Terminal 4: the crown jewel of Madrid Barajas ….
Madrid Barajas Terminal 4 (T4) is both an architectural masterpiece and a user-friendly building, a rare combination in the airport world. Created by the award-winning duo of Antonio Lamela and Richard Rogers and opened in 2006, the six-level T4 puts the ‘h’ in huge. It covers a stupendous 500,000 square meters and is nearly two-thirds of a mile long, but its clever design guides travellers through their journey from check-in to boarding gate in a stress-free way as possible. Natural materials are used wherever possible such as in the striking, wavy, bamboo-covered ceiling, while colour-coded beams are intended to help passengers get their bearings.There is a plenty of natural light too and the airy feel of this vast building means that despite T4 handling some 60% of Madrid Barajas’s 50 million passengers, the building never feels too crowded even at peak times. T4 is home to flag carrier Iberia and hosts a wide range of international flights, many of them to Latin America and the US. Check-in for all flights is on the second floor, but it is worth noting that non-EU flights leave from a smaller satellite building, T4S, which is accessed by an automatic shuttle train. It features many of the same shops as the main terminal building, including a decent duty-free offering.Enough of the preliminaries, let’s move on to T4’s extensive shopping offer, which is unashamedly fashion-oriented. The Spanish economy continues to languish in the doldrums, but while High Street stores downtown are slashing prices to stay in business, the emphasis in bustling T4 is very much on designer luxury. Don’t expect bargain prices, but if it’s designer brands you are after, you are in the right place.
The main walk-through duty-free store is an imposing retail space. Grandly called The Shop, it is run by giant Spanish travel retailer Aldeasa. Fragrances and cosmetics get the lion’s share of the floor space and it is unlikely that you won’t find the product or brand you’ve set your heart on. However, we are also impressed by the excellent assortment of Spanish wines, cheeses, cold meats, olive oils, chocolates and other local confectionery to be found in The Shop. You will be sure to find a great gift for a foodie family member or friend from this section of the store.
Amidst the well-stocked spirits selection look out for a colourful dedicated area for Brugal rum from the Dominican Republic, which deserves to be better known outside the Caribbean. It features a tasting bar, where a bartender doles out refreshing mojito cocktails to frazzled travellers in need of refreshment. We particularly like Brugal 1888 Reserve: a super-premium rum, which is gloriously smooth and dangerously drinkable.Connected to The Shop is Fashion & Fun, which doesn’t score points for the originality of its name, but does a stock a great range of international fashion brands such as Calvin Klein, Timberland, Lacoste and Hugo Boss, as well as a selection of electronic games and gadgets. Still on the fashion trail, but higher up the price ladder, we should also mention Les Boutiques, which stocks wallet-lightening designer fashion and leather accessories from brands such as Burberry and Salvatore Ferragamo, as well as jewellery from HStern.Other high-end brands with boutiques at T4 include luxury pen brand Montblanc and Venezuelan fashion designer Carolina Herrera, now a global brand with a well-established fragrance line. Head to Tascón for fashionable footwear brands such as Camper, Timberland, Armand Bassi and Nike, and for more affordable, but still stylish clothing look out for either Spanish retailers Zara and Mango, which both have sizeable international presence.
Finding something to occupy the kids during a long wait for a flight can be a real challenge for stressed parents at many airports, but at T4 help is at hand in the shape of Imaginarium, a colourful and fun retail concept aimed at children aged from birth to eight years. We love the store’s two doors (one normal-sized for adults and the smaller one for the children), and the fact that the ranges of toys and games stocked are both fun and educational. To get a better idea of what the store sells, see www.imaginarium.es.
If you are looking for a distinctive gift, why not browse the home ware store Becara, a Spanish retailer with a growing store network abroad? You will find a broad range of attractive gifts such as candles, mirrors, lamps and textiles in a number of different European and Asian styles. Take a look at http://www.becara.es to learn more about the company, its environmental and social credentials, as well as the ranges it produces.
Those travellers who are flying from the separate satellite terminal T4S shouldn’t miss out on Thinking España, a great and relatively new gift shop, which sells all manner of Spanish-related souvenirs and gifts, including everything from books and guides to handicrafts, leather goods and ornaments. The selection of Spanish food and wine in this store is particularly tempting.
In conclusion, T4 makes a good case for being one of the best-designed and most customer-friendly airports terminals in Europe. It certainly outshines Madrid Barajas’ three other terminals, which pale in comparison.
See our shopping overview of Madrid Barajas International
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