The greatest European airport: Surf, ice skate, nap (oh, and fly) at Munich Airport

Skytrax, the organisation that advises the air transport industry on quality standards and improving customer experiences, has handed out the award for top European Airport for the last 11 years. Munich Airport has won it nine times.

Munich's domination has resulted in it being officially named a five-star airport by Skytrax in 2015, an honour it has bestowed on only four other airports in the world – Singapore, Seoul, Hong Kong and Tokyo-Haneda.

So, why are other European airports up against such stiff competition? Here are ten reasons.

Connections and complimentary stuff

Munich has a flight connection time of 30 minutes between domestic and international terminals. By comparison, Heathrow's connection time is about 90 minutes. Munich has cut the time by utilising a combination of clear signage, easy walkways and access, plus fast and efficient security screening. And even if you do have a short wait, enjoy free tea, coffee and newspapers.

Plugged-in

There are electrical and USB outlets everywhere throughout the terminals to keep your devices charged, plus free wireless internet access to keep you connected.

InfoGates

Lost? Hungry? Need to get to a gate quickly? Heard about a store you must visit to do some last-minute shopping? Thirty-six touch-screen information centres called Interactive InfoGates are scattered at strategic points throughout the terminals to get you where you need to go. The screens are fully interactive and you can also customise your trip through the airport to various destinations and compute the distance and walking time between places.

Brewery

Yes, really, Munich Airport has its own brewery. Since 1999, Airbrau has brewed 8 specialty beers for the airport, including the Kumulus wheat beer, Fliegerquell bitter lager and the award-winning Jetstream pils. You can enjoy a glass or two – along with traditional Bavarian fare such as Weisswurst from the brewery's excellent restaurant – in the sprawling beer garden, which accommodates 600 people.

Surfing

Hang five, hang ten or just hang out and watch surfers do their thing on a stationary wave, set up in a pool at Munich Airport Centre every summer since 2011. There are classes for kids and adult beginner surfing lessons each day and then open sessions where the experts carve up the 1.5-metre wall of water. Each summer about 4000 people strip down and jump in to take the challenge.

Christmas Winter Market

Every December the Munich Airport Centre becomes a winter wonderland surrounded by 450 Christmas trees, with a huge ice skating rink surrounded by more than 40 stalls offering traditional Bavarian festive favourites, including sweet roasted almonds, mulled wine, gingerbread and German sausage. During the World Cup, the same area is transformed into a 2000-seat grandstand for viewing the games on a giant 41-square-metre screen. Is it any wonder that many locals come here to hang out even if they don't have a plane to catch?

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Shopping and eating

With more than 150 stores offering goods at lower prices than downtown Munich, last-minute shopping doesn't have to break the bank, especially when you get a VAT refund. And the quality of the 50 different restaurants, cafes and eateries is so high that last year Skytrax voted Munich the fourth-best catered airport on the planet.

Children's Entertainment

Alleviating kids' boredom is covered at Munich, too. The sprawling playground at Visitors Park is divided into activity areas representing all the continents, while the Viewing Hill is set at the top of a rise where children can peer through telescopes at planes landing and taking off. Feel like an hour to yourselves? At Kinderland, trained staff supervise children for an hour for free (and then four euros an hour after that) as they do arts and crafts, play with Lego, toys and computer games or even watch a movie.

Napcabs

Developed by students at Munich's university of science and technology, these beautifully designed pods are resting cabins where you can relax or catch forty winks, complete with bed, desk, and music and lighting that guests can adjust for their own needs.

The Satellite Terminal

In April this year, the much talked-about Satellite Terminal was opened at a cost of about a billion euros in a joint partnership with Lufthansa. With 27 new gates, it increased the capacity of the airport by 11 million passengers a year, pushing the airport's annual passenger count to 36 million. An underground driverless train from Terminal 2 takes 60 seconds to reach the terminal, which has five new airport lounges, 15 retail outlets, seven eateries, three duty-free shops and various Bavarian market stalls.

Barry Divola was a guest of Lufthansa and Visit Berlin.

See also: World's best airports for 2016 named

See also: Sydney airport hotel is a plane-spotter's dream

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