You'd think airports serving international cities or major hubs would be flush with irresistible shopping opportunities for the traveler. Sadly, most are stocked with the same tired perfumes, booze and tacky tchotchkes. But there are exceptions — facilities whose managers understand that extravagant, artisanal, organic and gourmet are not dirty words.
Hamad International Airport, Doha, Qatar: In the world's most futurist city, the new $16-billion Hamad Airport is a haven for luxury lovers. It used to be Dubai for extreme haute luxe, but who needs gold bars (yes, they sell those in Dubai) when you can shop for spectacular jewelry? Apart from breakfasting at an airport Tiffany & Co., you can leave with goods from Hermès, Burberry, Chanel and Bulgari, among others. And if designer labels are not your thing, you can indulge at Chocology, a paradisiacal chocolate bazaar.
San Francisco International Airport: A sanctuary for healthful sophisticates, this airport sets a new homeland standard. There's an SFMOMA Museum Store where you can pick up sculptural jewelry made by Northern California designers or handmade wooden sunglasses. True to the wholesome Bay Area, other airport offerings include Bouclé's local artisan jewelry, gifts from companies committed to sustainable design at Destination Green and organic olive oil body products at McEvoy Ranch. Later, hit Napa Farms Market and pack up some Bay Area delicacies.
London Heathrow Airport: Despite agonizing queues, Heathrow has inspiring retail therapy. In fact, Terminal 5 usually wins the Skytrax World Airport Awards. You'll find top-shelf British labels such as Jimmy Choo, Alexander McQueen and perfumer Jo Malone. There are Paul Smith stores in Terminals 2 and 3. Plus, shoppers can encounter luxury label Mulberry, venerable knitwear brand Pringle of Scotland and Regent Street regular Mappin & Webb for jewelry. Bonus? Almost all terminals have a Harrods.
Amsterdam Airport Schiphol: Never mind the airport casino, library and branch of the Rijksmuseum — there are shopping prospects galore here. Paolo Salotto, for shoes and bags; Desigual, for vivid accessories and clothing; Björn Borg, for menswear; Vila & Pieces, for boho-chic apparel; and local trendster label Mexx. And who can skip town without tulip bulbs from Fleurtiek?
O.R. Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg, South Africa: A great place to gather pan-Afro-chic interior design items, accessories and jewelry. Take home a beaded Yoruba chair, a cow-horn cuff bracelet or a hide handbag from Indaba Lifestyle, which carries crafts from the entire continent. Out of Africa has carved masks, safari clothing and beaded necklaces, and Makgala's Jewellers has settings sparkling with South African diamonds and rare tanzanite from Tanzania. The good news: They all ship.
Auckland Airport, New Zealand: True to the country's reputation, this airport has the original, the outdoorsy and the elegant in one place. Finds include high-end Kiwi designer Karen Walker's jewelry and accessories; merino wool apparel by Icebreakers; Emu sheepskin and wool boots; and Kiwiana art and design at Artport, Around NZ, Think New Zealand and Dick Frizzell. To preserve that fresh-air face, pick up products from local beauty brands Trilogy, Living Nature and Evolu.
Singapore Changi Airport: Singapore has long been the top-rated airport for indulgence, with more than 200 shops and premium brands such as Prada, Gucci, Miu Miu, Chloé, Ferragamo, Bottega Veneta and Hermès. Eu Yan Sang intoxicates with traditional Chinese medicines, and TWG stocks a staggering array of global teas. Szan has tailored business wear, and Purple Attic has retro-trend fashion for hipsters.