Amazing train stations from around the world – Part Two
Recently I asked my favourite bloggers to share with me some train stations they found amazing. But just what makes them amazing? For some it was the history, others it was something unique to that particular station. But the train stations we enjoy sharing the most are the those that are unique or quirky. I had so many responses I’ve had to break down into another post. So if you were charging through, too focused on not missing your train, relax and enjoy the following stations.
Thailand by Andrew & Audrey Gumnuts Abroad
It had been 10 years since we visited Thailand. Our first stop was the popular tourist spot Ao Nang beach, and although we enjoyed our time there it was hardly the bewitching cultural experience we hoped for.
So heading north in search of the “real” Thailand we caught the overnight train to Bangkok Hualamphong Train Station. Built in 1916 Hualamphong is a very old and charming piece of Bangkok history. There were saffron robed monks, priestesses, business men and lumbering backpackers all stumbling around in search of their platform.
Joining the throng, sweat dripping down our backs we staggered to our platform. Where for the first time since arriving in Thailand, our jaws dropped and our eyes bulged. There, in its marvellous quirkiness, was a barber shop doing a roaring trade on the railway platform.
It was here, in the most unlikely of places, that we discovered the Thailand of old.
Edinburgh by Laurence & Jessica of Independent Travel Cats
Edinburgh’s Waverley station is the Scottish capital’s principle and most important rail station. It was first opened in 1846 but was demolished and rebuilt between 1892 and 1902. The Victorian building is centrally located, sitting on the former site of the Nor Loch (a lake once used for the city’s waste) between the city’s Old Town and New Town. The station is named after Sir Walter Scott’s historical novel Waverley, and is believed to be the only station in the world named after a work of fiction (appropriate for a UNESCO City of Literature!). Next door is the 5-star Balmoral Hotel (formerly the North British Hotel) which was originally built as the grand station hotel for train travelers. The station is the second largest in the UK and serves a number of rail services including ScotRail, Virgin Trains, and the Caledonian Sleeper.
Marrakesh by Rhonda Albom of Albom Adventures
Morocco is an easy country to travel by train if your destinations are the Imperial cities. The southern end of the line is Marrakesh. We arrived at the newly remodelled station from Rabat. As the train pulled past the original building built in 1928, we were impressed with the 2008 upgrade. Everything was well sign posted, even if we couldn’t read much of it. The main entrance includes intricate carvings that let the light pass (reflected in photo), archways, and plenty of glass. Overall, the Marrakesh railway station appeared clean, modern and spacious. That is until the woman at the front of the queue in the ladies room rolled up her pants before entering the stall. The newly renovated station was also a sharp contrast to the trains, although the excitement of riding on the Marrakesh Express seemed to outweigh the downsides.
Stockholm by Barbara of Barbaralicious
Stockholm’s metro station are not only amazing: In the underground of Sweden’s capital there is world of art waiting for you. It’s actually the longest art exhibition on the planet: 110 kilometers and 90 metro stations have been decorated with paintings, sculptures or other kinds of installations. The most impressive one to me are T-Centralen, Kungsträdgården, and Rådhuset. T-Centralen is painted in light blue and you feel like walking under a beautiful summer sky. In Kungsträdgården, you will find yourself in between an archeological site or in another world. I felt like being in Narnia. Rådhuset looks like a cave when you get of the metro. This one was probably the most impressive station for me and I was waiting for an hour for the right moment without people to take a photo. So my recommendation for Stockholm is: Get yourself a day pass for the metro and go to all those beautiful pices of art work!
Budapest by Peter of Where Is Your Toothbrush?
Every major Budapest train station is a terminal. Whereas Déli (Southern) is a confusing hunk of concrete and Nyugati (Western) is an Eiffel-built steel-and-glass edifice, Keleti (Eastern) feels more final and definitive, like the city herself. Standing where Rákóczi Avenue forks into two avenues, you can see Keleti from afar and prepare for its grandeur. It is an embodiment of Budapest: built in a grand eclectic style of the late-Austro-Hungarian Empire; muscular and bulky yet light and spacious; biggest and busiest in Hungary. Keleti is where I arrive from my hometown of Košice, in Eastern Slovakia. Like a gateway, Keleti is my first and final impression of Budapest. Arriving, I exit quickly, eager to reunite with the city. Leaving, I stop at Baross Restaurant: to eat one final traditional Hungarian dish or another, raise (never clink) a glass of Dreher beer to the city I love, and watch trains depart.
Hampshire by Danni of Live in 10 Countries
The Watercress Line (Hampshire, the UK), Meadway Station: Set in a stunning part of southern England, this train line is one of few remaining steam lines and serves as a bubble of retro glamorous travel for those depressed from the daily commute into London. Don’t miss the regular theme days, where actors are hired and all passengers are asked to dress in theme, such as WWII’s returning from the front, a Christmas special and murder mystery conundrums around the darker months. Also known as the Mid Hants Railway, this piece of history survives by offering experiences such as allowing visitors a chance at driving the train or having an on-board vintage hairdresser and selection of cream teas. It’s a must-see if you hit the south east, and Meadway is a beautifully restored period apropriate station, complete with vintage advertising and helpful porters.
Darjeeling by Rishabh of Gypsy Couple
Darjeeling station is unique in the sense that it does not connect any major stations directly and is only connected to NJP station via the Darjeeling Himalayan Railways. bearing an UNESCO World Heritage status. This narrow gauge railway has been in operation since the 1880’s and presents a picturesque journey through the mountains, ending at the even more beautiful Darjeeling station. The station remains a great location even for non passengers with its wonderful view and the one of steam engine locomotive passing through for the toy train joy rides. Even the with the modernization of railways and the super fast bullet trains, there is still still a charm to visiting a small secluded station in a hill station with a steam engine chugging through, transporting you to a different world reminiscent of our childhood story books.
Paris by Elisa of World in Paris
Saint Lazare station, the oldest station in Paris, is a fascinating place full of life. Inaugurated in 1837, it was the departure point to trendy beach suburbs to spend the weekend.
Saint Lazare’s iron and glass architecture symbolized at that time the industrial progress and the speed. The station attracted many artists during the Impressionist period who represented it in their artworks. Saint Lazare was immortalized by Monet (Gare Saint Lazare), Zola (The human beast), Manet (The Railway) and many more.
Today Saint Lazare Station is a busy communication hub. It is also the meeting point for billiard players in the clubs located just in front of the station while the musicians find their place at Rue the Rome, famous for its “luthiers” and libraries specialized in music.
When I lived in this area I liked to go up Rue de Rome on the way back home. The luthiers’ shop windows were very beautiful at night. Sometimes you could see a luthier giving the final touch to his “new creature” before finishing his working day. Sometimes someone was playing inside: testing, keeping the instruments warm or just to relax.
Mumbai by Siddharth & Shruti of Siddharth and Shruti
The historic train station of Victoria Terminus or Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus as it is known in the present day is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Mumbai. This beautiful train station mixes victorian gothic revival architecture and classical Indian architecture. It was designed by the British architect Frederick William Stevens. It has been renamed multiple times over the years. It was originally known as Bori Bunder in the 1850s. It was rebuilt as Victoria Terminus to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria. In 1996, it has been officially renamed to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. It has 18 platforms, 7 for local trains and 11 for outstation trains. On special occasions it is beautifully lit up as you can see in the photo. It is a must see if you are in Mumbai even if it’s just for a day.
Milan by Margherita of The Crowded Planet
I love traveling by train, and always choose trains over any other kind of transport, so I have seen my fair share of stations from all over the world… but there is none I like best than Milano Centrale, the station of my hometown Milan. The station is an example of Fascist architecture and it’s absolutely majestic – it’s all built in white marble with high ceilings and tiles depicting scenes from all over Italy. The area around the station has the reputation for being seedy, but in recent years it has improved a lot and now the station has become a hub of activities, with lots of eateries and cafes built within the station itself. Another must see within the station is the Holocaust memorial on Platform 21, the place where trains bound for Auschwitz used to depart. In my mind, visiting Stazione Centrale is one of the top things to do in Milan – even if you’re not actually traveling by train!
Image by ~ ProtoplasmaKid
Moscow by Ron & Michele of Legging It
Moscow is famous for its underground metro stations that are more like art galleries then transport hubs. Each station has its own theme from beautiful ceramic tiling showing the virtues of being a good communist to one with stunning stained glass windows. Our favourite one is Ploshchad Revolyutsii where you are treated to 76 stoic bronze statues of families, farmers, students and workers representing symbolically true communism. These statues are now seen by locals as lucky and each has a special gift. Locals give them a quick rub, for luck as they get off the train leaving noses, beaks and even the babies penis shiny as a result. A tour of the Metro stations is a must do on any visit to Moscow.
Moscow by Megan & Mike of Mapping Megan and Waking Up Wild
Moscow has some incredible subway stations, and between Ploschad Revolutsii, Komsomolskaya, Mayakovskaya and Novoslobodskaya, can boast some of the most beautiful underground train stations in the world.
But one of particular note is Komsomolskaya. It is designed with high vaulted yellow ceilings, marble pillars, ceramic stucco work, and gilded mosaics which pay tribute to great Russian military leaders, and their victories in war.
This is by far one of the fanciest stations in Moscow, and perhaps the rest of the world; a baroque masterpiece which resembles more of a grand ballroom than an underground metro.
Helsinki by Kate & Mark of Vagrants of the World
Train travel reminds us of a time when travel was still a luxury. A reason why we still love to travel by train when we can. And with that comes the opportunity to experience some of the world’s most beautiful train stations. Helsinki Train station is such a station. The BBC chose Eliel Saarinen’s Art Nouveau masterpiece as one of the most beautiful railway stations in the world. You can see why.
With its distinctive statues bearing spherical lamps, one of the station’s less known features is a private lounge exclusively for the use of the President of Finland. Featuring furniture designed by Eliel Saarinen, the lounge was originally intended for the private use of the Emperor of Russia, but WWI delayed its official inauguration to 1919 transferring use of the private waiting room to the Finnish President. This station is much more than an iconic exterior.
Barcelona by Gábor of Surfing the Planet
Barcelona is one of the cities where the most beautiful train station is not the main station. Only a few trains per day leave from the Estación de Francia, but the building itself is both monumental and elegant. As a matter of fact, visiting this train station can’t be left out from your itinerary in Barcelona.
The Estación de Francia was built in the 1920s, when Barcelona was preparing for the Universal Expo they were to host in 1929. The main purpose to build this modern and elegant building was to have a station that is good enough for the new train line between France and Barcelona. The station consists of two main parts, the vestibule with a stylish clock and the huge space where the rail tracks are found. It has a curved metallic structure, which makes the station quite illuminated.
And last but not least, a train station we found amazing. Basel train station was built in 1854 and is the world’s first international train station. Basel train station is one of Europe’s busiest international border stations, servicing France, Switzerland and Germany. The neo-baroque station features Tudor arch window with a clock tower and curved domes on either side. The entrances in the clock towers lead to the ticket hall within the huge timber lined steel arched structure. Servicing passenger, freight and post office trains at a rate of one every 90 seconds this busy station sees about 1,000 trains a day arriving or departing.
Would you still like to see more amazing train stations from around the world? Then stay tuned as we have Part 3 coming up and don’t forget to check out Part 1 if you haven’t already. Please visit the pages of these wonderful bloggers and read their stories relating to the cities these amazing train stations are in.
Our favourite train station in this collaboration is Helsinki, which is yours? Have you been to any of these train stations? Is there a particular train station we should include in Part 3?
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