• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3
The ten best railway stations in Europe

The ten best railway stations in Europe

The Local · 19 Apr 2012, 17:30

Published: 19 Apr 2012 17:30 GMT+02:00

Not only packed with passengers, many European railways stations are steeped in rich history, fine architecture and fun trivia, making them a tourist attraction in their own right. Here are the top ten, as chosen by travellers and the media:

Click here for a gallery of European train station pictures

Denmark: Copenhagen Central Station

Located in the heart of the Danish capital, this third incarnation of the city’s central station was five years in the making and opened in 1911 to royal acclaim – King Christian X invited around 800 VIP guests while thousands of locals lined the streets to see the spectacle. The building was designed in national Romantic style by architect Henrich Wenck. Indeed, romance has blossomed in this railway station for generations, with the grand clock inside the main entrance a favoured meeting spot for first dates. Why not hop off your train and take a more adventurous ride next door – the station neighbours the city’s famous Tivoli Gardens and amusement park.

Belgium: Antwerp Central Station

Listed by US magazine Newsweek at the world’s fourth greatest train station, the building, with its vast iron and glass train-shed, was completed in 1905. A ten-year renovation project to transform the station from terminus to a high-speed through station finished in 2007. The building achieved international celebrity - or possibly notoriety - in 2009 as the backdrop to a staged flash mob event. Around 200 dancers descended on the station to publicise a new Belgian TV talent show. The subsequent video went viral, showcasing the country’s musical talent and finest example of railway architecture.

Belgium: Liège -Guillemins TGV Station

It may have taken 13 years to finish, but when Belgium’s third city overhauled its railway station it did so in style, employing the talents of renowned Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. And he managed to imprint his individual style without disruption to the 36,000 daily passengers that travel through the station. Opened in 2009, the steel, glass and white concrete construction combines nine tracks and five platforms with exhibition space and its signature arch, standing 32 metres high and 160 metres long. With costs to the tune of 312 million euro, the sleek, futuristic hub offers visitors a memorable welcome and now connects Liège to Brussels, Paris, Aachen, Cologne and Frankfurt.

Croatia: Zagreb Central Station

This grandeur of the building is a throwback to the days when Zagreb was a stop on the Orient Express. The largest station in Croatia, spanning a colossal 186.5 metres long, it is situated on King Tomislav Square in the midst of the city. Inaugurated in 1892, the station’s construction was overseen by the rather efficient Hungarian architect Ferenc Pfaff who finished the neoclassical-style building in just two years. Zagreb offers direct services to major European cities such as Vienna, Budapest, Zurich, Munich, Salzburg, Ljubljana, Sarajevo and Belgrade. Spot the high-speed tilting trains at this station, which make domestic travel services convenient and fast.

Spain: Atocha train station, Madrid

A maze of palm trees, exotic plant species and even a turtle pond; it's not what you would normally expect before you board your train. This was the vision of architect Rafael Moneo who remodelled the station in the late 1980s from the inaugural 1889 building. The major transport hub in the Spanish capital now lies behind a huge iron and glass panel while the original building was transformed into a concourse with shops, cafés, a nightclub and the unusual 4,000 square metre tropical gardens. A memorial in the station commemorates the 191 victims of the 2004 Madrid train bombings - an 11-metre tall tower inscribed with thousands of messages of condolence.

Finland: Central Station, Helsinki

Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen won a competition to design the station that opened in 1919. Clad in local granite, its distinguishing features are the two pairs of imposing statues of figures on either side of the entrance. Known as “the stone men” (Kivimiehet) the figures have become iconic symbols for Finns. A unique feature that fewer people know about is the private waiting lounge exclusively for the use of the President of Finland and official guests. Former President of Finland Kyösti Kallio died at the station in December 1940 after suffering a heart attack. He was returning home to the small town of Nivala after attending farewell ceremonies in the capital for his retirement.

Germany: Leipzig: Leipzig Central Station

This is Europe's largest railway station when measured by floor area. Covering 83,460 m² there are 24 platforms housed in six iron train sheds hidden behind a 293 metre-long facade. When it opened in 1915 it was mutually owned by Royal Saxon State Railways and the Prussian state railways, complete with two identical dome entrances, one for each company. The building suffered serious bomb damage during World War II when the roof of the concourse collapsed. Following German reunification in 1990, the building underwent extensive refurbishment and now 150,000 passengers travel daily through the station.

France: Gare du Nord, Paris

Situated in the French capital’s 10th arrondissement, the busiest railway station in Europe receives around 190 million travellers per year. The station complex was designed by French architect Jacques Hittorff and built between 1861 and 1864. The Gare du Nord has been used and mentioned in a mixed bag of popular culture, from French films and the book The Da Vinci Code to Hollywood movies including The Bourne Identity, Ocean’s Twelve and the less highbrow Mr Bean’s Holiday. French architect Jacques Ignace Hittorff was handpicked to design the current station complex, which opened for service while still under construction in 1864.

Portugal: Rossio Railway Station, Lisbon

With its prime location in the Portuguese capital’s Rossio Square, a bustling hang out for both locals and tourists, the majestic building could easily be confused for a palace or theatre. Designed by local architect José Luís Monteiro and completed in 1887, its typically Romantic style facade is laced with intricate sculpture, most notably two intertwined horseshoe portals at the entrance. Trains access the station through a 2,600 metre-long tunnel, excavated under the city and considered one of the most important works of Portuguese engineering of the 19th century.

Holland: Central Station, Amsterdam

First opened in 1889, the station was a contentious issue for the city officials before it was even built. Set on the banks of the IJ River - the Amsterdam harbour - many argued its location cut the Dutch capital off from the beauty of its own waterfront. The building rests on three manmade islands supported by over 8,600 wooden pilings. Around 250,000 people pass through the station everyday and the station has been expanded numerous times to cater for the now 1,500 trains that depart and arrive daily. Having undergone recent restoration, the building has now regained much of its original grandeur. Designed by architect PJH. Cuypers, who was also responsible for many of Amsterdam's neo- Gothic churches, the station was considered a symbol of rejuvenation for the country at the time.

Article sponsored by Eurail Group.

For information on the InterRail Pass range and where to buy click here.

Related links:

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

22:17 April 28, 2012 by PierceArrow
Is Kansas City's Union Station still the second-largest railway station in the world?
22:36 May 3, 2012 by Sayer
While stations are interesting, the quality of train services is more important.
14:01 May 27, 2012 by skaloc
I had crazy friends that would poop when the train was at the station so it would drop on the track .... got to love those D-zugs !
02:54 July 21, 2012 by Flint
@Pierce Arrow. I don't even think it's a train station any more.
17:38 August 24, 2012 by LonUSA
Well I see you did not mention München Hauptbahnhof. This really was my first experience with a great big German train station. First visit in 1988 as a US soldier and visited many more times over the next years. Still a great place in my memory.

This place has some good travel tips too.

www.safetraveleurope.com

L
Today's headlines
Ansbach suicide attack
Isis says Syrian bomber in Bavaria one of its 'soldiers'
Photo: DPA

The Syrian asylum seeker who blew himself up outside a music festival in Germany was a "soldier" of the Isis, the jihadist-linked Amaq news agency said on Monday.

Merkel's refugee policy was 'reckless': Left Party leader
Photo: DPA

The attacks carried out by refugees over the past week show accepting large numbers of refugees brings "significant problems", the party's chairwoman said on Monday.

Ansbach suicide attack
What we know about the Ansbach suicide bomber
The attacker's rucksack. Photo: DPA

He had had his asylum application rejected and had twice attempted suicide, say authorities.

Ansbach suicide attack
Ansbach suicide bomber confirms Isis loyalty in video
Police remove evidence from the bombers residence. Photo: DPA

The man who blew himself up in Ansbach, Bavaria, on Sunday evening, injuring 15 people, recorded a video in which he pledged his allegiance to terror group Isis.

Top 10 German firms with the highest-paid employees
Photo: DPA

Want to know which companies shell out the most for salaries?

How will Germany change after string of bloody attacks?
A policeman in Ansbach on Sunday evening. Photo: DPA

Within seven days Germany has been hit by four bloody attacks on innocent people on its streets and in a train. What does this unprecedented string of murders mean for the country?

After attacks, minister rejects blanket suspicion of refugees
Thomas de Maiziere. Photo: DPA

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere on Monday cautioned Germans against indiscriminately branding all refugees a security threat after a rash of attacks over the last week.

What we know about the Reutlingen knife attack
Police arrest the attacker. Photo: DPA

... and what we don't.

Munich shooting
Police arrest possible accomplice of Munich gunman
Mourners in Munich. Photo: DPA

Authorities in Munich believe that a friend of the teenager who murdered nine people at a Munich shopping centre may have known about his plans.

Ansbach suicide attack
Suicide bomber attacks bar in Bavaria
Photo: DPA

A Syrian migrant set off an explosion at a bar in southern Germany that killed himself and wounded a dozen others late Sunday, authorities said, the third attack to hit Bavaria in a week.

Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
DPA
Gallery
IN PICTURES: How Munich responded to shooting spree
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
Lifestyle
10 rookie errors all Brits make when they arrive in Germany
National
Bavaria train attack: Were police right to shoot to kill?
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
National
How to get German citizenship (or just stay forever)
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
Technology
Brexit will turn Berlin into 'Europe’s startup capital'
Travel
Six soothing day trips to escape the bustle of Berlin
International
'Germany needs to make UK come to its senses'
Features
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
Features
How two gay dads cut through German red tape to start a family
Sponsored Article
Health insurance for expats in Germany: a quick guide
National
Five things to know about guns in Germany
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
Culture
10 things you need to know before attending a German wedding
National
Eight weird habits you'll pick up living in Germany
Lifestyle
Six reasons 'super-cool' Berlin isn't all it's cracked up to be
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
Society
Only one country likes getting naked on the beach more than Germany
Lifestyle
23 ridiculously fascinating things you never knew about Berlin
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Culture
8 German words that perfectly sum up your 20s
Lifestyle
Can't make it past the door at Berlin's most famous club? Help is at hand
Business & Money
Why Frankfurt could steal London's crown as Europe's finance capital
Features
6 surprising things I learned about Germany while editing The Local
Culture
Five sure-fire ways to impress Germans with your manners
10,742
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd