Skip to main content

Europe's 12 most impressive metro stations

By Jessica Benavides Canepa and CNN staff
February 4, 2014 -- Updated 0549 GMT (1349 HKT)
One of Naples' co-called Metro Art Stations, this 2012 stop was designed around themes of water and light. One of Naples' co-called Metro Art Stations, this 2012 stop was designed around themes of water and light.
HIDE CAPTION
Toledo, Naples
Westfriedhof, Munich
Komsomolskaya, Moscow
Olaias, Lisbon
Westminster, London
T-Centralen, Stockholm
Bockenheimer Warte, Frankfurt
'Fosteritos,' Bilbao
Palais Royal -- Musée du Louvre, Paris
Admiralteyskaya, St. Petersburg
Plac Wilsona, Warsaw
Staromestska, Prague
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "Metro envy" has produced some stunners in Europe
  • At 50 meters deep, Toledo station, in Naples, feels filled with light
  • Part of the oldest metro, London's Westminster looks super-futuristic
  • A Frankfurt station shows a train car crashing through the sidewalk

(CNN) -- Opening in 1863, London has the world's oldest underground railway but it also has, in austerely beautiful Westminster, one of Europe's most futuristic-looking stations.

The first metro might have been uncomfortable and unhealthy (toxic steam often entered the train cars due to poor ventilation) but it soon became clear that few cities of any size should be without one.

By the mid-1920s, Paris, Madrid, Berlin and Milan had their own subterranean networks -- with cleaner, electric-powered trains and often also beating London's Tube in the aesthetic appeal of their stations.

Moscow joined the party in 1935 and now boasts one of the busiest metro systems in the world -- carrying more than 6.5 million passengers a day.

But as the following stations show, more than 150 years after the London Underground opened, there's a lot more to a great subway stop than getting from A to B.

MORE: World's best metro networks

1. Toledo, Naples, Italy

Opened in 2012, Toledo station defies its depth -- at 50 meters, one of the deepest in Naples -- with a design based around themes of light and water.

A work called "Light Panels" by Robert Wilson illuminates the station corridor furthest underground.

This stunning station has competition: it's part of the city's network of so-called Metro Art Stations.

Westfriedhof: Eerie colors bathe the platform.
Westfriedhof: Eerie colors bathe the platform.

2. Westfriedhof, Munich, Germany

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 aesthetically enhanced by 11 enormous, domed lighting fixtures that continuously bathe the surroundings in haunting shades of blue, yellow and red.

MORE: What's the new London, Paris or Rome?

3. Komsomolskaya (Koltsevaya Line), Moscow

Komsomolskaya station's baroque-style decor, historical mosaics and chandeliered ceilings resemble a grand ballroom.

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 mosaics.

4. Olaias, Lisbon, Portugal

In 1998, Lisbon hosted a world expo, in part to celebrate 500 years of Portuguese inventions.

Built to help transport the expo's 11 million visitors, the station is a whimsically colorful space that to this day holds its own as a modern work of art.

Austerely beautiful: Futuristic Westminster station.
Austerely beautiful: Futuristic Westminster station.

5. Westminster, London

London Underground might be the great-great-grandparent of all the world's metro stations but Westminster, opened just days before the new millennium, has to be one of the most futuristic-looking.

The austere concrete and stainless steel design somehow achieves a functional beauty rather than oppressing all those commuters scurrying to and from their offices.

MORE: 5 great city markets in Europe

6. T-Centralen, Stockholm, Sweden

Above ground, Stockholm's central station looks like a pretty average part of a rapid transit system.

Start boring down, though, and unexpected changes in color and shape reveal a very different animal.

When commuters reach the bold blue and white, cave-like platform at T-Centralen, they're reminded that they've indeed ventured underground.

7. Bockenheimer Warte, Frankfurt, Germany

Seeking to distinguish his design from the unobtrusive minimalism of other Frankfurt stations, architect Zbigniew Peter Pininski outdid himself with the fantastical entrance to Bockenheimer Warte.

Depicting a train car crashing through the sidewalk, it leaves commuters either shocked or bemused, but rarely indifferent.

\
"Little Fosters" signal Bilbao's forward-looking style.

8. "Fosteritos," Bilbao, Spain

Less than 20 years old, Bilbao's metro is the third-largest in Spain.

The curved-glass entrances of many of the stations -- affectionately nicknamed "Fosteritos" ("Little Fosters") after their creator, Lord Foster -- are considered prime examples of the city's modern, up-to-the-minute style.

The transparent structures admit plenty of daytime light and at night are lit up.

MORE: 7 of Europe's most beautiful villages

9. Palais Royal -- Musée du Louvre, Paris

In a city as beautiful as Paris, this unconventional station entrance at Place Colette 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") intertwines dazzling colored beads to form two protective cupolas.

A meeker design would be overshadowed by the close proximity of the Louvre Museum and surrounding classic architecture.

In this case, however, it adds a touch of cheeky hipness.

10. Admiralteyskaya, St. Petersburg, Russia

St. Petersburg's newest metro stop proves that classic and modern design can coexist harmoniously.

After many setbacks, the station finally opened for business in December 2011.

Stark curved ceilings and low lighting complement traditional marble and arched platforms in what's the deepest station in the network.

And you thought the Soviets built impressive metros.
And you thought the Soviets built impressive metros.

11. Plac Wilsona, Warsaw, Poland

The Soviets built some extraordinary metro stations but this 2005 effort, named after U.S. president Woodrow Wilson, showed that a capitalist Poland could come up with some beauties, too.

Unless, as might appear, it was actually built by UFOs.

MORE: 9 quirky and brilliant Paris boutiques

12. Staromestska, Prague

All the stations on Prague's A Line deserve a place in the European metro hall of fame for their distinctive dimpled metal tunnel walls, but Staromestska is the most visited and photographed.

A different color for each station, they look like something from the dystopian film "A Clockwork Orange," but the bubble-wrap design actually strengthens the metal.

What's the best metro stop -- in Europe or worldwide -- you've ever traveled through? Elbow your way into the carriage in the comments field below.

MORE: World's ugliest monuments?

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 2, 2014 -- Updated 1607 GMT (0007 HKT)
Scrap all those other bucket lists you've been compiling and start saving -- these memorable-for-a-lifetime trips don't come cheap, or easy.
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 0140 GMT (0940 HKT)
A squabble over a device that limits how far a seat can recline has brought inflight etiquette into the spotlight again.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1023 GMT (1823 HKT)
Thirst for victory competes with thirst for booze in event where competitors raise their glasses long before they cross the finish line.
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 0957 GMT (1757 HKT)
At these fun Los Angeles bars, the the drinks come with a chaser of kitsch.
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 2041 GMT (0441 HKT)
From dining next to massive predators to drinking atop a rock in the middle of the ocean, Africa boasts some of the most interesting places to eat.
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 0512 GMT (1312 HKT)
Just weeks after Bill HIllman, known as a veteran, expert bull runner, was badly gored in Pamplona, he's back at other smaller bull runnings in Spain, but walking with a cane.
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1654 GMT (0054 HKT)
Don't like the country you live in? Why not create your own, as many people have done. We uncover the parallel world of "micronationalism."
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 1341 GMT (2141 HKT)
LUSAIL CITY, QATAR: In this handout illustration provided by Qatar 2022, the Qatar 2022 Bid Committee today unveiled detailed plans for the iconic Lusail Stadium. With a capacity in excess of 86,000 and surrounded by water, the stadium would host the World Cup Opening Match and Final if Qatar wins the rights to stage the 2022 FIFA World Cup. If Qatar is awarded the honour of staging the 2022 FIFA World Cup, construction of the Lusail Stadium will start in 2015 and be completed in 2019. It will retain its full capacity after 2022.
Grab a glimpse of the near future. Plans for the desert city of Lusail include man-made islands and a host arena for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 0124 GMT (0924 HKT)
A CNN producer experiences China's poor on-time flight record firsthand as his plane takes off eight hours late.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 0600 GMT (1400 HKT)
New Yorker Kerrin Rousset's exploration of Swiss city aims to lure cocoa fans over to the dark side.
September 3, 2014 -- Updated 0347 GMT (1147 HKT)
Some things are just better after dark. These experiences around the world prove it.
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1559 GMT (2359 HKT)
Lebanon's winemakers are adopting new tactics to get their products noticed.
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 0626 GMT (1426 HKT)
the Teufelsberg or
Spooks have left their mark on a once-divided city still thought to be an espionage hotbed.
August 24, 2014 -- Updated 2206 GMT (0606 HKT)
nanjing, handicrafts
With more than 6,000 years of history, Nanjing is one of the few cities in China still practicing the country's endangered traditional crafts.
ADVERTISEMENT