8 Train Stations With Unforgettable Architecture

The facade of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus on a cloudy day in Mumbai, India
The opulent Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai, India.

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When railways became the most efficient means of travel in the second half of the 19th century, train stations quickly became the bustling hubs of cities across the world. As these stations were the first impression a visitor would have of a place, cities often constructed them with an opulence and grandeur equal to that of religious structures and national monuments. 

From the dual national influences of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in India to the modern Berlin Central Station, here are eight train stations with unforgettable architecture.

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Kanazawa Station

The entrance gate to Kanazawa Station in Japan

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Kanazawa Station is the rail hub in its namesake city in far western Japan. The contemporary station was completed in 2005 as an extensive addition to the existing building from the 1950s and is notable for its massive glass dome, called the Motenashi Dome. Designed by architect Ryūzō Shirae, the dome provides passengers with shelter from storms, hence its name “motenashi,” or “hospitality.” 

Perhaps the most famous feature of Kanazawa Station is the large wooden gate at the building’s entrance. Known as Tsuzumi Gate, the structure takes the form of a torii gate (which stands at the front of Japanese shrines and represents the passing from one realm into another). The gate gets its name from the tsuzumi drum used in Noh theater, an art form that thrived in Kanazawa centuries ago, and its two twisted pillars resemble the drum, as well.

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Atocha Station

The indoor tropical garden of Atocha Station in Spain

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Madrid’s steel and glass Atocha Station is composed of two separate stations—the old and the new—with each section having been renovated and expanded numerous times. Originally built in 1852, the old station is most notable for its late-19th-century addition of the nearly 500-foot-long arched roof designed by Henry Saint James. In addition to housing various shops and offices, the old structure also contains a massive tropical garden with thousands of plants. The modern terminal was constructed in the 1980s, with additional work completed in 1992, and is used to run high-speed trains and local and regional commuter trains.

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Antwerp Central Station

The palatial design of Antwerp Central Station

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Antwerp Central Station is the main rail station in its namesake Flemish city. Constructed between 1895 and 1905, the hub was originally the terminus of the rail line between Brussels and Antwerp. It has since been converted into a through station, but the original architecture remains almost completely intact.

The palatial stone building and the large glass dome above the waiting room were designed in a variety of styles, most predominantly Neo-Renaissance and Art Nouveau, by Belgian architect Louis Delacenserie. The 144-foot-tall train hall built of iron and glass was designed by engineer Clément Van Bogaert and covers an immense area of almost 40,000 square feet.

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Berlin Central Station

Berlin's Central Station reflected in the water

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Berlin Central Station, or Berlin Hauptbahnhof, opened in 2006 and was built on the site of the old station, Lehrter Stadtbahnhof. Plans for the station were first developed shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall and were planned as part of a reunification process for the city. The structure features two levels for ordinary train passengers and three levels for business and connector travel. A 1,053-foot-long, east-to-west glass concourse is intersected by a 524-foot, north-to-south hall, forming the main shape of the station. Berlin Central Station houses a variety of shops and offices and makes use of a solar-powered roof.

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St. Pancras International

The arched-glass concourse of St. Pancras Station

Thomas Kohler / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Originally opened for travel in 1868, the St. Pancras International in London was designed in the gothic style of the day in two parts—the front facade and the station itself. The columnless station, conceived of by William Henry Barlow, was constructed with iron and glass and reaches 100 feet tall and stretches nearly 700 feet long. St. Pancras International’s brick facade was designed by architect George Gilbert Scott and includes a hotel and clock tower.

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Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus

The opulent facade of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus lit up at night

Tuul & Bruno Morandi / Getty Images

Completed in 1878, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus combines Victorian Gothic Revival architecture with features of Indian design. Located in the heart of Mumbai, the station predominantly uses classical Indian elements in its use of turrets and pointed arches in the building’s facade. The Gothic style can be seen in the intricate stone carvings of plants and animals as well as in its extensive use of polished granite and Italian marble. The duality of cultures is perhaps most clearly present in the two columns in the entrance gate—one crowned with a lion, representing Britain, and the other topped with a tiger, representing India. In 1996, the station was renamed from Victoria Terminus, in honor of the British queen, to its current name in honor of the first ruler of the Maratha Empire, which controlled large parts of India prior to British imperial rule.

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Chicago Union Station

The skylight of the Great Hall in Chicago Union Station

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Constructed in the Roman and Greek-inspired Beaux-Arts style, Chicago Union Station was first opened in 1925. The Daniel Burnham-designed, limestone structure is perhaps most notable for its opulent Great Hall. Featuring a barrel-vaulted skylight, the massive room spans 219 feet wide and 115 feet tall. The Amtrak-owned Chicago Union Station underwent extensive renovations throughout the 2010s.

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World Trade Center Transportation Hub

The World Trade Center Transportation Hub central station, known as Oculus.

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Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey sought to build a new, permanent train and subway station to replace the destroyed World Trade Center station. After 13 years of using a temporary terminal, New Yorkers were introduced to the World Trade Center Transportation Hub at the beginning of 2016. The new station house, known as Oculus, was designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava and features white, riblike beams that extend up from the building’s perimeter and interlock 160 feet above the floor. From a distance, the World Trade Center Transportation Hub resembles a white dove taking flight—symbolizing peace and rebirth.