Last updated on 9.12.2019
Sleeping in an airport is an interesting experience. I have slept or stayed over night in a few of the European airports and here are my thoughts of each of them. I have experienced sleeping in an airport in the following places: Edinburgh, Copenhagen, Reykjavik, Istanbul, Amsterdam and Helsinki-Vantaa. I have also slept in Frankfurt and Vienna but that was so long ago that I do not really remember the experiences. The experiences I write about have occurred between 2010-2018 which is why I will also list the year of my experience, as airports do change. You can jump straight to the specific airport you want to read on by clicking on it on the above list.
Sleeping in Edinburgh airport
Few times between 2010-2014
We slept in Edinburgh airport when we were returning from Reykjavik. We stayed in the arrivals area for the night before our transportation to Aberdeen came in the morning of the following day. The airport is quiet and the arrivals area has a lot of chair areas to sleep in. You might get woken up by the local police though who are just checking that you are not staying in the airport for life rather than just to wait for your bus/morning flight. All you need to do is to show your ticket and the police will be on their way. As the airport is quite small and you will probably sleep in either the departures or arrivals area take warm clothes or a big scarf. There is some traffic in and out of the area which is why it can get cold (also depends on the time of year). The airport has lights on the whole night so I suggest you take something to cover your eyes when dozing. And of course, have your valuables somehow close to you.
Staying overnight in Reykjavik (Keflavik) airport
Once in 2014
We technically did not sleep. We stayed in the airport overnight as our flight was at the crack of dawn. The Reykjavik airport (in 2014) died at night. There was very few people, the shops were closed and the airport itself is small so there was not much to explore. We kept ourselves awake by playing games and racing around the abandoned corridoors. Some people slept around us without a problem. As it (was/is) a small airport there is a limited number of chairs so stretching to sleep on a chair would be tricky.
Sleeping in Copenhagen airport
Multiple times between 2010-2016
Copenhagen is my favourite transit airport in Europe. First of all it is dim during nights as all the shops are closed so it is easy to sleep. The large terminal area provides a variety of places for sleeping all over the airport. My personal favourite though has been the Transit centre located central in the airport. That is the place where you will also go if there is something wrong with your ticket. That area has a lot of cushioned chairs by the walls that do not have armrests so you can lay down comfortably. In the morning the airport has a variety of cafes from which you can buy your morning tea or coffee. You will also probably wake up earlier than the other tourists come for the morning flights as the cleaning machines start going around at 5am.
Sleeping in Istanbul (Ataturk) airport
Twice in 2014
2014 seems to have been my year of airport nights. I recently visited Istanbul airport and the airport was still the same as in 2014 so this information is confirmed to be accurate. So, I spent glorious 24 hrs times 2 in Ataturk in 2014. I know I could have left the airport but at the time I was budgeting strictly and did not know about the sightseeing options. Istanbul is by far the busiest airport I have ever been to. It is in constant motion, flights leaving every 5 minutes pretty much around the clock. This means there are a lot of people. Like a lot. Sleeping in the airport is easy as it is huge and there are variety of side areas with chairs without armrests that you can lay on. Ataturk also has an in-airport hotel which you can stay in. On my way back I chose this option after sleeping with rats, bats and spiders in Nepal for three months. The hotel is really really costly so this is the “last resort” I would say. I slept for three hours there which was perfect for me (I was also able to shower with hot water which made me cry at the time). The airport is not calm so if you wish to sleep I suggest you walk to the far ends of the airport to sleep as the nearer to the centre you are the more people will keep walking past you. The restaurants and snackbars are closed for the night but there are few kiosks that you can buy things from.
Sleeping in Amsterdam (Schipol) airport
Few times between 2010-2014
If I was you I would choose not to sleep in Amsterdam. It is one of the best equipped for sleeping out of the airports as it has an area with lounge chairs that make sleeping easy and comfortable but I still would avoid it. As if you stay there overnight you will get familiar with the mice in the airport. I also checked online and the mice have not disappeared between 2014-2018. During day time it is unlikely you even see the small rodents but at night you literally see them rise to the main area. They are of course harmless and do nothing but it is creepy to sleep whilst there is a mouse investigating the chair that you sleep on. The airport itself is one of the nice ones in Europe with a lot of shops and restaurants but the over night stay just is not the smartest choice you can make.
Sleeping in Helsinki-Vantaa
Few times between 2014-2017
As a Finn you get to know Helsinki-Vantaa intimately over the years of travelling. I have slept in the transit area and in the arrivals/departures area of the airport. The arrivals departures has the best places to sleep between Terminal 1 and 2 as the corridoor has comfortable flat chairs that you can sleep on. These are only few so be quick to claim your spot. In the transit area there are sleeping pods nowadays. I have never been able to try them but have heard positive things. There are though a variety of areas with lounge chairs where you can stretch your legs. Wifi is also provided which is of course wonderful when you are stranded alone in a quiet airport. The airport itself closes for the night so if you can buy yourself a snack when something is still open as airport nights can make you hungry.