Fly Here, Not There - Part Two: Don't Be Misled by These European Airports

While I went over some of the more egregious airport misnomers in part one, it seems like Europe’s love for alternate airports rivals its love of soccer—I mean football—  maybe baguettes, and taking the whole month of August off work.

Landing at some of the cleverly named airports can wreck your schedule if you don’t pay attention to their location and transportation offerings. After doing some research and reviewing the comments, I’ve added some more airports to the no-fly list if you’re hoping for a seamless path to downtown.

More European Airports to Avoid if Visiting the City Center

With multiple airports, here are seven additional cities in Europe to take note of when flying in or out of. Listed are the airport options you should aim for, which ones to avoid, and the best methods of transportation connecting each airport to its city center.

Düsseldorf

Fly here: DUS – Düsseldorf Airport

Located just 7 km/4 mi north of the center, Düsseldorf Airport is one of the more convenient airports in Europe. As the third busiest airport in Germany, DUS sees its fair share of air traffic. It will also likely be the airport you'll be flying to, as it serves most major airlines and is a hub for Eurowings. With its own dedicated S-Bahn station located below the terminal and extensive bus service, getting to the city center couldn’t be easier.

Not here: NRN – Weeze Airport

German courts ruled that this airport could no longer use “Düsseldorf” in its proper name because it was misleading to passengers. However, outside of Germany, that doesn’t stop low-cost carriers like Ryanair from still promoting the airport as Düsseldorf-Weeze on its website. Practically in the Netherlands, Weeze is a distant 83 km/52 miles away from the city center. Downtown Düsseldorf can be reached by a 1h 15min bus ride, which departs seven times per day, or you could avoid the hassle and fly directly into DUS. 

Paris


Fly here: ORY – Paris Orly Airport

The closest of Paris area airports, Orly lies 13 km / 8 mi south of the City of Lights. While it plays second fiddle to CDG, Orly has a robust network of flights and carries the most domestic passengers within France. Public transportation options to the city center include several bus lines and the Orlyval shuttle, which connects passengers to the Antony station on the RER line.  If traveling with a larger group, a convenient taxi ride to the city center will cost around 35 €, and take roughly 30 minutes.

CDG – Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport

Located 25 km / 16 mi away from downtown Paris, Charles de Gaulle Airport is the largest in France and second busiest in passenger traffic in Europe behind London-Heathrow. If arriving on a long-haul flight, odds are this is the airport where you’ll touch ground. While situated further out from the city center than Orly, CDG provides better transportation options to downtown Paris. Similar to Orly, the cheapest option is taking the RER trains. RER Line B makes several stops in the city, where you can switch onto the metro network to reach your destination. Other options include airport shuttles, buses, or taxis. If you choose the latter, expect to pay around 50 € for the 45 to hour-long journey into the city center.

Not here: BVA – Beauvais-Tille Airport

Beauvais-Tille Airport is mostly used by charter and low-cost regulars like Wizz Air, Ryanair, and Blue Air. Promoted as Paris’s “Third Airport” Beauvais is situated 85 km / 53 mi away from the intended destination. If arriving here, prepare for an hour and fifteen-minute bus ride to the Arc de Triomphe. There is a railway station a few miles away from BVA, but train times to Gare du Nord vary and aren’t guaranteed to sync up with your flight arrival schedule.

XCR – Chalons Vatry Airport

The worst offender on this list, Chalons Vatry Airport is a whopping 147 km / 91 mi away from Paris proper. Cleverly marketed as Paris-Vatry and Paris-Vatry Disney, the airport is still a lengthy 105 km / 65 mi away from Disneyland Paris theme park, so even that title is a misnomer. Luckily most passenger airlines have stopped serving this airport, but there are a few stray routes offered by Ryanair remaining. It's highly unlikely you'll end up flying here anymore, but if you do, I hope it's not to visit Paris.

Glasgow

Fly here: GLA – Glasgow Airport

Glasgow Airport is situated just 16 km/10 mi west of downtown Glasgow.  This Scottish airport is just behind Edinburgh as the busiest in the region. With most of the major airlines and even some low-cost carriers servicing the airport, it’s the one you’ll most likely use if traveling through Glasgow. There are plans in the works to build a tram-rail that will link passengers to the city center, but as of now, the projected completion isn't until 2025. So, until then you'll have to rely on 24-hour bus service or taxis to reach central Glasgow.

Not here: PIK – Glasgow Prestwick Airport

This secondary airport mainly used by… you guessed it – Ryanair and is located about three times further away from downtown as GLA is. Glasgow Prestwick is 51 km/32 mi southwest from Glasgow proper, and its claim to fame is that it's the only soil in the United Kingdom that Elvis Presley ever set foot on. Although it's further out, you won't be all shook up if you arrive at this airport, as it does have a reliable 45-minute rail connection to Glasgow Central station. That being said, flying into Glasgow GLA is much more convenient and will end up saving you time and money in the long run. 

Barcelona

Fly here: BCN – Barcelona-El Prat

Serving as Barcelona's primary airport, El Prat is where you’ll want to touch down if you are visiting the Catalan capital. Situated 12 km / 7.5 mi south of downtown Barcelona, BCN is the key airport in the area and the second busiest in Spain. While it is a hub for low –cost carriers like Level and Vueling, it’s also the arrival airport for nearly every other major airline serving the city. In 2016, two metro stations along Metro line 9 were opened at the airport, giving an easy and affordable link to downtown. The construction of a shuttle train from Terminal 1 to Barcelona’s main train station, Sants, is expected to wrap up by the end of 2020.

Not here: REU – Reus Airport

Don’t fall for fare deals to this out of the way airport if you’re trying to make your way to Las Ramblas or Sagrada Familia. This seasonal charter heavy airport is located 88 km / 55 mi away from central Barcelona, and although billed on some websites under the city’s namesake, it’s far from it. Once a Ryanair hub, the Irish airline drastically reduced its fleet at REU but still keeps limited routes to this small airport. Reus Airport is a great option for those visiting the golden sands of Costa Dorada, but for travelers wanting to head to Barcelona proper, you'll find yourself quite a distance away. Buses coincide with flight arrivals and run to Barcelona Sants station if you need a low-cost option to get into the city. 

GRO -Girona-Costa Brava

Barcelona it’s not. Girona-Costa Brava Airport is located a lengthy 92 km / 57 mi northeast of downtown Barcelona, but that doesn’t stop crafty Ryanair from listing it as Barcelona-Girona on its website. Mainly used for seasonal charter flights, Girona had a boom in the mid-2000's but has started to taper off (probably because people realized how far out it is) in the recent years. For visiting Barcelona flying into this airport doesn't make much sense, but if visiting the duty-free shop of a country Andorra or the resorts alongside Costa Brava then this is the best option for you. If you do end up at GRO and plan on heading to downtown Barcelona, direct buses are available for about 25 € and take an hour and fifteen minutes.

Kiev

Fly here: IEV – Kiev Zhuliany

Kyiv International Airport (Zhuiliany) is situated about 7 km / 4 mi southwest of Kiev city center. Passenger numbers have had an enormous increase at this airport over the last several years with 1.8 million people traveling through IEV in 2017, a massive jump from the 29,00 it had it 2010. The airport mainly serves European and Middle Eastern carriers with short to medium haul routes, with Hungarian based WizzAir offering the most substantial number of nonstop flights. Connected to the city's main highway, the best option for travel to the city center is by bus or by a 20-minute taxi ride.

Not here: KBP– Kiev Boryspil

Kiev’s other airport offering is Boryspil which is across the Dnieper River, 29 km / 18 mi southeast of downtown. As the country’s largest airport it is the home base for flag carrier Ukraine International Airlines. KBP handles all the long-haul offerings heading to Kiev, but it is also home to low-cost carrier Ryanair who is making a big push into the market with 12 new nonstop routes debuting this fall. Similar to Zhuliany, passengers arriving at Boryspil will have to reach downtown by road, taking city buses or the dedicated Sky Bus that takes around 50 minutes to reach the city center. If you'd prefer a taxi, fixed price rides can be booked at counters inside the terminal, and they'll take about 35-45 minutes to reach downtown, depending on traffic. Construction on a railway connection to the city center has been an on-and-off project for the last eight years, with work halting for years at a time. As of now, it has resumed with hopes to be completed by the end of the year, but I wouldn't place any bets on it.

Berlin

Fly here: TXL – Berlin Tegel Airport

The little airport that could, Berlin Tegel was scheduled to close in 2012 after the opening of Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER). However, the national nightmare that is Brandenburg Airport has still yet to open, leaving TXL with a new lease on life. At only 8 km / 5 mi away from Mitte, Berlin’s center, Tegel is especially convenient for travelers staying in the western or northern parts of Berlin. Without any direct rail connections, passengers arriving or departing from the airport will have to rely on a timely bus network or hire a taxi to reach the city center in around 25 minutes.

If you have to: SXF – Berlin Schönefeld Airport

Overall, Schönenfeld (SXF) isn’t the worst offender when it comes to secondary city airports.  Home to many low-cost carriers SXF has also had its future tied to neighboring Brandenburg Airport. Sharing the same runways as the “future” airport BER, Schönenfeld is intended to stay operational to at least 2023 to handle the low-cost operators like EasyJet, Ryanair, and Norwegian. Having flown into SXF several times, in my opinion, the connection to the city could be improved with a dash of German efficiency. While there is a train station a short walk from arrivals, late night flight arrivals or Sunday and holiday travel can leave significant gaps in the schedules, leaving you to wait over an hour for the next train.  There is a bus service that connects to the U-Bahn network, but that too can be iffy depending on the time of the day. If you do plan on flying to SXF, aim for mid-day arrivals and departures to ensure an easier connection to the city center.  

Moscow

Fly here: SVO – Sheremetyevo

Russia’s busiest airport, Sheremetyevo is located 29 km / 18 mi north of Moscow. Home to flag carrier Aeroflot, SVO is the airport that most major long haul and medium flights will arrive at when visiting the nation’s capital. Nonstop Aeroexpress trains link the airport to downtown's Belorussky station in 35 minutes. Several buses depart from the airport to various destinations in Moscow, but they generally connect to Metro lines on the outskirts of the city center and will require a transfer. While being the cheapest option, they should be avoided unless you are an experienced traveler or have a basic grasp of the Russian language. 

VKO – Vnukovo

Vnukovo airport is 28 km / 17 mi southwest of the city center and relatively the same distance away as Sheremetyevo. This airport is mainly used for medium haul flights to Eastern Europe and domestic travel.  Similar to SVO, if arriving at Vnukovo your best bet to reach the city center is the Aeroexpress train, which takes 35 minutes to Kiyevsky Rail Terminal. With a massive traffic problem, journey times for taxis into Moscow can range from 20 minutes to well over an hour. So unless you aren’t in a rush, for most Moscow area airports the dedicated Aeroexpress rail links are the most reliable.

If you have to: DME – Domodedovo

Situated 42 km / 26 mi southeast of the city center Domodedovo Airport is the second busiest airport in the country behind Sheremetyevo. Despite it being the furthest airport from the city center, DME provides a few reliable links to the city. The nonstop Aeroexpress train (45 min. ride), 308 buses, and marshrutka minivans take around 55 minutes to reach Moscow proper with the marshrutkas being the most economical.

Not here: ZIA - Zhukovsky

Opened in 2016, Moscow’s newest airport Zhukovsky is located 40 km / 25 mi away from the city center. While that distance is closer to the city center than Domodedovo, the airport lacks any public transportation options to the city center. Taxis will take approximately an hour to reach central hotels and will cost around €30 or 2,200 Russian rubles.

Related Article: Fly Here, Not There - Part One: Don't Be Misled by these European Airports

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