Europe’s Most Fascinating Train Stations
Train stations are romantic, magical places. It might be because many couples separate and reunite here. It might be because of the historic buildings that inspire writers to create stories and legends. It might be the train journey itself, an exciting adventure to foreign lands or a return to familiar settings.
Whatever it is, that magical feeling is accentuated the moment we step off the train and enter Europe’s iconic train stations. So let the journey begin, as we highlight Europe’s most fascinating train stations.
1. La Gare de Strasbourg, France
France takes good care of its beautiful buildings and this is obvious in the case of the iconic train station in Strasbourg. The building, which originally opened in 1846 and rebuilt in 1883, is protected by a beautiful glass shell which was raised in 2007. The Strasbourg Train Station is the second largest train station in France.
2. Estación de Atocha, Spain
Madrid’s Estación de Atocha, also known as Madrid Puerta de Atocha, amazes travelers as they arrive to Spain’s capital city. Aside from its stunning design, this impressive train station has become world famous because it shelters over 500 species of plants, transforming Madrid’s largest railway station into a huge indoor tropical garden (the garden is over 4,000 meters squared!).
In addition to being close to Madrid apartments and hotels, the original structure has been converted into a concourse with several shops, cafés, and even a nightclub, making it a destination all on its own.
Berlin’s central train terminal is located on the site of the historic Lehrter Bahnhof, which opened in 1871. The station has since been renovated and rebuilt over the years, with the current structure completed in 2006. Berlin Hauptbahnhof is much more than a train station, it’s a popular tourist attraction in itself.
It’s central location is convenient for tourists because its close to a variety of famous landmarks, hotels and apartment rentals. Aside from its futuristic concept the over 80 shops that transforms the terminal into a mall, Berlin’s Central Station also features an outdoor beach!
The list of Europe’s most fascinating train stations would not be complete without including Antwerp’s legendary Central Station. It’s often called the “Railway Cathedral” because it’s architecture is similar to a religious edifice (one cannot help but feel like being in a cathedral when stepping inside the station for the first time).
However, this feeling quickly evaporates at the sight of the diamond gallery that has more than 30 diamond shops. In 2009, the American magazine “Newsweek” judged Antwerpen-Centraal the world’s fourth greatest train station.
5. Istanbul Haydarpaşa Terminal, Turkey
Istanbul‘s historical central train station, situated directly on the Bosporus, is the busiest rail terminal in Turkey and the Middle East, and is also one of the busiest train terminals in all Eastern Europe. Haydarpaşa station opened in 1872 but has since see several upgrades and improvements. The interior is beautifully decorated with an oriental style, offering its visitors stunning architecture and ornamental painting.
6. Liège-Guillemins, Belgium
Liège-Guillemins train station is the central station of the city of Liège, the third biggest city in Belgium and one of its most important hubs. Santiago Calatrava’s construction, officially re-opened in September 2009, may easily be compared to a work of art. This ultra-modern building looks like something straight out of a science-fiction movie. If the architect’s vision was to create something that stands out – mission accomplished! Not only is it one of Europe’s finest, it might be one of the world’s most impressive train stations.
7. St. Pancras Train Station, England
St Pancras railway station, also known as London St Pancras, was originally constructed in the middle of the 19th century and is widely celebrated for its stunning Victorian architecture.
The redeveloped terminal, that is said to house Europe’s longest champagne bar, has been described as “the world’s most wonderful railway station”. With international service to Belgium and France, and many last minute holidays routing through London, it’s no surprise that London’s St Pancras is one of Europe’s busiest train stations.
8. Gare de Limoges-Bénédictins, France
Gare de Limoges-Bénédictins is yet another historical train station said to be one of the most beautiful in the world. It is named Bénédictins because it is located near the Benedictin monastery, which was closed during the French revolution.
What makes this central station unique is the fact that it was not rebuilt next to the original train tracks, but rather above them. A huge platform, placed right above the tracks, was built to support the main building (quite the engineering accomplishment).
9. Helsinki Central Rail Station, Finland
Finland’s most-visited building is a widely recognised landmark in central Helsinki, Finlands modest capital city. Originally opened in 1862, the elegant terminal is known for its clock tower and two pairs of statues that guard the main entrance by holding spherical lamps that shine during the night.
10. Edinburgh Waverley Railway Station
Scotland’s second busiest railway station (next to Glasgow Central) dominates Edinburgh’s city centre with its over 25 acres of coverage, making it the the second-largest station in the United Kingdom in terms of area. Located in a steep, narrow valley in the old town of Edinburgh, Waverly is surrounded by some of the finest examples of Medieval architecture (as the photo below illustrates).
What fascinating train station would you add to this list?
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Author Bio: This is a guest post submitted by Paul, a travel writer for the Look Travel Network, a practical guide that offers information about train stations and airports as well as beautiful parks, greatest bridges, must see landmarks and fun guide for touristic destinations.