MUNICH — I usually hate airports, but I hated leaving Munich’s. That’s because this loveliest of German cities’ airport is not your normal, egregious airfield with low hanging ceilings that looks more like a crowded suburban shopping mall during the Christmas rush.
Instead, Munich’s state-of-the-art airport is bright and airy and embodies the best of what this historic city has to offer visitors. I was actually hoping my Lufthansa flight from Munich to Toronto would be delayed so I could enjoy another beer at the Airbräu, the airport’s brewery with a beer garden that’s exclusive to Munich Airport.
The Airbräu sits in an area known as Munich Airport Centre (MAC), which connects Terminals 1 and 2 under a massive wing-style roof that was designed by Chicago-based architect Helmut Jahn.
At 10,000 square metres, MAC is one of Europe’s largest roofed outdoor venues and has actually hosted concerts, basketball and beach volleyball exhibitions — even a Christmas market — without affecting the flow of passengers between the terminals. And there’s plenty of passengers; 44.6 million passed through Munich Airport last year, making it the second largest in Germany after Frankfurt.
Above: Munich's dazzling airport is the best in Europe and the only one with a 5-star rating.
“MAC will be very busy during the (upcoming) World Cup (of soccer in Russia) because we’ll have a 40-sq-m LED wall and a stadium with 2,000 seats where passengers can watch the games,” says Corinna Born, the airport’s Director International Media Relations.
MAC is so popular that many residents living around the airport come to enjoy what the city-style square has to offer.
“The Airbräu has the cheapest beer in Munich,” the delightful Born tells me.
Just another reason to like Munich Airport, which was recently named Europe’s first 5-star airport by the independent, London-based Skytrax Institute, which also rates airlines. Other prominent global airports that have earned a 5-star rating include Singapore, Seoul, Hong Kong and Tokyo-Haneda.
It’s easy to see why, especially in Terminal 2, which is a joint venture between Munich Airport (60 per cent) and Germany’s national carrier Lufthansa (40 per cent). The ultra-modern Terminal 2 has few equals, and Born is eager to point out some of its many features, like ergonomically-designed touch-down pods that look like mini lounges. They are located near gates and offer passengers more privacy.
Left: Munich Airport Centre is so big it can host sports events. Right: Passenger pods offer privacy.
And if you are lost or have questions, you can speak directly to an airport official through an ATM-style terminal called Infogates where you can request individual directions.
An actual person appears on screen and quickly solves any issues an anxious passenger may have. Phew!
If your flight has been delayed, you can catch a few winks in a Napcab — a sleeping cabin developed for Munich Airport by students at TUM, Munich’s renowned university of science and technology.
No wonder other airports are working with Munich Airport to upgrade their facilities.
Munich Airport is also home to some of the city’s better restaurants.
Besides the Airbräu, where you can get delicious Bavarian fare, there are almost 60 restaurants offering everything from fish to frankfurters. My favourite was Sissi & Franz, where they serve up the best schnitzel in Munich.
Munich Airport is a family-friendly facility with playgrounds, a visitors centre and a daycare centre (Kinderland) where kids can hang out while parents go shopping for last-minute souvenirs.
In the Visitor’s Park kids can enjoy themselves on swings, jungle gyms and sandbox playgrounds shaped like the five continents.
Oh, adults needn’t stamp their feet in envy, there’s an observation deck in Terminal 2 just for big people that comes complete with a small café where you can get adult beverages.
Munich Airport has become one of Europe’s best hubs, especially if you’re flying on to Italy. The airport offers the most flights to Rome, Milan, Venice and Italy’s other great cities and makes you feel you are already in the land of pasta before you get on the plane.
“Munich Airport is a perfect gateway to Italy with as many as 400 weekly flights to Italian cities.
Above: Munich Airport is a family-friendly facility with play areas and even a daycare centre.
“We offer a ‘terminal’ inside the terminal called Spazio Italia dedicated to flights to Italy, including an Italian coffee bar, Italian speaking staff, Italian TV and newspapers,” says Born.
Terminal 2 is really an out of this world experience. But for the ultimate experience, save up your pennies and buy a First Class ticket on Lufthansa so you can visit the airline’s new First Class Lounge. There’s nothing in the airline industry that even comes close to this beauty.
Guests get to sample Michelin-star-worthy cuisine served in an airy, bright restaurant setting that is accented with soft, light woods. Very calming.
On a bright, sunny day, you can even sip champagne on the lounge’s private terrace while watching the planes take off and land. This lounge even has rooms where delayed passengers can sleep and one of the shower rooms comes equipped with a bathtub.
Lufthansa’s First Class Lounge even has its own border guard stationed at the exit so you can clear customs and avoid long lines.
The airport’s Hilton Hotel, which can be accessed through MAC, is a 5-star property where you’re likely to bump into some VIP guests.
Munich has much to offer foreign visitors — starting with the best airport in Europe; maybe the world.