Train travel in India undoubtedly brings back fond memories of our childhood where we would peek out the windows to see big approaching stations, as the train slowly lumbered its way through the tracks and eventually came to a halt. The large yellow signboards ushered the arrival of yet another station, and with it, its particularities and specialties. Nevertheless, the world over, train stations showcase a whole host of distinctive features which really define them and put them on a global scale. It’s time to board the express as we zoom through 10 amazing railway stations from around the world
10. Estacio de Madrid Atocha (Madrid, Spain)
Welcome to the capital of Spain, and its greener than grass railway station. Originally inaugurated way back in 1851, it was Madrid’s largest and most important railway station. The famous Gustave Eiffel, who was the architect of Paris’ defining Eiffel Tower, with assistance from Alberto de Palacio Elissagne, are the creators of this beautiful station. With a lovely garden growing right in the middle of the courtyard, this station speaks volumes of its modern approach in terms of its architecture. Passengers transiting through this station can enjoy leisure time in the various shops, cafés and a bubbling night-club. If you do happen to visit the Atocha Station, make it a point to visit the memorial commemorating the victims during the 2004 terrorist bombings which took place inside this station.
9. Gare du Nord (Paris, France)
The French capital is adorned by this exceptional piece of architecture – the Gare du Nord, constructed in the Beaux-Arts style. The facade showcases a unique depiction of major European cities personified by intricate statues, with Paris being at the center. The station has no dearth of light during the day, as sunlight pours through the arched windows as well as the large skylights. Accommodating a whopping 190 million passengers every year, the Gare du Nord takes pole position in Europe’s busiest railway stations. This beauty of a station has also had the privilege of featuring in some Hollywood action thrillers such as The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Ultimatum.
8. Grand Central Terminal (New York City, USA)
Next stop, the Big Apple, at this grand and ornate railway station. Yes, it’s none other than Grand Central Terminal. Built by Cornelius Vanderbilt, and inaugurated in 1913, this station looks as spectacular as it did 103 years ago. The main concourse is home to the celestial ceiling murals, which fascinate passengers as they inch towards the gold-barred ticket windows. Huge gold chandeliers never fail to mesmerize passengers, exposing naked bulbs and also the enormous consumption of electricity. The world’s largest railway station, Grand Central even boasts of tennis courts upstairs. Talk about Grandness now!
7. St. Pancras International (London, UK)
Time for a taste of authentic Victorian architecture at the St. Pancras railway station in London of course, recognizable by its red brick facade. Behold the “Cathedral of the railways”. This station’s huge halls welcome citizens from all across UK, France as well as Belgium, arriving in London. When completed in 1868, this station was proudly the largest enclosed space in the world. St. Pancras also gained historical importance during WWII when it survived the Blitz; this station was also an important meeting point as well as an escape route for Allied soldiers.
6. Antwerp Central Station (Antwerp, Belgium)
Antwerp, Belgium’s second most populated city, is home to the highly decorated Antwerp Central Station. This grand exhibition of King Leopold’s wealth saw the light of day at the turn of the 20th Century. Antwerp Central – or Antwerpen Centraal if you’re a local – falls under the neo-Baroque category of stations, showcasing more than 20 types of marble and stone. This station functions as a hub for the high-speed Thalys trains, which connect Amsterdam to Paris and Lille via Belgium.
5. Kuala Lumpur Railway Station (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
Witness a unique blend of Eastern and Western architectural styles at the Kuala Lumpur Railway Station, draped in pure white. The architecture of this station includes the famous Mughal, Moorish Revival, and the lesser known Indo-Saracenic traits. Completed in 1910, this station was a beacon of British Colonial rule in South East Asia. This station served as Kuala Lumpur’s main railway hub, although Kuala Lumpur Sentral Station took over this position from 2001. Today it nevertheless serves commuter trains.
4. Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (Mumbai, India)
Undoubtedly Bombay’s symbol of heritage and prestige, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, formerly known as Victoria Terminus, is today a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This imposing piece of Victorian architecture, designed by Frederick William Stevens in honor of Queen Victoria, the then Empress of India, took 10 long years to build. CST draws its inspirations from London’s St. Pancras as well as Indian palace architecture, which is suggested by two sculpted animals, the lion representing England, along with the tiger standing for India. This station allows more than 3 million commuters to rush to work every morning to the suburbs of the bustling city of Mumbai.
3. Dunedin Station (Dunedin, New Zealand)
Gear up for a quick taste of Middle Earth in the picturesque Dunedin Railway Station. Built in 1906, this wonderful station exhibits the Flemish-Renaissance style, with extensive usage of dark basalt, white Oamaru stone for contrast. Shingles all the way from Marseilles adorn the terracotta roof. Along with this eye-catching decor, the stained glass windows shower ample light onto the mosaic floors. Interestingly on the station’s upper floor are both the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame as well as the Otago Art Society. Set on a mountainous backdrop, this station is as photographic as it gets.
2. Hauptbahnhof (Berlin, Germany)
The Hauptbahnhof says loud and clear – modern. This German work evoking awesome power, demonstrating a colossal steel and glass structure, sums up the shift from the ornate Victorian architecture to the more contemporary imposing architectural style. This station was inaugurated by Chancellor Angela Merkel in May 2006, with a striking “Symphony of Light” being performed for the occasion. Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof has tracks on two levels, allowing a total of 1800 trains to stop at this station each day, which means close to 35,000 passengers pass through this station on a daily basis.
1. Liege-Guillemins (Liege, Belgium)
The best of railway stations were indeed built during the Victorian Era, when train travel was a luxury and moreover a necessity. However, with the advent of airplanes, it might seem as though planes have rendered the railways a tad bit obsolete. Nevertheless, we do come across a strikingly modern piece of architecture in Santiago Calatrava’s work of art, the Liege-Guillemins railway station in Liege, restoring to a great extent the popularity of the railways. Built in 2009, this station displays an awe-inspiring arch, reaching up to 105 feet in height. Such is the impact of Calatrava’s architecture that this station not only accommodates commuters, but also attracts architecture buffs to this seemingly insignificant city of Belgium. Although the station has only 5 platforms, it is one of the most important hubs in the country as all five tracks can support high speed trains.
Evidently, all of the world’s best railway stations can’t be packed into one single article, but it nevertheless gives you a sneak peek into what the world has in store for all you travel lovers. Hence, next time you get an opportunity to stop at any of these stations, take a couple of minutes off to admire its architecture, and breathe in its impact it creates on you. It will assuredly make your memories of your journey that much more special.