Train station architecture: Europe's 10 coolest railway stations

ST PANCRAS INTERNATIONAL, LONDON

The pseudo-Gothic exterior of this majestic Victorian-era masterpiece looks like a mad baron's castle in red brick, presided over by a soaring clock tower. It was once the world's largest enclosed space. A late 20th-century overhaul has wonderfully restored the original and added considerable swankiness, including Europe's longest champagne bar, where you can enjoy your fizz and gaze over the busyness of the terminal. See stpancras.com

PRAHA HLAVNI, PRAGUE

Interior art and classic retro building in Prague main railway station or praha hlavni nadrazi on August 31, 2017 in Prague, Czech Republic. iStock image for Traveller. Re-use permitted. Europe best train stations SunJan5Trav10 additional online pics

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Prague's main station is often overlooked thanks to surrounding roads and carparks and its contemporary entrance, which takes you to an underground concourse. As a result, many travellers miss the superb Art Nouveau train station that stands above. Ornate ceilings, a cupola studded with statues and coats-of-arms, and lavish decoration  from naked nymphs to geometric patterns, create quite the eye candy. Make time to admire. See prague.eu

MILANO CENTRALE, MILAN

Main entrance portico of the Milano Centrale train station on Piazza Duca d'Aosta. Milan, Lombardy, Italy. iStock image for Traveller. Re-use permitted. Europe best train stations SunJan5Trav10 additional online pics

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Milan's main train station (Italy's second largest) is vast and has the monumental architecture and heroic statuary to match. The facade is adorned with winged horses, nudes and lions' heads, the palace-like interior with extravagant embellishment. Finished in 1931, its eclectic mix of styles – though mainly Art Deco and Art Nouveau – had one purpose, to glorify Mussolini's Fascist regime, even so you can't help but find it beautiful. See milanocentrale.it

SAO BENTO, PORTO

Porto, Portugal - June 20, 2013: Painted ceramic tileworks (Azulejos) on the walls of Main hall of Sao Bento Railway Station in Porto. The building of station is a popular tourist attraction of Europe SunJan5Trav10
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The exterior architecture is vaguely Paris circa 1896, but the interior of this modest station is ravishingly Portuguese thanks to the 20,000 blue-and-white azulejos ceramic tiles that cover its walls, providing both architectural embellishment and cool temperatures. They depict romanticised versions of important moments in Portuguese history, such as battles and a royal wedding, as well as bucolic country scenes and the development of railway transport. See visitporto.travel

STRASBOURG-VILLE, STRASBOURG 

Gare de Strasbourg
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Europe has both magnificent historical and contemporary train stations, but this French station combines the two. The 19th-century station is covered in an enormous glass roof that curves to ground level, creating an entrance hall between glass and original stone. From a distance, the structure looks like a giant raindrop or alien cocoon that has engulfed the original. Thumbs up too for the seamless link between trains and trams. See otstrasbourg.fr

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MADRID ATOCHA, MADRID

Crowds of travellers, commuters and tourists walking beneath the verdant green foliage of the interior tropical gardens of Atocha Railway Station in the heart of Madrid, Spain's vibrant capital city. ProPhoto RGB profile for maximum color fidelity and gamut. Atocha Railway Station
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This late 19th-century train station has a glass-and-steel Victorian arched roof that looks like it belongs to a greenhouse. Atocha took that thought one step further and added a turtle pond and 7000 plants to the concourse when platforms were moved in 1992. Soaring palm trees are a green counterpoint to mellow orange brickwork. No better space in which to wait for a train. See esmadrid.com

GARE DE LYON, PARIS

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This is a train station from the age of optimism in industrial progress: vast in scale, and topped by a clock tower. Statues of women enduring French wardrobe malfunctions stand as symbols of electricity and steam. The Belle Epoque decor is sumptuous, but the most eye-popping corner is Le Train Bleu restaurant (above), an over-the-top hymn to old railway glamour with gold-and-stucco ceilings and landscape murals. See parisinfo.com

KELETI, BUDAPEST

Budapest Keleti railway station, built between 1881 and 1884. SunJan5Trav10
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In a city full of monumental architecture, this train station holds its own with a facade resembling a palace or opera house. Train buffs should note the statues of James Watt and George Stephenson flanking the clock. Keleti was Europe's most advanced train station when opened in 1884, during the golden age of railways and, though worn inside, still impresses with its flamboyant neo-Renaissance style and Hungarian murals. See budapestinfo.hu

LIEGE-GUILLEMANS, LIEGE

Liege Central Train Station by architect Santiago Calatrava, Belgium taken in October 2013 Liege Train Station
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Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, best known for his futuristic buildings in Valencia, designed this daring 2009 Belgian train station, a glass-and-steel counterpoint to Europe's Victorian-era railway palaces. Dappled light cascades from skylights over white concrete in this seemingly delicate, lacy structure of 39 steel arches. With no walls, it's barely a building, and resembles a flying saucer. Only its exhilarating, low-flying roofline provides protection from the elements. See visitezliege.be

HELSINKI CENTRAL, HELSINKI

July 2019. Passerby and tourists around Helsinki Central Station in Helsinki downtown, Finland. iStock image for Traveller. Re-use permitted. Europe best train stations SunJan5Trav10 additional online pics

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Squat, solid and built from reddish granite topped by green roofs, Helsinki's main station looks like it was designed by Finnish trolls rather than by Art Nouveau architect Eliel Saarinen in 1919. The four giant, lantern-carrying statues that flank its entrance are national icons. The graceful interior has the elegant simplicity common to both Art Nouveau and Scandinavian design. Even the Burger King is beautiful. See myhelsinki.fi

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