Busiest Airports in Europe
As a traveler planning a trip to Europe, selecting an airport for your arrival and departure is an important logistical decision. You want an airport that offers maximum convenience and connectivity to facilitate a smooth trip. Some of the most popular airports in Europe are located in major cities and transportation hubs, offering extensive flight routes and ground transport options to whisk you off to your final destination with ease. When choosing an airport, consider factors like location, number of airlines and flight routes served, availability of public transit, and amenities. The following guide highlights five of the busiest airports in Europe, outlining why each is a prime choice for your European travels. With the right airport selected, your adventure is poised to begin as soon as you step off the plane.
London Heathrow: The Busiest Airport in Europe
As the busiest airport in Europe, London Heathrow Airport sees over 78 million passengers annually travel through its five terminals. Located roughly 15 miles west of Central London, Heathrow is a hub for British Airways and Virgin Atlantic and offers flights to over 180 destinations in 90 countries.
With its immense size and flight volume, navigating Heathrow can be daunting for first-time travelers. It is recommended passengers arrive at least two to three hours before international flights to account for longer security and passport control queues. Travelers should also factor in additional time if checking bags, as baggage claim areas can become quite crowded.
To get to Heathrow, travelers have several options:
- The London Underground (Tube) Piccadilly line provides a direct connection from Central London to Heathrow Terminals 2/3, 4 and 5, with departures every few minutes.
- The Heathrow Express high-speed train travels from Paddington Station to Heathrow Terminals 2/3 and 5 every 15 minutes.
- Local bus services, like the A10, stop at each Heathrow terminal and surrounding areas. Busses typically run every 20-30 minutes.
- Taxis and rideshares provide door-to-door service but often encounter traffic, especially during peak hours. Fares also tend to be quite high due to Heathrow’s distance from London.
With abundant amenities, transport links, and flight options, Heathrow Airport is a vital international gateway and transport hub. By planning ahead and allotting enough time to navigate this expansive airport, travelers will be on their way to their final destinations with minimal hassle.
Paris Charles De Gaulle: A Major European Hub
As one of the busiest airports in Europe, Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) serves as an important international hub. Located just over 14 miles north of central Paris, CDG offers air travel connections to destinations across the globe.
CDG has three main terminals — Terminal 1, Terminal 2, and Terminal 3 — that handle both domestic and international flights. Terminal 1 is the oldest and smallest, serving select international carriers. The more modern Terminal 2 is the largest, housing Air France and SkyTeam alliance flights. Terminal 3 opened in 1992 and is used by other major international airlines. Free shuttles run between the terminals, but you will need to pass through security checks when changing terminals.
There are several options for getting into central Paris from CDG:
- RER B train – The RER B regional train goes directly to major Paris train stations like Gare du Nord, Châtelet-Les Halles, and Saint-Michel Notre Dame. Travel time is about 30-50 minutes.
- Roissybus – The Roissybus coach service departs from all terminals and takes you to the Opéra Garnier in central Paris. The trip takes about 60-75 minutes depending on traffic.
- Taxi – Taxis are available outside all terminals, but fares for the 30-60 minute ride into Paris will be quite expensive, typically €50-€70. Only use taxis if other options are not possible.
- Private transfer – For a more comfortable ride, book a private shuttle or minibus transfer into the city center. Fares will still be higher than public transit options but provide door-to-door service.
With its ideal location, abundance of global flight connections, and choice of ground transport options, Paris CDG Airport remains one of the most important and widely used air transit hubs in Europe. Bon voyage!
Amsterdam Schiphol: Connecting the Netherlands
As the fourth busiest airport in Europe, Amsterdam Schiphol Airport is a major international air hub connecting the Netherlands to the world.
Facilities and Services
Schiphol Amsterdam Airport offers standard facilities and amenities for travelers including currency exchanges, luggage storage, prayer rooms, showers, and various dining and shopping options. Passengers with longer layovers can take advantage of the airport’s Transit Hotel. The airport also provides services for passengers with reduced mobility.
Transportation and Connections
Located just 15 minutes from Amsterdam’s city center, Schiphol Airport is easily accessible by train, bus, taxi and car. There are frequent train connections to Amsterdam Central Station. The airport also offers bus service to points throughout the Netherlands and parts of Europe.
Once at Schiphol, passengers can connect to destinations across the world. The airport serves as a hub for KLM and its SkyTeam partners, including Delta and Air France. Major airlines like British Airways, Lufthansa, Emirates, and Cathay Pacific also operate out of Schiphol. In total, the airport connects to over 300 destinations worldwide.
Tips for Travelers
Give yourself plenty of time when traveling through Schiphol Airport, especially if you have a tight connection. The airport can get very busy, particularly during peak summer season. Check-in and security wait times may be longer.
Be aware that some gates can be quite a long walk from the departure lounges and train platforms. Check the departure monitors for your assigned gate number and walking time. People movers, escalators and elevators can help speed up the journey between gates.
Pay attention to signs directing you to baggage claim and ground transportation upon arrival. Schiphol Airport has separate arrival halls for Schengen and non-Schengen flights. Make sure you follow signs to the appropriate hall to claim your baggage.
By following these tips and recommendations, your journey through Amsterdam Schiphol Airport should go as smoothly as possible. With its world-class facilities and global connections, Schiphol is primed to serve the needs of travelers today and long into the future.
Frankfurt Airport: Germany’s Aviation Center
As Germany’s busiest airport, Frankfurt Airport serves as an important international aviation hub for Europe. Located approximately 12 kilometers southwest of Frankfurt, it is the primary hub for Lufthansa and a focus city for Condor and Ryanair. Frankfurt Airport offers direct connections to over 260 destinations worldwide, making it an ideal airport for business and leisure travelers alike.
Infrastructure and Facilities
Frankfurt Airport spans over 4,800 acres with two passenger terminals that house an array of shops, restaurants, lounges, and services to accommodate the over 69 million passengers that traveled through the airport in 2019. Passengers can easily navigate between terminals via the SkyLine people mover train as well as pedestrian walkways. The airport also features an on-site Sheraton Frankfurt Airport Hotel and Conference Center for those seeking accommodation.
For passengers with connecting flights or long layovers, Frankfurt Airport provides shower facilities, play areas for children, and lounges to rest or work. The airport is also home to the Frankfurt Airport Center which includes office space, hotels, shopping, and a medical clinic. Various parking lots and garages provide over 20,000 parking spaces for those driving to the airport. Shuttle busses, taxis, rental cars, and public transit offer additional ground transportation options for arriving and departing passengers.
Overall, Frankfurt Airport’s extensive facilities, amenities, and flight connections establish its status as one of the most important hubs in Europe. For leisure and business travelers, Frankfurt Airport provides an efficient and pleasant airport experience with many opportunities for dining, shopping, resting or even exercising during layovers and connections. With Lufthansa and other airlines expanding flight networks from Frankfurt, the airport will likely continue to see steady increases in passenger traffic over the coming decades.
Istanbul Airport: Linking Europe and Asia
Istanbul Airport is one of the busiest airports in Europe, serving as a major hub for Turkish Airlines and connecting Europe to Asia. As Turkey’s largest airport, Istanbul Airport handled over 68 million passengers in 2019, ranking among the top 10 busiest airports in the world.
Located on the European side of Istanbul, the new Istanbul Airport opened in April 2019 and replaced Istanbul Atatürk Airport. The airport has a passenger capacity of 200 million per year and consists of six runways as well as one terminal building. A second terminal is currently under construction and scheduled to open in 2022.
For travelers, Istanbul Airport offers connectivity to over 300 destinations worldwide, including major cities in Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America. As the new home of Turkish Airlines, the airport serves as a strategic connection point for many international travelers transferring between Europe and Asia. Turkish Airlines offers direct or one-stop flights to popular destinations like London, Paris, Moscow, Dubai, Bangkok, and Singapore.
Within the airport, passengers will find a variety of services and amenities to make their journey pleasant and convenient. These include currency exchange offices, places of worship, lounge areas, and a diverse selection of restaurants and cafes serving Turkish and international cuisine. For overnight layovers or connections, the airport also has two hotels onsite: the YOTELAIR and the WOW Hotel.
With its strategic location, extensive flight network, and world-class facilities, Istanbul Airport has solidified its status as a leading international air transit hub, linking major cities in Europe and Asia. For any traveler passing through Istanbul, the airport provides an efficient and comfortable base to continue your onward journey.
As a traveler, you now have a glimpse into some of the largest and busiest airports in Europe based on passenger traffic and volume. These massive transportation hubs act as gateways to some of the most popular cities and countries on the continent, facilitating the journeys of millions of people every year. Though navigating them may seem daunting, arriving at your final destination will make any hassles worthwhile. The next time you plan a trip to Europe, keep this list in mind and consider flying into one of these airports to experience the pace and energy of some of Europe’s most prominent cities. Though your adventure is just beginning, these airports serve as a first taste of the vibrant culture, history, and way of life in Europe.