I love taking the train when traveling through Europe. It’s clean, fast and convenient. But I’m also drawn to the history and architectural beauty that some of these train stations provide. Today, I wanted to share a photo essay of some of the most beautiful train stations in France. It’s no surprise that many of them are in Paris, but there are a few other surprises.
Gare de Lyon
One of the six train stations in Paris, it is perhaps most famous for housing the classic Paris brasserie, Le Train Bleu and was featured in the film, Mr. Bean’s Holiday. Named after the city of Lyon, it was built for the World Exposition of 1900. Its classic architecture is reminiscent of its time as evidenced by the clock tower that resembles Big Ben.
Gare de Strasbourg
Built in 1883 and located in the Alsace region of France, this train station was erected by a Berlin architect, Johann Eduard Jacobsthal. An impressive glass canopy that covers the entire facade was recently added in 2000, marrying the older building with a new modern look.
Gare du Nord
It’s hard to decide if this Paris train station, which is the busiest in France, is prettier viewed from the inside or out. The facade is lovely, but when the sun shines through the roof’s glass panels and arched windows, and mixes with the warm glow of the globe lighting, the platform and rails seem to transform. Built in 1861, it houses many art sculptures and has made appearances in many French and American films
Gare de Limoges-Bénédicitins
The Limoges station, originally inaugurated in 1929, is unique in that it actually sits over the rails, rather than next to them. The facade is concrete and limestone and the dome, which covers the concourse is made of metal and covered in copper. Both the dome and the top of the twelve-level clock tower display that signature green verdigris color the French are known for.
Gare de l’Est
Opened in 1849, this large Paris train station is a perfect example of the Belle Époque era. Comprised of both an east and west wing, they are flanked with ornate statues on each end of the building, which represent two important cities on the rail line – Strasbourg and Varenne. This train station is also topped with a curved glass roof and large semi-circular windows, which are covered in intricate iron scrollwork designs.
This station is all about what’s happening on the outside – a combination of old and new. A modern glass dome Metro entrance and quirky clock sculpture stand out against the Beaux-Arts facade complete with a mansard roof. This station, the first built in Paris in 1847, was a featured staple of artists like Monet and Manet, perhaps because the original line traveled to the picturesque Normandy area.
Though the former Gare d’Orsay in Paris, built between 1898 and 1900, no longer functions as a train station, it still deserves an honorable mention! Since 1986 is has been home to the Musée d’Orsay which primarily houses French art and boasts an impressive collection of impressionist pieces. Can you believe that they wanted to tear this gorgeous building down?
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