Europe's most beautiful metro stations
The first underground railway was built in London in 1863.
Like many of those to follow soon after, the forerunner of the modern Tube was uncomfortable, unhealthy (toxic steam often entered the train cars due to poor ventilation) and noisy.
Still, this new mode of transportation was an instant sensation.
By the mid-1920s, several other European cities, including Paris, Madrid, Berlin and Milan, had followed suit with their own subterranean networks -- now with cleaner, electric-powered trains.
Moscow inaugurated its railway system in 1935 and now boasts one of the busiest metro systems in the world -- carrying roughly 6.6 million passengers per day.
Years of innovation and progress have taken care of previous safety concerns -- leaving room for architects and developers to focus their imaginations on design.
Major events, such as the Olympics or world expos, present the perfect excuse to show visitors the best a city has to offer. And where else but in the metro stations will they find such a captive audience?
But why wait until the next centennial year or event? Metro stations in cosmopolitan cities like Paris and Stockholm provide hours of free (if you don’t count your ticket fare) artwork for your viewing pleasure.
Others, located in romantic, old world destinations like Vienna or St. Petersburg, can almost transport you back in time.
Granted, not all of Europe’s metro stations are designed to provoke awe and amazement or even the faintest smile.
But if unusual or unexpected designs manage to make you forget the workday drudgery or change your course for even a moment, the extraordinary stations must be doing their job.
Here -- in no particular order -- are 10 of Europe's finest. And if you reckon we missed your favorite stop, feel free to sound off in the comments below.
1. Westfriedhof, Munich
Inaugurated in 1998 to little fanfare, this otherwise ordinary looking station took on new life just three years later.
In 2001, Westfriedhof’s platform was creatively enhanced by 11 enormous, dome-shaped lighting fixtures that continuously bathe the surroundings in haunting shades of blue, yellow and red.
2. Olaias, Lisbon
In 1998, Lisbon hosted an official world expo, in part to celebrate 500 years of Portuguese inventions.
Originally built to accommodate the expo’s 11 million visitors, the station was designed by architect Tomás Taveira, who created a whimsically colorful, contemporary space that to this day holds its own as a modern work of art.
3. Komsomolskaya (Koltsevaya Line), Moscow
May I have this dance? The station’s baroque-style decor, history-depicting mosaics and chandeliered ceilings resemble an elegant grand ballroom more than a means for travel.
Opened in 1952 to alleviate the congestion of one of Moscow’s busiest transport hubs, it was Stalin’s infamous 1941 wartime speech that inspired the opulence of the mosaic artwork.
4. Canary Wharf (Jubilee Line), London
Although the curved canopies and futuristic design of the entrance suggest contemporary innovation, first-time visitors are rarely prepared for the vastness of the space below.
The station was designed to be immense in order to accommodate approximately 50,000 weekday commuters -- that ultimately grew to nearly 70,000 visitors per day.
In the relatively short time since its 1999 opening, locals have grown fond of the station's efficiency and connection to the busy Canary Wharf business complex.
In fact, architect Lord Norman Foster’s ultra-modern design and sizable space has even served as backdrop for both a lavish wedding and the zombie flick “28 Days Later.”
5. T-Centralen, Stockholm
At first glance, Stockholm’s central station looks the same as any typical rapid transit system. But once travelers begin descending, unexpected changes in color and shapes reveal a vastly different animal.
When the bold blue and white cavernous platform is finally reached, commuters are reminded that they have indeed ventured underground.
6. Karlsplatz Stadtbahn, Vienna
If a nostalgic glimpse of regal turn-of-the-century design tickles your fancy, then this station delivers.
Built as a tram station in 1899, its steel and marble framework was then considered to be the last word in modern innovation.
Since renovation in 1981 (during the station’s conversion to a metro system), commuters have been able to enjoy a visit to the adjoining exhibition space while silently thanking the impassioned locals whose public outcry saved this original building from demolition.
7. Palais Royal -- Musée du Louvre, Paris
In a city blessed with countless beautiful structures, this station’s unconventional Place Colette entrance still stands out.
Completed in 2000 (the centennial year of the Paris metro), Jean-Michel Othoniel’s "Kiosque des noctambules" ("Kiosk of the night owls") celebrates the beauty of dazzling colored beads intertwined to form two cupolas.
A meeker design would be overshadowed by such close proximity to the Louvre Museum and surrounding classic architecture.
In this case, however, the entrance’s bold design gleefully adds an unexpected touch of urban hip.
8. Admiralteyskaya, St. Petersburg, Russia
St. Petersburg’s newest metro station proves that classic and modern design can coexist harmoniously. After many setbacks, the station finally opened for business in December 2011.
Traditional marble and arched platforms are highlighted by curved stark ceilings and understated lighting in what turned out to be the deepest station in the network.
9. Bockenheimer Warte, Frankfurt, Germany
In an effort to distinguish from the minimalist design associated with other local stations, architect Zbigniew Peter Pininski outdid himself with the surrealist effect of Bockenheimer Warte’s entrance.
Depicting a train car crashing through the sidewalk, it leaves commuters either shocked or bemused, but rarely indifferent.
10. “Fosteritos,” Bilbao, Spain
Despite being less than 20 years old, the Bilbao metro system is the third largest in Spain.
More surprising, perhaps, is that the curved-glass entrances of many stations -- affectionately nicknamed “Fosteritos” ("Little Fosters") after their creator, Lord Foster -- are already considered prime examples of the city’s modern, up-to-the-minute style.
The oddly shaped structures quite literally shine as they allow light to enter by day and are lit up to ensure maximum effect by night.
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