Though they can never take the place of the experience itself, a treasured souvenir can at least soften the blow of ending your vacation. It can also keep the memories of the trip alive. We’re not talking about tourist-targeted kiosks peddling the same colored scarves and Eiffel Tower key chains. We’re interestd in that rare breed of airport shop that offers something you haven’t yet encountered on your trip. Here are a few airports that, in a pinch, can save you from going home empty-handed. Just don’t get so absorbed in these excellent shops that you miss your flight…
As layovers in western Europe go, it’s kind of a toss-up between Munich‘s medley of dirndl-ed waitresses, beer gardens, and pretzels, or the floral fun house that is Amsterdam Schiphol. We’re going to go with the latter, mostly because its shops just don’t feel like airport shops. Where else can you shop for tulips (both fresh and in bulb packets), sample quality local cheeses, and browse an art museum shop, stocked with items inspired by the on-site satellite museum’s collection?
Not that there’s a shortage of souvenir-buying opportunities in Japan, but at Narita International Airport, the goodies worth buying are too many to count. Keep in mind that the better shops are actually found pre-security, where you’ll spend hours browsing established brands (Chanel, Seiko, Uniqlo) as well as one-off vendors carrying hand-painted tea sets, a dozen varieties of mochi cakes, anime gear, and origami supplies. Of course, if you have a whole afternoon, the bustling 150-store Aeon Narita mall is just a 20-minute bus ride away.
If the 24-hour spas, beautifully-furnished internet lounges, and ice skating rink didn’t already have you sold, Incheon International Airport also has its own “Korean Cultural Street” (Passenger Terminal, 4th floor), where tiled-roof houses and gardens are interspersed with cafes, restaurants, and a souvenir shop called Everysing. The sheer volume of K-pop memorabilia here is enough to warrant a separate trip back to Korea, just to sort through all the CDs, records, magazines, t-shirts, and other swag.
Having previously covered Denver International Airport‘s jazzed-up restaurant scene, we’ve already established the delights of sitting down to a meal here. Afterwards, you can easily kill an hour (or three) poking around the aisles at the the Tattered Cover Book Store, one of downtown Denver’s most cherished retail institutions. After opening its first branch in 1971, the thriving indie bookstore debuted its airport location in 2013 – with more to come later this year – stocking a full range of best-sellers, book club picks, magazines, and, of course, travel literature.
Nobody visiting Dubai is likely to go home without at least a gaudy Burj Khalifa paperweight, or possibly some trinkets from the spice and gold souk. But here’s something you may not come across until your final few hours in the Middle East’s busiest airport: camel milk chocolate. The exotic treat, made by Al Nassma (the only chocolate company in the world to use camel milk), is available at all duty-free locations, and ought to make for an impressive (and decidedly original) gift to loved ones upon your return.