In early March, after almost 12 years of waiting, the new Santiago Calavatra-designed World Trade Center transportation hub finally opened in New York City. The soaring Oculus, with its bird-inspired design and gleaming white concourse, is already beloved of architecture fans and Instagrammers alike, who have quickly forgiven the myriad delays and budget-busting $4 billion price tag. It may be the world’s most expensive train station, but it is also one of the most beautiful. Here are a few more grand train stations designed to make a big impression as soon as you arrive.
1. Grand Central Terminal, New York City
The Oculus will have to stick around for a while before earning the love that New Yorkers have for Grand Central Terminal. This 44 platform hub evokes the golden era of travel – and New York – with its soaring ceiling with celestial mural, gold-barred ticket windows and ornate chandeliers. Make time for a cocktail at the opulent Campbell Apartment, a former tycoon’s private home, tucked away in a corner.
2. Union Station, Washington D.C
Just a little farther down the east coast, the Beaux-Arts masterpiece that is Union Station offers a stunning first glimpse of the nation’s capital. Opened in 1907, the station’s design was inspired by Rome’s Arch of Constantine and the ancient Roman Baths of Diocletian. The word “monumental” comes to mind.
3. St. Pancras International, London U.K
Opened in 1868, the red brick Gothic masterpiece was fully restored just a few years ago and is now departure/arrival point for the Eurostar train to Europe, which left its previous home, Waterloo, in 2007. Younger readers might recognize the grand façade from Harry Potter movies, while jetsetters will recognize it from the adjoining luxury hotel, St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel.
4. Helsinki Central Railway Station, Finland
Photo: Karen Gardiner
Two giant granite statues holding a pair of spherical lamps guard this dramatic Art Nouveau style station, designed by Eliel Saarinen, father of Eero who designed New York’s stunning TWA Terminal. There’s an echo of the monumental Soviet architectural style here, appropriate as this is the departure point for journeys to St. Petersburg.
5. Estación de Madrid Atocha, Spain
Dating from 1851, Madrid’s biggest railway station is famous for its tropical plant and palm tree-filled plaza with soaring glass ceiling. Sadly it is also famous for the 2004 terrorist bombing that took place here. Pay your respects by visit the station’s memorial to the 191 victims.
6. Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai, India
Not many train stations are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, but this gorgeous Gothic station, designed by British architect F. W. Stevens, is one. Originally named Victoria Terminus for Queen Victoria, the station opened in 1887 and quickly became a landmark for its unique blend of Indian architectural traditions – with elements such as turrets borrowed from Indian palaces - with the Victorian Gothic Revival style. Sadly this station was also the site of atrocity: the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.
7. Kanazawa Station, Japan
Japan does futuristic design oh so well and Kanazawa Station is no exception. Entirely elevated above street level, the station is dominated by the hand-drum-shaped wooden Tsuzumi Gate and glass and steel Motenashi dome. Outside, the amazing Fountain Clock fountain uses streams of water to display the time like a digital clock.
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