Whether you’re traveling for work or pleasure, the airport you’re flying from becomes a vital part of your pre-flight experience. Whether you want an airport with lots of shops to browse in, like Frankfurt or Zurich, or one that will satisfy your taste buds with an abundance of restaurants to choose from, such as Amsterdam or Munich every traveler has different needs. All major international airports in Europe offer a variety of pre-flight experiences, so be sure to check out what's available the next time you fly.
From the world-famous Heathrow and Gatwick airports in London to the bustling Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, this report ranks the busiest airports in Europe on factors such as parking costs, service quality, shops, and restaurants, to reveal the best European airports for best pre-flight experience in 2023. This report also takes a deep dive into data to reveal how the 2023 rankings compare to our 2022 European Airport Index.
The best airports in Europe for pre-flight experience
1. Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen International Airport - 9.57/10 airport score
Taking first place for the second year in a row is Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen International Airport, which received an excellent airport score of 9.57 out of 10. The airport remains the busiest airport in Europe, welcoming almost 64.5 million passengers in 2022 alone. The airport also has the highest number of both shops and restaurants out of any European airport, with over 180 stores and more than 100 eateries & bars.
Despite remaining the best airport in Europe for pre-flight experience, Istanbul Airport’s service quality score has actually decreased from 8.30 out of 10 in 2022 to 7.58 out of 10 in 2023. However, Istanbul remains the cheapest airport in Europe, with four-day parking costing around 600 Turkish Lira ($22 / £18 / €21).
2. Copenhagen Airport - 7.56/10 airport score
Despite having a slightly lower airport score this year at 7.56 out of 10 (compared to 7.63 out of 10 in 2022), Copenhagen Airport has now jumped to second place in the ranking. There are 70 shops in the airport, including affordable options such as Accessorize and WHSmith, as well as high-end options such as Gucci and Mulberry. There are also 47 different restaurants and bars available throughout the airport.
Copenhagen Airport served over 22.1 million passengers in 2022 and received a service quality score of 7.65 out of 10, which is a slight decrease from 8.10 out of 10 the previous year. Parking at the airport for four days will set you back around 696 Danish Krone ($99 / £81 / €93).
3. Josep Tarradellas Barcelona El-Prat Airport - 7.50/10 airport score
Jumping two places and making its way into the top three this year is Josep Tarradellas Barcelona El-Prat Airport, which received an airport score of 7.50 out of 10 in 2023, compared to 6.91 out of 10 in 2022. The cost of four-day parking at the airport is around €60, which is equivalent to approximately $63 or £52.
There are 46 restaurants and bars in Josep Tarradellas Barcelona El-Prat Airport, including classic fast-food establishments, such as Burger King and McDonald's, or for those who prefer to relax and have a sit-down meal, there are great options such as La Tramoia and Mussol.
The busiest airport in Europe
Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen International Airport - 64,486,178 passengers a year
Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen International Airport remains the busiest airport in Europe, welcoming almost 64.5 million passengers in 2022. This is an increase of over 27.3 million since 2021 when the figure stood at 37,176,509 passengers. Passenger numbers were still relatively low back in 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic, hence the significant increase in 2022.
The cheapest European airport for parking
Alicante Airport & Istanbul Airport - $22 / £18 / €21 average cost for four days parking
The best European airport for shopping
Istanbul Airport - 181 shops
Istanbul Airport is a shopaholic’s paradise, compared to 2022’s winner Athens International Airport. Istanbul is now home to over 180 different stores, providing tons of variety for flyers. Those wanting to pick up a new lipstick or fragrance can visit the likes of Alix Avien or Trio, whilst those wanting to splash the cash and treat themselves to a designer purchase can visit the likes of Bottega Veneta or Fendi.
The best European airport for dining
Istanbul Airport - 104 restaurants and bars
Istanbul Airport is also home to the most restaurants and bars, with over 100 options available, surpassing last year’s winner Munich Airport. Fast-food lovers can grab a quick bite to eat from the likes of Arby’s or Popeyes, and those wanting to indulge in some pasta or traditional Turkish eats can enjoy a meal at the likes of Carluccio’s or Komyuniti. Pastries, sandwiches, and hot beverages can also be purchased from a range of cafes such as Cups & Clouds or Mvnch.
The best European airport for service quality
Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport - 8.25/10 service quality score
Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport ranks as the best airport for service quality, overtaking Athens International Airport and receiving a score of 8.25 out of 10. The score was calculated from the result of an in-depth review from passengers around the globe. As part of AirHelp’s Airport Ranking 2022, passengers ranked airports on customer service, queue times, and airport cleanliness.
We began by looking at the top 50 busiest airports in Europe, excluding airports for which the relevant information was unavailable.
We sourced the number of shops and restaurants/bars at each airport using each airport’s official website.
We also sourced the cost of parking for four days from each airport’s official website. Where rates differed based on vehicle type or airport car park location, we calculated the average cost of leaving a car at a terminal car park, including valet and VIP parking but excluding short-stay and long-distance car parks. Where a standard parking rate was unavailable online, we used the price of a stay between 2 and 5 January 2024, leaving and arriving between 00:00 and 00:30. A different time was used for both Geneva Airport and Naples Airport, as 04:00 am was the earliest time available.
All currency values were recorded in local currency before being converted and rounded to the nearest whole number.
The service quality of each airport was sourced from AirHelp’s Airport Ranking 2022.
Finally, we gave each airport a normalized score out of 10 for each factor and then took an average across all factors to form our overall airport score. Passenger numbers were excluded from the final airport score.