Not all airports are created equal. Anyone with a few passport stamps under their belt has experienced the pain of getting stuck somewhere without so much as a fast food chain to help them pass the hours, slowly going mad with boredom. But some airports – namely legendary Singapore Changi Airport – almost feel like a destination in themselves. At Singapore Airport, you can swim in a rooftop pool, catch a movie, learn how to mix the perfect cocktail and even walk through a butterfly garden while you wait for your flight.
So exactly what should you put on your Changi stopover hit list? Here’s our Singapore Airport guide to making the most the best airport in the world.
See the butterflies (and more)
At Changi’s famous Butterfly Garden, 1000 of the beautiful creatures fly around a lush tropical walkway full of flowering plants, greenery and a 6-metre tall waterfall. It’s open 24 hours in Terminal 3.
But that’s not the only garden Singapore Airport has to offer. You can marvel at rare flowers in the Orchid Garden in Terminal 2, explore desert landscapes in the Cactus Garden in Terminal 1 or get lost in the Shangri-La atmosphere of the Enchanted Garden in Terminal 2, which comes to life when motion sensors trigger nature sounds and LED lighting as you walk down its pathways. The best bit? They’re all free of charge.
Eat up in Singapore Airport
Singapore’s food culture is incredible so it’s no surprise Changi’s is, too. There’s over 100 different eateries to choose across the airport’s four terminals, from the Hello Kitty Cafe selling sweet treats to American favourite Shake Shack and the 24-hour food gallery offering Singaporean staples like Hainanese chicken rice and nasi lemak any hour of the day.
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There’s even a “secret” staff canteen that can be accessed by passengers, too. Just walk to the far end of Terminal 2, head out to the carpark, turn right, take the stairs and you’ll uncover a cornucopia of cheap eats.
Sip on a Singapore sling
You’d be nuts to leave town without stopping in at Raffles for a Singapore sling or two. But if you somehow missed out on a visit to the iconic hotel bar – or just want another round – stop off at Changi’s own Long Bar, located in Terminal 3, where bartenders will happily whip you up the signature drink.
Want a more hands on cocktail experience? At The Cocktail Bar in Terminal 4, you can go behind the bar and try your hand at cocktail making, with staff there to guide you through the concoction process.
Get an adrenaline rush
Not content with just great food, drink and butterflies, Changi is also home to the world’s tallest slide inside an airport (probably not a crowded field, but that’s okay). The 12-metre-tall slide is located in Terminal 3 and will take you zipping down four storeys in just a couple of seconds.
It’s SG$10 (AU$10.40) to get on but you can ride up to ten times on every ticket. And yes, adults are allowed.
Relax and recharge
Need a nap? Changi’s got you covered. There are free “snooze lounges” all over the airport where you can stretch out for a sleep between flights. Or to unwind while remaining conscious, get a limb-loosening massage at the Wellness Oasis in Terminal 1.
There are also pay-per-use lounges in every terminal, where you can shower, workout in a gym or book a private nap room. Prices start at SG$38 (AU$39.50) per adult.
Catch a movie… Or go gaming
There are movie theatres in Terminal 2 and 3, screening new releases, kids flicks and classics 24 hours a day – all free of charge.
If you feel like looking at a different kind of screen, hit the Entertainment Decks (also in Terminal 2 and 3), where an Xbox Kinect room, MTV booth and PlayStation consoles can all be found.
If you’re craving some fresh air, head up to the rooftop pool at Terminal 1, where you can swim laps while watching planes take off. There’s shower facilities, a jacuzzi and poolside bar; getting in will set you back SG$17 (AU$17.70).
See some brain-bending art
Changi’s also home to some incredible art installations. In the Departure Hall of Terminal 1 is Kinetic Rain, an installation made of up over 1000 bronze droplets that contort into abstract patterns and shapes. In Terminal 2 you’ll find A Million Times at Changi, a kinetic installation where the hands of over 500 clock faces spell out greetings. Very trippy, very cool.[media_embed]https://youtu.be/NXuQnDeIyY8[/media_embed]
Hit the shops
With over 400 retail outlets at Changi, you won’t be short of places to drop your last Singapore Dollars. Shop luxury goods from Dior, Gucci, Chloe and Burberry, browse big brands like Levi’s, Adidas and Fila or pick up bargains at Typo and Cotton On. You can stock up on duty free wine and spirits at a range of stores, or a selection of Traditional Chinese Medicines and natural remedies at Eu Yan Sang.
Terminal 3 even has an express dry cleaner, just in case there’s a dirtied dress burning a hole in your hand luggage.
Just transiting at Changi? If you’ve got a long enough layover and want to see a bit of Singapore, sign up for one of the airport’s complimentary tours of the city. There are two different, 2.5 hour guided tours to choose from, which together run seven times daily.
You can focus on heritage sites like Chinatown and Little India, or head off on the City Sights tour to visit Marina Bay Sands, Merlion Park and more. The tours are recommended for those with more than five and a half hours to kill and, once more, they’re totally free.
See the Jewel
As if all that wasn’t enough, in 2019 Changi cut the ribbon on a whole new section of the airport. Jewel is a 137,000 square metre lifestyle destination that includes dining options, boutique shopping, unique attractions and accommodation, all set in a greenery-filled, dome-shaped façade.[media_embed]https://youtu.be/2mmqBUs6ElQ[/media_embed]
Also inside is the HSBC Rain Vortex, the world’s tallest indoor waterfall at a full 40 metres high. In June it’ll get even better, when attractions like a hedge maze will open to entertain kids and big kids alike.
… And sleep in it
At Changi, getting stuck overnight doesn’t have to mean finding a spot on the floor to sleep on. You can now check in to Yotel Air, a new in-terminal airport located inside the Jewel complex. The hotel features 130 cabins, ranging from premium digs suitable for two people, through to family cabins that can sleep four.
It’s equipped with future-is-now self check in kiosks (think the self serve check out at Woolies, but a thousand times cooler), a 24 hour gym, rain showers and lightening fast wifi.
Now try and name another airport in the world that features all that? You won’t be stuck bored on your stopover in Singapore Airport, that’s for sure.[qantas_widget code=SIN]Check out Qantas flights to Singapore.[/qantas_widget]
Katie Cunningham is the former Features Editor at Junkee. She's currently travelling around the US and Central America.