Train travel is not only fast and efficient, but also provides ample opportunity to admire some of the world’s greatest wonders. Though now less popular, train travel was once at the forefront of innovation, revolutionizing travel and prompting monarchs, architects, and city planners to build magnificent train stations to impress passengers. From lavish Beaux-Arts stations to ultra-modern masterpieces, here are the 10 most amazing railway stations from around the world.
10. STATION LIEGE-GUILLEMINS, BELGIUM
Santiago Calatrava’s sleek, curvaceous train station in Liège has earned the contemporary architect countless accolades and attracts architecture buffs to this small Belgian city. Made of steel, glass, and white concrete, the station seems to bring the outside in, with light pouring in through the windows and skylights. High-speed trains shuttle passengers off to other parts of Belgium, Germany, France, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. The main concourse has plenty of shops, cafés, and restaurants, plus a tourist information office and ticket office.
9. ESTACAO DE SAO BENTO, PORTO, PORTUGAL
Occupying the site of the former convent of S. Bento de Avé-Maria, the Estacao de Sao Bento is celebrated for its exquisite blue and white mural depicting scenes from Portugal’s history. It took artist Jorge Colaço 14 years to complete the masterpiece made of 20,000 tin-glazed ceramic tiles. The exterior isn’t bad either—architect Marques da Silva was inspired by Parisian architecture and included a mansard roof and stone façade in his design.
8. KANAZAWA STATION, JAPAN
The ultra-modern entrance to the Kanazawa Station was unveiled in 2005 to mixed reviews, but it has become a much-admired site since. Initially, many felt the modern architecture didn’t represent the historic town, which was miraculously unharmed during WWII and has preserved the former samurai quarters and geisha district. The station’s hand-drum-shaped wooden Tsuzumi Gate and glass and steel Motenashi dome have come to stand for the fusion of modern technology with traditional forms. Outside, a futuristic fountain displays the time like a digital clock.
7. SOUTHERN CROSS STATION, MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA
While locals are more likely to regard Southern Cross as an inevitable time-suck to be navigated by train on the way to Flinders St., tourists and design-junkies from all over the world admire the station for its innovative and beautiful design. While the station in this spot dates back to 1859, the undulating, sand dune-shaped roof designed by Grimshaw Architects was completed in 2006 and covers an entire city block of over 60,000 square meters. The roof was designed to allow for cooling through natural ventilation, and to allow fumes and exhaust from trains to leave the station.
6. GARE DE STRASBOURG, FRANCE
Gare de Strasbourg is the main railway station in the commune of Strasbourg in France. The current core building is an example of historic architecture of the Wilhelminian period. Prior to the opening of the high-speed train line LGV Est, the station was refurbished by architect Jean-Marie Duthilleul in 2006–2007 and its size and capacity largely increased by the addition of a huge glass roof entirely covering the historical façade. The main hall is adorned by two larger than life statues of female allegorical figures representing Industry and Agriculture. They are the work of Otto Geyer, who also sculpted the figured reliefs adorning the historical façade.
5. CHHATRAPATI SHIVAJI TERMINUS, MUMBAI, INDIA
The historic Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was a symbol of Bombay’s prestige. Originally known as Victoria Terminus, it was designed by British architect Frederick William Stevens to honor Queen Victoria, Empress of India. The imposing Victorian Gothic Revival station took 10 years to build and was completed in 1888. A fusion of Western and Eastern styles, it was inspired by Indian palace architecture. Indian craftsmen aided in the construction and sculpted elements to represent the two cultures. Three million commuters pass through the station every day, as it connects Mumbai to the suburbs.
4. BERLIN HAUPTBAHNHOF, GERMANY
A massive, five-storey cruciform construction in steel and glass, Berlin Hauptbahnhof gleams phosphorescent against the night sky. Curved glass tunnels and vertical lines intersect like a glowing rutilated quartz crystal cluster, with tracks extending north, east, south and west. The glass walls render visible – and somehow magical – the movement of each train that bisects its core on the upper levels, before they snake away on a network of raised bridges. When it opened, in 2006, national train operator Deutsche Bahn’s chief executive Hartmut Mehdorm described it as ‘the most beautiful station in the world’.
3. GRAND CENTRAL, NEW YORK CITY, USA
While Grand Central Terminal remains the busiest train station in the USA, it is also one of New York City’s most historical landmarks and a living, bustling temple to the city’s illustrious past. First built in 1913, Grand Central was saved from destruction by New York’s landmark laws and vocal New Yorkers, including Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Brendan Gill, who wanted to see Grand Central restored. Extensive efforts to restore and revive this National Historic Landmark lead to its re-dedication on October 1, 1998 when Grand Central Terminal had been restored to its original glory. If you are hungry, do not forget to visit the food court at the station’s lower level.
2. ST PANCRAS INTERNATIONAL STATION, LONDON, UK
St. Pancras International station’s immense halls greet people arriving in London from all over the UK, France, and Belgium on the Eurostar. The station took 20 years to build, and when it was completed in 1868, it was the largest enclosed space in the world. The red brick Gothic façade remains a testament to England’s great Victorian architecture, even surviving the Blitz during WWII. During the war, it was an important escape route and meeting point for the Allied soldiers.
1. STATION ANTWERPEN-CENTRAAL, BELGIUM
King Leopold II spared no expense in building the Antwerp Central Station at the turn of the 20th century. Completed in 1905, the opulent neo-Baroque station contains more than 20 types of marble and stone. A handsome antique clock marks the time for passengers waiting to catch a train under the iron and glass vaulted ceiling. Though it was originally built as the terminus of the Brussels-Mechelen-Antwerp railway line, the station now functions as a through-station for commuter trains, intercity trains, and Thalys high-speed trains connecting Amsterdam to Paris and Lille via Belgium.