Airports • 8 minutes to read

List of the TOP 5 European airports in 2024

The most challenging years for tourism and the travel industry (after the outbreak of COVID-19) are behind us. It’s time to get back in the game! Just imagine: prior to the pandemic, travel and tourism accounted for 10% of global GDP and provided over 320 million jobs worldwide, making it one of the major sectors of the global economy.

One fact that is undeniable: if we look at the bright side of the past few years, it greatly motivated us to discover and travel around our own countries. But now that tourism is recovering and airports are less and less empty,

and there are endless opportunities waiting for you to fly away on holiday? Here’s a list of the biggest European airport

TOP 5 biggest airports in Europe

  • Istanbul Airport, Istanbul, Turkey
  • Heathrow Airport, London, UK
  • Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris, France
  • Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
  • Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport, Madrid, Spain

Istanbul Airport, Istanbul, Turkey – Where east meets west

The new Istanbul Airport opened its doors in 2018 on the European side of Istanbul in the Arnavutköy district.

As of autumn 2022, the airport’s building still needed to be completed, so it is currently operating a partial load. The plan is to complete it by the latest 2023, at which point it would become the top airport by passenger numbers, with a capacity of about 150 million people per year. If we take into account how big the airport is, you could fit 58 football fields on its roof.

The airport was built and established to replace the old İstanbul Atatürk Airport. It seems travelers do not miss the old airport since the new Istanbul Airport-with its four runways-accepts all types of aircraft, including giants like the Airbus A380 and the Boeing 747.

Passengers have plenty of ways to keep themselves busy while they wait for their flight. You can go and check out two interesting art galleries and exhibitions, one of which has 316 pieces of work. There are multiple smoking areas and 14 tuxedo rooms at Istanbul Airport-four in the international departures area, two in the domestic flight area, one in the international transfers area, five in each of the sleeves, and two on the underground level.

Airport Plane Landing.

Everything you need to know about Istanbul Airport

Area 1.3 km2 Distance from city center 54 km
Airport code IST Number of lounges 11
Date opened 2018 Number of airlines 84
Passenger no. 36.7 million Smoking Area yes
Number of flight routes 180; both domestic and international

Istanbul Airport: Practical tips

If you have to wait a long time for your flight, search for a sleeping cabin labeled IGA Sleepod in the international departures area. This is a single cabin for sleeping, with a special compartment for your luggage, a USB connector, and individual bedding. The cabin costs around $8 per hour.

When you finish all the check-in procedures, there are many ways to pass the time: scroll your phone using the 1-hour free Wi-Fi (for more, find a particular machine where you can extend your Wi-Fi access by scanning your passport) or the cultural program. Or check out one of the two museums in the airport. Treasure of Turkey is the best one, costing around $10.

Don’t hurry to go duty-free shopping-check out Old Bazaar in the territory around the airport. Here, you will find many more uniquely Turkish souvenirs for a lower price, and bring a piece of Turkey back home with you.

Interesting facts you should know

Did you know that Istanbul Airport has the biggest parking complex in Europe? The number of parking spots is around 70,000.

Istanbul Airport has its very own entry in the Guinness Book of Records. In 2020, 1,453 trucks drove along the runway at the airport at the same speed, testing one of the parameters of soil stability at resonance.

The architecture of Istanbul Airport is quite unique and has some historical significance. The tower of the building is in the shape of a tulip-a reference to the history of Turkey and Islam. It was the symbol of the city, too.

You can eat for free at Istanbul Airport if your transfer time takes more than four hours. Go to a Care Point counter next to the escalator in the F wing and get a free food voucher. It allows you to eat at Burger King, Popeye’s, and Sbarro.

Average monthly temperatures in Istanbul, Turkey


Heathrow Airport, London, UK

Heathrow Airport, located in the capital of the United Kingdom, is second in the world and first in Europe in terms of volume of passenger flights served. Around 90 international airlines operate at Heathrow. Making it one of the busiest airports. Furthermore, it is an airport hub for British Airways. In 2019, it served a record 80.8 million passengers.

Heathrow, located 24 km west of central London, has five passenger terminals and one cargo terminal. Queen Elizabeth II opened the fifth terminal on March 14, 2008.

Terminal 1 does not serve passengers at the moment. Terminal 2 is the most modern and serves the 27 international airlines of the Star Alliance community; it is the biggest terminal by size and traffic. Terminal 3 is for long-haul travelers flying to Asia and America. Terminal 4 accepts aircraft from Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, and others from the SkyTeam alliance. Terminal 5 is used exclusively by British airlines and Spain’s Iberia.


Everything you need to know about Heathrow Airport

Area 12.14 km2 Distance from city center 22 km
Airport code LHR Number of lounges 9
Date opened 1929 Number of airlines 90
Passenger no. 75.7 million Smoking Area no
Number of flight routes 197; both domestic and international

Heathrow Airport: Practical tips

The first practical tip for traveling through Heathrow Airport starts on board. When you are about to land, the staff will ask you to fill in the Landing Card in English. Don’t neglect this form, as you will need to present it at passport control. If you don’t have it prepared in advance, you will have to do it on the spot-and the line sometimes can take up to 1.5 hours.

If you have a transfer, follow the violet pointers and if you are looking for an exit to the city, follow the yellow arrows.

If you have the chance, take advantage of the historical exposition at the Heathrow Airport Visitor Center. Next to that, you will find the observation deck, where you can admire the aircraft arrivals and departures.

Travelers with children should know that Heathrow Airport wholeheartedly welcomes little visitors. In Terminals 3 and 5, you can find children’s playrooms, where kids up to nine can kill time before the flight for free. Additionally, some cafes offer free meals for children.

When it’s time to leave the airport and go to the city, the most affordable way to do this is via the underground metro. Take the elevator down from the arrivals hall (Arrivals) to level -1 and walk along a small corridor to get to the subway station Heathrow Terminal 4.

Interesting facts you should know

Heathrow Airport is named after the village of Heath Row, located on the site of Terminal 3. (It was wiped out after the building of the first runway.) The location of Heathrow was used for aviation needs during World War I. In the 1930s, there was a military airfield here where military airplanes were assembled and tested.

The airport’s runways are situated so that planes take off directly over the city. So when you land or take off, look out the window: the views are truly breathtaking!

On the territory of Heathrow Airport, there are priests of the Anglican, Catholic, and Scottish churches, as well as religious leaders of Islam, Sikhism, Hinduism, and Judaism. There are prayer rooms in every terminal, so deeply pious people can maintain their religious routines even when traveling.

There is a ghost train station at Heathrow Airport? When travelers pass by the busy departure gates of Terminal 5, most have no idea there is a hidden “ghost” train station deep underneath. The station, which stretches as long as 33 London buses, was included in the construction of Terminal 5, but it remains empty.

Have you seen Heathrow Airport on TV? The popular Hollywood action movie Red Sparrow, starring Jennifer Lawrence, used the airport for filming. For another film, the 14-person crew of the 2018 ITV documentary Heathrow: Britain’s Busiest Airport drank 1,200 coffees during more than 500 hours of filming across three months here.

Heathrow Airport has the most useful abandoned plane. If you have seen a huge, camo-green, run-down plane on the airfield and wondered what this hunk of metal is doing there, here is the answer: it is used to train Aircraft Rescue Firefighters-the people who save people from burning airplanes. It might be one of the most practical and most-used old hunks of metal!

Did you know that a single duty-free bottle of Chanel no. 5 is sold at Heathrow Airport every five minutes?

Average monthly temperatures in London, United Kingdom

Avg Temp London-United Kingdom

Paris Charles de Gaulle, Paris, France

Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport is France’s main airport and one of the ten largest airports in the world in terms of passenger traffic. It is named in honor of the combative and outstanding Charles de Gaulle, France’s former general and president.

Charles de Gaulle Airport is the central hub of the national airline Air France and an essential hub for the American airline Delta Air Lines. By the way, unlike many other French airports, Charles de Gaulle hosts many budget airlines, including EasyJet and Vueling.

There are three terminals: T1, T2, and T3. T1 operates flights within the Schengen zone and beyond, including Washington, D.C., Tokyo, and Cairo. T2 is divided into seven separate terminals (all located within a stone’s throw, except for 2G) and serves international and domestic flights. T-3 serves budget airlines and charter flights.


Everything you need to know about Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport

Area 32.38 km2 Distance from city center 25 km
Airport code CDG Number of lounges 5
Date opened 1974 Number of airlines more than 100
Passenger no. 60 million Smoking Area yes
Number of flights 237; both domestic and international

Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport: Practical tips

When you move around Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, please don’t get confused by arrows: forward movement/straight ahead is indicated at this airport by an arrow pointing down, not the other way around (as most of us are used to). However, even arrows sometimes do not help newcomers. Check your terminal in advance: most North American airlines generally arrive at and depart from terminal 2A; if you are flying to specific European destinations, you will need to transfer to terminal 2G.

One helpful recommendation: If you are traveling with babies or disabled people, feel free to find someone from the staff and ask them to place you at the beginning of the queue. It’s a typical French gesture; people will let you by without trouble.

Paris Charles de Gaulle is a gigantic airport with plenty of connecting flights. Sometimes budget-conscious travelers have a long transfer and regret not buying business-class tickets with access to the lounges. In this case, if the conveniences of common waiting halls do not satisfy your needs (e.g.,sleeping), you can buy access to the lounges separately.

Interesting facts you should know

If Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport’s exterior seems familiar, you might have seen it in the popular movie The Terminal starring Tom Hanks. This is where Iranian refugee Mehran Nasseri spent years living in a hotell.

If you know the lyrics: “It’s a beautiful day, don’t let it get away. It’s a beautiful day, don’t let it get away,” you can check out Charles de Gaulle Airport in the music video that U2 filmed for the song Beautiful Day. You probably know about U2, but they are not the only ones to use the beauty of the futuristic design of Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport. The band, The Alan Parsons Project also used the airport building on the cover of the album “I Robot.”

A machine gives paper excerpts from various works at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, so passengers can kill time while waiting for a flight. You just need to choose the language and the duration of the reading: one, three, or five minutes.

Average monthly temperatures in Paris, France

Avg Temp Paris France

Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is located in the province of Noord-Holland, 9 km southwest of the center of Amsterdam. Nowadays, we know this airport as being synonymous with high-quality service and air technologies. Until the end of World War I, Schiphol was used exclusively for military purposes. World War II brought three serious damages during the occupation, the Allied forces’ offensive drive, and the German troops’ retreat. The Dutch government rebuilt the airport 10 weeks after the liberation of the Netherlands.

Schiphol Airport terminal serves flights from large European, American, and Asian companies and those from budget airlines. The airport is also a hub for KLM, Martinair, and Transavia.

The construction of Schiphol Airport is simple and clear: four terminals, 90 gates connected, and three departure halls.

Everything you need to know about Schiphol Airport

Area 27.82 km2 Distance from city center 17.5 km
Airport code AMS Number of lounges 2
Date opened 1916 Number of airlines around 100
Passengers no. 60 million Smoking Area no
Number of flight routes 231; both domestic and international

Schiphol Airport: Practical tips

Despite the simplicity of Schiphol Airport, you might need a few life hacks to save time. If you arrive at Schiphol Airport without a boarding pass, don’t go straight to the second floor to the Departures area – instead, look for the blue or yellow self-check-in machines on the ground floor. Typically, there are no queues directly in the Departures zone. After check-in, don’t forget to stroll around the duty-free shops and use a 5 percent discount coupon that you can get on the airport’s website.

Experienced shoppers will adore the SeeBuyFly store at the Schiphol Plaza: here, you can buy products of such premium brands as Rolex, Hermes, Mont Blanc, Ralph Lauren, and others that you can not find in the usual duty-free shops.

It’s unnecessary to buy water at Schiphol Airport. You can fill your bottle from the tap – this water is absolutely safe to drink.

Interesting facts you should know

Do you know the reason behind Schiphol Airport’s name? Among the many legends, the most popular one breaks Schiphol into the Dutch words “schip” and “hol“, which means “the tomb of the ship.”

An exact copy of this airport is located 50 km from Amsterdam, in the Aviodrome Air Museum. The premises are designed in the popular (and unusual) architectural style of the time (Amsterdamse School). You can see the staff rooms and the waiting room and even climb the tower. Tickets are just 2 euros.

What else to do in Schiphol? Have you ever thought about getting married on a runway or aboard a 1930s plane? Schiphol Airport can make your dream come true. You will beat all your friends in the running for the best wedding photoshoot.

It was at Schiphol that they introduced the first tax-free shopping in Europe. Non-EU citizens can get back part of the taxes they paid while shopping.

Average monthly temperatures in Amsterdam, Netherdlands

Avg Temp Amsterdam Netherlands

Adolfo Suárez Madrid – Barajas Airport, Madrid, Spain

Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport is the main metropolitan airport in Spain. It ranks fourth in Europe and 11th in the world regarding the volume of flights. It bears the name of the Spanish politician Adolfo Suárez.

The large capacity of the air hub is provided by its four runways and four terminals – T1, T2, T3, T4, and T4S – which are interconnected by a free bus. The first three are connected, and T4 can be reached with a free shuttle bus. The satellite terminal T4S is reachable from T4 by an automatic underground train.

T4S serves international destinations. Boarding gates for EU airlines on the 2nd floor are marked with the letter “M.”


Everything you need to know about Adolfo Suárez Madrid – Barajas Airport

Area 24 km2 Distance from city center ca. 3 km
Airport code MAD Number of lounges 5
Date opened 1928 Number of airlines more than 80
Passengers no. 49.6 million Smoking Area yes
Number of flights 172; both domestic and international

Adolfo Suárez Madrid – Barajas Airport: practical tips

Save yourself some time when boarding: there are kiosks for self-check-in and boarding pass-printing near the check-in counters. They are suitable for passengers traveling with hand luggage only. Terminal 1 is home to Air Europa, Delta Air Lines, Egyptair, Ethiopian Airlines, Saudia, Turkish Airways, and United Airlines. Terminal 2 hosts Aegean Airlines, Air Europa, Air France, KLM, and Norwegian. In Terminal 3, you can find American Airlines, Iberia, and LATAM Airlines.

With the help of technological developments, you can make your airport journey smooth. There is a new type of quick check-in through a facial recognition system. You must create an account in the Aena or Iberia apps and upload your photo and passport data. In the terminal, you go to a special device that scans your face, and after confirmation, you can quickly breeze through all the checkpoints without presenting documents.

Find Wi-Fi hotspots in the food court area and the VIP lounges.

Families with children will feel very comfortable at Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport: besides all the essential conveniences for kids, this airport lends baby strollers free of charge. If you get hungry, we recommend you opt for something more authentically Spanish, like La Bellota, Carlsberg, or Mahoudrid.

Interesting facts you should know

The airport is named after a famous Spanish figure, Adolfo Suárez. He was a politician, lawyer, author, and aficionado/practitioner of bullfighting.

In April 2018, Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport set a record for the number of passengers per day. There were 5,052,318 passengers in total! This is the best April result in the airport’s history in terms of overall and international passenger numbers.

Average monthly temperatures in Madrid, Spain

Avg Temp Madrid Spain

More tips and tricks about the busiest airports in Europe? Check out stories!

Frequently asked questions

How many airports are there in Europe? 

Approximately 347 airports in Europe connect the region with to the world.

Which European country has the most airports? 

This is undoubtedly Germany: there are 539 airports across the country. Find the best time to fly to them with’s flexible search engine.

What is the oldest airport in Europe?

Officially, Hamburg Airport (HAM) in Germany is the oldest airport in Europe. It was established in 1911. Just imagine: during the Cold War, it saw both world wars and the Berlin Blockade in 1948–1949. However, Aurel Vlaicu Airport in Romania is informally the oldest airport in Europe: the first flight occurred in 1909, yet the airport was only officially established in 1912.

Which European airports have pet relief areas?
Which are the best European airports for plane-spotting?
  • Skiathos Airport in Greece. It is totally one of the best locations for plane-spotting! You can walk to the very beginning of the runway-awesome, right? But watch out, a plane or two might land when you least expect it.
  • Hamburg Airport in Germany. The fact that Hamburg is a motherland of aircraft already makes this airport very atmospheric. But the icing on the cake is that you may see a test prototype or the first flight of a newly-built aircraft there!
  • Tivat Airport in Montenegro is situated so that you can access magnificent up-close plane-spotting, with Runway 14 situated right along the coastline.
  • Munich Airport Visitors Park in Germany gives travelers a prominent viewing area overlooking the airport apron. The park is also home to three legendary aircraft: Super Constellation, Douglas DC-3, and Junkers Ju-52.
  • Split Airport in Croatia provides close-up viewing areas at both ends of Runway 05/23. If you wish, you can also hike up the adjacent hills, where you can view aircraft at eye level arriving on Runway 05, with the amazing Croatian coastline in the background.
What is the most beautiful European airport?
It’'s a matter of taste. For example, architecture geeks may tell you that Gdansk Airport, with its fantastic modern design and abundance of glass, is the most beautiful airport. Nature lovers, instead, sing the praises of Innsbruck Airport in Western Austria, which lies in a valley surrounded by the Alps. Both airports are spectacular, but it's up to you which is better. You can make your own rating! Create your itinerary, and you'll find the lowest price if you plan your multi-city journey with the NOMAD feature of
Which European airports are close to ski resorts?
  • Geneva Airport. It takes approximately 80 minutes to get to Morzine in France by car or bus transfer, and it takes 90 minutes to get to Leysin in Switzerland.
  • Innsbruck Airport is located 30 minutes away by car from Axamer Lizum in Austria.
  • Turin Airport is 80 minutes from the amazing Sauze d’Oulx in Italy.
Which European airports are close to beaches?
  • Palma Airport, Mallorca. Catch the A11 bus, and in about one hour, you will be catching sun rays on Palma Nova by the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Dubrovnik Airport, Croatia. How about walking for about 10 minutes and finding yourself on Banje Beach, with cute red-roofed houses on the horizon?
  • Nice Côte d’Azur International Airport, France. Although most beaches in Cannes are private, you can hop on the 210 express bus, travel for 45 minutes, and find a few fabulous public white-sand beaches to soak up the sun.