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Gare do Oriente in Lisbon, Portugal.
Gare do Oriente in Lisbon, Portugal. Copyright Canva
Copyright Canva
Copyright Canva

Antwerp, Innsbruck, Madrid: Where are Europe’s most beautiful train stations?

By Angela Symons
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From a ‘railroad cathedral’ to an underground art exhibit, plan your next train trip around these beautiful stations in Europe.

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You might be tempted to plan your next train adventure around the many new train routes popping up across Europe.

But what if we said you could experience the glamour of train travel without even leaving the station?

From a historic ‘railroad cathedral’ to an underground art installation, these are the most beautiful train stations in Europe to check out on your travels.

Antwerpen-Centraal in Antwerp, Belgium.
Antwerpen-Centraal in Antwerp, Belgium.Canva

Antwerpen-Centraal in Antwerp, Belgium: A transport temple

Antwerp’s main railway station is one of Belgium’s most important transport hubs, with high-speed services to Amsterdam, Paris and Marseille.

It’s housed in an eclectic building designed by Belgian architect Louis Delacenserie in the late 19th century, who drew on Neo-Renaissance, Art Nouveau and Baroque style.

The vast dome over the waiting room has earned the station its Spoorwegkathedraal - ‘railroad cathedral’ - nickname.

Marble, towering columns and intricate ironwork frame the station clock, giving way to the high-glass-ceilinged train halls, which were originally designed to dissipate the smoke of steam locomotives.

Hungerburg Station in Innsbruck, Austria.
Hungerburg Station in Innsbruck, Austria.Canva

Hungerburg Station in Innsbruck, Austria: An alpine wonder

Running from central Innsbruck to the start of the Seegrube cable car, the Hungerberg funicular railway passes through four stations designed by London’s boundary-pushing Zaha Hadid Architects.

The futuristic Hungerburg Station stands out against the natural backdrop of the Karwendel Alpine Park, offering a gateway to Austria's hiking trails, ski slopes and mountains. Its curved glass roof appears to float in situ, with its flowing, icy surface mimicking the mountains in the distance.

Estación de Atocha in Madrid, Spain.
Estación de Atocha in Madrid, Spain.Canva

Estación de Atocha in Madrid, Spain: A tropical jungle

Spain’s busiest railway station is imposing but not especially remarkable from the outside. It’s the interior that brings the wow factor thanks to a tropical greenhouse.

Before heading to the modern terminus next door to catch a high-speed train to Barcelona, Malaga or Alicante, grab a coffee and wonder at the lush garden that fills the abandoned old part of the station.

With thousands of plants and flowers from every corner of the globe, it will give you a sense of serenity as you embark on your journey.

Gare do Oriente in Lisbon, Portugal.
Gare do Oriente in Lisbon, Portugal.Canva

Gare do Oriente in Lisbon, Portugal: A modernist marvel

From the winding streets of Alfama to the mouthwatering food stalls of Time Out Market, Lisbon is ripe for exploring.

But those who arrive in the Portuguese capital by train will experience a lesser known spectacle: Gare do Oriente.

Designed by leading Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, the intermodal transport hub was built in time for the Expo ‘98 world’s fair. With its lattice of glass and metal, the modernist structure is suitably eye-catching.

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It houses a Lisbon Metro station, high-speed commuter and regional rail lines, a bus station and a shopping centre.

King's Cross Station in London, England.
King's Cross Station in London, England.Canva

King's Cross Station in London, England: A lesson in restoration

King's Cross Station in London is Grade I listed, marking its exceptional architectural and historical importance. That made its modern transformation all the more challenging - and impressive.

A dramatic wave-form roof sweeps over the Western Concourse. It was unveiled alongside the meticulously restored original facade in time for the 2012 Olympics.

The project has sparked regeneration in the entire area over the past decade, ensuring the station is known as more than a gateway to the north and the home of Harry Potter’s platform 9 ¾. 

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Toledo Station in Naples, Italy.
Toledo Station in Naples, Italy.Canva

Toledo Station in Naples, Italy: Art beneath the city streets

A shimmering sea of blue mosaic deep beneath an old Naples neighbourhood has injected creativity into the area.

Accessed by a 40-metre escalator, the Toledo metro station is part of the city’s Stazioni dell'Arte project, which saw internationally renowned architects and designers make their mark on Line 1 metro stations.

Before you get to the station’s ocean-inspired depths, you descend past mosaics of the city’s history and sunshine yellow displays.

São Bento in Porto, Portugal.
São Bento in Porto, Portugal.Canva

São Bento in Porto, Portugal: For dazzling azulejo

Portugal is known for its pretty azulejo tiles - some of the most impressive of which can be found in Porto’s São Bento train station.

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Around 22,000 tiles make up its 551-square metre panels, which depict scenes of Portuguese history and rural life. They were designed and painted by the renowned artist and potter Jorge Colaço, and unveiled in 1903.

Rotterdam Centraal Station in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
Rotterdam Centraal Station in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.Canva

Rotterdam Centraal Station in Rotterdam, the Netherlands: A sustainable hub

After being destroyed by bombing in WWII, Rotterdam charged headlong into the future and embraced modern design.

Centraal Station’s latest incarnation, revealed in 2014, features an imposing glass and metal facade that gives way to a warm and welcoming wood interior.

The platforms - hosting high-speed trains to Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris - are flooded with light from glass ceilings that are fitted with one of the largest rooftop solar projects in Europe. The station offers parking for over 5,000 bicycles to complete the sustainable picture.

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