Only about 6% of travelers book transportation by train. However, there’s a long list of reasons not to overlook this unique and historical mode of travel. Train travel is less expensive and it allows passengers to see the landscapes they would have missed if they were traveling by air. For die-hard train travel fans, experiencing iconic railway stations along the way is a huge bonus. With their magnificent architecture and unique decor, these stations are a significant and essential part of exploring new surroundings via the world’s railways.
Once the site of a Benedictine monastery, São Bento opened to the public as a railway station in 1916. While the size alone is impressive, it’s the 20,000 Portuguese tiles lining its interior walls that are the most striking and memorable feature. The most well-known tile painter of the time, Jorge Colaco, spent 11 years laying the magnificent blue and white pieces. They depict scenes from everyday life in Porto as well as the country’s history as far back as the 12th century.
With nearly 24,000 miles of rail track covering most of the country, Japan’s train network is a marvel in itself. Some of its train stations, like Kyoto or Nagoya Stations, are more like mini-cities. Constructed in 2005, the glass-and-metal Kanazawa Station is Japan’s most beautiful, combining modern architecture concepts with traditional symbols. The massive Tsuzumi-mon gate, which draws inspiration from a Japanese traditional drum, stands at the east entrance, resembling the sacred gates of Japanese shrines.
This station is a testament to early attempts at constructing environmentally conscious public buildings that are also aesthetically beautiful. Southern Cross Station’s curved, graceful, yet massive roof floats freely above its platforms, conveying an expression of rhythm and movement. Architects created its wavy form to help dissipate exhaust fumes that converge at the top of traditionally shaped domes in train stations. An open, light-filled interior provides a glass facade to two main thoroughfares: Spencer Street and Collins Street.
The Beaux-Arts architectural style of Union Station began as part of a plan to reimagine and revitalize the city of Washington, D.C. The designers, inspired by the Arch of Constantine in Rome, chose marble and ornamental gold leaf to decorate the great hall, a 600-foot long, 96-foot tall vision of the eclectic architectural style.
Union Station opened in 1908. Despite its magnificence, the lack of funding and a massive decline in train travel led to the station’s deterioration, and it closed in 1978. In 1981, however, a massive federal restoration project brought it back, and today, it serves millions of Amtrak riders each year.
Wrought-iron latticework, verandas, mint green walls, and massive pillars come together to create this charming train station in one of the most intriguing capital cities in the world. Gustave Eiffel, the architect of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, also designed the building’s central wrought-iron dome. The CFM, or Caminho de Ferro de Moçambique, not only serves rail passengers but is the site for art exhibitions, live music shows, and other events, as well.
Combining both Eastern and Western architectural styles, the majestic and striking Moorish rail station welcomed its first travelers in 1910. Convict laborers completed its construction — the entire project cost around $23,000. From a distance, the all-white building resembles something out of a fairytale. While it has the exterior characteristics of traditional Islamic architecture, it also displays similar features to the iron-and-glass English rail stations of the Victorian era.
This famous train station has shown up in films and TV shows for decades. The French architect Jacques Ignace designed the building, completing it in time for the World Exposition of 1900. Finely detailed sculptures surround the elegant, ornate exterior. From other landmarks around Paris, visitors can see the station’s clock tower rising up. The interior staircases feature large brass newels, shining examples of the building’s architectural significance.
Three architects designed this three-leveled train station, creating one of the most beautiful buildings in Europe. Some call it the “Railway Cathedral” because of its Gothic style, marble and stone interior, and fan-shaped windows. Built in 1905, it has received a few reconstructions and updates, including following extensive damage from bombing raids in World War II. Yet, even the modern updates blend seamlessly with the original structure.
Unlike many much older railway stations noted for their beauty, this ultra-modern train station opened in 2017. The architect designed a station that would minimize not only the distance for its millions of passengers embarking and connecting to different train services, but also energy consumption. The unique shape and large, winding glass panels make the structure feel like a moving train.
This historic landmark and railway station opened in 1927, and it's one of the top examples of the Beaux-Arts architecture style in Canada. The building sits in the heart of downtown Toronto, and around 300,000 commuters and travelers come through each day. A colonnade with 22 columns wraps around the building. Magnificent marble floors and limestone walls adorn the Great Hall inside, and each retail shop in the station has retained its original 1927 storefront.
Once called the Victoria Terminus Station, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in the southern part of the city combines a Victorian Gothic Revival style with traditional Indian architecture and themes. It took the builders 10 years to complete. The stone dome, turrets, pointed arches, and an elaborate ground plan are similar to traditional Indian palaces. More than three million commuters pass through here, daily.
Built in 1868, this world-class terminal has undergone massive renovations in recent years and the area around the station has been rejuvenated with new hotels and attractions. Grippe’s Patent Nottingham red bricks and Ancaster stone dressings make up its exterior, with grey and red Peterhead granite details. Inside, visitors can partake in beverages at Europe’s largest champagne bar. The building has appeared in television shows such as “The Crown” and movies like the Harry Potter series.
Sirkeci Terminal is on the European side of Istanbul and was once the last stop on the world-famous Orient Express. The Prussian architect August Jachmund designed the station, and construction was completed in 1890, with modern conveniences such as gas lights and heating. Journalists, writers, and other prominent members of the media made the terminal’s restaurant a popular meeting spot in the 1950s and 60s, and it remains a favorite eatery for tourists. The architectural style is European Orientalism, which was an important influence for other architects.
Just a short distance from the town’s center, Hua Hin Station, one of the oldest in Thailand, is a group of brightly painted wooden buildings in both Thai and Victorian architectural styles. Hua Hin was not only a royal seaside getaway but also a popular destination for European expatriates from Singapore and Penang. Today, regular visitors can sit in the royal waiting room, which was originally constructed at Sanamchan Palace in Nakom Pathom, then transported to the station specifically for use by the royal family.
In the 1950s, the government of Stockholm started a project to transform its commuter hubs into cultural spaces. T-Centralen opened in 1957 and was the first station designers chose for renovation. They covered the walls in tiles, and twenty years later, Finnish-Swedish artist Per-Olof Ultvedt added massive blue and white ceiling murals. More than 150 artists have contributed all sorts of artwork to the city’s underground metro stations, from mosaics to sculptures and paintings.