In the rush of getting from one place to another, we might sometimes forget to take a moment to observe our surroundings. While some train stations are just that, a bunch of platforms with or without a roof, there are some that are outright architectural marvels that are worth taking some extra time to explore.
1. Antwerpen-Centraal, Antwerp, Belgium
If you google “most beautiful train station in the world”, the first picture that comes up is of the Central Station in Antwerp. Built between 1895 and 1905, it was designed by architect Louis Delacenserie in a neo-baroque style. Everything, from the marble tiles to the stained glass and the majestic clock breaths luxury.
2. St Pancras International, London, UK
The red brick, Gothic building was finished in 1968 following the plans of civil engineer William Henry Barlow, commissioned by the Midland Railway, which, at the time, didn’t have a dedicated line into London. Complete with the St Pancras Renaissance London Hotel, the station is now the international railway hub and a landmark of the city.
3. Milano Centrale, Milan, Italy
Architect Ulisse Stacchini was inspired by the Washington Union Station when designing Milan’s Central Station, resulting in a style described as “Assyrian-Lombard”. What was originally a simple building design became more and more complex as former Prime Minister Mussolini wanted Milan’s Central Station to reflect the nation’s powerful regime. The result is a gorgeous blend of architectural styles, including Art Deco and Art Nouveau.
4. Liège-Guillemins, Liège, Belgium
Another gem to be discovered in Belgium. Designed by Santiago Calatrava, the strikingly modern station of Liège-Guillemins consists mainly of glass, steel and white concrete. With light pouring in through the many skylights and windows, the station has become famous among photographers for the way light floods through its colourful glass panels.
5. Madrid Atocha, Madrid, Spain
The current station dates back to 1892, after the original construction was engulfed by fire in 1851 and had to be rebuilt. For the façade, architect Alberto de Palacio collaborated with Gustave Eiffel, creating the impressive wrought iron style. However, the real wonder is on the inside, the station housing a 4,000 square metre botanical garden, featuring around 7,000 plant species as well as small ponds with fish and turtles.
6. Toledo, Naples, Italy
Opened in 2012, Naples’ Toledo station is part of the municipality’s Stazioni dell’Arte (Stations of Art) project, which called on international architects to design 12 new metro stations for the city. Known for its psychedelic swirl of violet-blue and 40-metre-long escalator, Toledo considered the crown jewel of the project. Before adventuring into the depths of the station, mosaics inspired by the history of Naples adorn the walls of the atrium.
7. São Bento, Porto, Portugal
Construction of the São Bento (Saint Benedict) station in Porto started in 1904 and was only finished in 1916. The building was designed by architect José Marques da Silva, who was influenced by the Beaux-Arts style that was particularly popular in France at the time, while the azulejo tile panels that adorn the vestibule were designed and painted by Jorge Colaço. There are around 20,000 tiles forming panels that depict either historic scenes and battles or rural life.
8. Gare de Lyon, Paris, France
Officially opened to the public on 12 August 1849, the station was designed by architect François-Alexis Cendrier under the direction of Baron Haussman in a Belle Epoque style. Besides the impressive exterior, the inside décor is nothing short of opulent. Marble staircases lead to the iconic “Le Train Bleu” (The Blue Train) restaurant, the walls of which are adorned with frescoes depicting 19th century France.
9. Gare do Oriente, Lisbon, Portugal
Lisbon’s Gare do Oriente was built for the World Expo 1998 as an intermodal transport hub. Influenced by the Gothic style, Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava designed the building with its remarkable lattice structure of glass and metal.
10. Hungerburg, Innsbruck, Austria
The Hungerburgbahn is a hybrid funicular railway in Innsbruck, Austria, connecting the city district of Hungerburg with the city centre. The new Hungerburgbahn is one of the landmarks of the city, with stations designed by Zaha Hadid in the unique style that gave her the nickname of “Queen of Curve”.