Six of the best: Railway hotels

TOKYO STATION HOTEL, JAPAN

Despite the saturation bombing of Tokyo during World War II, the Japanese capital's main red-brick railway building, near Ginza, somehow escaped largely intact, save for its entire top level. Seventy or so years later, an extraordinary, and extraordinarily costly, project was embarked upon to reinstate the station's missing floor. Designated an "Important Culture Property of Japan", the hotel, which dates to 1915, has been fully restored into one of the most historic and conveniently located accommodations in Tokyo with some rooms overlooking the station's imposing glass cupola crowning a landmark dome. From See thetokyostationhotel.jp

GRAND HOTEL MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA

Aside from the legion of humble pubs that call themselves "Railway Hotel", Australia is bereft of authentic grand railway hotels. But there's always the 118-room Grand Hotel Melbourne, in the southern portion of an elephantine erstwhile 19th-century Italianate railways headquarters near the modern-day Southern Cross Station in gentrifying Spencer Street. The hallways of the recently refurbished hotel, which is protected by the Heritage Council of Victoria, are so wide and tall that you could fairly drive a loco down them, with the building's generous dimensions allowing for spacious split-level guestrooms. From $169 per night.

See grandhotelmelbourne.com.au

GREAT NORTHERN HOTEL, LONDON, ENGLAND

One of the world's first railway hotels, the superbly-positioned Great Northern Hotel is right next door to Kings Cross Station and St Pancras International. The six-storey sand-coloured 90-room boutique-style hotel, designed by Lewis Cubitt in the 1850s, fell in disrepair until it was restored as part of the massive, and exemplary, £700 million ($1400 million) redevelopment of the once seedy Kings Cross area. Inside references to the hotel's railway heritage are thoroughly tasteful and subtle, signified by the snug "Couchette" rooms designed as a homage to continental railway sleepers of yore. From $330   a night.

See gnhlondon.com

WALDORF-ASTORIA EDINBURGH - THE CALENDONIAN, SCOTLAND

The Caledonian competes with the nearby Balmoral for the title of Edinburgh's grandest railway hotel. The distinctive red sandstone "Caley", as the locals like to call it, sits at the far end of Princes Street in a prime position below Edinburgh's magnificent castle. Dating to 1899, it was part of the old Princes Street Railway Station and which was demolished in 1970, the Waldorf-Astoria group spent millions of pounds on a renovation. One of the building's most appealing features, aside from knockout views of the castle from some rooms, is the now enclosed ticketing and concourse which today is the location for the hotel's main restaurants, bars and lounges.

From  $350 a night.

See waldorfastoriaedinburgh.com

HOTEL GRANVIA KYOTO, JAPAN

Major railway terminals in Japan are not only invariably centrally located but near small towns in their own right. The gargantuan main Japan Rail (JR) station in Kyoto, full of department stores, shops, restaurants, is an exemplar. Doubling as a terminal for shinkansen, or bullet trains, the building also houses the modern  535-room five-star hotel Hotel Granvia Kyoto.Its rooms, between the 7th and 15th floors, deliver stunning views, especially at night, straight down the city's frenetic main streets.  It's a thrill to walk out into the buzzing station, complete with glimpses of sleek white bullet trains gliding in and out of platforms, with its cavernous glass and steel atrium each day of your stay. From $235 a night. .

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See granviakyoto.com

ST PANCRAS RENAISSANCE HOTEL LONDON, ENGLAND

The quintessential grand luxury railway hotel, the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, opened in 2011 as part of the eponymous railway station's redevelopment. Among the 245-room Victorian-era hotel's myriad appealing features are those suites with high-ceilings and tall windows that look out over the heroic arched glass and iron roof of the station with Eurostar trains arriving and departing from the continent right next to the famous Champagne bar. Small group guided tours of the hotel, which can include the signature grand staircase, cost  $40 a person and can be taken by non house-guests.

From  $460 a night.

See marriott.com.au/London

The writer was a guest of the Grand Hotel Melbourne, the Great Northern Hotel, St Pancras Renassance Hotel and Visit Britain. He stayed at the other hotels at his own expense.

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