Earlier this year I wrote about a trend among European airports that are ramping up the entertainment factor for layover passengers.
But, as I rediscovered during a recent day-long layover in Munich, no airport is interesting enough to eat up 12 hours, even one like Munich’s which has a summer wave pool, colorful beer gardens and a Christmas Market. For a layover that long, I did what most people would probably do, and chose to spend my time in the city.
Deciding whether or not to leave an airport during a layover depends a lot on how easy it is to get from the terminal into town. The Heathrow Express and the NS train from Schiphol Airport, for example, take 15 minutes to zip into London and Amsterdam, respectively, making the decision a snap, even for passengers with as little as four hours to spare.
But just as important as accessibility is readily available information on sightseeing options. Passengers weary from overnight transatlantic flights are probably not going to want to decipher complicated maps and train routes to plan their outing. Schiphol airport simplifies the process by listing layover tours right on its website while Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport offers a choice of four layover coach tours from Terminal 2, including one option that bundles in lunch at the Eiffel Tower, offered in conjunction with City Vision.
Munich Airport offers a downloadable stopover guide on its website with excursions for layovers of more than four hours and six hours, along with vouchers for discounts on local attractions. In addition, airport staff are on hand to advise passengers on when they need to be back in time to re-clear security.
To acquaint travel agents with all there is to see and do at the airport and in the city, there also is a Travel Agent Welcome Kit that retailers can pick up at the main Munich Airport Center on level 3 in Terminal 1 or at the Terminal 2 information center on the arrivals level. Designed to help agents advise their clients on how to spend layovers, the kit also includes vouchers and discounts on facilities at the airport.
So how did I spend my time in Munich? I visited the Hofbrauhaus, the city’s famous brewery; shopped for local treats at Viktualienmarkt, an enticing food market in city center, and even toured a BMW showroom. Highlights were the odd sight of urban surfers in wetsuits hanging 10 in the Isar River in downtown Munich and making it to the Glockenspiel in Marienplatz in time to see the famous clockworks put on their daily show – wooden clock figures that reenact a medieval joust and the so-called Coopers’ Dance, which commemorated the end of the plague-- at 5 p.m. Yes, I’d seen it before, but it never gets old.
Gray Line Tours offers hop on hop off tours with departures within a few minutes’ walking distance from the Lufthansa airport bus, which leaves the terminal about every 20 minutes, or passengers can take the S-Bahn to city center, which departs every 20 minutes and takes about 45 minutes.