Airports don't have to be terrible. These ten hubs picked by Jalopnik readers are actually all kinds of awesome.
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You never remember an airport for its good qualities. You remember an airport for the time that you ran across two terminals to make a connecting flight. For that time you got frisked at security. For that time you waited four hours at baggage claim for a piece of luggage that never came back.
But airports are the gateways to cities now, and every local government wants their airport to look fresh and modern. You end up with big, grand pieces of architecture that are pretty cool. These ten are our favorites.
If there are any airports that you love that we didn't have room for on this list, let us know in Kinja below.
Photo Credit: Aeropuerto Internacional de Carrasco
10.) Wellington, New Zealand (WLG)
The airport at New Zealand's capitol wasn't very interesting until a few years ago. That's when it started to get weird. Back in 2003 it got a giant statue of Gollum and in 2011 it got this new departure lounge called "The Rock." Cool, right?
Suggested By: shortyoh, Photo Credit: Wellington Airport
9.) Princess Juliana International Airport, Saint Martin (SXM)
Planes land right over the beach in Saint Martin, which gives you the opportunity to get closer to jets than anywhere else. Of course, you have to treat this with a little caution, because the planes will knock the shit out of you.
8.) Tempelhof, Berlin (THF)
To get absurdly, inhumanly massive architecture, you have to go to the Nazis. They probably built their huge airport in Berlin to last a thousand years, but operations closed in 2008. Since 2010, the whole place has become a huge park and host to a number of Berlin-style weirdo fashion and pop culture events. Take that Nazis!
7.) Hong Kong's old Kai Tak Airport (formerly HKG)
We remember Hong Kong's old airport (1954-1998) as one of the most difficult and dangerous landing sites in the world. Thanks to low approaches and always-strong crosswinds, even 747s came in with big crab angles, the airplane equivalent of opposite lock. The video is insane.
6.) Carrasco International Airport, Montevideo, Uruguay (MVD)
Uruguay's biggest airport still isn't huge, but as of 2008 it is one of the coolest. The new terminal designed by Urugurayan architect Rafael Viñoly looks better than any other airport terminal in the world, if you ask us.
5.) Madeira, Portugal (FNC)
The Madeira airport used to have one of the shortest runways in the world at just a hair under a mile long. In 1977 it got a short extension, but in 2000 the airport doubled the size of its runway. Since the whole thing is on the edge of an island, they built the runway's extension on 70 foot-tall columns over the water. You land on a bridge! It's awesome.
It's also one of the most dangerous landings in the world.
4.) Paro Airport, Bhutan (PBH)
You remember the part in Prometheus where they land the spaceship into the bottom of a spectacular alpine valley? That's what it's like to fly into remote Bhutan, another contender for the world's most difficult landing. The airport itself also looks rad, though very few people ever travel to Bhutan to see it.
3.) Kansai International Airport, Osaka (KIX)
Space is at a premium in Japan, so when they had to build a new airport in the late ‘80s, first they made a new island, then they stuck their new airport on it. It is certainly one of the more ambitious airport designs we've ever seen. The passenger terminal, the longest in the world, is pretty cool too. It's shaped like a giant aerofoil.
The whole airport is sinking under its own weight, so enjoy it while you can.
2.) Tenzing-Hillary Airport Or Lukla Airport, Nepal (LUA)
This was rated the most dangerous airport in the world back in 2010. Take one look at the approach of the 1,510 ft runway with a 12% grade and you'll understand why. This is where people fly in to get to Mount Everest and even the airport is 9,200 feet above sea level.
1.) Courchevel Airport, France
Any airport built into the side of a mountain is cool. Any airport where the landing strip isn't flat is unbelievably cool. Combine the two and you have France's Courchevel Airport where take off is unreal.
Reader Mallthus explained how the hell you manage the slope.
For those wondering how it works, arriving aircraft land uphill, the grade slowing the plane, which is useful given how short the runway is. Departing planes take off downhill, using the slope to build extra speed, again, useful with such a short runway.
Just watch the video.