St. Pancras International, London
This neo-Gothic red brick façade won raves when it was unveiled in 1868. And it’s in the news again. After a 20th-century decline, St. Pancras got a recent £800 million makeover. Workers cleaned 300,000 pounds of dirt from the bricks and restored 8,000 panes of glass in the roof of the immense train shed. As a result, the station looks its part as one of the finest Victorian landmarks in London.
The world’s most beautiful train stations were designed to make a big impression. Many were constructed during the late 19th century, a golden era when train travel was new, intriguing, and glamorous. Today, stations from every era continue to impress, attracting travelers who aren’t even catching a train.
CFM Railway Station, Maputo, Mozambique
Mint-green exteriors, a large dome, and wrought-iron latticework make the capital city of Maputo’s train station an unexpected, if modest, beauty. Reportedly designed by Gustave Eiffel in the early 20th century, the station showcases several historic steam locomotives. Modern-day trains bring passengers through here daily.
Sirkeci Station, Istanbul
Built in 1890 as the terminus for the Orient-Express journey from Paris, the façade of this Ottoman Art Nouveau building is particularly attractive. Swaths of red brick surround the wide entrance, and stained-glass windows provide colorful splashes of light inside. Although this entrance is no longer used, people still stop to admire the interior and catch occasional performances by whirling dervishes inside the grand entry hall.
Southern Cross Station, Melbourne
Previously called Spencer Street Station, the station got a new name in 2005 as part of an elaborate modernization project. The undulating roof, which stretches an entire city block, has been compared to a gigantic air-filled blanket floating on a forest of Y-shaped columns. The form is also the function here: fumes trapped in the domes high above the platforms escape naturally through holes cut into the top, making it a sort of breathing roof.
Kanazawa Station, Kanazawa, Japan
Many residents were initially dismayed by the city’s modern “entrance” when it was unveiled in 2005. The station’s wooden hand-drum-shaped Tsuzumi Gate and glass umbrella-shaped Motenashi Dome were controversial because they clashed with the traditional architecture of this old castle town—one of Japan’s best preserved as it was spared in WWII bombings. But the station has been so popular with tourists and photographers that many skeptics have come around to see the beauty in its sleek modern design.
Atocha Station, Madrid
With the opening of a new terminal in 1992, locals had the inspired idea to convert the original adjacent station into a concourse with a beautiful tropical garden of palm trees reaching toward the steel and glass roof in the center—as well as a nightclub and several cafés. The new station is accessed through the old terminal, where passengers can buy tickets and wait for their trains.
Union Station, Los Angeles
Father-son team John and Donald Parkinson contributed to this station’s design, blending the area’s Spanish Colonial heritage with then-contemporary Art Deco styles. The tall white bell tower of the station’s exterior is reminiscent of California’s missions while its main waiting room is sumptuously finished with a painted wood ceiling and multicolored marble inlays on the floor.
Antwerp Central Station, Belgium
When this palatial neo-Baroque station was completed in 1905, it was criticized for its extravagance (it is decorated in more than 20 types of marble and stone). But it’s proven tough to resist the station’s eclectic, opulent style and enormous arched dome. You may recognize the main hall of this station from a viral video from early 2009 of 200 people performing a choreographed dance to “Do Re Mi” from The Sound of Music.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai
British architect F. W. Stevens worked with local craftsmen to blend Indian architectural traditions with the Victorian Gothic Revival style. Originally named for Queen Victoria, the Empress of India, the station has endured as a Mumbai landmark—and a vital resource for the three million commuters who use it daily. The turrets and elaborate ornamentation are similar to design elements found on Moghul and Hindu palaces across the subcontinent.
Gare du Nord, Paris
This station in the central 10th Arrondissement is one of the busiest and most picture-perfect in Europe. The façade is sculpted with 23 statues representing Amsterdam, Vienna, and other destinations served by the Chemin de Fer du Nord company. The interior is just as lovely, especially when the sun filters through the panels of the glass and cast-iron roof to the platforms below.