For many of us, memories of train stations are not the fondest. Sure, the excitement of travel bubbles within and make it bearable, but most are far from desirable. Forget drafty waiting rooms with sticky chairs, drab station shops and lacklustre decor and step into a world of tropical gardens-cum-railway stations, palace-like constructions and historical and romantic wonders. Here are the world’s most beautiful and facinating train stations you just have to visit before you die.
St Pancras Railway Station
Where? London, UK
St Pancras International is perhaps the most iconic (and beautiful) railway station in the world, a grand ediface and masterpiece of Victorian Gothic architecture. Opened in 1868 and still very much in use as a bustling national and international train station, it has an imposing clock tower, turrets, a glass-domed roof and Europe’s longest champagne bar. From St Pancras, you can catch trains around the UK, and also board the Eurostar which whisks you away to mainland Europe.
Where? Madrid, Spain
Botanical garden, tropical paradise, it’s easy to confuse Madrid’s beautiful Atocha station with either one of these two. Bright, airy and spacious, the station’s main attraction is the indoor verdant tropical garden with a turtle pool, an oasis of calm under a glass and steel ceiling. There are plenty of restaurants and passengers can catch the train to cities in Spain like Cadiz, Barcelona, Malaga, Seville and Valencia. You can also travel to Marseille.
São Bento Railway Station
Where? Porto, Portugal
Opened in 1916 and built on the site of a former Benadictine monastery, this Porto station is one of the most magical and ornate in the world. Outside, the station resembles a grand Parisian home, and inside travellers will a main hall decorated with 20,000 ornate tiles that come together to form a spellbinding blue and white mural depicting scenes from Portugal’s history. The station serves many destinations around Portugal.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus
Where? Mumbai, India
Few train stations can say they’re a top tourist attraction and UNESCO World Heritage Site, and Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus is one of them. This grand historic station is truly mesmarising, designed by a British architect in the ostentatious Italian Gothic style. The station took 10 years to build and is a fusion of Indian and Western design: The turrets, pointed arches, and ground plans resembling an Indian palace and the wood carvings, tiles, iron and brass railings and balustrades inspired by Europe. The station today serves 3 million people a day and connects Mumbai to the suburbs.
Grand Central Station
Where? New York, USA
It says it on the tin, New York’s Grand Central is one of the most grand railway stations in the world. Immortalised in dozens of blockbuster movies, it’s the busiest station in the USA, a historical landmark and homage to the city’s illustrious past. Built in 1912, the station and National Historical Landmark has since been saved from desruction and restored, and today passengers can expect a grand interior with jade green mural on the ceiling and imposing columns. Don’t forget to visit the food court on the station’s lower level.
Where? Kanazawa, Japan
We absolutely love this station in the Japanese city of Kanazawa (Ishikawa), which opened in 2005 to mixed reviews. The ultra-modern design takes inspiration from traditional Japanese architecture and travellers are welcomes through a massive twisting wooden Tsuzumi gate. On the other side, guests are greeted with an huge imposing glass dome and a futuristic fountain display that resembles a digital clock.
Antwerp Centraal Station
Where? Antwerp, Belgium
When King Leopold II comissioned the Antwerp Centraal Station at the turn of the 20th century, he made sure no expense was spared. A neo-Baroque masterpiece, the station was completed in 1905 and is constructed of 20 types of marble and stone. Highlights include a grand antique clock, iron and glass vaulted ceiling, a gand staircase with ornate balustrades and plenty of gorgeous marble columns. The outside is pretty spectacular too, easily mistaken for a grand Sinjoren palace. You can catch the train to Brussels from this station, along with services to Amsterdam, Paris and Lille.
Where? Istanbul, Turkey
History lovers will go mad for Istanbul’s Sirkeçi Station, which as built as the terminus for the fabled Orient Express from Paris in 1890. A grand ode to the golden age of railway travel, it’s a delightful fusion of French Art Nouveau and Ottoman architecture, with stained glass windows and a stone and brick facade. While the old entrace is no longer in use and the station has been largely modernised, an air of romance and glamour still lingers in the air thanks to its illustrious past.