The Grand Train Stations of Paris
Text and photographs by Deborah Loeb Bohren
The six grand train stations of Paris represent the best of design and architecture of their time boasting exquisite ironwork, intricate masonry, paintings and murals, and a myriad of clocks inside and out. Each station was designed to make the best possible first impression on travelers to Paris and all of the stations serve different regions, their names often offering clues.
Paris’ oldest train station, Gare Saint-Lazare was inaugurated in 1837. Gare de L’Est opened in 1849 and hosted the original Orient Express on its premier journey to Istanbul in 1883. Gare du Nord is the largest station in Paris and its modern neoclassical architecture is decorated with 23 statues each representing the cities served, including Paris. Completely rebuilt to accommodate the influx of travelers visiting the World Exposition of 1900, the Gare de Lyon has been home to the iconic (and ornate) Le Train Bleu restaurant for 115 years.Gare d’Austerlitz, originally know as the Gare d’Orleans, was renamed for the location of one of Napoleon’s most famous battles and its facades and roofs have earned it recognition as a historical monument. The glass, steel and concrete Gare Montparnesse traces it’s roots to 1840 but was rebuilt in the middle of the last century and exemplifies 1960s modernism.Step inside of these stations and, if you look carefully, you can still feel the air of anticipation and be transported to an era when train travel represented a grand adventure and endless possibilities rather than the hassle of a daily commute.