Traveling by train is one of the easiest and most-convenient ways to visit places in Europe. From the SNCF in France to the PKP in Poland, there are hundreds of railway companies that operate to get you from point A to point B, and to assist you in enjoying the travel experience all the way. Nothing can really beat the quaint, countryside views from the comfort of the window seat, that’s for sure!

Train stations, on the other hand, don’t tend to be prominent tourist spots to visit while in town. In fact, they’re more of a transition place to get in and out of as quickly as possible, from one destination to another. If anything, such places don’t necessarily evoke beautiful and calming experiences, especially when the architecture is mostly industrial and hundreds of harried passengers are rushing from platform to platform, so as not to miss their train.

However, you’d be surprised to find that some train stations are worth a second’s pause. In fact, there are dozens across Europe that are known for their classy (sometimes ornate) beauty, and have ended up being tourist destinations in themselves. From their interior to their exterior, such stations not only are beautiful, but also historically-rich in how they came to be.

I’d like to share a few of my favorites I’ve encountered while traveling across Europe. This is by no means a comprehensive list, as I unfortunately did not appreciate train stations back in the day and have limited photos of them. All the same, I hope such images inspire you to check them out someday, and to treasure both their artistic and practical functions on your next trip. Enjoy!

5 Beautiful Train Stations in Europe

1. São Bento Railway Station (Porto, Portugal)

February 2016

It’s the interior that blows you away: over 20,000 azulejo tiles from floor to ceiling depict momentous events in Portuguese history, which is sure enough to make travelers pause and take it all in before exiting the station. Inaugurated back in 1916, the São Bento station is truly a treat, and it’s a great place to stop and admire the details as you wait for your train to arrive.

2. Gare de Lyon (Paris, France)

20181103_113553November 2018

One of the six main railways of Paris, gare de Lyon is a busy station that handles almost 150 million travelers per year to their destination. This was the station I took frequently when I lived in France, as it connected me to the Lyon region where I worked.

It’s a large station and upon first glance, you may find it industrial and cold. However, it’s the little details of the fresques lyonnaises and the elegant interior of le Train Bleu restaurant that really wows you, to be admired for their early 20th-century class and beauty.

3. Estación Madrid- Puerta de Atocha (Madrid, Spain)

16-02-14 (Madrid) Inside Estacion de Madrid Atocha.February 2016/December 2016

Who would expect a train station to also cover as a tropical garden? You can look to the Atocha station in the Spanish capital. Inaugurated in 1992, this lush jungle within an otherwise industrial is a strange, yet lovely juxtaposition– it’s almost an oasis away from the stress of commuting, as you can relax with a book among the paradisiacal branches (and the cute turtles!).

4. King’s Cross Railway Station (London, England)

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December 2015

I will be honest and say that I only went to King’s Cross just for Platform 9-3/4 (any Harry Potter fans?). That said, I didn’t really take a good look around the rest of the station, as I was so fixated on getting to the fictitious platform. Now that I’ve looked over the photos of it online, I’ll need to return properly someday, as it’s a great architectural feat of the post-Industrial Revolution.

5. Auschwitz train station (Oświęcim, Poland)

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April 2017

Technically, this isn’t a train station, as it’s only a gate where the line ended for Holocaust victims. Nor is it operating today. To consider this piece of history beautiful would be strange, morbid even, given its horrid past. But in regarding it, you also acknowledge the darkness of humanity and to appreciate how far we’ve come in improving it for the better.

*bonus* Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France

Week 3 Inside le Musée d'Orsay 7-18-14July 2014

Formerly the gare d’Orsay, this train station-turned-museum still retains its transport past, from the large clock to the open-floor plan in the main hall. Besides admiring the multitude of Impressionist paintings from some of the finest French painters, you can also admire the architectural preservation of the old train station itself.

What is your favorite train station in Europe? Let me know!

— Rebecca

60 thoughts on “5 Beautiful Train Stations in Europe

  1. I love the upper story opaque windows and iron grillwork of the Atocha station, even before its tropical transformation. I remember the Nuremberg station seem very solid and blocky. Thanks for this post. Great tip of the hat to the wonderful rails of Europe.

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    1. Yes, Auschwitz isn’t what you call a happy visit. But it’s a poignant and important one in human history. Glad that Porto’s was a bright one for you, though!

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  2. Atocha in Madrid is probably my favourite one. We were near King’s Cross the other day, but totally forgot about the Potter thing. Love the idea of turning a train station into a museum. We’ve just come back from a dinner in a market place set inside a former church. It was a very cool experience.

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    1. I’ve only traversed King’s Cross just to see Platform 9-3/4, so it’s a shame I didn’t get a photo of King’s Cross as a whole…perhaps you could pop over to check it out while still in London!

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  3. In the past in Europe, I travelled mainly by car and plane, the train was little considered, probably by contagion of the North American habits. For a year now I have been rediscovering the train with pleasure. The bullet trains are a great convenience. The stations have also been transformed into pleasant places resembling shopping malls.

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    1. We have trains in the US and Canada, but the system isn’t very convenient or efficient, due to reasons of lack of infrastructure/money and the sheer size of the countries, in comparison to the smaller ones in Europe. Train stations are really more than just places to take the train: they are for shopping, for grabbing a bite to eat, even for meeting up with others. Such stations are little communities within themselves, even if the majority are in transit.

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    1. I think it’s a misnomer to call Auschwitz “beautiful,” but the reason I decided to include it on this list is for its historical significance. Not the best reflection of humanity, but it’s still important to acknowledge it.

      You’re the third person who’s mentioned Antwerp Central Station: given its popularity, I must go now!

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    1. Yes! We must not forget the former train stations that have served in the past, as they leave behind a rich and poignant legacy. The Musée d’Orsay also happens to be one of my favorite museums in Paris!

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  4. Great photos of railway stations Rebecca, the only ones on your lust I haven’t been to are Lyon and Auschwitz. Kings Cross is the station that my trains come into from the north of England and in recent years it’s been tastefully restored and is a real gem, as is its neighbour St Pancras. More to see next time! Thanks for showing me how beautiful Lyon Station is, I have to get there now!

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  5. Gorgeous! I always took my train at the Gare de Lyon in Paris so after some time I forgot that it was indeed a very beautiful one! Here in Belgium, the Antwerp station is particularly nice in my opinion 😊 Thanks for sharing and reminding us to notice the beautiful things around us!

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    1. Given that you live in Paris, I’m sure a quick pop-over to the gare de Lyon would be very feasible. I hope you can check out Porto’s (and the city’s Livraria Lello is also worth a visit)!

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  6. This is such a fantastic list, Rebecca! I’ve only been to the train station in Madrid and Porto, and I have to say that they are both beautiful in their own way. As I love travelling by train, one of the most beautiful train stations that I look forward to visiting is the Antwerp Train Station! It’s beyond stunning – you should look it up! Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

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    1. You wouldn’t believe so many comments have praised the Antwerp station (I’m inundated, haha)! I’ve seen the photos online, and it doesn’t even look like a train station– more like a cathedral! Considering you’re just a short flight away from Belgium, you could absolutely go see it for yourself!

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    1. I did not, sadly! The Platform 9-3/4 visit was only a pass-through during my whirlwind of a trip in London. I do hope to return and take my time, though!

      I agree with you: I prefer the musée d’Orsay over the Louvre, just because it’s smaller (hence more digestible) and it offers my favorite art: Impressionism. It’s been years since I last visited, so I’d love to return!

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  7. I am a big Harry Potter fan so I love the London one! I remember a bunch of people dressed up just for the photo at the 9 3/4 platform. Portugal is still on my list to go to. I love the ceramic tiles!

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    1. Yes, I was tempted to queue up for a photo, but I saw the line and decided against it. I just snuck a quick one between people taking theirs! Hope you can make it to Portugal someday!

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  8. A sobering image at Auschwitz. Although I’m sure I’ll never go back, as most westerners will not these days, every stop in Moscow is surprisingly ornate and elegant. I almost wanted to get off at each one to see.

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  9. Great post! My favourite station so far I think is Leipzig, in Germany a lot of stations are very bland having not survived WW2 but Leipzig is a beauty. I loved Luxembourg too.

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    1. Ooh, yes! I did a quick Google search of Leipzig’s train station, and it’s quite beautiful! Never been to that part of Germany yet, but I hope to someday (same goes for Luxembourg)!

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  10. My husband and I usually drive on our trips to Europe but we did visit São Bento Railway Station just for the purpose of seeing the beautiful interior. What is amazing is that each tile was individually painted.

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  11. Now I want to go to Porto and for the first time in my life, I would consider going to France just to see those two train stations. I agree Auschwitz needs to be on the list, and having seen that one, it is a lesson every human should learn.

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    1. I highly recommend France! I’m biased, but after living there for four years, I definitely believe that there’s so much to explore there. Hope you can go someday!

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