The World's Most Beautiful Airports

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Lyon–Saint Exupéry Airport
©Michael Burgstahler/Flickr, Creative Commons
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Baku Heydar Aliyev International Airport in Azerbaijan
Baku Heydar Aliyev International Airport: Azerbaijan

Named for Azerbaijan's former president, this airport defies typical conventions for a tactile approach—its wood, stone and textile surfaces beg to be touched. Cocoon pods house cafes and kiosks.

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Lyon–Saint Exupéry Airport in France
©wsifrancis/Flickr, Creative Commons
Lyon–Saint Exupéry Airport: France

Designed by the award-winning Santiago Calatrava, Lyon–Saint Exupéry became a city landmark when it opened in 1994. Its fan-shaped canopy resembles the outline of a bird and swoops down into a beak-like point. 

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Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai, India
©Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport
Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport: India

Terminal 2 alone at this Mumbai airport measures 4.4 million square feet. Its multiple-story art wall features more than 7,000 pieces of artwork and artifacts from every corner of India. 

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Shenzhen Bao'an International Airport in China
Shenzhen Bao'an International Airport: China

High-tech Shenzhen Bao'an resembles a manta ray. A honeycomb motif weaves its way throughout the airport; metal and glass panels can be opened in any number of patterns, creating lighting effects. 

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CHP Copenhagen in Denmark
©CHP Copenhagen
CHP Copenhagen: Denmark

In 2016 CHP Copenahagen was lauded as having the world's best security. The striking design was conceived to allow for better traffic flow of its passengers; subsequently, it was named Europe's most efficient airport.

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Denver International Airport
©Denver International Airport
Denver International Airport: United States

No airport captures its surrounding landscape more dramatically than does Denver International. Jeppesen Terminal recalls the snowcapped Rockies that are the city's backdrop; a series of tents evoke the region's early Native American teepees. 

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Changi Airport in Singapore
Changi Airport: Singapore

From a koi pond to a 24-hour movie theater to an installation of 1,200 copper raindrops, Changi Airport delights all ages. The eco-friendly Terminal 3 has a natural skylight and gardens with more than 200 species of foliage. 

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London's Heathrow Airport
Heathrow Airport: England

Heathrow's Terminal 2—"The Queen's Terminal"—was designed to be decidedly British. The undulating roof and its flexible covering enhances the day's natural light and reflects artificial light at night. 

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Russia's Pulkovo Airport
©Pulkovo Airport
Pulkovo Airport: Russia

Russia's Pulkovo Airport is a treasure trove of sculpture and paintings by artists from St. Petersburg. Both the artworks and terminal design are visual tributes to the dynamics of flying. 

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Carrasco International Airport in Uruguay
Carrasco International Airport: Uruguay

The soft curve of Carrasco International Airport's façade was inspired by the rolling dunes along Uruguay's coastline. Inside, panoramic views are more dramatic through the tilted glass windows.

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Queen Alia International Airport in Jordan
Queen Alia International Airport: Jordan

The modular design of Queen Alia draws from traditional Islamic motifs and resembles the vein of a leaf; domes branch out from the supporting columns to flood the concourse with natural sunlight. It also lends itself easily to future expansion.

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Duluth International Airport Minnesota
Duluth International Airport: United States

A homage to the Great Lakes, this airport's roof recalls a crashing wave, its reddish exterior is similar to the color of the ore carried on the Lakes' freighters. Inside, the terrazzo floors depict the cracking of ice and glass is etched with native birch tree motifs.

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Marrakech Menara Airport
©Jason7825/Wikimedia Commons
Marrakech Menara Airport: Morocco

Menara's concrete roof is made up of pyramid-shaped windows which filter natural light through arabesque patterns. The windows are are made of photovoltaic modules—not glass—to generate power. 

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Kuala Lumpur International Airport
©Malaysia Airports
Kuala Lumpur International Airport: Malaysia

With its geometric patterns and nod to Mother Nature, Kuala Lumpur's main air hub fits into the countryside with perfect symmetry. Its shading roof resembles trees in a Malaysian rainforest with narrow skylights in between. 

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Madrid Barajas Interational Airport
©Nan Palermo/Flickr, Creative Commons
Madrid-Barajas Airport: Spain

The bold design of the Madrid-Barajas Airport is also simple and efficient. Three linear modules are separated by long, rectangular open spaces that brilliantly showcase the use of light and color.  

By Jennifer McKee on 09/06/2017

Whether they reflect the natural beauty of the region, the culture and tradition of their country or sport a sleek, futuristic approach, the world's most beautifully designed airports are more than just pretty façades—they're full of thoughtful amenities and eco-friendly features that offer natural cooling properties, natural light and even power generation. Next time you're fortunate enough to visit one of these airports, take a look around and discover the elemental touches that make these terminals works of art unto themselves.