• Germany's news in English
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

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

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)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

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.


Today's headlines
German hospital uses therapy to 'treat' paedophiles
A poster from the campaigne "Don't offend", which offers therapy to paedophiles. The sign reads "Do you love kids more than you'd prefer? There's help." Photo: DB Scholz & Friends / DPA.

A unique German initiative is offering therapy to paedophiles to control their urges, with the aim of getting them help before they offend.

Minister: 'no tolerance' for clowns after chainsaw attack
Photo: DPA

Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière has called for a zero-tolerance approach to 'killer clowns' after a series of attacks culminating in two teenagers being chased by a clown wielding a chainsaw.

Baby who was auctioned on eBay taken away from father
Photo: DPA.

A German court ruled on Thursday that a man who put his one-month-old baby up for sale on the online auction platform eBay should only be allowed contact with the child under supervision.

Portugal's ruling party calls German minister 'pyromaniac'
Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble. Photo: DPA.

The head of Portugal's ruling Socialists called German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble a "pyromaniac" on Thursday after he criticized Lisbon for reversing course on austerity.

These are Germany's top ten universities
The new library of Freiburg University. Photo: Jörgens.mi / Wikimedia Commons

These are the best universities in all of Germany - at least according to one ranking.

Introducing Swabians - 'the Scots of Germany'
Photo: DPA

These Southern Germans have quite a reputation in the rest of the country.

Woman sues dentist over job rejection for headscarf
Photo: DPA

A dentist in Stuttgart is being taken to court by a woman whom he rejected for a job as his assistant on the basis that she wears a Muslim headscarf.

Isis suspect charged with scouting Berlin attack sites
Photo: DPA

German federal prosecutors said Thursday they had brought charges against a 19-year-old Syrian man accused of having scouted targets in Berlin for a potential attack by the Isis terror group.

Berlin Holocaust memorial could not be built now: creator
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, in Berlin. Photo: DPA.

The architect of the Berlin Holocaust memorial has said that, if he tried to build the monument again today, it would not be possible due to rising xenophobia and anti-Semitism in Germany and the United States.

'Liberal' Germany stopping Europe's 'slide into barbarism'
Ian Kershaw. Photo: DPA

Europe is not slipping into the same dark tunnel of hate and nationalism that it did in the 1930s - mainly thanks to Germany - one of the continent's leading historians has said.

10 German clichés that foreigners get very wrong
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
10 ways German completely messes up your English
Germany's 10 most weird and wonderful landmarks
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd