Whether part of your daily commute or simply where you catch your ride to the airport, we’ve all spent time in train stations. Unfortunately, all too often that time is spent in an old dreary building that we’re grateful to get away from.
But not all train stations are like that, and from London to New York City, these 10 train stations are as much works of art as they are centers of transportation. They’re part of the CRE landscape of the city, and any architectural wonders in your city are worth your attention.
1. St. Pancras International, UK
Complete with a red brick façade, St. Pancras International is one of the finest Victorian landmarks in London. The station has 15 platforms and was the largest enclosed space in the world upon completion in 1868. During WWII it sheltered civilians from bombs and served as a meeting point for Allied soldiers, but after the war it suffered from years of neglect. Local activism saved the station from demolition in the 1960s, and from 2001 to 2007 it underwent an £800 million renovation to bring it back to its former glory.
2. Antwerp Centraal Station, Belgium
Perhaps the world’s most extravagant train station, Antwerp’s Centraal Station is decorated with more than 20 types of marble and stone. Designed by Louis Delacenserie, it opened in 1905 and uses so many different architecture styles that it escapes categorization. The station’s iron and glass vaulted ceiling and eclectic opulence creates a space that’s anything but boring.
3. Kuala Lumpur Railway Station, Malaysia
Designed under British colonial rule, the Kuala Lumpur Railway Station represents a special mixture of Western and Eastern architecture. The sparkling white station opened in 1910 and was the city’s primary railway center until the Kuala Lumpur Sentral Station opened in 2001. Today, the station is a hub for commuter trains.
4. Gare du Nord, France
In a city renowned for its architecture, this Paris train station does not disappoint. Constructed in the Beaux-Arts style, Gare du Nord opened in 1907 and features a façade lined with statues personifying major European cities. It’s the busiest station in Europe, and also one of the brightest — skylights shower light on more than 190 million people passing through this station every year.
5. Dunedin Station, New Zealand
Despite once being New Zealand’s busiest railway, Dunedin Station is the smallest station on the list. It only has two platforms and was designed by George Troup in the revived Flemish renaissance style. The station opened in 1906, and while it’s relatively small, a 120-foot clocktower rises from its southern end and is visible throughout most of town. The building is constructed of dark basalt, white Oamaru stone and pink granite, and the roof is topped with terracotta singles, a design choice that earned Troup the nickname “Gingerbread George.”
6. Union Station, USA
Completed in 1908, Washington D.C.’s Union Station set the precedent for many of the Capitol’s major monuments. Daniel H. Burnham designed it in the Beaux-Arts style and drew inspiration from the monumental Arch of Rome and the Baths of Caracalla. White granite dominates the design, and renovations during the 1980s used more than 70 pounds of gold leafing to touch up the ceiling of the main hall. Today over 40 million people visit the station every year, making it one of the busiest railways and shopping centers in the United States.
7. Milano Centrale, Italy
Architect Ulisse Stacchini based much of his design for Milano Centrale on Washington D.C.’s Union Station, but Benito Mussolini made the original design more elaborate to make the building a symbol of his fascist regime. The result is a distinctive blend of architectural styles that illustrates Italy’s tumultuous history, from when King Victor Emmanuel II laid the cornerstone in 1906 to its eventual completion in 1931. The station boasts 11,000 cubic meters of marble and some 500 trains pass through it every day, making it one of the busiest in Europe.
8. Sirkeci Station, Turkey
Constructed by the Oriental Railway in 1890 to serve as the eastern terminus of the Orient Express line from Paris, Sirkeci Station is a unique example of Ottoman Art Nouveau. In March 2013 service to the station was indefinitely suspended, but a few months later a new underground station opened to the public. While few trains still pass through the station, it remains a symbol of Istanbul thanks to its rich history and beautiful design.
9. Kanazawa Station, Japan
Kanazawa Station opened in 1898, but architects added a controversial new entrance shaped like a Tsuzumi hand-drum in 2005. At first many locals disliked the modern entrance, thinking it clashed with the city’s historic architecture, but today it’s near universally loved. The modern design is an artful contrast to the old city, which was spared in WWII bombings and boasts some of Japan’s best preserved ancient relics. In addition to the geisha district and former samurai quarters, Kanazawa Station has become one of the city’s top tourist attractions.
10. Grand Central Terminal, USA
Likely the most famous train station in the United States, some 26 million people visit Grand Central Terminal every year. It has more platforms than any railway in the world, 44 spread across two levels, and first opened its doors in 1913. From the Tiffany clock on 42nd Street to its famous gold and blue domed ceiling outlined in astronomical signs, Grand Central Terminal is as beautiful as it is iconic.