In an era of direct flights and last-minute bookings, the 'getting there' part of your holiday can often feel like an inconvenient addition to an otherwise relaxing trip, rather than an exciting part of the adventure in its own right. However, if you're looking to slow things down (which, as connoisseurs of slow travel, we highly recommend), to enjoy the journey as much as the destination and take the time to actually connect with local places and cultures, then train travel is the way to go. If you need some convincing, check out some of the most beautiful and iconic train stations around the world that are well worth a pitstop on your voyage.
1. Grand Central Terminal, New York, USA
Snagging the title for the world's largest station with a jaw-dropping 44 platforms set across two levels (and even a full-sized tennis court and a ski slope!) is the iconic Grand Central Terminal in New York. Situated in Midtown Manhattan, the building was completed in 1913 and draws in a whopping 26 million visitors annually, making it the sixth most visited tourist attraction in the world. From its gold-barred ticket window and Tiffany clock to its whispering galleries and famous Oyster Bar, the station oozes style and sophistication.
2. Liege-Guillemins, Liège, Belgium
Located just outside of Brussels in Liège, Belgium's third-largest city, is Liege-Guillemins, a modern masterpiece of a station designed by architect Santiago Calatrava. Made of steel, glass and white concrete, and featuring a monumental arch that reaches over 30 metres tall, the station holds its own alongside the Victorian and Edwardian designs of many of the world's best-loved stations. While there are only five platforms, Liege-Guillemins is one of the most important hubs in Belgium because all of the tracks are compatible with high speed trains, making it a gateway for travel across Europe.
3. Estacion de Atocha, Madrid, Spain
Reinventing train stations as we know them, the Atocha station in Madrid is home to a lush indoor tropical garden with over 2,000 tropical plants, 260 different exotic species and even a turtle pond. Originally built in 1851, then completely replaced after a devastating fire in 1892, and, finally, extended further with a more modern expansion in the 1980s, the station is a rich tapestry of history and architecture. Though trains now leave from the new building, the original station structure remains a vibrant hub with shops, cafes and a nightclub.
4. Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai, India
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai is a fabulous fusion of Western and Eastern styles. From its turrets and spires, to its domes and gables, this palatial structure took ten years to build and is now the busiest station in the whole of India with an impressive three million commuters passing through every day. Formerly known as Victoria Terminus in honour of Queen Victoria, the station was designed as a symbol of the then Bombay's prestige within the British Empire, taking inspiration from both London's St. Pancras station as well as Indian palace architecture.
5. Moscow Metro, Moscow, Russia
Burrow beneath Moscow and you're met with a treasure trove of architectural delights. Soviet mosaic decorations, chandelier-lined halls, colourful paintings and ornate statues are just some of the things you can expect to come across in this magnificent metro. Take a tour of some of the most beautiful stations (many can be found on the brown Circle Line which, legend has it, came about from Stalin leaving a coffee cup stain on his metro map plans) and only come up for air once you've had your fill of its artistry. While we're on the topic of metros, Uzbekistan's Tashkent Metro is another stunning example of subterranean architecture; the decorations - crafted by local artists and made with everything from glass and ceramic to alabaster and plastic - are the cherry on top of an incredibly intricate, communist-era cake.
6. Sirkeci Station, Istanbul, Turkey
Built in 1890 as the terminus for the Orient-Express journey from Paris, Sirkeci Station in Istanbul is a charming structure of red brick and stained glass windows. Board the elegant Venice Simplon-Orient-Express from Paris Gare de l'Est and embark on this highbrow historical tour through some of Europe's greatest cities. Although train travel embraces a slower style of travelling, you'll have to move quickly to nab berths on this iconic train as cabins are already being booked up for 2020.