On any given Sunday, Singaporean families make a beeline for Changi Airport. Their bags aren’t packed, they haven’t got their passports and they don’t have boarding passes. They don’t need them; they aren’t going anywhere. They’re at the airport because it’s just that good – so good that it’s been rated the best in the world by Skytrax for four years running. There are so many things to keep travellers – and locals – entertained that it’s impossible to explore them all in one visit. Changi is one of the world’s busiest airports and it’s a strategic stopover between continents. If you’ve ever flown between Australia and the northern hemisphere, you’ve probably spent some time at Changi.
Zoom down four storeys on Singapore’s tallest slide. The slide, located in Terminal 3, is 12 metres high and thrillingly vertiginous (sliders can reach a speed of six metres per second).
Free Singapore tour
If you’re in Singapore for a few hours, take advantage of Changi Airport’s complimentary tours around the city. They take in sites such as the Merlion, the Esplanade and the towering Marina Bay Sands.
Movie theatres in terminals 2 and 3 screen new releases, kids’ films and classics on an ever-changing schedule free of charge, 24 hours a day.
Changi Airport proudly proclaims the Butterfly Garden to be the world’s first butterfly habitat in an airport. We would add that it has to be the world’s only butterfly habitat in an airport (prove us wrong). The steamy tropical garden is full of lush flowering plants, a six-metre waterfall and about 1000 beautiful butterflies.
Another unlikely nature-related exhibit at Changi Airport is the Cactus Garden, where visitors can explore a landscape of succulents from the deserts of the Americas, Africa and Asia – more than 100 of them.
Pack a swimsuit into your hand luggage so you can practice strokes in the rooftop pool as you watch the planes landing and taking off. The Aerotel Airport Transit Hotel in Terminal 1 also has a poolside bar and spa, for your holiday-extending pleasure.
Showers and spa
Break up a long-haul flight with a head-to-toe massage at Changi’s Wellness Oasis in Terminal 1. Let nimble fingers ease the tension of an eight-hour flight or prepare for sandal weather with a Fish Spa and pedicure.
Changi has free-to-use rest areas all over its three terminals. Stretch out full length for a snooze between flights.
It’s a brave parent who undertakes international travel with children. The sack of entertainment (games, iPad, snacks, colouring book and pencils, the kitchen sink) parents shoulder can wear thin over the course of a flight but the enormous, slide-riddled playgrounds in terminals 1, 2 and 3 will keep kids aged one to 12 occupied for hours – possibly even long enough to wear them out for the next leg of the journey.
SEE ALSO: One Perfect Day in Singapore
Roam through a field of sunflowers atop the Transit Hall. The vitamin D can help ward off jet lag and, if nothing else, the sight of a cheery yellow sunflower makes everything seem a bit brighter.
Motion sensors trigger the Enchanted Garden so that it becomes a magical living, breathing world as visitors wander past. There are lighting displays underfoot, sounds and four giant glass sculptures filled with fresh flowers and ferns.
An Xbox Kinect room, MTV booth and PlayStation consoles can be found on the Entertainment Deck. And for anyone not game for gaming, there’s a cafeteria in which to while away the time.
Orchids are rare and precious, though you wouldn’t know it at Changi, where there are more than 700 of the beauties on display. The exotic flowers are arranged to reflect the four elements of nature: earth, water, fire and air.
Hainanese chicken rice, nasi lemak, laksa, kaya toast and kopi – if you missed out on any of the must-try dishes during a sojourn in Singapore, try them at Changi. Eighty restaurants and eateries are located in the various airport terminals and they cater to just about everyone. The Hello Kitty Orchid Garden Café has a menu of brunch dishes, afternoon tea and sweet treats such as sundaes, pastries and cakes; the Ippudo Express serves up the chain’s world-class ramen; and the 24Hr Food Gallery offers Singaporean delicacies at any time of the day.
Raffles Long Bar
It’s kind of obligatory that you partake of a Singapore sling or two at Long Bar at the iconic Raffles hotel downtown. If, somehow, you missed out on this typically Singaporean experience, it’s not too late to try one at Changi’s own Raffles Long Bar located in the Wines and Spirits Duplex store.
When you fly with Qantas via Singapore, you'll receive a S$20 voucher to spend at participating stores at Changi Airport, so you can grab a bite to eat, pamper yourself with a massage or even book a stay in an airport hotel. Valid for booking made until 31 December 2019. Find out more now.
This piece was originally published in 2016 and has been updated.