• Switzerland's news in English
 

The ten best railway stations in Europe

Published: 19 Apr 2012 17:51 GMT+02:00

Travelling in Europe by train? Before you embark on exploring your chosen city, take a moment to savour its first port of call.

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. Travellers and the media have picked their top ten. 

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:

Staff reporter (news@thelocal.com)

Today's headlines
Fifa's 65th congress
Blatter beats off critics to win fifth Fifa term
Photo: AFP

Blatter beats off critics to win fifth Fifa term

Sepp Blatter won a fifth term as Fifa president on Friday in a dramatic end to an angry campaign dominated by a corruption storm that engulfed the leadership of world football. READ  

Fifa's 65th congress
Police: all clear after Fifa meeting bomb threat
Demonstrators outside Fifa congress protest against Blatter. Photo: AFP

Police: all clear after Fifa meeting bomb threat

Fifa's 65th congress resumed after a bomb threat disrupted proceedings in Zurich's Hallenstadion early Friday afternoon. READ  

Presented by Blondel
Swiss chocolate with a story: Blondel
Photo: Jan Vašek/StockSnap

Swiss chocolate with a story: Blondel

It's a fact: Swiss chocolate has conquered the world. But what's so special about it, and what's it like to run a prestigious chocolaterie? The Local asked chocolate experts Blondel. READ  

Fifa's 65th congress
Blatter appeals for unity at Fifa congress
Blatter gives thumbs up during congress on Friday. Photo: AFP

Blatter appeals for unity at Fifa congress

Fifa president Sepp Blatter appealed for unity on Friday in an opening speech to the world football body’s 65th congress in Zurich, where he is seeking re-election as the organization struggles to deal with a messy corruption crisis. READ  

Strong franc hammers Swiss economy in Q1
Photo: AFP

Strong franc hammers Swiss economy in Q1

The Swiss economy contracted by 0.2 percent in the first quarter of this year, the national statistics agency said Friday, as the sharp appreciation of the franc hammered the country's key export sector. READ  

Profile
Prince Ali out to wrestle Fifa from Blatter
Prince Ali (centre) leaving Zurich hotel. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

Prince Ali out to wrestle Fifa from Blatter

A former wrestler and army officer, Jordan's Prince Ali bin Hussein is bidding to pry control of football's governing-body Fifa from current president Sepp Blatter on Friday. READ  

Fifa corruption scandal
Official questions 'Hollywood' Fifa raid
Sheikh Ahmad al Fahad al Sabah. Photo: AFP

Official questions 'Hollywood' Fifa raid

A top Olympic official about to join Fifa's executive has questioned the timing of what he called a "Hollywood-style" operation in Switzerland to detain Fifa members in a corruption raid. READ  

Fifa corruption scandal
Blatter rejects calls to quit as Fifa meet opens
Blatter addressing Fifa congress on Thursday. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

Blatter rejects calls to quit as Fifa meet opens

Embattled Fifa president Sepp Blatter on Thursday warned of "more bad news" for football's scandal tainted world body but rejected calls to resign over a widening corruption scandal. READ  

Boffins discover why Swiss cheese has holes
Photo: Agroscope

Boffins discover why Swiss cheese has holes

Eureka! After about a century of research, Swiss scientists have finally cracked the mystery of the holes in Swiss cheese. READ  

Swiss returns home to make 'gender-fluid' film
Photo: Turbid Lake Pictures (detail)

Swiss returns home to make 'gender-fluid' film

Swiss filmmaker Florian Halbedl is returning to Switzerland from his current home in Canada to shoot an unusual short film in the canton of Ticino with his trans-gender partner. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Culture
Swiss filmmaker returns home to shoot 'gender-fluid' film in Ticino
Features
Severed rope recalls Matterhorn's first ascent 150 years ago
National
Top Swiss court refuses to recognize child's two gay 'fathers'
National
Woman's scoop for Ticino online news site: 'I killed my husband'
National
Four Swiss bathing areas 'unfit' for swimmers: Euro environmental body
Technology
Scientists from Zurich university find craters beneath Lake Neuchâtel
National
Prince William in Switzerland backs fight to protect endangered species
National
Swiss Federal Railways rely on sheep to 'mow' grass alongside tracks
Sport
Switzerland to host 2020 international ice hockey tourney
Business & Money
I never learned German: departing Credit Suisse CEO's regret
Sport
International tennis museum in US showcases Federer hologram
National
Inequality greater than most Swiss think: opinion poll for unions
National
Shooting in Switzerland leaves five dead in domestic drama near Zurich
National
Swiss Federal Railways tackle taboo subject of suicide in bid to cut deaths
National
German expats in Switzerland face discrimination: report
Travel
High prices blunt Swiss tourism's cutting edge: World Economic Forum
Business & Money
Ticked off Rolex slaps Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on wrist
National
Shock and humour drive police safety video warning over 'inattention'
National
Switzerland ranks 13th best place in world for mothers: NGO
Education
Times Higher Education rates EPFL world's top 'young university'
Travel
Switzerland's trains again ranked best for performance in Europe
National
Ten percent of Swiss farmers fail to meet government regulations
National
Municipality of Zermatt bans taking selfies with Saint Bernard dogs
Business & Money
Salt (formerly Orange) aims to shake up Switzerland's mobile market
National
Switzerland tops 2015 world 'happiness index' developed by UN
National
New book: Swiss architect Le Corbusier was 'out-and-out fascist'
Features
Tasty street food catches on in biggest Swiss cities
Sport
Invasion of frogs forces early end to Zurich football game
National
New ranking downgrades the 'power' of Switzerland's passport
Features
Swiss hotel management schools serve up 'world best' recipe
National
Segways win approval for operation on Swiss bicycle lanes
National
Joan Baez and Sting in lineup for this summer's Paléo music festival
National
Second CERN club skier dies from avalanche in Valais Alps
Sport
Lausanne and IOC celebrate a century of Olympism
National
Bern waters down criteria for beer that can be labelled ‘Swiss’
National
Internet giant Google named most attractive employer in Switzerland
National
VIDEO: Swiss television satire clip ridicules Americans on ski slopes
National
Immigration remains top election issue for Swiss voters: opinion poll
National
Environmental bureau ranks Zurich first among Europe's 'sootfree cities'
National
Zurich crane-climbing stunt by teenager flags 'roofer' concerns
Education
THE ranks EPFL among seven 'fastest rising young universities'
Features
Mobility takes off as young urban Swiss catch the car-sharing bug
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

4,317
jobs available