Art in transit: train station art

21 March 2013

Train stations can often be wonderful examples of architecture and art. We go in search of Europe's best examples of train station art.

Though primarily functional (as they should be) some train stations could be destinations in themselves - particularly those that are also home to great train station restaurants! 

But we're not only interested in eating, honest! We take a look at some of Europe's finest public spaces, beautiful train stations which are practically open air galleries. One of them has even earned a reputation as a 'railway cathedral'. Get your camera at the ready and delight in some train station art when you pull into these stations.

Luxembourg City Station, Luxembourg

Beautiful train stations - Luxembourg city station

Luxembourg Station window by eddiemcfish | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

If you come into Luxembourg train station, you'll be greeted by the stunning display of the city's skyline in stained glass. The station was rebuilt between 1907 and 1913 by a trio of German architects (Rüdell, Jüsgen, and Scheuffel) in the Moselle Baroque Revival style characteristic of many of Luxembourg's public buildings.

Trains to Luxembourg

Bilbao Abando Station, Spain

Stained glass - Bilbao station

Bilbao by Albert | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

A beautiful stained glass window overlooks the atrium at Bilbao's Estacion de Abando Indalecio Prieto, also known as Bilbao-Abando. Designed by painter Caspar Montes Iturrioz and realised by the Union of Glazier Artists of Irun in 1948, it depicts a typical Basque country scene of workers in Vizcaya. Head to the upper level for the best view.

Trains to Bilbao

Gare de Lyon, Paris, France

Sculptures-Paris-Lyon station

Gare de Lyon © paris1800artnouveau. All rights reserved

With its grand frontage and impressive clock tower, as a stunning example of the belle époque architecture, Paris Gare de Lyon warrants a closer look. While you're there, if you have time, head to the station's Train Bleu brasserie for more discovery, both architectural and gastronomic! Level with the first floor, you'll find four bas-reliefs which symbolise industrial and commercial gains won by transport. From top left, look out for Mechanics by Louis Baralis, Navigation and Steam by Felix Charpentier and Electricity, by Paul Gasq.

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Prague Hlavní Nádraží, Czech Republic

Prague Main Railway Station by Chen Zou | CC BY-NC 2.0

When Prague emerged from behind the Iron Curtain in the 1990s, it delighted western travellers with its first impressions. Arrive into Praha Hlavní Nádraží (the main station) and you'll see one of the city's most beautiful examples of Art Nouveau, envisioned by Czech architect Josef Fanta.

Trains to Prague

Budapest Keleti, Hungary

Keleti Pályaudvar by Rob Faulkner | CC BY 2.0

If you head to Budapest by train you don't naturally expect to see references to British engineering. However, take a closer look on arrival at Budapest Keleti station and you'll find the statues of James Watt and George Stephenson, famed pioneers of steam engineering who helped give rise to the golden era of railways in Europe.

Trains to Budapest

Rautatieasema, Helsinki, Finland

Amazing train stations - Helsinki

Helsinki by Olgite | CC BY 2.0

Two pairs of statues holding glass lamps make Helsinki's Rautatieasema train station pretty iconic. The main building is finished in glass and Finnish granite, making for a grand first impression. Which is just as well, since the station houses an exclusive presidential lounge to host the Finnish president and guests.

Tottenham Court Road, London

Mosaic Tottenham Court Road

Tottenham Court Road Station by John Keogh | CC BY-NC 2.0

From Sherlock Holmes at Baker Street to escalators at Oxford Circus, London underground stations are famed for their intricate tile work and mosaics. Tottenham Court Road tube station may not look much from the outside but visitors to the station never fail to notice the colourful mosaic walls of its interior. They were created by Scottish artist Sir Eduardo Paolozzi in the 1980s and reference local sights and the banalities of modern day life.

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São Bento, Porto, Portugal

Sao Bento by Xavier Sanz | CC BY-ND 2.0

The stone façade at São Bento Station in Portugal is pretty enough, but it's what lies inside that will take your breath away. Ceramic artists spent 11 years adorning the walls with 20,000 'azulejo' tiles, which depict scenes of everyday life, royal spectacles and epic battles from Portuguese history.

Edgware Road Tube Station, London, UK

Wrapper, Jacqueline Poncelet by Tom Doel | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The largest vitreous enamel artwork in Europe, Jacqueline Poncelet's 'Wrapper' is a permanent addition to London's Edgware Road Tube Station. 700 panels, inspired by the area's history, transport, waterways, architecture and communities cover its perimeter wall, making a bold and colourful statement in north-west London.

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Grand Central Terminal, New York, USA

Grand Central Station ceiling by Dave Bezaire | CC BY-SA 2.0

Grand Central Terminal, built in Beaux Arts style, celebrates its centenary this year and has much to get excited about. A giant Tiffany clock, iconic information booth, and vaulted ceiling painted with signs of the zodiac and studded with fibre optic lights are just a few of the things that make it special. This train station really is a destination for many tourists - take the audio tour to make sure you don't miss any of its gems.

St Pancras International, London, UK

St Pancras International by Gerry Balding | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Almost all train journeys to Europe from the UK begin at London St Pancras International, but you don't need a train ticket to visit. After an £800 million makeover, which included 300,000 of dirt being removed and the restoration of 8000 glass panels, the 'Barlow train shed' is quite a sight. Spanning 240 feet and over 100 feet high, we challenge you not to be impressed. Make a stop at the station's restaurant to take in one of London's most glorious Victorian landmarks or book yourself in for a night of luxury at the spectacular St Pancras Renaissance hotel next door.

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 Antwerp Centraal, Belgium

Antwerp Centraal Station by  Eliazar Parra Cardenas | CC BY 2.0

Known as the 'Railway Cathedral', Belgium's Antwerp station, a mass of glass and marble, has many features vying for your attention. An enormous arched dome, iron vaulted ceiling, dramatic staircase, monochrome floor and diamond gallery (phew!) are just some of the reasons it's worth stopping to appreciate this incredible public space.

Trains to Antwerp

Port Dauphine Metropolitain, Paris, France

Nouveau Metro by Steve & Michelle Gerdes | CC BY 2.0

It's a pity that only 2 of these stunning Metro entrances, designed by Hector Guimard, still exist. Head to Porte Dauphine in Paris' 16th arrondissement (pictured) or Abbesses in Montmartre to see these whimsical Art Nouveau creations in real life.

Trains to Paris

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