Being in an airport during the busy holiday travel season can be stressful, but some of the biggest and best airports around the world embrace transform themselves to bring joy to your journeys. With twinkling lights, pine-scented air, and the sound of sleigh bells, these terminals stand out with their impressive holiday cheer. From London to Singapore, these airports outdo themselves every year with awe-inspiring displays. No matter where you're going this season, a trip through one of these airports is certain to put you in the holiday mood. —Zachary Laks
O’Hare International Airport
WHERE: Chicago, Illinois
Expect dazzling lights and terminals filled with boughs of holly at O’Hare International Airport this season, as the airport continues its annual tradition of celebrating the holidays in style. The nation’s third-busiest airport transforms into a winter wonderland, first visible on the road leading to the terminals, where bright, LED-wrapped trees and giant stars and spheres dot the perimeter of the grounds, forming a wintry landscape. Bright wreaths are adorned on many of the overhead signs throughout the airport roads, while oversize ornaments and lights are placed throughout the arrival and departure terminals. Be sure not to miss Terminal 3, where O’Hare’s signature globe is brought to life with the help of hundreds of LED lights, garland accents, and bright doves that float overhead. Aside from the decorations, O’Hare will host school choirs, jazz and blues bands, barbershop quartets and strolling carolers on select days throughout December.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Chicago Travel Guide
In addition to its normal holiday decorations, Changi Airport celebrates all things Pokemon this holiday season. A sight to behold! Can you name all the plushies on this Christmas tree at Terminal 1?
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Singapore Travel Guide
WHERE: London, England
With an extensive roster of musicians and festive décor, Heathrow Airport welcomes visitors this holiday season with daily events that are guaranteed to spread joy. Carolers, a string quartet, and a brass band are just some of the rotating acts set to entertain travelers this season throughout the airport’s four terminals. Heathrow offers travelers the great benefit of free gift wrapping, available in all terminals. And most helpful of all, Heathrow’s friendly “gift helpers” are on hand in all terminals, expert in finding the perfect gifts for your friends and loved ones.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s London Travel Guide
WHERE: Zürich, Switzerland
A Swiss holiday haven, Zürich Airport glistens with the glow of 510,860 LED lights and 31 Christmas trees throughout the airport this season. During the holiday season, guests are treated to a deluxe offering of events and activities in the airport which include scheduled tours of the enormous double-decker Airbus A380 operated by Singapore Airlines, an elaborate and exclusive Christmas dinner, and cookie-baking classes for kids. Pop-up stores throughout the terminals include a festive Nespresso coffee spot and fine chocolates and sweets at the Läderach pop-up.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Zürich Travel Guide
WHERE: Munich, Germany
Celebrating the season with the warmth and livelihood of a traditional German holiday market, the 18th Annual Winter Market returns to Munich Airport this year. Plan to spend the better part of an afternoon exploring the market’s 46 stands under the roof of the Munich Airport Center, where the sweet smell of mulled wine and roasted almonds fills the air. Arrive hungry and enjoy artisanal wurst and plenty of German beer on tap. With 450 real Christmas trees set amidst the market, the Winter Market is an ideal place to spend the most wonderful time of the year.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Munich Travel Guide
Hong Kong airport
WHERE: Hong Kong
Adding some glitz to the holiday season, a stunning Swarovski-bejewelled hot-air balloon has landed at Hong Kong International Airport this season, a centerpiece of the airport’s lavish holiday decorations. Standing nearly 50 feet tall and encrusted with nearly a million crystals, the breathtaking royal-blue-and-silver balloon welcomes visitors in the arrival hall of Terminal 1. Adding an interactive feature to the work of art, the 3D illusion painting nearby is designed for the perfect photo opportunity.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Hong Kong Travel Guide
WHERE: Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona Airport’s two terminals are decked to the nines this holiday season, featuring warm white lights and Christmas trees throughout the bustling airport. All of the airport’s 80 shops feature large wreaths encircling the entrance and their own tree. Look for the five custom-created oversize ornaments hanging in the halls of both terminals along with the dazzling white-and-blue tree, made of hundreds of LED lights and topped with a perfect blue snowflake.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Barcelona Travel Guide
Los Angeles International Airport
WHERE: Los Angeles, California
The second-busiest airport in the country, Los Angeles International Airport is putting its best foot forward in the midst of its multibillion-dollar upgrades to all of its terminals. Construction barriers have been transformed into scenic vistas, with huge holiday photos of Los Angeles adorning the walls and encouraging travelers to stop and take a selfie with the fun backdrops. Look for #HolidaysatLAX selfie stations throughout terminals. The airport’s signature Christmas trees, surrounded by a white picket fence are a perennial favorite, along with the 15 pylons dotting the entryway to the airport, which turn blue for Hanukkah and red and green for Christmas.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Los Angeles Travel Guide
Vancouver International Airport
WHERE: Richmond, British Columbia
The holiday season is in full swing at Vancouver International Airport, where clusters of trees, life-sized nutcrackers, and garlands adorn the terminals and lounges, serving fun bursts of color wherever you look. Make plans to arrive a little earlier than usual to make the most of the holiday merriment at the airport, since live musical performances by featuring local pianists, folk singers, school choirs, and DJs fill the December days. With free gift-wrapping services for all items purchased in the terminal, bring your holiday shopping list along; popular stores include Brooks Brothers, Desigual, and Victoria’s Secret.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Vancouver Travel Guide
WHERE: Frankfurt, Germany
Daily events fill the December calendar at Frankfurt Airport, Germany’s busiest airport, which transforms for the holiday season. With nearly 100 Christmas trees spread throughout the terminals, half a million lights, and 12,000 Christmas ornaments, any trip through the airport is certain to incite holiday joy. Rafters ring with the hum of Christmas carols, including Lufthansa’s much-loved “Angels on Air,” which features Lufthansa employees with singing talents. Be on the lookout for Santa Claus as he makes special appearances throughout the season, spreading holiday cheer by handing out rubber-ducky keychains.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Frankfurt Travel Guide