London is a thriving city – to be a fully-functioning metropolis with corporations, small businesses, schools, and entertainment venues, you need a transportation system that is going to keep up with the hustle and bustle of the capital’s life. Although underground is arguably the most popular way to scoot around the UK’s central hub, the train is one of the most environmentally sustainable forms of transport that can take you to the outer zones of London – and beyond.
Along with having WiFi on the trains, comfortable seats (unless you travel during rush peak hours), and windows to let you see the passing countryside, the trains in London also have another added benefit – the stations themselves.
Sometimes the journey is the station itself, with London having some of the most beautiful train stations in all of Europe. Let’s check out what stations should be destinations on your next trip.
St Pancras International
Possibly the most famous station, and widely regarded as one of the most beautiful in the entire world, St. Pancras has reinvigorated the idea of travel in London. Forget bleak underground stations and white-wall train stations – St. Pancras is a wonderful location that is welcoming, historical, and warm.
Instead of just passing through the station to get on a train to the Lake District or Brighton, travelers and tourists come to St. Pancras to admire the architecture, the design, the throngs of people who crowd the gates, and the atmosphere. One in six people out of the 50 million annual visitors to the station go to St. Pancras to just admire its beauty.
Those who enjoy coming here to enjoy its energetic aura will find numerous shops, artsy cafes, chain coffee shops, and “outdoor” restaurants, complete with plenty of seating, views, and craft beer.
First opened in October of 1868, St. Pancras had a reputation for being impressive from its very inception. Thankfully, over the years, that reputation has stayed constant, thanks to the transformation into Britain’s main terminal and hosting various events throughout the year. The station was first constructed by the Midland Railway, who decided to build a connection from Bedford to London. After the opening, the Midland Grand Hotel was constructed on the outside of the building, turning into a Grade I building – showing the historical importance and grandeur of the station.
You can check out events and exhibitions on their personalized website, along with taking tours organized by various companies, taking you around the station, and the nearby St Pancras hotel.
If you’re looking for a beautiful destination and a station that runs frequent East Midlands Trains to the North and the Midlands, this is the first stop for you.
King’s Cross is a stylish train station located in the London Borough of Camden and is one of the busiest stations in the entire United Kingdom. Why, you ask? Well, adjacent to King’s Cross station is St. Pancras International – so if you find the queue a bit too long at Pancras, you can just walk across the street to King’s Cross.
First opened in 1852 by Great Northern Railway, this quickly grew to cater to the East Coast Mainline and the suburban lines. Over one hundred years later, the station was redeveloped in the 1970s, becoming a hub for high-speed trains. Thirty years later, the original arched train roof was reglazed and restored, enhancing the atmosphere of the station, along with the opening of the new semi-circular departures concourse, creating the longest single-span station structure in Europe.
King’s Cross isn’t done with renovations yet – in early 2018, it was announced that nearly half of the busy station would close for 3 months during 2020 to remodel the station and the approach. Although this has not yet been completed, this work will enhance the efficiency, reopening the third tunnel to the station approach and closing platform 10.
Does King’s Cross sound familiar to you but you can’t quite put your finger on it? King’s Cross features in the Harry Potter books as the starting point of the infamous Hogwarts Express, containing the magical 9 ¾ platform. Accessed between the brick walls between platforms 9 and 10, this is actually a popular photo-op in King’s Cross today.
Not as grandiose as King’s Cross and St. Pancras, Paddington still deserves to be on this list. One of the best ways to experience the ambiance of this station is to meander to Platform 1. On your way, take note of the balconied windows that once attached to the former GWR boardroom. At the end of the platform, steps will carry you to a walkway bridge across the tracks to the Underground station.
Although a glass screen has now been added by the bridge, slightly obstructing the view of the station, you can still take in the atmosphere and aura of the station, appreciating the ribbed roof, iron columns, and network of people rushing to catch their trains home.
Now that you know 3 of the most beautiful stations to visit in London, here is one you really never need to visit, except to get home as soon as possible after a long day at work – Waterloo. There is nothing magical about this place.
Despite being Britain’s busiest and biggest station, this isn’t for any sort of beauty or atmospheric presence, but rather just efficiency and connections to various lines. Hosting nearly 100 million passenger journeys per year, you would think the design of the station would be enhanced to fit with the throngs of people continuously moving through the system, right? Think again.
Waterloo is a poor-planned conveyor belt. You never have any space, the architecture creates cramped walkways for office-goers trying to push their way onto a train, and while you are being corralled through train gates like sheep, there isn’t even any architecture or artwork to appreciate. Avoid this train station at all costs.
As you can see, some of Londons’ stations are incredibly beautiful, full of history, and echoing the heartbeat of the energetic city. Visiting St. Pancras on your next trip to London, along with making stops at King’s Cross and Paddington while you are passing through, can open your eyes up to making train stations the destination – not just the end or beginning of the journey.