True Awe Inspiring Stations part two

Awe Inspiring Stations part two

8. EDINBURGH WAVERLEY (more information coming soon)



More information is on the way because we will soon be adding journeys from London to other destinations in the UK to the journey guide.

It's also been a few years since we last arrived in Edinburgh by train, which partially explains the woolly qualities of the above image, a situation which we also plan to remedy in the near future.

Though what won't have changed is the vista pictured above with the Scottish National Gallery in the centre, Edinburgh Castle over to the left and Princess Street to the right.

Aside from its stunningly beautiful waiting room, Edinburgh Waverley station is somewhat cluttered and hidden in a shallow valley in Princess Gardens between the city’s New and Old Towns.
So it’s not the station’s wonderfully preserved 19th century architecture, which earns it a place on this list.

What does, is if you step off a train and ascend, not by the escalators up to Princess Street, but by the old cab road to the bridge that spans the station - and it is from here that the image above was taken.

From there the magnificence of Edinburgh will be laid out before you. A fantastic welcome to the city at the end of a train journey.

9. FRANKFURT HBF 
Frankfurt (Main) central station
We're not qualified to judge whether the main station in Frankfurt is an example of particularly noteworthy architecture or not, but what earns it a place on this list is its enormous size.

The 24 platforms/tracks/gleis used by the long distance and Regional trains are all lined up a straight line along the length of its enormous concourse

In common with the other main stations (hauptbahnhofs) in Germany, Frankfurt (Main) Hbf would be infinitely more inspiring if the profusion of posters which hang down from the roof of this concourse were taken away.

However, the saving grace is that they don’t clutter up the magnificent five arches in the roof and it's these that create such a splendid panorama.

The fact that Frankfurt (Main) hbf is also a terminal makes it an exceptionally easy station to use, despite its scale.


9. GARE DE L'EST PARIS

If this list was dedicated to Europe’s most beautiful large stations, the Gare De l’Est would be another automatic inclusion, but it’s the scale of its beauty which leads it to being included here.
The station had to be doubled in size in the early 1930s and the extension mirrored the stunning elegance of the existing station

Not only is Paris Est lovely when approached from the street, it's beautifully preserved interior doesn't disappoint

Its fairy tale of a main entrance hall leads to its enormous concourse, which despite the advertisements hanging from the roof, retains a sense of scale and grandeur.

The Orient Express no longer departs from here, but it remains a romantic location in which to wait for a train no matter what the destination.



10. HAMBURG HBF
Hamburg Main Station
An observation deck would be a fairly pointless feature at virtually any other station in Europe, but Hamburg Hbf has one – and it provides a wonderful vista from which to watch the world go by between trains.
Guess where the picture above was taken from!

The views across the station are made possible because the trains are below street level and have to be accessed from not one, but two enormous bridges which span the platforms/tracks/gleis.

Although two bridges mean two sets of entrances and exits, which can be confusing for first time users.


11. KING'S CROSS (LONDON) (more information coming soon)
King's Cross station

Admirers of station architecture can’t afford to miss out the eastern end of the Euston Road on a visit to London, as the magnificent Kings Cross is across the street from the splendid spectacle of St Pancras.
 

To be honest we’re not huge fans of the station’s new extension, we’d like a lot more if someone could turn off that blue light, but the renovation has also revealed the full majesty of the part of the station, which plays host to the long distance trains.

Prior to the 2014 rebuild Lewis Cubbit's elegant train shed had been spoiled by ugly extensions to the front of the station, though he couldn't have envisaged that King's Cross would be used by 10s of 1000s of people daily.
 

The new extension is to the side of the original terminal buildings, so take away the trains, and this thrilling vista pictured above, is pretty much how the station would have looked on the day it opened its doors in 1852.

12. LIEGE-GUILLEMINS
Liege-Guillemens station
When it comes to a place at the top of Belgium’s most fabulous modern buildings list, Antwerpen-Centraal station's leading competitor is another station.


Liege wanted to attract attention to the fact that it had been plugged into Europe’s high speed train network, so subtlety was off the table and awesome spectacle was the goal.
It’s hard to argue against Santiago Calatravo's design for Leige-Guillemins being the ultimate example of wish-fulfilment for 21st century station architecture.

We have a confession we have now visited Liege twice, but we can't tell anyone what the city centre looks like as we couldn't tear ourselves away from the station.

If architecture and design is of interest and you happen to be heading to Bruxelles from Germany on an ICE train, or any frequent train service that calls at the station, you won't regret breaking your journey here.



13. LEIPZIG HBF

It’s not particularly obvious to us why Leipzig Hbf is Europe’s largest railway station in terms of floor area, the city has never been a major railway crossroads to match the likes of Milan or Munich.

The station remains out of proportion to the number of people and trains using it, which helps make it an exceptionally user friendly location from which to take a long distance train.
The fact that the gleis/tracks/platforms used by the long distance trains are all on one level and connected to the main concourse also makes a contribution to this easy to use quality.

The enormous station concourse can only be described as monumental and in order to preserve its sense of sense of grandeur, the shopping mall cleverly has been inserted into the level below.

Opened in 1915 Leipzig was inevitably severely damaged in World War II, but in 1965 it was reconstructed to the original design and if you visit today, you can appreciate why - and you can also see the vintage coaches and steam engines, charmingly housed on some of the spare tracks.


14. LYON-SAINT EXUPERY (more information coming soon)



For the time being creating a station guide for Lyon Saint-Exupery remains on our to do list - for the simple reason that comparatively few travellers use it.

The convergence of high speed trains and an airport required a vision that proclaimed 'travel is fabulous', but the majority of the TGVs whizz through the station at 280 km/h.

We wonder whether Santiago Calatravo's (see Liege above) iconic statement for train meets plane was necessary to remind people that such a travel combination is possible, because for most of the time it resembles the world's most fabulously over-engineered tram stop.

15. MADRID ATOCHA

magnificent Madrid Puerta de Atocha

The opening of the high speed railway lines, which wizz travellers to destinations to the south and east of Madrid, presented a quandary for Atocha station.

It's beautiful main terminal had been opened in 1892 and no less a figure than Gustave Eiffel had contributed to its design, so ripping it down would have been a travesty, but it was much too small to accommodate the huge increase in the number of trains and travellers which would now be using the station.

Enter award winning Spanish architect Rafael Moneo and his vision for a huge extension to Atocha in order to create a high speed terminal, a building that magnifies the sense of wonder and design of the trains which use it

Famously the 19th century concourse was retained and used for an indoor garden, which more than 20 years after its opening now resembles a jungle, which largely obscures the wonders of its interior.

Much of Atocha looks fabulous, but it also a sprawling station and with its architecture emphasising the fact that it is four stations in one, it doesn't make it any easier to use.
Also some of the parts of the station that connect its terminals and entrances are the opposite of impressive.

But the spectacle which greets those who arrive by high speed train most definitely has the wow factor.

 

PART ONE

PART THREE