Since I live on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, I try to fly out of New York’s LaGuardia Airport whenever I can. It’s just a 15-minute cab ride, and I can get through security quickly.

But, boy, is it a dump, especially in the United Airlines terminal. There’s an Au Bon Pain, but it’s really just a chow line without the regular storefront you see in most airports. That’s about it.

So the bar was set low when I flew to Incheon International Airport in Seoul, South Korea, on a recent business trip. Still, I had a lot of people, including two of my Korean colleagues, tell me it was the best airport in the world (it was ranked the world’s second-best airport by Skytrax, a high honor).

I’ve only been to a handful of international airports — including London’s Heathrow, Schiphol in Amsterdam, and El Prat in Barcelona — and they’re great, but Incheon is by far the most impressive one I’ve ever been to.

The building itself is a modern work of art. Everything is in one giant curved terminal instead of separate terminals like most airports. You can see how beautiful it is from the outside:

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But the inside is the real treat. Incheon is essentially a high-class shopping mall with airplane gates in between the stores and restaurants. It goes on seemingly forever.

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There are a lot of classy stores like Burberry.

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And Chanel.

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There was even a drug store.

incheon-seoul-south-korea-airport-pharmacySteve Kovach/Business Insider

I visited one of the food courts, up this escalator. It was 9 a.m., but since Korean breakfast food is the same at all hours of the day, I had to get noodles.

incheon-seoul-south-korea-airport-food-courtSteve Kovach/Business Insider

The food court was cool. You order at a separate station and wait for your number to be called at the kitchen.

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But the biggest draw was the duty-free shops. There were several of them and most were selling the same stuff, as far as I could tell. A lot of people walked out with giant shopping bags stuffed with booze, jewelry, and designer perfume.

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Now compare all that to my typical experience at LaGuardia.


Disclosure: Samsung paid for a portion of our trip to South Korea for a separate series of stories about the company. It paid for the flight and some meals. Business Insider paid for lodging and all other expenses.