Top 10 airports for shopping

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Frequent international fliers know well that hubs around the globe are stepping up their retail game.

Retail En Route

Duty-free shopping may conjure up images of cigarette cartons, discount liquors and high-end candy for some travellers, but frequent international flyers know well that hubs around the globe are stepping up their retail game. Every breed of traveller – from fashionistas to perfumologists to techy types – can cash in this holiday season (or any time of year) on savings at airport stores. Cheapflights has compiled a list of 10 of the top airports in the world for shopping – just in time for last-minute shoppers.

London Heathrow Airport

Heathrow Airport (Image: Sagie used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license)
Heathrow Airport (Image: Sagie used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license)

Heathrow Airport in London boasts 48,000 square metres of retail space over its five terminals and the prices range from pocket money up to premium. You’ll find perfumes, skin care products, alcohol and chocolates in all terminals, but, if you want designer gear, Terminal 3 is where you’ll find brands such as Armani, Dior, Gucci and Cartier. Terminal 5, which opened with much fanfare in 2008, aims to showcase the best of British to departing passengers. Mulberry, Paul Smith, Links of London, and Smythson fly the flag for British design and craftsmanship. 

Dubai International Airport

Duty free shops at Dubai International Airport (Image: Patrik Nemes used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license)
Duty free shops at Dubai International Airport (Image: Patrik Nemes used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license)

Do buy. Dubai International has been the world’s leading (based on total sales) duty-free retailer for a couple of years now. Alcohol, perfumes and gold are the must-buys in the Sheikh Rashid Terminal (also known as the Concourse), home to the majority of the shops. Open 24/7, there’s 5,400 square metres of retail heaven. 

Vancouver International Airport

Vancouver International Airport (Image: JamesZ_Flickr)
Vancouver International Airport (Image: JamesZ_Flickr)

Canada’s westernmost hub allows visitors to stock up on all things Canada – from books to jewellery to toys – at patriotic retailers like The Great Canadian Book Company, Thinking Canada and Postcards from Vancouver. Pick up souvenirs before departing The Great White North or shop at up-scale boutiques like Brooks Brothers and Hermes.

Incheon International Airport

(Image: Sharon Hahn Darlin)
Incheon International Airport (Image: Sharon Hahn Darlin)

Korea’s main international gateway in Seoul is the third-largest for duty-free shopping after Dubai and Heathrow. Its most popular items are perfumes, cosmetics, alcohol and cigarettes. A first for the Shilla Duty Free Shop is Louis Vuitton. The luxury brand picked it as the world’s first LV airport shop. 

Amsterdam Airport Schiphol

Schiphol Amsterdam Airport (Image: -JvL-)
Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (Image: -JvL-)

“See, buy, fly” is the famous slogan. Schiphol works hard to maintain its position as a top shopping airport with hefty discounts and promotions such as “buy two, get three”. Travellers can check out the current offers on Schiphol’s website. A pair of tulip-patterned clogs, a tulip vase with seven arms or a music box windmill? Don’t forget the Gouda… 

OR Tambo International Airport

Voted best in Africa and winning plaudits for its airport shopping too, Johannesburg has more than 100 shops selling everything from trinkets to accessories to high-end luxury leather goods. It’s not the cheapest airport in the world, but still boasts discounts of 40 per cent on prices downtown. Search and compare cheap flights to Johannesburg.

Miami International Airport

Miami International Airport (Image: Prayitno / Thank you for (4 millions +) views)
Miami International Airport (Image: Prayitno / Thank you for (4 millions +) views)

The United States’ gateway to Latin America has undergone major renovations in the last few years and recently expanded to more than 7 million square feet, covering more than 3,000 acres of land. Lucky for airport frequenters, that means plenty of retail square footage. The terminals feel more like shopping malls than airports, boasting luxury shops like Emporio Armani, convenient technology stores like Sound Balance and great gift giving gems like L’Occitane. 

Hong Kong International Airport

Hong Kong’s famous shopping culture can be enjoyed right up to departure. SkyMart in Terminal 1 and SkyPlaza in Terminal 2 have the kind of retail space you’d expect from this city. SkyMart has a “Downtown Pricing Guarantee,” so the price you pay at the airport will not be higher than what you would pay in the city center. It’s not all about high end goods either – there’s a good mix of products but cosmetics win out as best value. 

Frankfurt Airport

Frankfurt Airport (Image: Twang_Dunga)
Frankfurt Airport (Image: Twang_Dunga)

A mindboggling fact: Frankfurt Airport’s retail offerings would cover four soccer fields. The airport, Germany’s busiest, is another airfield trying to attract local Frankfurt residents to its shops. Stores offer everything to make a weary traveller’s eyes light up with excitement – discounts on brand-name perfumes and colognes, a superb range of spirits and tobacco and seasonal discounts in the order of 30 per cent. 

Zurich Airport

Zurich calls its shopping offering “paradise”. And it might well be. Switzerland is one of the last places in Europe where flyers can still buy duty-free goods. Perfumes, cosmetics, alcohol, tobacco and, of course, fine Swiss chocolates can all be pre-ordered via their website if you’re all about the bargains. If you’re all about the browsing, then you’ll be in your element, too, with the shops displaying the finest Swiss brands available. Flyers who pick up goods worth more than CHF 250 can go through Fast Track security (as long as the assistant stamps your card). Paradise indeed. 

Lead photo: Jimmy Harris

Top 10 airports for shopping was last modified: February 2nd, 2015 by Oonagh Shiel
Author: Oonagh Shiel (3401 posts)

Content Manager at Cheapflights whose travel life can be best summed up as BC (before children) and PC (post children). We only travel during the school holidays so short-haul trips and staycations are our specialities!