1. Chhatrapati Sivaji Terminal, Mumbai
This stunning building blending traditional Indian Mughal styles with Victorian Italianate Gothic Revival was opened in 1887 in honor of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee that year. It is the only UNESCO World Heritage Site to feature in this list. Designed by Frederick William Stevens, it changed its name from Victoria Terminal to Chhatrapati Shivaji in 1996 to honor the founder of the Maratha Empire.
2. Grand Central Terminal
You may probably know it as the Grand Central Station. Bringing in over 26,000,000 visitors annually, it is the sixth most visited international tourist attraction, and according to many, also the most beautiful train station out there. The current building in Beaux-Arts style architecture was designed by the firms Reed & Stem and Warren &Wetmore, and completed in 1913. The beautiful and iconic clock tower in the main concourse was designed by Henry Edward Bedford. At 44, the station has the highest number of platforms in the world.
3. Milano Centrale, Milan
When the Simplon tunnel was opened in 1906, the original Milan station failed to put up with the additional traffic. However, this beautiful building featuring an original blend of a variety of architectural styles like the Art Nouveau and Art Deco has darker roots. It was sanctioned by King Victor Emmanuel way back in 1906. But Italy’s economic crisis during the First World War contributed to the extremely slow progression and the project didn’t get moving till Benito Mussolini pushed for it to become a marker of his fascist might. It finally opened in 1931, and is today one of the busiest stations in the entire European continent.
4. Estacao de Sao Bento, Portugal
The internationally beautiful azulejo tile paneling by the artist Jorge Colaco is absolutely breathtaking. The building opened in 1915 and the tiles depict events from Portuguese history like the Battle of Valvadez and the Conquest of Silva. The inspiration behind the building lies in contemporary French architecture, which heavily influenced architect Marques da Silva.
5. Antwerp Central, Belgium
This building is a living evidence of the simple art fact that it is not the technique but the work that really matters. Designed by Louis Delacenserie, this features so many architectural styles that even experts have a hard time categorizing all of them. Locally known as the Antwerpen-Centraal, this is the main station of Antwerp, the second most populated city in the country. Looking at it today, it would be hard to believe that this station had suffered massive damage during WWII due to V-2 bombings.
6. Hydarpassa Terminal, Turkey
This was the busiest terminal in Eastern Europe has been at the centre of controversies since it was closed down. Previously suspected of being sold off to private bidders, the government finally gave in to public resistance and now it features again in railway maps. Built by the German architects Otto Ritter and Helmut Conu, it is the largest station in Turkey, though still defunct. The sandstone façade and the carved garlands and stained glass windows in the interior make the station an unmissable feature of the landscape, especially with its reflection in the adjoining water body.
7. Tanggula Mountain Railway Station, Tibet
Located at 5,068 metres above the sea level, the Tanggula Mountain Railway Station in the Tibet Autonomous Zone is the highest train station in the world. And for lovers of nature, it is also the most beautiful. Thanks to its location in a conflict zone however, passengers are not allowed to board or de-board here. However, it is an import point in the China railway network and many trains stop at this unmanned station for other trains to pass, offering passengers breathtaking views.
8. Helsinki Central Station, Finland
You can’t have a trip to Finland without visiting the Helsinki Central Station, as is attested by the number of footfalls. It has also been a favorite even among the royals since its opening in 1919. There is a private waiting lounge designed exclusively for the President of Finland and their official guests, and it was originally designed to receive the Emperor of Russia before World War I. The architecture of this place is an interesting example of the influence of globalization. Originally, the architect Eliel Saarinen had come up with a Scandinavian design. But he had to chuck it after a large debate where the locals wanted something more international.
9. Caminho de Ferro de Mocambique, Mozambique
While it is not really possible as of yet to understand whether Gustave Eiffel really worked on this building, the white mint green structure with the iconic central dome certainly has his influence. The station with its beautiful remnants like old ticket counters, old wooden benches, and antiquated locomotives on display would take you back to the country’s Portuguese colonial past.
10. Kanazawa Station, Japan
Japan has stayed true to its image of being the Buddhist gateway to the east through the architecture of this station. Visitors are welcomed through the beautiful and internationally famous red gate, or ‘torii’, which is a direct allusion to the torii entrance to Buddhist temples. Even the interior maintains this spirit with its wooden pillars and beams supporting the gates at the central concourse. All this is set off by beautiful lighting and ultra-modern technology.
11. Atocha Station, Spain
While it was built originally in 1851, today it consists of 2 parts – one from the 19th century and the one that developed out of additions in the 20th century.The wrought iron renewal style building was designed by architect Alberto de Palacio Elissagne in collaboration with our old friend Gustave Eiffel. And it continues to grow. It popularity has increased all the more now thanks to the newly added tropical garden right inside the station!
12. Liege-Guillemins, Belgium
This is another Belgium station to feature on this list. And its futuristic design conceived by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava absolutely demands so. Opening in 2009, this station with arched ceilings of white concrete, steel and glass make it a true tribute to the spirit of this century. The building skillfully handles high-speed trains headed to quite a large number of destinations across Europe.
13. Gare du Nord, Paris
Only the French can think up of something like statues personifying major European cities decorating the façade. Constructed in the Beaux-Arts style, the sun’s rays flood the station through its arched windows and skylights, making the place straight out of a multi-colored fairytale comic. With 190 million passengers every year, it is also the busiest European train station.
14. Amsterdam Centraal Station
Completed in 1889, the huge station has quite a bit of checkered history. Blocking the waterfront view, its construction marked the end of the city’s ancient and famous seafaring culture. Also, the fiercely Protestant residents were not very welcoming to the Gothic details, which they regarded as way too Catholic. The station is supported on three artificial islands and features 8,600 wooden piles under the foundation!
15. St. Pancras International
When the station was completed in 1868 after 20 years’ effort, it was the largest enclosed space in the world. Though years have passed, it still remains among Europe’s busiest stations and welcomed people arriving in London from all over the continent. The red brick architecture is Gothic, and reflects its Victorian origins. It featured prominently during WWII, surviving the Blitz and serving as a meeting point and an escape route for Allied soldiers.
Train stations have been an important part of human culture in spite of their relatively new existence. After all, a station is not just a station but a meeting place for people and ideas. Thinking of paying one of these a visit? Why not?