A famous quote says: “Life is not about the destination, it’s about the journey.” Wise words, often true, yet not exclusively. Because let’s be honest, sometimes, in order to reach a certain goal, you have to endure quite a bit of not-so-pretty things. And sometimes, it’s all worth it in the end, while other times, it’s definitely not. Yet we’re getting side-tracked because this isn’t a life lesson nor a philosophy course. Today, we’re talking about train travel and more precisely train stations. Because sometimes, it’s all about the destination.
Since we’re getting more and more aware of the climate catastrophe which is our planet, many of us try to change our behavior. By eating less meat or more local food. By trying to consume less in general. By taking the train instead of the plane.
Train vs. plane
For a long time, train travel used to be the means of transportation par excellence. When people had to go somewhere near or far, they jumped on a train, looked outside their window for the whole journey and then, eventually, got off. Yet somewhere throughout the course of history, we decided en masse to exchange the train for the plane. No more looking outside our window, no more awareness of the landscape, no more slow travelling. We want to reach our destination as fast as possible, as cheap as possible. Yet all of that started to take its toll on our climate.
Luckily, more and more people are choosing once again to take the train. Because yes, the journey really does matter. And so does the destination – especially if you arrive in one of these train stations, considered as some of the most beautiful in Europe.
1. Antwerp Central Railway Station, Belgium
Let’s start off in Belgium today. Aside from Manneken Pis and the Atomium, one of Belgium’s most famous sights is probably Antwerp’s Central Railway Station aka Antwerpen-Centraal. It was built between 1895 and 1905 after the design of architect Louis Delacenserie in a style so eclectic most specialists aren’t sure what to call it. Everything, from the marble tiles to the stained glass and the majestic clock breaths luxury. Oh, and it was named the world’s greatest train station by Mashable in 2014, so we’re not the only ones to think this is an awesome building.
2. London St Pancras Station, United Kingdom
Anyone who’s ever travelled to London by Eurostar will have seen the St Pancras railway station in all its splendor. The red brick 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. They also added a hotel into the façade which is now the St. Pancras Renaissance London Hotel. Nowadays, the station’s the international railway hub of the city and a very recognizable landmark.
3. São Bento Train Station, Porto, Portugal
Built a bit later than the stations discussed so far, the São Bento Train Station was officially finished in 1916 after plans by the architect José Marques da Silva. Yet more famous than da Silva is probably the man who designed the panels of azulejo tiles for which the station’s so well-known: Jorge Colaço. The murals and tiles on the walls of the station’s vestibule represent the country’s history and rural scenes from all over Portugal. And quite honestly, they’re not just pleasant to look at but also a welcome distraction while waiting for your train to arrive.
4. Madrid Atocha Railway Station, Spain
Even though the original building from 1851 was destructed by fire, the current station isn’t so young either: it dates back to 1892. Architect in charge Alberto de Palacio Elissagne collaborated with no one less than Gustave Eiffel for the construction – yes, that’s THE Eiffel. However, a project from the nineties gave the station a new outlook. A new construction was built and the old building was turned into a concourse with shops, cafes and other recreational functions. However, the main attraction is the waiting area, which is actually a 4.000 square meters covered tropical garden. Enough to keep you entertained for a while!
5. Milano Centrale Station, Italy
As we’re talking about architecture, an Italian gem couldn’t miss on this list. And Milano Centrale definitely deserves is, being the largest train station by volume in Europe. For his design architect Ulisse Stacchini was inspired by the Washington Union Station, resulting in a style described as ‘Assyrian-Lombard’. And apparently, according to architect Aldo Rossi, Frank Lloyd Wright once called it “the most beautiful station in the world”. And even though we’re not completely sure whether or not that quote is true, you can’t deny the beauty of this massive building.