Whether traveling for work or pleasure, the airport you visit is integral to your pre-flight experience, preparing you for your trip. While Munich Airport is infamous for its endless shopping outlets and eateries, Porto Airport is a popular choice for those searching for affordable airport parking deals. All major international airports in Europe offer a range of pre-flight experiences, so be sure to pick the best one for you.
From the world-famous Heathrow to the great Amsterdam Schiphol, this report ranks the top 50 busiest airports in Europe on service quality, parking costs, shopping, and more, to reveal the airports with the perfect pre-flight experience for families, solo flyers, and business travelers alike.
The best airports in Europe for pre-flight experience
1. Istanbul Airport | Airport score: 8.88/10
Istanbul Airport is not only the busiest airport in Europe, welcoming over 37 million passengers annually but also the best airport when it comes to pre-flight experience. Istanbul Airport scores a commendable 8.3 out of 10 for its service quality, and the cost of parking for four days totals just 234 Turkish Lira (€13 | £11 | $13), the cheapest on this list.
Shopping at Istanbul Airport can be as luxurious or affordable as you like, with 94 outlets on offer, including Dior, Nike, and Oh My Gift souvenir store. The airport also offers 41 restaurant choices, whether you fancy Italian cuisine at Carluccio’s, sandwiches at Eat and Joy, or authentic Turkish food at Turcuisine.
2. Athens International Airport | Airport score: 7.83/10
Athens International Airport ranks in second place for its pre-flight experience. Athens International is home to 99 shops and 26 restaurants including Eat Greek - serving authentic Greek cuisine. Athens International Airport likewise offers great service, scoring 9 out of 10 across the board. Parking at Athens International Airport for four days costs an average of €65 (£56 | $64).
3. Copenhagen Airport | Airport score: 7.63/10
Copenhagen Airport is not only one of the biggest Nordic airports, serving over 9 million passengers each year, but it also ranks as the third best for pre-flight experience in Europe.
Copenhagen Airport boasts 74 shops, as well as 43 bars and restaurants, including Japanese cuisine at Ramen To Biiru and cafes like Copenhagen Coffee Lab. Parking at the airport totals €71 (£61 | $70) on average.
The busiest airport in Europe
Istanbul Airport: 37,176,509 passengers a year
Istanbul Airport is recognized as Europe’s busiest airport, with over 37 million passengers each year. The Airports Council International Europe announced that in July 2022 alone almost six million passengers passed through Istanbul Airport.
The cheapest European airport for parking
Istanbul Airport & Porto Airport: Average cost for four days €13 | £11 | $13
Istanbul Airport and Porto Airport are the cheapest airports in Europe for parking, with an average four-day stay costing €13 (£11 | $13) on the day. This is the average cost of leaving your car parked for four days at a terminal car park without pre-booking, using pay-on-the-day rates.
The best European airport for shopping
Athens International Airport: 99 shops
Athens International Airport is a shopaholic’s paradise, home to almost a hundred different retailers. There are precisely 99 outlets inside the airport, including stores before and after the security gates. Athens International Airport boasts an abundance of duty-free shops including Polo Ralph Lauren, Armani, and Hugo Boss, giving you the ultimate pre-flight experience.
The best European airport for dining
Munich Airport: 85 restaurants & bars
Munich Airport ranks as the best airport in Europe for food lovers, offering bars, restaurants, and cafes to satisfy every taste. Munich Airport offers a wide variety of international food choices, German cuisine, and coffee bars. The airport is home to a total of 85 restaurants and bars, including Airbräu - the world's first airport brewery.
The best European airport for service quality
Athens International Airport: 9/10
Athens International Airport has the most superior service quality, scoring 9 out of 10 in AirHelp’s Global Airport Ranking. The score was calculated from the result of an in-depth review from passengers around the globe. Passengers ranked the airport on its customer service, queue times, and airport cleanliness.
We wanted to find the best airports in Europe for the pre-flight experience, looking at passenger volumes, service quality, parking charges, shopping, and restaurants. We looked at the top 50 busiest European airports, excluding airports for which the relevant information was unavailable.
We gave each airport a normalized score out of 10 for each factor and then took an average across all factors to form our ‘airport score’.
We sourced the number of shops and restaurants at each airport using each airport’s official website and by looking at the total number of shops and restaurants inside each airport.
We 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. We excluded short-stay and long-distance car parks. Where a standard parking rate was unavailable online we used the price of a stay between 02/01/23-05/01/23 leaving and arriving between 00:00 and 00:30. All currency values were recorded in local currency and converted in Google Sheets on 03/11/2022 and rounded to the nearest whole number.
The service quality of each airport was sourced from AirHelp.
We sourced the number of annual passengers from Wikipedia, looking at 2021 passenger volumes, excluding this factor from forming part of the ‘airport score’.