Few airports enjoy a reputation as a travel destination unto themselves; Singapore’s Changi Airport certainly makes that list.
This gateway to Southeast Asia exceeds every expectation where layover comfort is concerned: an airy but surprisingly tightly-knit 13,730,000 sq. ft. space with lofty ceilings, comfortably carpeted floors, and plenty of shopping, dining, and entertainment options that could vie with some of the world's classiest shopping malls.
The airport's massive size, with all amenities distributed across four terminals (T1, T2, T3 and T4) and a new mixed-use entertainment complex (Jewel Changi Airport), include not a few playful touches that you'd hardly expect to find in a major world air hub.
Jewel Changi Airport
The newly-opened Jewel Changi Airport (“Jewel”) shows just how precious Changi is as a tourist destination, not just as an air gateway.
Opened in 2019, Jewel was conceived as catnip for the 30% of tourists who fly into Singapore but never leave Changi’s transit areas at all. (Source) Passengers with Changi Airport layovers can easily check out, explore Jewel’s attractions, and check back in for their flights.
Jewel is also open to tourists already in Singapore – so they can pop over on the MRT and visit in the middle of their Singapore travel itinerary.
From the outside, Jewel looks like a giant glass raindrop sitting opposite T1 – a sight most layover visitors won’t see. But with ten levels (five above ground and five below), Jewel has over 1,460,600 sq. ft. of floor space to play in – which the designers have filled with a park, hundreds of shops and restaurants, and the world’s biggest indoor waterfall.
Jewel’s key highlights include:
- HSBC Rain Vortex at the very center of Jewel: a seven-storey-high waterfall that pumps some 10,000 gallons of water per minute, the centerpiece of a terraced forest
- Canopy Park, a lushly-manicured leisure area/playground on the very top floor of Jewel with mazes, slides and massive, walkable nets suspended over an 80-foot-high open space
- Shiseido Forest Valley, a four-storey terraced forest surrounding the Rain Vortex. Over 900 trees and some 60,000 shrubs create the illusion of a natural valley, wound through with nature trails that dip and rise a vertical height of 100 feet
Layover visitors can access Jewel from walkways directly connected to T1, T2 and T3. (Passengers at T4 need to use the free shuttle bus to get here.) Outside visitors can take Bus 36 or the MRT to Terminal 2, then cross over to the Jewel building.
Don’t feel like checking out? Tourists on a layover can still stay within the transit areas of T1, T2, T3 and T4 and still have plenty to see and do.
NOTE: For details on dining, shopping and hotels in the transit areas, visit our Guide to Changi Airport.
Changi Airport’s Nature-Based Wonders
If you can’t go to nature, Changi Airport will bring nature to you. Scattered throughout Changi Airport’s terminals are several nature-based attractions that offer green relief to travelers suffering from cabin fever:
- Enchanted Garden (T2): this indoor garden intertwines nature and tech; flowers, decorative greenery and a koi pond enhance the garden’s centerpiece attractions, four “flower pods” made from 56,000 pieces of reflective glass
- Butterfly Garden (T3): 1,000 butterflies flitter through this 3,500-sq. ft. two-storey open-air space, kept cool with a working waterfall. Visitors can observe the entire life cycle of the butterflies at work, from hatching to their pupa stage to live butterflies feeding at a number of food dispensers throughout the space.
- Sunflower Garden (T2): a sunflower-filled space by day, a light-filled retreat by night – spotlights and firefly lights bring magic to the sunflowers and other plants after dark
- Outdoor Cactus Garden (T1): over 40 species of succulents and cacti can be found in this open-air area.
- Orchid Garden (T2): get a taste of Singapore’s passion for flowering plants, by walking through this garden’s collection of over 700 moth, butterfly, and spider orchids; the National Flower (Vanda Miss Joaquim) makes an appearance between July and August
Family-Friendly Games & Entertainment in Changi Airport
As Singapore is Southeast Asia’s most family-friendly destination, it’s no surprise that its main airport follows suit. Travelers with kids can while away their layover through any of the following all-ages areas and activities:
- The Slide@T3: Singapore’s tallest slide spans a four-storey drop from Level 1 to Basement 3 – passengers zoom down this incline at a top speed of 13 mph. If you spend about SGD 10 on goods and services at the airport, you can use your receipts to redeem one ride token; you'll only be allowed up to 10 rides per day
- Movie & TV Viewing: Two 24-hour movie theaters (T2, T3) screen this year’s blockbusters at all hours, for free. Visit the Changi Airport page for movie schedules. Visit the Xperience Zone (T2) to watch live sporting events on large-screen TVs
- One-Stop Entertainment Deck (T2): Free access to Kinect, PlayStation and PC game consoles burn off your pent-up energy waiting for your flight. Open from 6am to 11:59pm
- Free Singapore tour: if you have six hours or so to spare before your flight, take your family on a free sightseeing tour around Singapore. Two itineraries, each covering 2.5 hours, are available: the "Heritage Tour" that covers the colonial district, the central business district, and the ethnic enclaves of Chinatown, Little India and Kampong Glam; and the "City Sights Tour" that whizzes past the Singapore Flyer, the Marina Bay district, and Gardens by the Bay
- Family Zone (T2): a godsend for parents of little children, the Family Zone offers diaper-changing rooms and nursing rooms; a playground; and TVs airing popular kiddie shows.
- Playgrounds (T1, T3, T4): help the little ones blow off steam at these air-conditioned play areas for kids 1-12 years of age
- Peranakan Woodblock Rub (T1-T4): kids can create traditional woodblock prints on paper, allowing them to take home a piece of Singapore’s hybrid Peranakan culture with them when they fly out
Spas & Relaxation at Changi Airport
Studies have found that airports are some of the most stressful environments for travelers. Changi Airport’s spa and relaxation facilities help make this airport an exception to the rule:
- Rooftop swimming pool & jacuzzi (T1): Changi Airport is one of the few airports that can lay claim to having their own swimming pool and jacuzzi. Use of the swimming pool costs SGD 17 per use, but is free for guests of the Ambassador Transit Hotel.
- Spa therapy: Changi Airport’s pay-per-use lounges offer spa services for paying guests. Specialty spa providers in the transit area include Airport Wellness Oasis (T1), TranSpa and Spa Express (T2), and Be Relaxed (T3).
- Gymnasium (T1, T2): Changi Airport’s gyms run 24 hours a day.
Art Installations in Changi Airport
As you wander through Changi Airport, you’ll come across tastefully-created artwork, many commissioned from Asia’s most renowned artists:
- Kinetic artwork: Two kinetic art installations - Kinetic Rain (T1) and Petalclouds (T4) – combine form and constant movement to create entrancing art performances that never look the same way twice!
- Sculptures: walk through T3 and T4 to see majestic travel-themed sculpture, like Birds in Flight (T3), inspired by the long-ranging Arctic tern; Coming Home (T4), a nine-ton sculpture of a famiy on the move; and Hey Ah Chek! (T4), a 1950s-style trishaw done in bronze.
- Social Tree (T1): share your Changi Airport selfies and shots at this LED-screen-faced “tree” - and watch other people’s shares go live!
- Peranakan Gallery (T4): See Singapore’s hybrid Peranakan culture in living color, through displays of traditional dress, furniture and ceramics that explain how the Peranakans found a home in this part of the world