Best Train Station in Europe

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

In Europe, each and every step you take is steeped in history and art, even something as mundane as train stations, sometimes are true pieces of art and high end architecture in their own right. Here is a list of some of the most artistic train stations you may come across on the Old Continent:

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Denmark: Copenhagen Central Station

Copenhagen Central Station was inaugurated in 1911 by King Christian the tenth, after five years of works for its construction; it was a state of the art station for its times, entirely built in a typically Danish Romantic Style, by architect Henrich Wenck. Its landmark is an imposing clock just inside the main entrance, for decades the chosen location for first dates, rendez vous and goodbye kisses. Once you leave the station, you can visit the famous Tivoli Gardens and their amusement park.

Belgium: Antwerp Central Station

Built at the very beginning of the twentieth century, Antwerp Central Station is known for its large, imposing iron and glass train-shed; in 2007, this art nouveau architectural jewel was upgraded to receive high speed trains. In 2009 the building became popular among the public for having become the backdrop for a popular talent show promotional shoot.

Belgium: Liège -Guillemins TGV Station

Stylish, modern, a haven of steel, glass and white concrete, this station was completed in 2009, after 13 years in the making. The artistic brainchild of Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, it sees through its gates and on its platforms more than 36000 passengers per day and connects Liège to Brussels, Frankfurt, Paris, Cologne and Aachen. Its style is sheer twenty first century beauty: futuristic allure, sleek design- embodied by an iconic arch- and an exhibition area showcasing art. 

Croatia: Zagreb Central Station

Walking into Zagreb Central Station is almost like stepping back to the times of the Orient Express. Situated on King Tomislav Square, at the heart of the city, it was built in less than two years by the Hungarian architect Ferenc Pfaff, who gave it a typically neoclassical look. Today, Zagreb Central Station connects the Croatian capital to some of the most important European cities such as Vienna, Budapest, Zurich, Munich, Lubjana and Salzburg.

Spain: Atocha train station, Madrid

The original building dates back to the end of the nineteenth century and it is today shadowed under an iron and glass panel, ideated by Rafael Moneo, the architect who remodelled the station back in the 1980's. The older structure houses shops, cafés, a nightclub and a true tropical garden. A touching memorial to the victims of the 2004 Madrid bombing stands, 11 meters tall, in the midst of it, inscribed with thousand of messages from travelers from all over the world. 

Finland: Central Station, Helsinki

Inaugurated in 1919 and designed by Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen, the station is well known among Finns for the two pairs of granite statues standing at its entrance: the Kivimiehet, or Stone Men, have become, through the decades, a real symbol of the capital. The station also boasts a private lounge for the State President and his guests, a lesser known detail of this incredibly popular building. It is within its walls that, in 1940,  the at-the-time president Kyösti Kallio died from a heart attack, while waiting to return to his native Nivala, after having retired from his political career.

Germany: Leipzig: Leipzig Central Station

Leipzig Central Station is the largest train station in Europe by floor area. It covers 83.460 square meters of land and has 24 platforms, from which trains departs to destinations all over the continent. Inaugurated in 1915, it belonged to two railway companies, the Royal Saxon State Railways and the Prussian State Railways, which shared its platforms, but had two separate entrances to the building. It was greatly damaged during World War ii and underwent serious renovations after the unification of Germany in the 1990's. Today, more than 150.000 passengers travel through the station every day. 

France: Gare du Nord, Paris

La Gare du Nord is probably the best known station of the continent and it is certainly its busiest, with its 190 million yearly passengers. It was designed by the French architect Jacques Hittorff and begun operating in 1864, while still under construction. The Gare du Nord is not only famous as a station, but also as an architectural icon, represented often in art, yesterday and today: beside having appeared in several French movies, it has also been the background for parts of Ocean Twelve, The Da Vinci Code and the Bourne Identity. 

Portugal: Rossio Railway Station, Lisbon

Located at the heart of Lisbon, on the bustling Rossio Square, this breathtaking building has the grace and aesthetic charme of a palace or a theatre; it was designed by José Luis Monteiro and  completed in 1887 in a typically Romantic style, heavy with sculptures. Particularly famous are the two horseshoe portals at the entrance of the building .

Holland: Central Station, Amsterdam
First opened in 1889 and 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.

The best train stations in Italy are

Italy: Santa Lucia, Venice

Santa Maria Novella, Florence

Article sponsored by Eurail Group.

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Click here for a gallery of European train station pictures