We’ve looked at some of the most beautiful lighthouses, libraries and museums from around the world. Today it’s time to look at more iconic and beautiful buildings—train stations.
1. Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, India
Image courtesy of Flickr user fish-bone
This UNESCO World Heritage Site, formerly known as Victoria Terminus, features a seamless and stunning blend of Victorian Italianate Gothic Revival and traditional Indian Mughal styles. The building, opened in 1887, was designed by Frederick William Stevens and named in honor of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee that took place the same year. A number of new buildings were added over the years, but they were all designed to blend in with the station’s original design.
The station’s name was changed in 1996 to honor Chhatrapati Shivaji, the founder of the Maratha Empire, though some people still refer to it as Victoria Terminal. These days, the station is the busiest in India, serving both long distance and commuter trains leaving from Mumbai. If the picture of the station looks familiar to you, that’s because you probably saw it in the movie Slumdog Millionaire.
2. Grand Central Terminal, USA
While most people call it Grand Central Station, this New York landmark is actually officially titled Grand Central Terminal. Either way, it is arguably the most famous train station in the U.S. and has repeatedly been named the most beautiful station in the world. That explains why it's the sixth most visited tourist attraction in the world, bringing in over 26,000,000 visitors annually. It also happens to have the most platforms of any station in the world, with 44 platforms set on two separate levels.
The current Grand Central building was completed in 1913 and designed by the architectural firms of Reed and Stem and Warren and Wetmore. Reed and Stem was responsible for the overall design while Warren and Wetmore added the Beaux-Arts style architectural details that make the building so iconic. The iconic clock in the main concourse was designed by Henry Edward Bedford.
3. Liege-Guillemins, Belgium
Planes and automobiles have made train travel a less popular means of transportation, so many of the truly great train stations were built during the Victorian and Edwardian Era. But every now and then a new train station actually manages to make its mark on the world. Such is the case with Liege-Guillemins, which opened in 2009.
The design, by architect Santiago Calatrava, is strikingly modern, with a monumental arch that reaches 105 feet tall consisting of steel, glass, and white concrete. While the station only houses five platforms, it is one of the most important hubs in Belgium because all of the tracks are compatible with high speed trains.
4. St. Pancras International, UK
Often called the “cathedral of the railways,” this London station was opened in 1868 to connect the railway between the East Midlands and Yorkshire. At the time, the station’s arched train shed, designed by William Henry Barlow, had the largest single-span roof in the entire world. Though it has been under threat of closure in the '60s—at which point it was considered redundant—the station was saved by its fans, including Poet Laureate John Betjeman.
These days, the station has 15 platforms and is not only a stop for traditional trains, but also houses a London Underground stop, a shopping center and a bus station.
5. Dunedin Station, New Zealand
George Troup designed the Dunedin Railway Station in a revived Flemish renaissance style, which ended up earning him the nickname of “Gingerbread George.” The building was completed in 1906, but since passenger rail traffic has drastically increased over the years, it is now used for more than just railway business. In fact, the station’s upper floor is home to both the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame and the Otago Art Society.
6. Antwerp Central, Belgium
Antwerp Central—or Antwerpen-Centraal, if you're a local—is the main station for Antwerp, Belgium’s second most populated city. The original station opened in 1905, featuring stone terminus buildings and a massive dome over the waiting room hall. The design by Louis Delacenserie features so many varying architectural styles that many people have a hard time categorizing it at all, but somehow, the eclectic styles work together.
7. Milano Centrale, Italy
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Patrick Denker
The Milano Centrale isn't just one of the busiest stations in Italy—it's one of the busiest in all of Europe. After the Simplon tunnel was opened in 1906, it was decided that the original Milan station couldn’t handle all the additional train traffic. Interestingly, while Milano Centrale's design wasn’t even selected until 1912, and the building wasn’t opened until 1931, King Victor Emmanuel II laid the cornerstone in 1906. Architect Ulisse Stacchini based his design for the building on Washington DC’s Union Station, but after Italy suffered a serious economic crisis during WWI, construction on the building proceeded extremely slowly, and the original simple building design started to become more and more elaborate as time passed. After Benito Mussolini became Prime Minister, he pushed for the building to become more complex and beautiful as a symbol of power for the fascist regime. The end result is a gorgeous and original blend of a variety of architectural styles, including Art Nouveau and Art Deco.
8. Istanbul Sirkeci Terminal, Turkey
Also known as the Istanbul Terminal, this station was designed by architect Jachmund and first opened in 1890. The design is considered to be one of the most famous pieces of European Orientalism and has influenced numerous architects since it was built. The terminal was also quite modern for its time, offering built-in gas lighting and heating from the day it was opened.
9. Haydarpasa Terminal, Turkey
Istanbul is home to not one, but two of the most beautiful train stations in the world. The Haydarpasa Terminal has traditionally served trains to the Asian side of Turkey while the Sirkeci Terminal served trains coming to and from the European side, though since the Haydarpasa Terminal is currently closed for upgrades, most of the tracks have been rerouted to other stations, including the Sirkeci Terminal. Before its closure, Haydarpasa was the busiest terminal in Turkey and one of the busiest in Eastern Europe.
The neo-classical structure was designed by architects Otto Ritter and Helmut Conu and was completed in 1909. Construction was particularly labor intensive because the building’s foundation was laid out on wood piles driven into the mushy shore land that was reclaimed from the sea.
10. Luz Station, Brazil
Designed by Walter Macfarlane & Co. Saracen Foundry Glasgow and completed in 1901, this station is particularly notable for being assembled in Glasgow, then disassembled, shipped to Brazil, and then reassembled in its current location. During the early part of the 20th century, Luz Station was the main entrance to Sao Paulo, but since then, rail transportation in Brazil has declined as has the neighborhood where the station is located. Even so, the station is still stunning and attracts a good number of visitors, many of whom are also there to see the Museum of the Portuguese Language located inside the station.
11. Caminho de Ferro de Moçambique, Mozambique
Image courtesy of Flickr user Hoorob
In the capital city of Mozambique, Maputo, sits a train station recognized by Newsweek as one of the ten most beautiful in the world. The gorgeous white and green building features a number of grand arches and pillars in Victorian style. It was designed by none other than Gustave Eiffel after he had already made a name for himself with the Eiffel Tower.
These days, the station not only serves as a train depot, but also as a public space, featuring events such as concerts and fashion shows.
12. Atocha Station, Spain
The largest railway station in Madrid, the current Atocha station building was constructed in 1892. Architect Alberto de Palacio Elissagne worked with Gustave Eiffel to design the wrought iron renewal style building, which was named after a nearby church dedicated to Our Lady of Atocha.
13. Helsinki Central, Finland
This widely recognized Finnish landmark is also the most visited building in the entire country. The design was thought up by Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen, who came up with the look of the station for a design contest. Saarinen’s original design was very Scandinavian, in a national romanticist style, but when he won the contest, it sparked a large debate about the architecture of public buildings as locals pushed for a more modern style. Saarinen reworked his plans completely, creating this unique building design, which was eventually opened in 1919.
Interestingly, the station has a completely private waiting lounge reserved exclusively for the President of Finland and his or her official guests. The lounge was originally intended for private use by the Emperor of Russia, but after WWI delayed the station’s grand opening, the space was instead repurposed for the Finnish President.
14. Kuala Lumpur Railway Station, Malaysia
Built to replace an older station on the same site, Kuala Lumpur Railway Station was the city’s main railway hub up until Kuala Lumpur Sentral was opened in 2001. The striking building, completed in 1910, incorporates a variety of design elements from all over the East and West, sometimes referred to as Neo-Moorish/Mughal/Indio-Saracenic/Neo-Saracenic. The unique blend of styles was meshed together by architect Arthur Benison Hubback.
Obviously this list couldn’t possibly contain every beautiful train station in the world, so if you have any particular favorites, feel free to mention them in the comments. And if you happen to be traveling via train any time soon, remember to take a good look at the stations you visit—their beauty just might add to your experience.