtown shopping areas like Bugis Street or Raffles Boulevard, you’re guaranteed double the price difference back!
San Francisco International Airport
© Rafael Ramirez Lee
Picture this: you’re coming home from a fantastic San Francisco holiday when you realise you haven’t bought any souvenirs! You need some Californian gifts sharpish, but not ones that look like you hastily bought them on your way to the departure gate. You’re in luck; at San Francisco International Airport is a wide range of regional pressies, from delicious Ghirardelli chocolates to handcrafted jewellery by local artists. You can also pick up a bottle of Napa Valley wine from Wine Wisdom or San Francisco Wine Gourmet. Cheers!