What would a railway be without a station? The myriad of beautiful, bold and often bizarre buildings which act as railway hubs are the unsung heroes of rail travel, full of history, sublime architecture and astonishing feats of logistics. With that in mind, here are Great Rail Journeys' top ten railway stations around the world:
10. Estação de São Bento, Porto
Estação de São Bento of Porto in Portugal takes its rightful place on this list for the beauty of its interior design. Featuring wonderful displays of blue and white tiles displaying key parts of Portuguese history, this station is a delight for the many passengers passing through this city of explorers and conquistadors. This station is housed in a grand old building near the historic centre of the city.
9. Madrid Atocha, Madrid
Characterised by the enormous botanical feature in the centre of the main plaza, Estación de Madrid Atocha in Spain is a wonderful railway station, servicing the population of Madrid and surrounding areas. Commuters and travellers can spend their waiting time in the company of all manner of wild and wonderful tropical plants, as well as a host of turtles who have made their home here. The building style is no less impressive, with an outer façade of contemporary late-20th century design.
8. Milano Centrale, Milan
Adopted as a pet project by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini before the Second World War, after having been under construction for around thirty years, the Milano Centrale Railway Station has a storied history. Mussolini wanted the station to be representative of the beauty of Italy and the result is a truly striking building with a spectacular stained glass roof in various colours. Art Deco design underscores the Milano Centrale's noble façade as it takes its place as one of Italian Milan's finest buildings.
7. The Kuala Lumpur Railway Station, Kuala Lumpur
A pure white building, resembling more a Maharajah's royal palace rather than the famous railway station that it is, the Kuala Lumpur Railway Station is truly a sight to see. The pointed towers and a unique blend of Eastern architectural planning and execution combine to produce a striking station which has earned its place on top railway station lists around the world. It was opened in 1910 and built on the remains of an older station from the late Victorian Era.
6. Maputo Railway Station, Maputo
The Maputo Railway Station is perhaps the most impressive building in Maputo, the capital city of Mozambique. Dressed in cheery green and white, with an impressive design harking back to colonial Africa and decorated with various indigenous trees, this railway station is a fine representation of the colours of Africa. The design was thought up by none other than Gustave Eiffel who, of course, was the mind behind the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Not content with simple rail travel, the Maputo Railway Station also plays an important part in the community as a place for local artists to display their works in exhibition spaces dotted throughout the building.
5. Antwerp Centraal, Antwerp
A bizarre amalgamation of different architectural styles went into the design of Antwerp Centraal in Antwerp, Belgium. Yet somehow, this enigmatic cocktail has produced one of the most beautiful railway stations in the world, with an impressive grand hall capped by a curved window, letting in streams of sunlight to bathe the black and white tiles below. The station suffered intense bombings during the Second World War, and yet the core structural design was unaffected, meaning we can still enjoy Antwerp Centraal in all of its glory today.
4. Chhatrapati Shivaji, Mumbai
It is hard not to see how the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station in Mumbai earned its UNESCO World Heritage Status. The outer façade oozes imperial charm, with a grand clock tower as its centrepiece, and two wings which resemble Gothic cathedrals rather than railway station terminals, thanks to ornate circular windows. It was opened in time for Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1887 and has since become the busiest train station in India, with 18 platforms.
3. Shinjuku Station, Tokyo
For the astonishing logistics and infrastructure which sees a gobsmacking 3.5 million passengers pass through this station every single day, Shinjuku Station in Tokyo claims third on our list. While perhaps not the most pleasant to look at, Shinjuku earns its position for the scale of a station which has 36 platforms and around 200 exits. It was originally built in 1885, with various terminals added throughout the following centuries.
2. Grand Central Station, New York
Grand Central Station at the heart of New York enjoys second place thanks to its world famous status as the cinematic darling of railway stations. Featuring in films of all shapes and sizes, from Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest to Dreamworks' animated Madagascar, this elegant station's enormous and instantly recognisable windows cast light upon a majestic great hall and a stairwell draped in American flags.
1. London St Pancras, London
The darling of the rail world, London St Pancras takes our top spot for its combination of everything that makes a great railway station. Its history as a major railway hub in the capital of the country which revolutionised rail travel marks it as iconic, while its magnificent Victorian design earns it significant accolades from an architecture perspective. Opened in 1868, at its time of building, London St Pancras boasted the largest single span roof of any train station in the world.