Anyone of a certain age probably remembers visiting an airport and going straight to the observation terrace on top of the terminal to watch the planes.
It’s how I got into aviation, even though my local airport was quiet and you had to wait hours sometimes to see anything!
Today, in the name of progress and security, we’ve lost so many great observation terraces and viewing areas at airports.
But if you know where to look, you can still find some surprisingly good ones!
Here are 5 awesome European airport observation terraces.
The busiest airport in Switzerland still has observation terraces along its main piers. You can get up close to see the aircraft parked at the gates, and also have great views of aircraft on the nearby runways.
The observation deck on top of Pier B is the original and best spot. It is signposted within the terminal, and opens daily from 8am-8pm (summer) and 9am-6pm (winter). There is a CHF5 entrance fee.
The terrace on Pier E is closer to aircraft using runways 16 and 28. Buses run from the Pier B terrace every 30 minutes from midday.
Years ago the observation terrace on Frankfurt’s Terminal 1 was the go-to place for spotting at the airport. I still remember coming face-to-face with all the 747s parked up against it and the smell of aviation fuel!
Today a terrace still exists at Frankfurt Terminal 2 and is the easy to get to, upstairs in the food court area. It gives close-up views of the action around part of this terminal, and the nearby runways and commuter ramp. There are holes in the fence for camera lenses. Open daily. Adults €3.
Another good German observation terrace is on top of the terminal at Dusseldorf airport. It is located above the B pier. It allows visitors to get close to the action, with aircraft parking all around you, and the runways in the near distance. Access is signposted, via the third floor of the terminal. It is open daily from 9am to 6pm (8pm between 26 March and 29 October). Entrance costs €2.20 for adults, €1.50 concessions, and €1 for children.
The sunny holiday spot of Malta has an interesting and fairly busy airport. On the third floor of the passenger terminal is an official viewing terrace, situated near a restaurant. It is free to use, and offers good views across the parking apron and main 13/31 runway. Photography is through clear glass. It is accessed via elevator next to the security check.
Among the many great viewing locations around Schiphol Airport, the Panorama Terrace is an easy go-to place for some serious spotting. This official terrace is located along the top of the central terminal area. Although it has been reduced in size, it still commands good views across piers C to E and a number of the runways. Aircraft that are not seen arriving can usually be seen taxiing at some point.
Entrance to the terrace is free. It can be reached through the entrance hall to Schiphol Central, and is well-signposted. Facilities include an indoor cafe, restaurant and bar, arrivals screens, and a retired Fokker 100 aircraft which you can go inside! Opening times: from last Sunday in October 9am to 5pm; from last Sunday in March 7am to 9pm.
The South Terminal at Paris Orly has an excellent outdoor observation terrace which can be reached from within the terminal. This is a good location for logging most of the airport’s movements, and photography is possible (although south-facing and through glass).
The terrace is free to enter, opening from 6am in summer and 10am in winter, and often open as a smoking area through the night.
Which is your favourite airport observation terrace? Leave a comment below…