Travelers often speak of the romance of trains, and there's undoubtedly an element of truth to that declaration. Train travel allows us to really feel the fabric of a journey, to experience the weight of a trip and its distance, and to immerse ourselves in the actual process of going from one place to another. This is unlike taking a flight, which feels like time travel to another dimension, with the points of origination and arrival seeming disparate and unconnected.
Railway stations are a key part of the experience, hubs that are often beautifully designed, spacious, and simple, stripped of draconian security, and comfortable in the role of pretty gateways to getaways. Some stations have become landmarks in their own right, places that visitors will come to admire even if they have no intention of taking a rail trip — Grand Central Terminal in New York City is an obvious example. Others have long stopped serving a practical purpose and have been transformed into commercial spaces, perhaps into a bar or even a hotel, allowing travelers a place to stay where they can appreciate the property's rich back story.
Residents of England who like a little thrill in their rides will be familiar with Alton Towers, a theme park in the middle of the country packed with exciting rollercoasters and beautiful grounds. This hotel, in the county of Staffordshire, sits nearby and was a functioning station from 1849 until the 1960s. Renovations on the main station, as well as the abode of the station master, transformed the place into a fully functioning spot for a stay. The ticket office, for instance, is now a bedroom, and the ladies' waiting area, created back in the day when the genders were demarcated by their own spaces, was turned into a kitchen.
In 2022, a refurbishment helped to spruce up the beautifully patterned Minton tiles that were a hallmark of the station floor. Some original features remain, such as the plaster panels, the ticket barrier at the booking office, and oil lamps. Expect pretty surroundings with gorgeous views of the nearby Churnet Valley.
Looking at this property, the word "grand" immediately comes to mind. A long, gorgeously designed building sitting in the Pyrenees mountain, it was originally known as the Canfranc station and opened as a railway port in the late 1920s. Close to the border with France, the Spanish property is extremely luxurious. Much of the interior design of rooms and public spaces is modeled on the prevalent materials when the station opened, the heyday of Art Deco, with brass, wood, and velvet strongly represented.
The exterior form was, however, more reminiscent of the style of stations from the 1800s, with touches like a roof featuring slate tiles and a massive dome as the centerpiece. Walking around the hotel, it's easy to imagine the building's original purpose, evident from the arched doorways and windows, the high-ceilinged lobby area, and the pretty floor tiles. Additions include a plush heated pool and a fully equipped gym.
A broad brick building in the heart of Indianapolis, this property is a short walk from the Lucas Oil Stadium, the home field of the Indianapolis Colts. The structure boasts a Romanesque-revival exterior and was once a piece of the city's original Union Station. It is of such cultural significance that it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. Relics of the station quietly reveal themselves to guests, from the bright atrium lobby that was part of the train shed to the Grand Hall with its curved roof and colonnaded side arches.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the hotel is the rooms, with 26 of the accommodations set inside actual Pullman train carriages dating from the early 1900s. For fans of railway travel, it doesn't get much better than this. Guests looking to unwind can take a dip in the heated swimming pool.
Formerly known as Chattanooga Choo Choo, this destination sits in the heart of the Tennessee city. Visitors will fall in love with rooms built inside former train carriages, with the Sleeper Deluxe category fitted with a trundle bed and opening to a wall of windows. For the complete experience, consider booking a MacArthur Suite, which stretches across the length of an entire train car, can sleep four guests, and features its own dining area, powder room, and even a private outdoor terrace (a perfect spot for lingering over a fruity tipple at the end of a day).
The property dates to the 1970s, when it opened as the train station called Chattanooga Choo Choo, and it was joined in 2015 by the massive residential condo development called Passenger Flats. For large-scale events, the Hotel Chalet has the Beverly Ballroom, a generous space with 18-foot ceilings, swish pendant lights, and an undeniable sense of refined class.
The station in Bosnia and Herzegovina was once a stop for trains traveling between Dubrovnik, a signifcant trading city on the Adriatic, and Vienna, the Austrian capital. From its roots as a station over a century ago, it has been transformed into a small, quaint hotel that doesn't wow with lofty overtures and grand, dramatic spaces but by its intimate, cozy character. The hotel has six rooms and a maximum capacity of 18 guests, meaning every guest gets a personal experience in a property packed with history.
Travelers can look forward to quiet, soothing rooms with four-poster beds, comforting color schemes, and walls of exposed brick that speak of the building's past. The hotel is surrounded by undulating hills and the gorgeous Herzegovinian countryside, famous for its Karst landscape and excellent vineyards. Hotel Stanica is also a key stop on the revamped Ćiro Trail bike route, which follows the former rail route as closely as possible. Popovo Polje (which translates loosely to "Priest's Field" in English) is about 30 minutes away by car, where karst mountains rise theatrically from the valley floor.
Amsterdam Schiphol Airport sits only about 15 minutes by car from the Hotel Station Amstelveen, a property whose name refers to the suburb of Amsterdam where it resides. The building, a delightfully intimate affair with only five rooms, has a sturdy brick exterior, while interiors are bright, with contrasting white linens and furnishings that create a pleasant atmosphere of old and new.
The rooms have names celebrating the hotel's past (it first opened in 1915 as a railway station, becoming a hotel much more recently), with choices like Porter, Conductor Suite, Master, and Inspector. All feature king- or queen-size beds, televisions loaded with many viewing options, and are incredibly inviting spaces. Run as a bed and breakfast, it feels more like someone's home than a commercial enterprise, making it a comforting place to stay when visiting Amsterdam, one packed with travel-focused history and the quaint glamour that is everywhere in the Dutch capital.
Nature lovers visiting Thailand might recognize part of the name of this resort. The Intercontinental Khao Yai Resort is just a short drive from Khao Yai National Park, home to the Siamese crocodile, two types of gibbon, and more. While the InterContinental resort was never actually a train station, it certainly ticks the box when it comes to train-centric imagery, with old train carriages repurposed for accommodations. The brainchild of star American designer Bill Bensley, the carriages have undergone extensive upgrades, arrayed in curling rows around a small lake and set between verdant landscaping.
They display both simplicity in their design and opulence in their materials, with touches like old railway signboards incorporated into the scheme. Poirot Restaurant is set inside an old rail car, as is the sleek, artfully lit Terminus Bar. Even the spa, playfully called Back on Track, features a massage table inside a carriage and a reception area brimming with railway station accents.
A train stuck on a bridge might make passengers feel a touch uncomfortable, but for guests of Kruger Shalati, there is nothing to worry about. The train, moored over the Sabie River, has train cars refitted to become suites, though the resort also has rooms in a house nearby. The luxury of the accommodations is apparent as soon as you step in, from plush fabrics and linens to rich marble and wood. Entry to the property is on solid land, with the reception, restaurants, and rooms set next to the Selati Bridge.
The real draw is to book a room atop the bridge, cleverly designed so that the bed looks through large windows over the river, Kruger National Park, and the wildlife that comes to the water year-round. The overall atmosphere takes guests back to a rail safari in the 1920s, an era when glamour was an integral component in exploration. For a photo-op to incite jealousy in your friends and family, check out the pool suspended on a deck over the river.
Another that is not actually a former station, but for fans of all things dual gauge, it certainly scratches the itch. Here, travelers will find train cars that double up as hotel rooms, sitting on a bridge over the Namsen River in the center of Norway. The property, run by Elizabeth Hamsund and Torger Haugen, is especially suited to train and fishing enthusiasts. The bridge used to function as a way for trains to cross the Namsen River, but since 2005, no trains have passed over it, and the line ceased operation.
The couple were granted permission to use the bridge in 2015, and in May 2017, the duo unveiled four railway carriages on the 180-meter span, sitting above a river teeming with salmon. By night, guests can retire to cars that haven't been radically altered — some still have the upper and lower sleeping berths emblematic of train travel — while daytimes are filled with salmon fishing in beautiful nature.
A town of heartwarming tranquility and part of a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Japanese temple settlement Koyasan is an incredible place to visit, with more than 50 temples where visitors can stay and double that number dotted around its mountainside. For anyone searching for peace, quiet, and simple Buddhist temple food, Koyasan is one to add to the bucket list. This hotel sits by a station that is historically a starting point for worshippers as they head up to the mountain temples and monasteries on foot.
The building next to the train tracks was built in 1926 and was used by station employees, but following an overhaul, it was revamped to create two guest bedrooms. The railway connection is evident not just from the view of trains but also from the touches within the rooms — handrails, luggage racks, dials and gauges, foldable seats, passenger straps, old train staff uniforms, and more.
In Petworth, a small town in the rural expanses of West Sussex, England, this property uses a former station's stock to create a welcoming bed and breakfast. The railway station is more than a century old, completed in 1892, and located in a town that is known today for its wealth of arts and antique shops. Hints of yesteryear are on display at this bed and breakfast, where the morning meal is served on the former platform.
Rooms are split between the main building — the former station house — and lovingly restored Pullman carriages. Inside the train cars, guests will find comfortable beds, wooden shutters, and gleaming wood floors, while station house digs include one with a pretty cathedral ceiling. A new edition, currently under renovation and slated to open in 2024, is Princess Ena, a carriage that will be overhauled and become a buffet car. Petworth is a nostalgic sort of place, and there is plenty waiting at The Old Railway Station Hotel.
In gorgeous Yorkshire, England, this lodging sits by a station close to Castle Howard, a grand stately home built between 1701 and 1811. Fans of historical drama might recognize the immense country house, for it was a site used in the filming of "Brideshead Revisited," a British TV show based on the novel of the same name that first aired in 1981. Platform 1 calls the train station its home, and it's a Grade II listed building, referring to a United Kingdom designation for structures of special historic interest.
Today, the accommodation is set up as an apartment, accessed through a door that Queen Victoria walked through when visiting a noble at the mansion more than 150 years ago. The unit is notable for its natural light and breaks off into various rooms, all with underfloor heating and a stove that uses wood logs to generate extra warmth. Trains still run intermittently at the station, and guests can watch them whizz by, especially on weekends.
Expect a sense of epic grandeur at this former station in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Finished in 1908 and designed in French Renaissance style, the sturdy building was a humming, bustling train station with some pretty ornate detailing. Visitors will see imposing columns out front, with a large clock above, while inside, marble columns and walls, a curved stained-glass ceiling with Tiffany glass, and a large lobby area that was the station's main concourse speak to the pomp of the place in its heyday.
The lobby is an excellent place for just sitting and soaking in the atmosphere, not to mention imagining the thrum of passengers crisscrossing the space en route to their trains or the ticket office. Rooms, of which there are 146 divided among different categories, are more muted, with leather wall panels behind beds and unfussy color schemes dominated by whites and browns. The hotel is grand and down-to-earth all at once.
The Missouri property was a once powerhouse of train travel, opened in 1894, close to the center of St. Louis. The hotel presents a sweep of exquisite design, not least in the Grand Hall. The lobby area shimmers with a vast curving roof, intricate mosaic detailing, artful arches around the edges, gleaming marble floors, and tons of places to sit, from comfortable couches with high backs to stylish single-seater armchairs. When used as a canvas for a 3D light show, the Grand Hall becomes a living art space, and projections of images like stained-glass windows enhance its creative appeal.
The building is no less impressive, looking almost like a refined European chateau, with steep rooflines and a soaring clock tower. Rooms take the opulence down a few notches, distinguished by their practical form that is a contrast to public areas. The swimming pool, set inside what feels like a train shed, is a joy.
This bed-and-breakfast lodging in Portugal is on a line that once connected the country with Spain. The property sits within the former Marvão-Beirā station, a building that has been recognized by the government as an architectural gem and that is only a few miles from the border with Spain. Rooms are dotted around the building, set around a wooden staircase edged by a shiny white handrail, and have punches of color; they come with a private or shared bathroom. Apartments, suitable for four people, are set on the ground level and add a full kitchen to the amenities offered.
The renovation of the station is very stylish, with jazzy tiles in public spaces and pleasing outdoor seating near the old train tracks that allow guests to make the most of the joyous climate. Travelers can take meals outside by the lawn, followed by a siesta in a hammock nearby. The village of Marvão, a short distance away, still feels medieval, set high up on a promontory above the surrounding plains.
Open seasonally during the warmer months, this property in Nova Scotia, Canada, has cabooses revamped as hotel rooms, set by the former Tatamagouche Train Station that was built in the 1880s. All made in Canada, the exterior of the train vessels look very much like they did when in service, with bright coloring and slender ladders for accessing each carriage's roof. The indoors are another story, upgraded with knotty pine walls and ceilings and quilted bedspreads, lending the rooms the air of a frontier outpost.
They sleep between two to four guests, depending on configuration, with some featuring bunk beds or period details such as a conductor's old seat. The Caboose Carole is particularly excellent, sleeping five (assuming one of them is a child) and located near the station building, with a tucked-away bed hidden under the railway berth. Meals can be taken in a former rail car, drinks are plentiful at the Baggage Room Bar, and the old platform hosts occasional live concerts.
This former station sure is a sight to behold. An imposing building, it is populated with gorgeous archways, soaring towers and turrets, and a strong Gothic aesthetic. Much of the original detail remains, from the dense stone exterior to the clock tower that showcases a statue of Mercury, and the lobby with a vaulted ceiling and rich marble floors to the gilt bas-reliefs of angels.
The standout is the lobby roof, which gives the space with regal air through expanses of stained glass. The building opened in 1900 and has aged beautifully, helped by a 2023 renovation that installed clean-lined, tasteful rooms with high ceilings and plenty of natural light. Intricate touches, such as brass and leather accents that recall train travel, are a clever, understated way to tie the accommodations to the setting. For guests with four-legged friends and furry companions, the hotel is pet-friendly.
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