To Europe! Face-Off: Best Airport for a Layover

Posted by Fodor's Editors on June 02, 2010 at 3:00:00 PM EDT | Post a Comment

Last week's winner is Munich International Airport. Thanks to all who voted and be sure to check back later today for this week's To Europe! Face-Off.

Original post:

We're in week 3 of the To Europe! Face-off. Last week's winner was Emilia-Romagna (Italy). See the original post here.

Thanks to Iceland's volcano Eyjafjallajokull, we all have a new understanding of flight disruptions. Our editors have been debating where they would most like to get stuck. That brings us to this week's To Europe! Face-Off -- European airports for a very long layover: Munich vs. Heathrow.

Have more to say than just a simple vote? Feel free to write a comment to explain your opinion, share a memory of one of the destinations, or simply tell us we're off our rocker because we didn't include your favorite spot in the matchup. The poll will close at 12:00 PM EST Wednesday 6/9, and we'll crown week three's European Face-Off winner later that afternoon.

Munich International Airport Vs. Heathrow International Airport
Munich International Airport
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Heathrow International Airport
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Munich International Airport

Munich International Airport won the prestigious Skytrax World Airport Award for best airport in Europe in 2010 and was ranked number 4 in the world after Singapore, Seoul, and Hong Kong.

The airport is like a mini-city, with plenty of activities to keep you entertained during a long layover. Experience a true German tradition and have a beer from the world's first airport brewery at the Hofbräuhaus here. For a more active layover, play miniature golf, beach volleyball or soccer, or ice skate in winter. There's also a playground for energetic tykes. Live concerts and 150 shops with downtown prices draw locals to the airport as well.

If you're an airplane aficionado (and German-speaker) you can take advantage of a small cinema showing movies on aviation themes or take a bus tour of the airport's facilities, including maintenance hangars and engine-testing facilities. Looking for some R&R? The airport offers massages at the gate, relaxation zones, and napcabs (soundproof mini-rooms to nap in).

If those are not enough reasons to vote for Munich International, add to them the airport's proximity to Munich proper. Munich is just 17 miles away and is linked to the airport by excellent train service. Trains depart every 10 minutes, and the journey takes about 40 minutes. You can easily head into town and catch the views from the 14th-century Frauenkirche, explore the Deutsches Museum, sample the varied food offerings at the Viktualienmarkt, or stroll through the Englischer Garten.

Heathrow International Airport

There are those who complain about Heathrow's high security and complicated transfers, but when it comes to getting stuck at an airport, it's a pretty good place to be. Heathrow shines for its shops and earned the 2010 Skytrax award for Best Airport Shopping. With British-themed gifts from stores like Harrods and Liberty, you can save your souvenir shopping for here. And don't forget the shops featuring famous designer brands such as Gucci, Prada, Bulgari, and Paul Smith. Heathrow is a shopper's dream.

At Be Relax Spa, in Satellite Terminal 5B, you can treat yourself to a massage or manicure, or relax in one of the YOTEL's cabins, with ensuite bathrooms, free Internet access, and "techno wall" entertainment systems. What better way to refresh from an overnight flight?

Heathrow's trump card is its proximity to central London. If you have a long enough layover, head into the city with either the quick but expensive Heathrow Express or the cheaper Piccadilly Line of the London Tube. Either way you'll be in the city in less than an hour for classic London attractions such as Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace. You can also take a cab or bus to Windsor to explore Windsor Castle or Eton College.

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Member Comments (13)  Post a Comment

  • Mainhattengirl on Aug 8, 10 at 05:34 AM

    The best airport for a layover is Frankfurt, because the city is only an 11-15 min. ride away. The city is easy to get to and lots to see there.

  • Zermatt2 on Jun 14, 10 at 07:38 AM

    I didn't get to vote in the poll, but I do not like Heathrow Airport and do not like to layover there...too crowded, but worse, I just don't like the transfers. I'd definitely take Munich over Heathrow any day. Besides, you can go into Munich on the train....and Munich is one of my favorite cities!

    To Lynnesbob.....I don't care for Frankfurt, either....it's like Heathrow. Too big, and transfers are too long.

  • lynnesbob on Jun 9, 10 at 05:16 PM

    Any suggestions for a 6 hour layover Saturday (9AM to 3 PM) at Frankfurt, Germany, airport?

  • Poconolady on Jun 7, 10 at 05:14 PM

    I will take Munich anyday! At holiday time they even have a Christmas Market at the airport. Heathrow is miserable, especially when you get stick there overnight-in case anyone ever thought that LHR is a 24 hour airport, think again. it is a very creepy place at 3AM, when there is only one cafe open and no other place to sit where you feel safe, we spent a fortune drinking coffee just to "buy" ourselves a decent place to sit. Also the fees/taxes for going in and out of LHR at always higher than other EU airports.

  • opaldog on Jun 6, 10 at 11:54 AM

    Another nay for Heathrow. We have never had a good experience in that airport. From losing luggage, to debit card being swallowed by bank machine I never want to go back there again.

  • lynclarke on Jun 4, 10 at 08:41 AM

    Munich airport is my choice. We arrived there last month 2.5 hours late after our flight had mechanical problems. The airport is large but the signage is good, the personnel are helpful, and we were re-directed to Frankfort 45 minutes after we arrived to continue with our trip, AND best of all our luggage landed at our final destination with us. We almost regretted leaving. The airport train is a snap to use. One can buy tickets online so there is no fussing with money or ticket machines. There are some decent restaurants and a brewhouse does not hurt at all. Yes, one vote for Munich.

  • laciotat on Jun 4, 10 at 12:09 AM

    Under no circumstances Heathrow - it is the rudest, most incompetent, suspicion ridden and arrogant airport in the Western world,and a nightmare to be stuck in. Keep the expensive shops - Heathrow needs to learn courtesy to travellers and efficiency. I prefer to fly in and out of Paris and catch a train or ferry if going to the UK. Charles de Gaulle isn't perfect but it doesn't treat tourists like dirt.

  • usernameistaken on Jun 3, 10 at 06:33 PM

    Definitely NOT Heathrow. Never had a good experience there and they are racist!

  • RCKennedy on Jun 3, 10 at 04:37 PM

    Munich has a very good hotel (with a very good restaurant) right there and is the easiest airport in Europe to use. Heathrow is a nightmare every step of the way and I avoid it all costs.

  • malyman on Jun 3, 10 at 11:20 AM

    Log me in for "Anywhere but Heathrow" too.
    Been stuck there. It was agony. Shopping at Bulgari or Gucci at an airport never occurred to me thank God.

  • dymphna on Jun 3, 10 at 08:53 AM

    Whichever one has a smoking area inside security.

  • Senyor on Jun 3, 10 at 08:46 AM

    Anywhere but Heathrow...

  • Tim_Barnett on Jun 2, 10 at 02:48 PM

    What a bizarre question. Of course I'd not elect to be stranded at München or London. I'd choose somewhere smaller. My top ten choices of airports to be stuck would be:
    Vitebsk
    Memmingen (MUCH better than nearby Munich)
    Derry City
    Kirkenes
    L'viv
    Riga
    Santiago de Compostella
    Barra
    Helgoland
    Tresco

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